How I Broke into Professional Membership Society Magazines By John K. Borchardt

Almost every profession has one or more professional societies dedicated to the career and specialized knowledge interests of its members. Many of these organizations publish magazines dedicated to these interests. These magazines often pay freelance writers and do not require them to be members of the organization. Pay scales vary but often are higher than many trade magazines. Some pay by the word while others have a set fee for an article. Professional society magazines tend to prefer feature length articles of 1,500 words or more.

One doesn’t have to be a member of a particular profession to write for one of its magazines. For example, I am not an engineer. However, in 2009 I made my first sale to the magazine of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a manuscript on engineering management. I have written several more feature articles for them since. These have been focused on engineering subjects I found fascinating and extensively researched.

I have also been writing for other professional society magazines. Usually I have focused on management subjects and customize my manuscript for the profession in question. Sometimes I focus on the technical discipline of the profession.

Your queries have to be well researched. I have often been contacted by editors of professional society magazines to discuss my queries in more detail before they accept them. This has been true even if I have previously written for them. Editors often want more details on the slant my manuscript would take and my sources. They usually have suggestions on the slant and often suggest additional subjects to cover or subjects mentioned in my query that they want omitted from the manuscript. Heeding this coaching is essential in minimizing later revisions. These discussions are often financial opportunities since I can sometimes persuade editors I need a higher word count (and thus a larger check) to discuss added subjects.

I find that editors of science and engineering society magazines in particular often request revisions and require additional research to be sure the information in your manuscript is correct. Almost always only one editor works with your manuscript so there aren’t repeated cycles of revisions. I have found that the revisions clearly improve the quality of my manuscripts.

Many professional societies have websites and strive to add fresh content to keep their members returning to the websites. This has opened up additional opportunities for me. All told, I have written more than 80 articles for professional society publications. Thus these publications have become an important income source for me.

John Borchardt is a freelance writer who covers business, employment, career management, science and technology. More than 1,200 of his articles have been published in a variety of trade and consumer magazines and online publications. His Oxford University Press book Career Management for Scientists and Engineers was a Science Book Club Alternate Selection.

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