Querying the Top Magazines by 2011 Circulation

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Researching and pitching new markets can be a time-consuming process, especially when market intelligence can be hard to find. Few things are more frustrating to freelancers than sending a meticulously crafted query, only to discover that the magazine isn’t assigning. With that in mind, we investigated the magazines with the largest 2011 circulation in the hope freeing up valuable time on your marketing ‘to do’ list.

Top circulation markets that accept freelance queries (with the circulation ranking in parenthesis):

  1. AARP The Magazine (#1) is a bimonthly magazine mailed to members of AARP, a nonprofit organization serving people over 50. “All AARP The Magazine departments are open to freelance writers, though we do have regular freelancers who provide a lot of our shorter pieces, particularly regarding money and travel coverage,” said features editor Margaret Guroff. Writers should send clips as similar as possible to the story queried. Attach clips as PDFs or include links to the articles. The magazine pays from $1 to $2 per word depending on the assignment. Pay is 30 days after acceptance of a workable draft. Obtaining a yes on your query will be easier if you read the magazine and make it apparent to the editor you understand the magazine’s format and mission by sending in an appropriate query. If you are not a member of AARP you can look for copies in some doctors’ offices; currently, the only way to subscribe is through membership. Selected stories from the magazine are posted online. The magazine does not provide courtesy copies for writers.
  2. AARP Bulletin (#2) is a national news publication that is sent out to AARP members 11 times per year. (See above for ways to find the Bulletin if you are not a member.) AARP Bulletin editors do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. That said, writers may submit story proposals based on the following topics: Health, health policy, medicine and fitness; personal finance, financial planning and work; housing, aging, transportation and long-term care. Editors only contact writers if they decide to pursue the story idea. In order to have a chance at AARP Bulletin the writer should read past issues and make it clear how the writer’s idea fits what editors publish. Send queries via email to bulletin@aarp.org as plain text within the body of the message (no attachments) or mail to: AARP Bulletin, c/o Editorial Submission, 601 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20049.
  3. Reader’s Digest (#6) is a general interest, family-oriented magazine publishing 10 issues per eyar. All departments are open to freelancers, especially the service department. Clips are helpful, especially if the writer is pitching a feature. Shorts are best written and sent without querying first. The magazine’s pay is well worth a writer’s time if the writer knows the magazine and thinks the idea fits the publication. Final comments from RD editorial were: “The publication does not run ‘downer’ articles. Most everything we publish is somewhat upbeat or offers a solution. If it’s humor, the publication wants laughs, not a knowing nod.”
  4. The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC  Magazine (#7) does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but keep reading if this is a target market! Editors decide on story ideas and assign them to individuals with known track records writing about the topic in which they seek to publish in NG. While NG editors decline to peruse unsolicited portfolios, they do pay attention to what top journalists in related fields are writing and ask those writers to send portfolios. Do not be disheartened; however if you have not been contacted, appropriate queries can be sent to the editor of TRAVELER magazine—an offshoot of NG. Writer’s guidelines for this publication are available on the website.

Take Heed Markets:

  1. The Costco Connection (#3) editors declined to give query input. What they look for; however, are writers that study several issues of the magazine and then and only then send queries that fit within what they publish.
  2. Better Homes & Gardens (#4) editorial staff was non-responsive. If you read the magazine and have a great idea that fits the magazine’s editorial voice, it never hurts to try. Check the masthead of the current issue and send your query to the appropriate editor.
  3. Game Informer (#5) does not accept freelance queries.

Rounding out the top ten largest circulation magazines were Good Housekeeping (#8), Woman’s Day (#9), and Family Circle (#10). All the magazines in the top ten with the exception of Game Informer and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC rarely turn down a top notch idea that fits snugly within their editorial guidelines. Study your market, take aim, and send off your best work to the most read publications.