Querying Magazines: A Case Study

Monday, September 09, 2019

After freelancing for a certain lifestyle magazine in my area for more than 10 years, I received the opportunity to go work for it as the editor. As you can imagine, I was elated. I love working in the editorial capacity, and since this was a magazine I was familiar with (and I had worked with the publisher and creative director before on other magazines) the transition has been fairly seamless.

Part of my job as the editor is to take the different departments of the publication, consider the month’s theme, and put it all together like the pieces of a puzzle. I have a stable of local freelance writers and columnists I work with, and occasionally new writers query with story ideas. If you’re considering pitching an article to a magazine, here is an example of the stories I would look for in our various departments in Lake Norman CURRENTS.

Channel Markers. This is a section in the front of the book (FOB) where we feature interesting people and places, usually three to four short articles that run 300-400 words. Within this section we have “For the Long Run,” and “Bet You Didn’t Know.” Examples of past “For the Long Run” sections include an article on a long-standing hot-air balloon festival, a performing arts center or a local cycling shop that has a long history of promoting advocacy in the community. “Bet You Didn’t Know” is a section the previous editor enjoyed writing, but because it involves history of our community (and I’m not all that into history), I’d be happy to outsource it if a writer came to me with an idea.

Another section I accept queries for is called Game On. This is a feature-length article (about 600-650 words) related to either sports (NASCAR racing is big in our area), or it could be something different like an article we ran on a local female founder of a competitive chess league or someone who wins an academic competition.

There’s also Dwellings (600-650 words), which is a section that normally features home stories like renovations, custom homes, luxury lake living, etc. We often have builders and interior designers present us with projects, and we tell the story behind the project.

Navigators can be a feature on movers and shakers in our community, and it also runs 600-650 words.

Because our magazine features only local content, I normally only accept queries from writers that are in the general distribution area of the magazine, so I expect them to be familiar with the magazine and know what type of story has been run recently so they don’t duplicate their queries.

I hope this overview is helpful in showing you how an editor puts together a magazine and how the individual sections are broken out. If you study a magazine and see a specific section never has a byline on it, you can assume someone from the editorial staff is in charge of writing it. But features and other FOB articles are typically fair game.

Drop any questions you have about magazine querying in the comments below!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor of Lake Norman CURRENTS. She’s also worked in the editorial capacity for Little Ones and Charlotte Parent. Renee has also penned hundreds of online and print magazine articles during her career. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

On average, how many queries do you get per issue?

Renee Roberson said...


Believe it or not, I haven't been receiving more than two or three per issue from freelance writers, but I do get plenty of pitches from PR firms. I suspect that will change once I'm with the magazine a little longer but it does seem unusually low!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hmm. I wonder how that compares to other regional publications.

Renee Roberson said...


I've had a few epiphanies since writing this post. One is that there is no "submissions for freelance writers or photographers" page on the website. That might be a good start, LOL!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Isn't it funny what we spot and think "How did I not notice that before?" Good luck getting the word out!

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