Wanna Get Published? – Do the THEME THING

So you wanna be an author. You’ve written a novel, or two, but you can’t get a publisher or an agent interested in you or your book. There’s a lot of white space on your writing resume. What should you do?


Huh? Read on.

Consider this:  Why not write magazine articles to get noticed? You love to write, right? Why not get paid–or at least earn bragging rights. I know it’s not fiction, but if you want to get noticed, writing nonfiction might be a step toward achieving that goal. Make it fun.

Let me explain how YOU can do this:


1. Find a magazine you like to read. Maybe you subscribe to it, or maybe you read it at the library.

2. Study that magazine. What are the topics and themes? What’s the writing style? Who are their readers? What are the different section titles?

3. Go to that magazine’s online website and type “writer’s guidelines” in the topic bar. If you don’t find any guidelines at their site then send a letter to the editor and ask him/her to send you their theme list and their guidelines. Ask if they allow queries. When you type that letter make sure you use the correct spelling of that editor’s name.

(Here is a link to a broad range of writer’s guidelines: WRITER’S GUIDELINES)

4. If you find your targeted magazine’s guidelines study their THEME list. What’s this? Many magazines center their articles around holidays or themes and look for SPECIFIC TOPICS. Check out these examples below:

The WriterSubmission guidelines

Kyria.com – A part of Christianity Today. This site has the best writer guidelines and theme list I’ve seen. (While you’re there check out my article here: My Published Article.)

Susie Magazine – An online magazine for teen girls. This link gives you the email addresses to where to pitch your article.

5. Some magazines don’t pay much–if at all. Remember your goal is to get published and you have to start somewhere. Editors want to see that you’re published. Getting paid isn’t everything. Ask yourself what’s more important right now: the money or the experience and the bragging rights? Money. Sure. I get that. Of course, you want to get paid for your work. And you should, but If you’re a newbie writer the reality is that you won’t get paid a whole lot the first time you write an article. But seeing your name in print is awesome. It’ll give you confidence and help you build your resume. It shows editors and publishers you’re a serious writer.

6. After you study the magazine’s theme list or submission guidelines brainstorm article ideas. Maybe you have an unusual Christmas tradition you’d like to share. Or a halloween game you played as a kid. Think ahead. Editors have to. What holidays are six to nine months ahead? Don’t pitch about how to grow the perfect garden and expect them to be interested now since most people have their gardens planted already. Typically the guidelines will tell you how far in advance they need articles.

7. What’s a pitch? This is where you tell the editor what your idea is, why you’re the one to write it, and what theme you think it falls under. To practice pitching, pretend a friend is sitting in a chair across from you and you’re telling him your idea. Say it aloud. Then write it.

Check the magazine’s guidelines for exactly how they want you to pitch them. Sometimes they want the query included in the body of the email. Other times they want it as an attachment.

The key here is to research and study the magazines and their guidelines. You want to appear like you did your homework. AND you want to get PUBLISHED.

I’m at the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL. Today a panel of magazine editors spoke on what they needed writer’s to write. They encourage teens to submit, too! I hope to blog this list soon so check back, and I’ll give you the deets on places you can pitch. Deal?


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  1. That’s solid counsel & I know it works. I have a friend whose written many books now, mostly non-fiction. She says she won’t write any more books w/o writing/publishing a few introductory articles on the subject to build up a rdg. audience to buy the book when finished, and that sounds brilliant to me. I’ve heard of some excellent novels growing out of short stories that were later expanded, too.

    • I’ve talked to many people at the conference who have done this and I was able to take a course on how to take one life experience and write about it in 30 different articles. (Taught by Ramona Tucker from Oak Tara and Ginger Kolbaba from Kyria.com.) Check back later this week for a post about the class.
      Thanks, Dee!

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