When I started my freelance writing career back in 2007, I wasn’t fussy about the publications that ran my articles. I just wanted to get my stories published — anywhere!
Many of my early publications had small circulations. You certainly wouldn’t find them on the top shelf of the magazine racks and some never even made the racks at all. They were smaller specialty publications with relatively low numbers of subscribers. The type of magazine that you would find on the lower shelves of your local newsagents. They also tended to pay less than their larger circulation counterparts.
As I steadily moved up the travel writing totem pole, I continued to write for some smaller magazines because they offered significant benefits.
Here’s why you should pitch your stories to the smaller magazines, too.
Small Publications Are Easier To Break Into
You’ll find far less competition when you pitch the small guys. Because small magazines tend to pay less, most veteran writers bypass them. This leaves the small fry editors more receptive to pitches from novice writers. This also means that editors of small publications are more receptive to repeat business. In other words, they’re happy to buy more stories from you in the future. Some small publications that have bought repeated stories from me include Artilleryman (16 articles), Global Living (6 articles), Gorge Guide (11 articles), Lost Treasure (22 articles), and Renaissance Magazine (24 articles.)
One of my earliest small magazines was Colors Northwest, a regional publication focused on racial diversity in Seattle. That piece was about the multi-racial student population at a community college I was teaching at. Another small publication I was published in was a trade journal named Tech Directions, where I wrote about a fellow instructor who was the nation’s top motorcycle repair teacher.
Small Magazines Help You Build Your Bylines Faster
Your acceptance rate will be much higher with the more obscure publications. If you focus on pitching smaller outlets in your first year or two of freelance writing, you’ll build your bylines much quicker. I used the Kitsap Sun newspaper and Coast Food & Arts magazine to build my bylines, among many other small magazines.
Small Magazine Assignments Are Good Collateral for Press Trips
I’ve had numerous press trips to all sorts of fun and interesting destinations on the backs of smaller publications. Many times, I’ve combined online travel website assignments with small magazine assignments when applying for complimentary travel assistance, tours, accommodations, meals, and transport, and been rewarded with some great trips!
One of my all-time favorite press trips, writing for a very small expat publication called Gobal Living, was a week-long cruise down France’s Burgundy Canal in a luxury146-foot long canal barge complete with a sun deck, a spa pool, and a galley, touring bikes, a CD player, a small library, and a tastefully decorated saloon, bar, and dining room. Two vans miraculously appeared alongside the barge every evening for our side excursions.
Our days blur passed in bucolic bliss as we cruised sedately along the canal, stopping every mile or two at a lock, only to continue anew past more medieval villages, waving at the passersby. The countryside between these rural towns is an endless panorama of stubble fields, askew haystacks, bushy hedgerows, rolling tree-clad hills, and farmhouses enclosed by thick groves of trees.
Each evening we moored in little French towns with quaint names like Tanlay, Lezinne, Ancy-le-Franc, Ravieres, Montbard, and Venarey-les-Laumes, with their own distinctive character. We would walk or cycle around the village, and were whisked off in vans to explore ancient chateaus, villages, abbeys, and wineries, all unique enough to entrance us with their history, legends, architecture, and charm. Along the way we sampled regional wines and cheeses, and ate exquisite French dishes prepared by our gourmet chef.
My article was written for free, but the real payoff was the free trip – worth $5,000!
Another small magazine genre that’s easy to break into is trade magazines. Writing for travel trade magazines is a way to break into travel publications and get paid – without waiting years to do it.
Here’s how to break into travel trade publications.