How-to Guides

What's the trick to breaking into print? While there may not be a hard and fast answer, nonfiction is a great place to concentrate your initial efforts. Magazines, newsletters, alternative weeklies, local newspapers, literary journals, Sunday magazines and websites all need quality writing. Many are willing to pay for it. That's where you come in.

Our short tip sheet offers advice on the freelance scene, and presents possible markets for you to start getting your voice heard submitting clips and queries. Our list of markets is short. Our best advice is if you read a publication that catches your fancy and matches your voice, figure out whom to contact and see if they're looking for writers.

WHAT IS FREELANCING? Freelancing means hiring yourself out on a per project basis. It's like consulting, but without a fancy name or company backing you up. You will most likely work directly with editors and usually on one project at a time per editor. You can have a number of projects going with different magazines simultaneously.

WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY? While the eventual goal of freelancing is to get paid, initial efforts might not pay a dime. Publication with a by-line may be your only payment, but, hey, when you're starting out, those clips are priceless. Some publications may pay in copies, others by word, others still, a flat rate per piece.

WHERE TO START. First determine what type of writing you want to do. Find a publication that interests you and then read an issue or two. Got that? READ THE MARKET YOU'RE SUBMITTING TO. Editors can tell when you haven't read their magazine. There are many market books that break down and index nonfiction markets. These can be a good first step to narrow down a possible magazine to approach, particularly for smaller niche magazines. There is a magazine for every interest in America.

Once you've got your market nailed down, find out who the contact person is, in many cases it's an editor for a specific department. Look for submission guidelines on their website or ask for them from your contact. Depending on the market you may have to submit a query, others may just want your manuscript or review or interview—whatever—on spec. If they like it, they'll buy it, if not, they'll let you know "no thanks." Or maybe they like the writing but not that piece and may ask you to submit another or perhaps, assign you a topic to write.



Newcity Chicago Magazine

Editor: Brian J.Hieggelke


Chicago Reader

Editor: Alison True

General Phone: (312) 828-0350



E-mail Jessa for more information about writing for or to submit proposals for writing in other capacity

Elks Magazine

Editor: Anna L. Idol


Writer's Digest

Editor: Kristin Godsey

Contact submissions editor


BOOK REVIEWS: Columbia College Chicago students can contact the Publishing Lab for more information on writing and publishing book reviews, or e-mail We supply the books, and you get to keep them.