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What does a Magazine Writer do?

By B. Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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A magazine writer is a type of journalist who writes for a magazine, either as a freelancer or on a staff position. Though "magazine writer" is not a term often used for the position, it does refer to someone who is employed to write for a magazine. The qualifications to become this type of writer vary depending on the type of position and subject matter of the magazine.

At the very least, a magazine writer typically always has a high school diploma. Beyond this, many writers also have college educations, often bachelor's degrees in English, journalism, communications, or a related field. It is challenging to become a magazine writer when just starting out, so many also try to get experience through internships and entry level positions.

These entry level positions may include things such as copy editing or fact checking, for example. Working in these positions will help one to get more experience in the magazine publishing business, and will also help one to develop contacts. As one's experience grows, it is then possible to receive assignments or a job as a magazine writer.

Again, many people who want to be writers start out as freelancers. An editor of a magazine may give a freelance writer a specific topic on which to write an article, as well as requirements such as word count or a certain style of writing. When the writer delivers a quality article, he or she may receive more assignments, and over time, may be offered a staff position.

Staff writers on magazines are often expected to come up with their own ideas for articles, though they may be assigned a specific "beat." It is assumed that staff writers are familiar with the subject matter and writing style of the magazine, as well as what topics would interest the readers. They should then be able to come up with their own ideas that they can submit to their editor for approval.

A magazine writer should take a job at a magazine with subject matter about which he or she is comfortable. This will make it easier to write quality articles, as well as to ask interesting questions during interviews, for instance. A magazine writer will need to be able to thoroughly cover a topic, approach topics from a new direction, and be able to write to capture readers' attention. It is necessary to be a motivated independent worker as well, because much of the time spent researching, writing, and editing the article will be spent alone.

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Discussion Comments

By anon967417 — On Aug 27, 2014

What is it like to be a magazine writer?

By clintflint — On May 12, 2014

@croydon - I think there is still a job market out there for staff writers and columnists though. It might even be better than ever with so many online magazines available now. Although I've noticed they tend to recruit among their readers as much as anything, so I guess you'd have to make sure you were willing to participate in the community.

By croydon — On May 11, 2014

@pastagana - I would say 80% or so of would-be writers end up being rejected because they don't follow the guidelines. They either send something that somehow goes against the rules, or they send something that isn't their absolute best work and needs editing or more original ideas.

Very few magazines are looking for writers these days, because everyone wants to be a writer. If you have 600 new pitches every week, you are going to look for every excuse to throw 575 away without reading them. Anyone who doesn't follow the rules gives them that excuse. That might seem disrespectful, but it's the way the business works.

By pastanaga — On May 10, 2014

If you're a freelance writer and you want to start writing for magazines, you have to pitch articles to them. The first thing you should do is read as many copies of the magazine as you can to see what kind of articles they write and what the house style is like. You can usually get a backlist at the library for major magazines.

Then see if you can find out what their magazine writer guidelines are. Important things to check is whether they want you to provide photos with the article, if they have any subjects that they never take from freelancers, and how they prefer you to submit. Some magazines want a pitch, which is selling them an article before you write it. Some of them want to see the finished article right away.

You have to get used to rejection, because it's just part of the process of learning how to do the job.

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