Types of Magazines
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, there are two broad categories of magazines for nonfiction: trade journals and consumer magazines. For fiction and what is known as “literary nonfiction,” there is a third category: little, or literary, magazines. The “littles” usually are high-prestige, low-paying markets, sometimes paying only in contributor copies. Depending on their focus, they may accept fiction, poetry, and narrowly defined pieces of nonfiction like essays. The writing style tends to be more formal than in other types of magazines, with a distinct artistic flavor.
Magazines run the gamut in terms of willingness to work with new writers and pay rates. If you're just starting your career, your chances of breaking in usually will be better with the smaller-circulation publications. As your clip file expands, so will your opportunities for seeing your byline in the bigger magazines.
To find out how open a magazine is to new writers, check out the one-or two-sentence author bios in a recent issue. How many of them list credentials similar to yours? How many have a long string of published credits, maybe even books? Your chances of breaking in probably are slimmer if you're competing mainly with already-published writers.
You'll find hundreds of trade, consumer, and literary magazines listed in the market directories. More are cropping up every day, but be alert for problems when approaching a new publication. Many of them fail within months for lack of ad revenue or other financial support, and even those that hang on might run into difficulties paying their contributors. We're not saying you should avoid new markets, just that you should go into them with your eyes open.
For all categories of magazines, pay rates vary from little or nothing to quite respectable fees. Established writers with impressive clips garner the highest rates. Writers who are just starting out or who are new to the market will earn less for their work until they build a reputation with the editor. New writers often have to be content with short items to establish a track record, but those who perform well on such assignments have a good chance of breaking into the feature-length action.