What’s the point of novelists writing for magazines?

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Last week Mary Keeley of Book & Such Literary Agency wrote a series of blog posts on “What’s so great about… marketing, proofreading, inspirations, change, etc.?” Wednesday’s featured topic was writing for magazines.

“Magazines are wonderful marketing tools for authors,” she said.

I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t thought of writing for magazines as a marketing effort. If anything, my intent has been revenue-generating. Granted, one’s byline provides a bit of exposure, but unless an article’s content is controversial I sometimes wonder if anyone checks to see who wrote it.

Like blogging, writing for magazines and newspapers provides an outlet for our writing endeavours, an opportunity to practise first lines that hook, and making every word count, since editorial restrictions confine you to a strict limit. Whether it’s an anecdote, a short story or a technical report, conveying information in a concise yet attention-grabbing way is essential.

It seems reasonable to me that we should have to earn modest publication success in some other arena before trying to unleash 100,000-word tomes on the world. Perhaps writing for magazines is a good place for an aspiring novelist to start – a place to gain both writing experience and exposure.

What’s your opinion? If you’re writing a novel now, what other type(s) of writing do you have to include in your list of publishing credits?

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Photo credit: Pixomar
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19 thoughts on “What’s the point of novelists writing for magazines?

  1. timkeen40 says:

    I continue to submit to magazines for consideration. It is especially difficult to get fiction into publication. There are just so very few magazines left that publish fiction. However, I submit. I take any opportunity I can take to have someone read what I have written.

    Thanks for the blog.

    http://timkeen40.wordpress.com

  2. lauradroege says:

    I attended a marketing fiction seminar with Chip MacGregor last year. He gave each of the 7 attendees personalized advice on how to market our book. For me, he recommended writing articles. Lots of novelists can (and do) become speakers on their topics, etc., but I hate public speaking, so writing articles is the better way to go.

    Right now, I’ve done two guest blogs and I’m working on an essay for submission to a book on living with depression. I’m also going to work on getting a personal experience article in NAMI’s newsletter.

    • Chip would have given some good advice. If you have knowledge in a specialized area and are using that knowledge in your writing, you can find a niche audience in magazines that also focus on it. (For me, it’s often about dogs.) If your novel’s theme or setting is different from your articles’, though, I’m not sure how effective they would be in contributing to any marketing. That would make a good survey question. 😉

  3. It was a time honored tradition for more than a century. Many writers wrote their novels in sequels in mags (Charles Dickens … Arthur Conan Doyle) … others used the mags to publish many of their short stories (Ernest Heminingway, O’Henry, Salinger, Tom Wolfe and many more.

    The short story was a welcome additon to many publications such as Redbook/Mademoiselle and others where they are no longer. A few like Playboy and The New Yorker are still doing it.

    It is at least a chapter or more of Stephan King’s book on writing … the short story market and how it helped him make money and get published.

    Personally, I am trying to get something published in Glimmer Train and other literary pubs like them 🙂

    • When Stephen King began his novels in the 60s and 70s there was still a big market for short fiction in magazines. So many of the magazines I used to read included a short story, and I remember serialized novels. That’s where I discovered Marjorie Holmes’ descriptive vignettes, too. I think they were carried every month in ‘Women’s Day’ magazine. I’m glad ‘Glimmer Train’ is still publishing. Good luck with your submissions.

  4. Emily Jane says:

    I’ve written a few articles for magazines, and it’s by no means a favourite pastime – magazine articles have to fit someone else’s mould of length, style, etc. and I find them so limiting. It is good, however, to have them as credits in a portfolio until the novel is published 🙂

    • Writing non-fiction articles is very different from writing fiction, especially novels. It happens to be where I started but not every novelist wants to go there. I think we all have to find the creative outlet that works best for us.

  5. I think it makes sense. I’m not sure I have time to pursue magazine writing. Right now I’m only blogging. Blogging and caring for my household responsibilities. I’m happy, if not successful as a writer. I may someday wish I had been both. 🙂 Blessings to you, Carol…

  6. joylene says:

    I’m hoping for more novels than you can shake a stick at. Maybe when I’m through coming up with big stories, I’ll write tiny ones. Hmm. Not sure , Carol, but as usual you got me thinking.

    Happy Easter Monday.

  7. The Writer says:

    I think writing for magazines is a great step on the way to publishing full-length novels. Hard to interest agents when your resume has no publications.

    That said, I think any writing outlet will work. If you’ve been blogging about food and recipes for 6 years and have a sizeable audience, that’ll help you in your queries as well.

    • Any writing is good experience, but I’m not sure I agree that anything serves as useful writing credits if you’re trying to attract an agent. If the book you’ve written is about food and recipes, then a popular blog on the same topic might be a platform worth mentioning in a query. If you’re submitting a mystery or sci-fi, however, I doubt an agent would see a food blog as an advantage.

  8. lauradroege says:

    Re: my comment earlier

    Chip emphasized that the articles did need to relate to my novel’s themes and appear in publications/places that my target demographic reads. Since I’ve got issues in my novel about mental illness, suicide, rape, people struggling in broken relationships or with body issues, I have to try to find where this target audience is and get in front of them. (I’ve also put this principle to work on Facebook and Twitter. I follow people/groups on Twitter that are interested in these subjects and subjects I plan to write about in the future.)

    Great discussion here.

  9. Shonnie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this discussion. I have written and spoken for years — nothing big enough to count. I love doing both. I am enjoying writting my blog and someone has approached me about making it a book. I am very cautious and nervous about this topic. It is so dear to my heart.

    I plan to write about mental health issues as Well Laura, I have a son with autisim and one who suffered a brain injury saving the life of the autistic child. There is even a fictional story kicking just under the surface of my mind about the trials that we endured with the Son recovering from a brain injury. I am curious where one would go to search out where and how to go about writing a mag article. help?

    Thanks for letting me jump in.

  10. Thanks for clarifying, Laura. Sounds like you’ve established a good plan of attack.

    Shonnie, thanks for your comments. I would suggest you pick up various magazines in your area of interest and follow them for a few months… get a feel for what kinds of articles their editors are interested in publishing. If you have a story that will fit in, but that hasn’t already been covered, submit a proposal. If you aren’t sure how to write an article, however, (or a proposal) you’d be smart to do some research and study first. Check out the library and book stores for some good non-fiction how-to books.

  11. karen evans says:

    I think it’s great for that ever important platform! 🙂

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