Fill your Mailbox with Checks from Fillers! By Debbie Swanson

One day last year, I had an hour left of writing time but wasn’t getting anywhere. Instead, I spent about 20 minutes jotting down a ‘reader tip’ I’d had inside my head. Without further thought, I mailed it to a magazine I frequently read, and called it a day.

Several months later, I was surprised by a call from the magazine saying they’d like to print it, and soon received a check for $75. Not bad for 20 minutes of work on a dry day.

Since then, reader tips and brief, filler articles are a regular part of my writing plans. Most magazines are eager to offer their readers quick and easy solutions to problems or brief, newsworthy updates, and often pay anywhere from $50 – $200.

So how do you find these markets? Start with the magazines your family regularly reads. Look for pages dedicated to reader tips, or pages filled with brief, newsworthy items.

Once you have an idea of what type of material these magazines purchase, take a walk through the rooms of your house. What are some solutions you have in place? Look for creative solutions you’ve found to common problems, but don’t discount the obvious. I once read a tip in a craft magazine suggesting we fold down the end on a roll of duct tape, to avoid wasting time searching for the end next time. Likely we’ve all been doing that for years, yet some smart writer pocketed cash for writing it up and sending it in!

Next, think about your family’s hobbies, classes or sports. What new equipment have you tried out, or news have you heard of? What funny things have happened to you?

Once you’ve got some ideas, study your target magazines. Some writer’s guidelines do not include tips and filler information, so learn from the existing pages. Read the printed pieces to estimate the preferred word count. Also mimic the tone of the magazine: is it a peppy, you-can-do-it tone or newsworthy and informative? If an editor receives a useful tip, within their word count and already blending with their magazine’s tone, your chances of success improve.

Last, keep a log of what you’ve mailed. Expect to hear a response only from an interested market. However, as you discover new markets down the road, refer to your log and re-submit earlier, unaccepted tips.

Dig through your regular magazines, and consider these paying tip markets, to begin padding your income with profits from tips:

1. Family Handyman
http://www.rd.com/familyhandyman/action.do?siteId=1111&categoryId=6003
Buys: handy hints & great goofs, workshop tips.
Pays $100, more for workshop tips

2. Lake County Journal
http://www.lakecountryjournal.com/submissions.html
Buys: Amazing facts, hints, tips, advice for solving problems, true stories that happened in our region (Minnesota) , funny or clever things.
Length: 400 words
Payment varies

3. Today’s Christian
http://www.christianitytoday.com/todayschristian/features/info.html#writers
Buys: Short humor, lessons from life, trivia, everyday heroes.
Pays: $35

4. Scouting
http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/about/contributors/index/html
Buys: Scouting-related stories, reader solutions.
Pays: $25-50 for fillers, much more for articles

5. Family Circle
http://www.familycircle.com/home/homepage.jsp
(Click on “Reader’s Tips” popup)
Buys: Helpful hints, holiday tips, family and personal pampering tips.
Pays: $50

6. I Love Cats
http://www.iluvcats.com/writguid.html
Buys: Short fillers.
Pays: $25

7. Birds & Blooms
http://www.birdsandblooms.com/dycon.asp?parent=36551
Buys: Anecdotes, facts.
Pays $10 – 75

8. Naval History
http://www.usni.org/help/faq_publish.htm
Buys: Anecdotes, newsbreaks (naval-related), short humor.
Pays: $10-50

9. Brew Your Own
http://www.byo.com
Contact editor for writer’s guidelines.
Buys: Humorous, unusual news and stories about homebrewing.
Pays $50

10: Woman’s Day
http://www.womansday.com/article.asp?section_id=22&article_id=7801
http://www.womansday.com/article.asp?section_id=22&article_id=7800
Buys: Tiptalk and Kidspeak submissions
Payment varies

Debbie Swanson has been running a home-based writing business for eight years, and has published many freelance articles on parenting, writing, and other topics. You can visit her website at http://www.swansonwriting.com.