Why would anyone want to write for trade journals? Aren't the topics are dry? Don't they require specialized knowledge? Not necessarily. You may want to consider trade journals to increase the potential market for your articles ? and for the money. Trade publications make up a significant portion of the hidden source of funds for professional writers. Breaking in can be surprisingly easy ? when you know the tricks.
What Can You Write?
Use a brainstorming list to begin your search for a specialty. To write for a trade publication, you will need in depth knowledge of a topic. Don't force yourself to learn the inner workings of gravel mines when you love the elegant designs of classic furniture. Trade publications require professional knowledge of a topic, so make sure it's a subject you'll want to spend a lot of time with. Start your list by including things you enjoy and love. Whether you volunteer for a non-profit organization or have a degree in agricultural science, include all of the categories in which you have experience. Some trade publications accept articles of personal experience or interviews with recognized authorities in their field. Include your connections with professionals to make your list more complete. Keep this list handy and add to it regularly.
Where Can You Find Those Trade Journals?
Now that you have a list of specialty areas that you want to be immersed in, you need to find the journals that pay for your information. Almost every profession has a trade journal. The first place for you to look is with a professional organization related to your area of specialty. If you love elegant furniture, than perhaps you should consider "Interior Decorators of America", "American Furniture Manufacturers", or "American Pine". Join at least one of these major professional organizations. Membership rates are often cheaper for affiliate members (those not practicing professionals in the field). Marketing companies buy the organization's list and send free publications and resources to members. These items may include "throw-away journals", free journals paid for by advertising. Even if you join the organization only one time, the professional materials will appear in your mailbox for years. This information will keep you on the cutting edge of your chosen industry.
Online resources are helpful in finding associations, but they include only a few of the possibilities. The most complete resource available is the Encyclopedia of Associations found in your local library. It contains the most complete list of organizations, many of which produce magazines specific to their members. It may take days for you to wade through this tome, but when you find ten journals that correspond to your qualifications, it will be worth the effort.
How Do I Start?
Begin by researching past issues of the magazine. Editors always recommend that potential writers analyze at least six months of back issues and a copy of their writer's guidelines. This is essential with trade journals. Articles seen in the trades are far different in style than those seen in consumer magazines. Pay attention to the complexity of sentences, commonly used terms, and the assumed knowledge of the readers. Style is often less conversational and more technical than what most people read. Many trade magazines use technical terms that are a foreign language to industry outsiders. Make sure you use their language, or you will sound amateurish.
Make a list of published topics. You want to know what not to do as well as the topics they prefer. Painting and Wallcovering Contractor focuses on the professional painting industry, while Walls and Ceilings focuses on plaster restorers and finishers. There is some crossover, but you increase your chances of selling the interview with the restorer of the Sistine Chapel to Walls and Ceilings because of the focus. In addition, Painting and Wallcovering Contractor likes articles on how-to meet regulatory standards. If you know of a regulation that has not been covered recently, send a query offering to update their readers on the topic. Trade journals often recycle subjects with fresh information on three to four year cycles. If you can approach old ideas in a new way, you can give them an article that they will buy.
Which Comes First, the Query or the Manuscript?
Query first, but if the editor does not know you then he or she will want to see a complete manuscript before making a commitment. Many writers despise writing on speculation, but in this case they should consider it. Most journals are in desperate need of good writers. They don't have huge slush piles stacked around the office that your article will have to compete with. As long as you have a topic they can use and can match their style, your article will sell.
Where Can You Find That Professional Knowledge?
Begin with the internet. Online searches enable you to find the title, author, and journal of the article you want, and request a copy of it from your local public or college library. Medical and health topics can be found on Pubmed at www.nih.gov. For other journal searches, contact your local community or college librarian. Without charging you, most libraries will order the article from another library if they don't have it in their collection. They'll even call you when it's ready.
Other useful sources of information include government regulators, local businesses, the business section of the phone directory, and professionals in the industry.
Can You See Your Byline in Trade Journals?
Most full-time professional magazine writers include trade journals in their portfolio. Trade journals need knowledgeable writers who can produce interesting and well-written copy specific to their magazine. Finding these writers is difficult, because most people don't think writing for trade journals is interesting. You'll know differently when you see the check in your mailbox. Many trade journals pay $200-$300 for a 1,000-word article, making it well worth the effort to learn to write for this large and diverse market.
Trade journals are not the flashiest places to publish. Your friends may not be amazed by your publication in Pit and Quarry, but as a writer trying to sell work, do not ignore the journals that want to find you.
Terri Pilcher publishes a FREE weekly e-zine, Writers Guidelines Magazine. Sign up at http://www.terripilcher.com. She also wrote "MONEY Markets 2005: 101 Publishers that Pay Writers in 6 Weeks or Less" and edits PowerPen Market Search (2-day FREE trial). Find both the book and the searchable database of writer's guidelines at http://www.powerpenmarketsearch.com.