Pros: Much depth; very specific detail; incredible wealth of information
Cons: Starts off a bit slowly
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of F&W Publications
The “Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing” takes information from a wide variety of highly successful freelance writers and edits it together into a seamless instructional manual. It starts off with a discussion of finding ideas that addresses more than inspiration–it delves into methods to find topics that will sell. “Querying” and “Finding Markets” teach you to pick markets for your work and get assignments from them. “Selling Reprints and Rewrites” and “Business and Rights-Related Issues” help you to understand what your work is worth to whom, and how to make sure it remains worth as much as possible to you.
“Researching” and “Interviewing” get you through the information-gathering phase, which can take longer than the actual writing. “Avoiding Problems” helps you to avoid accidental plagiarism and similar legal problems. “Writing Techniques and Revision” deals with general issues of writing magazine articles, while “How to Write Common Articles” delves into specifics on article types such as profiles, roundups, how-to articles, service journalism, art-of-living articles, and even pieces for children’s magazines. “Working With an Editor” shepherds you through the relationships that will make or break your career.
The book seems to start off a bit slowly, and I had difficulty getting into it at first even though the information presented was solidly useful right from the get-go. It built up momentum from there, however, and by the end I was reading chapters on article types and relationships with editors with rapt fascination for all of the details. Perhaps this is because as the book progresses it explores more specific material that is likely to be less well-understood by writers unfamiliar with writing for magazines.
Because the book gets into so many specifics (there’s even a sidebar on writing book reviews!) regarding particular article types and so on, you’re likely to find it useful even if you’ve already done some magazine freelancing. It’s so helpful to know all the little rules of thumb and instructions regarding different types of articles, not to mention what editors are looking for and get the least of in their submission piles.
The chapter on working with editors presents particularly valuable information in a remarkably even-handed and balanced format. It presents a number of ways to maintain a good relationship with your editor, and these tips are useful and specific. A “damage control” section is included, since everyone runs into trouble now and then despite the best of intentions. There’s information on “problem editors” to watch out for and how to best work with (or avoid) them, as well as types of writers that editors hate to find themselves working with and how you can avoid being one of these writers.
Quotes from freelancers and editors liven things up and bring a personal touch to the book. Clear, bulleted lists of helpful points are balanced by enough detail to make sure that you can figure out what you’re doing in specific circumstances. The information presented is broad enough to be applicable to any sort of magazine freelancer, and specific enough to be applicable to every sort of magazine freelancer. If you want to be a successful freelancer, particularly if you’d like to make a living at it, I highly recommend this book!