The Trade of Trade Magazine Writing

Wendy Meyeroff

I’ve taught “Succeeding As a Magazine Writer” for many years. Usually, my students’ main goal is major consumer publications, e.g., Good Housekeeping, Wired, Smithsonian. Fortunately, they enjoy learning how writing for trade and professional publications (print and online) can be great options for gaining dollars…and possibly more success.

First the definition: Trade and professional publications (or “trades”) are designed to inform readers about a certain industry or profession. For example, I reported on some of the first consumer home health tests for Annals of Internal Medicine. DM News covers the direct mail industry and recently ran “8 Email Marketing Myths Debunked.”

Here are some advantages—especially if you’re first starting—that you could find in trade writing:

  • Better odds of getting in – Consider the magazine Consumer Goods Technology (CGT). The 2014 Writer’s Market (WM) notes that CGT is directed towards companies that supply consumer products, like L’Oreal, Energizer and Rubbermaid. CGT’s listing says something not unusual in trade writing: “We’re always looking for freelance talent.”
  • About that pitch—Start prospecting via WM or online, and then submit a query (a quick note explaining your idea). CGT’s WM listing notes their focus addresses their audience’s business issues, especially the technological aids. So here’s one possibility: One-on-one interview with an exec of a booming consumer goods company. Have technology understanding? Perhaps CGT would enjoy a feature on an IT company’s unique advance used by smaller, organic, companies. Add punch with ideas related to businesses in often-overlooked geographic areas.
  • Repeat business – Trade editors often need help, so they’re more likely to offer regular assignments to impressive freelancers. Even consumer publications that liked my work were so query-inundated they rarely called or accepted my next idea.
  • The “Mentor Factor” –I’ve found trade editors almost always become good mentors. Since they’re often assigning a not well-known topic, they explain it, give strong contact info and progressively offer solid feedback. In consumer work I’ve often proceeded totally alone.
  • The sometimes dollar downside – I can’t deny trade dollars tend to be fewer than any decent consumer magazine. You’ll usually find 20 to 40 cents per word, whereas $1 perword isn’t unusual in a solid consumer publication. (Though I found CGT pays 75 cents to $1 per word.)

Try to find clients that pay “on acceptance” (that is, once your article’s been accepted). Sadly, clients more often pay “on publication,” or whenever material’s finally published. (I had one of the latter take six months!) You can compromise with those that don’t take too long to publish and pay. (CGT notes they publish and pay in two months.)

I trust this very brief overview helps you all consider the amazing opportunity in trade publication clients. Good luck!