5 Reasons You Should Pitch Your Writing to Smaller Markets

Small-circulation publications are often overlooked, but they offer big perks to writers who are willing to reach out.
Publish date:

The dream of every freelance writer is the “big get.” That is, writing for the largest, best-known markets we can land. Bigger markets, after all, mean more prestige and better money. But there also can be tremendous value in writing for smaller markets—something a lot of writers tend to forget as they chase bigger fish.

This guest post is by Don Vaughan. Vaughan is a North Carolina–based freelancewriter and founder of Triangle Area Freelancers. You can connect with him at donaldvaughan.net. This post is from Writer's Digest magazine.


Not me. Like many of my colleagues, I write regularly for larger markets such as Boys’ Life, Military Officer and CURE, all of which pay quite well. But I still accept assignments from smaller publications when I can fit them into my schedule because they provide perks that the larger magazines may not.

Writers who have built up a clientele of larger, better-paying markets may consider smaller publications beneath them, or simply not worth their time. In my view, that’s rather shortsighted. Here are five reasons why.

  1. Pitching is less competitive. “I find that smaller magazines can be a bit more flexible with their content,” says Jenni Hart, a Raleigh, N.C.–based freelancer who writes regularly for regional publications such as Midtown Magazine and Cary Living Magazine. “When you are among a small group of contributing writers, you stand a better chance of having a pitch accepted.”

[Learn about Freelance Writing: 10 Ways to Satisfy Editors & Land More Assignments]

Niche publications also can be receptive outlets for freelancers who are experts in a particular area but who aren’t yet experienced writers. Film critic Joe Kane, who now serves as publisher of the small quarterly VideoScope, says that contributing to smaller publications early in his career benefitted him in terms of experience, exposure and learning how to work with editors.

  1. You can write about what you love. For me, that means comic books, cheesy movies and long-forgotten film and television stars for genre magazines such as Filmfax, VideoScope and Famous Monsters of Filmland. These magazines offer modest paychecks, but have given me the opportunity to interview and write about individuals I’ve long admired, such as actor Tim Matheson, painter Mort Künstler and comic book legend Joe Kubert, just to name a few. The fun is in the interview; to be compensated at all for the resulting byline is just a bonus.
    Learn everything you need to know about developing (and sustaining)
    a freelance writing career with The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing,
    a new,
    must-own guide for all writers. Order now!

Along similar lines, I have sold a number of essays to VideoScope, ranging in topic from my first job working as an usher at a theater in my hometown of Lake Worth, Fla. (“The Fall of the House Where I Ushered”) to working as a movie extra (“A Star Is Bored”) to a tribute to special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. I doubt any of these pieces would have found a home with a more general-interest publication, but they were all great fun to write.

  1. You may be impressed by the writing of your fellow contributors. Just because a market is small doesn’t mean the writing will be lacking. In fact, the prose and criticism found in publications such as Filmfax and Famous Monsters of Filmland is as sharp, informed and cogent as anything you’ll find in more mainstream magazines.
  1. Small publications can make great secondary markets for work you’ve already done. A good example is an interview I conducted with actor R. Lee Ermey for the well-read magazine Military Officer. We talked at length, but I’d been assigned just 400 words to tell his story, which left a lot of material on the table. With Ermey’s permission, I approached VideoScope about running a larger portion of our Q&A. My editor said yes because he saw the interview as a fun complement to an upcoming review of the Blu-ray release of Full Metal Jacket, the film that made Ermey a star.
  1. Smaller markets can lead to other opportunities. Several contributors to VideoScope have received book deals as a result of their association with the magazine, and Hart landed some new business clients after they saw her byline in Midtown Magazine and elsewhere.
    “My freelance work for these clients includes writing Web copy, newsletters, blog posts and social media content. This now accounts for about 20 percent of my income,”she says.

Erika Hoffman, a freelance writer in Chapel Hill, N.C., agrees. “You never know who will advance your career,” says Hoffman, who regularly contributes to such niche publications as PentecostalEvangel, Sasee and ScreaminMama. “[Smaller markets] can help you reach a readership among folks who would not know you otherwise.”

When pitching smaller publications, keep in mind that most have limited editorial resources compared to larger magazines. “Writers should send email inquiries that are clear, succinct and direct,” advises Kane, who is one of VideoScope’s full-time staff of three. “Avoid long-winded preambles or lengthy résumés. Editorial time is tight on limited-staff publications, so the sooner writers get to the point of the pitch, the better.”

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.