Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you are a great writer. Sorry, but most magazines would reject your content.
You can change that, however.
We’ve all got our favorite magazines (even if they’ve shuttered their print editions).
And we all have those secret desires to see our names in print in one of those magazines. It’s one of the traits of blogging greatness: that sense of psychological unease.
That sense that I am destined for glory. That I must put a dent in the universe. I must leave a legacy.
It’s what drives most of us.
But getting published in a popular magazine is hard. Competition is tough. Only the best rise to the top. So it pays to persevere.
Fortunately we no longer have to stand before the gate of big media to get published.
We can blog.
10 Steps to Content Famous Magazines Would Love
That’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that blogs now allow people who shouldn’t write to write. The good news is Google rewards exceptional content creators because their content contributes to the web.
So, while blogging has opened up the playing field by allowing ANYONE to publish–we don’t have to let quality go down the drain by writing just like anybody.
We can write original blog posts with the qualitative content standards of a New Yorker or Wired.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Deep Research
Fortunately most magazines are online these days, so researching them is easy. But even if you didn’t want to do that you could walk inside your local library and get your hands on a dozen issues of your favorite magazine. Absorb their style, discover their audience.
2. Fascinating Stories
The difference between a Pulitzer-calibre article and your ho-hum one is the depth of the story. The characters are intriguing, surprising. The plot is full of conflict and challenges. Keep your eyes out for stories. I’ve found great stories involving Jack White, Allen Ginsberg and Phineas Gage that I used to great effect in openers.
3. Impeccable Spelling
Unless your article is a once-in-a-lifetime piece, The New Yorker is going to pooh-pooh it if it is riddled with spelling mistakes. What do I mean by riddled? More than one percent of your article is misspelled (that’s 1 word in a 100 word article). Pay someone else to crawl through it if you have to.
4. Mistake-Proof Grammar
You better know how to write a complete sentence, maintain verb tense and build your case cogently through all phases of your post–introduction, body and close (see Humdinger post on great ways to close a blog post). And all the pieces better fit together. Don’t tell a story that doesn’t relate to your audience because you just want to get their attention. This comes with ruthless editing.
5. Original Research
This is the difference between pubs like Huffington Post, Business Insider and Gawker versus pubs like Wired, The Verge and The New Yorker. The former are nothing but glorified content scrapers: someone else reports on a situation and then they [Huff Po or BI] scoop it, quote it and republish it.
The latter spend big dollars on sending reporters to cover stories and uncover information not formerly known. This is the point behind the pub funding site Matter. Do the same.
6. Air-Tight Facts
While most major magazines will do a round of fact-checking, don’t leave it to them to find gross errors in your information. Check, double-check and triple check your sources. If you have any doubts about something–reverify it or leave it out.
7. Unbiased Content
Unless you are sending in an opinion piece to a major magazine, keep your opinions out of the article. However, this is actually one rule that you can skip when it comes to blogging.
The thing about a blog post is that you are injecting your personality into the content–and that is what people are drawn to. They like the way you approach a topic and that you are not afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom. Or perhaps they dig one of your dysfunctions.
8. Beyond Obvious
You could have the most original research. A gut-wrenching beautiful story. Exquisite spelling. Flawless facts. But if your article fails to teach us anything we didn’t already know (or couldn’t figure out after a few seconds with a pen and napkin), then you aren’t contributing anything valuable.
In other words: avoid the self-evident.
9. Ridiculously Specific
Being vague will bore your readers. Tell me exactly how much a U.S. Army M4 Patton tank weighs (52 tons, combat ready) and then tell me that compares to 13 African elephants.
Dig into the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. Bring in vivid colors, rough textures. Make me smell rust, gargle Coke and hear the crash of breaking waves. Rub sandpaper against my forearm as I stare into a golden field of mature corn stalks.
10. Credible Expert
Finally, you have to be the authority in the subject. And you have to tell them why you are the authority.
How many years in an industry do you have? What special projects have you worked on that separate you from the pack? What unique experiences have you had that make you the ideal candidate to write on this topic?
This is one that you can develop over time. Your early 10,000 posts are going to be shoddy–but never mind. Those 10,000 posts–and the work that went into writing them–are part of the deliberate practice that carries you to becoming an authority in your field.
Anything to add to this list? Let me know in the comments.