Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice Hanna Thompson—a south Texas native—is the author of over sixty novels and non-fiction books for the Christian market. She supplements her fiction habit by writing magazine articles, devotions, write-for-hire books and more. One of the chief joys of Janice’s life is training writers to earn a living with the written word. Check out Janice’s “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer,” course at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. The ten lessons in this course were developed to strategically train freelance writers to earn top dollar. Each lesson includes an audio file (mp3 for download), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a power point video, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum. Email Janice at booksbyjanice[at]aol[dot]com to learn more, or visit her website at www.janicehannathompson.com.

Cash In on Magazine Articles

There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know
till he takes up the pen and writes.

—William Makepeace Thackeray

Novelists, published or unpublished, are often looking for ways to earn money while they’re waiting for that next book contract to come in. Can I get an amen? If you’re where I was in the mid ’90s, you’re looking to prove that you’re a “real” writer by getting your name in print anywhere you can. Maybe you’re longing to appease a spouse who’s fed up with your claims that you’re a pro, when so few, if any, advances have been deposited into your checking account. Or perhaps you just need a little boost—some indication from an editor that your work is worthy of publication. A pat on the back would be nice.

Well, fret no more! You can supplement your fiction income by selling magazine articles. We’re going to address this topic over the next three months, but I want to start by giving you my Top Ten List of things to consider as you shift gears from novels to magazine articles. We’re talking about two different worlds here, folks! It is possible to have a foot in both, but you might just end up doing the splits if you’re not careful.


1. Write tight. Novelists are accustomed to a hefty word count. Lengthy descriptions. Extensive characterization. Magazine articles don’t allow you that same luxury. Editors will be looking for tight, concise pieces. If you can say it in ten words, you can say it in eight. Kill off adjectives, adverbs, and any other words that don’t keep the piece moving forward. (And by the way, learning to write tight will help you with your novel, too!)

2. Think like a freelancer. A magazine article writer has to drum up his own work. If you’re the shy sort, get over it. You’ll be pitching, pitching, pitching. You’ll also be interviewing, generating ideas, and basically thinking outside of the box. If you’ve never studied the life of the freelancer, this is the time.

3. Touch your reader where he lives. In other words, your article topics have to hit home. They must meet felt needs. If you’re unsure of what those “needs” are, become a people watcher. If you’re still unsure, ask a magazine editor for his or her list of upcoming themes.

4. Learn the basic components of a great article. (We’ll talk more about this next month.)

5. Understand the various article types: how-to pieces, roundup articles, personal experience pieces, “Hear it from the Pros,” as told to, inspirational, profile/bio, essay/opinion, confession/tell-all, travel, food, etc.

6. Develop a solid understanding of the submission process. Learn how to craft a killer query letter. Keep author-editor relationships strong by doing what you’re hired to do—writing tight, relevant pieces and turning them in on time. Don’t leave any stone unturned.

7. If you’re interested in writing for the newspaper, study the world of journalism. You might consider a class at your local junior college.

8. Build a platform. If you’re a novelist, you’ve heard this hundreds of times. You need a following. The same is true with magazine article writing, but probably not for the reason you’re thinking. People (traditionally) don’t care who wrote the article they’re reading. Don’t let that hurt your feelings... it’s just a cold hard fact. However, as a savvy writer, you should care. Why? Because those article topics could one day lend themselves to your novel or nonfiction book. And speaking of nonfiction books...

9. Write articles that can be turned into nonfiction books. (I know, I know! I hear you saying: “But I’m not a nonfiction author! I’m a novelist!”) Here’s my take on that: Nothing in your life should be wasted. If you’re writing those magazine articles on, say, menopause, why not take them, tweak them a bit, and turn them into chapters for a nonfiction book on the subject? If you’ve been building a platform by publishing a host of articles on the same topic (menopause), you’ve been setting yourself up for a nonfiction book, anyway. And who knows! You might just use that same topic as the foundation for your novel! Before long, you’ll be known as “that menopause writer.” (Hey, it’s better than being known as “that menopausal writer”!)

10. Learn the tricks of the trade. Hang out with other magazine article writers. Get to know editors. Figure out new angles. In other words, be savvy. Think on your feet. Be prepared to turn anything and everything into an article.

BONUS TIP: Join www.writersmarket.com. Take the time to learn how to navigate it properly.

I want to leave you with a true story, something that once happened to me. I’d written a little quiz on procrastination. Took me about twenty minutes to write it, and I had a lot of fun in the process. Buzzing over to www.writersmarket.com, I submitted it to a variety of publications. (And, yes, you can simultaneously submit magazine articles. We’ll talk more about this over the next couple months). A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from the Sylvan Learning Centers. I couldn’t recall submitting to them, but it turned out one of the places I had sent the quiz to ended up being their parent company. See how God works? They purchased my quiz for $400! Can you imagine? I couldn’t either, but that $400 gave me the cash I needed in that moment. And cash in the bank does something else, too—it frees you up to spend time working on the thing you really love . . . your novel.

That’s it for this month, novelists. Grab your notepad. Let the ideas roll! Then cash in on them so that you can write the great American novel!