“How do I find online writer’s guidelines, to tell me what magazine editors want and need?”

This post addresses Question 5 of 12 in the Magazine Writing Basics blog series.

UPDATE: Helpful for this year are the 2014 Writer’s Market books, if you want to know how to find editors and publishers to pitch your writing to. Those guides list thousands of publishers, with descriptions of what they’re looking for and how to contact them. The deluxe versions include online access for a year, with periodic updates to reflect changes.

To read posts you’ve missed, click to the ARCHIVES. To get future posts sent to you automatically, sign up via the EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION box in the sidebar to the right —–>

Q.  “Where can I find more detailed guidelines from publishers?”

The easy answer to this question is that a publisher is likely to post a version of their writer’s guidelines on the magazine’s website. (It may be a trimmed-down version, compared to that in market guides.) However, that sub-page within the website may be a little hard to find.  Here are a few clues for finding information you need on who to send your submissions to, and how:

If, for example, you visit the home page for Parenting magazine at Parenting.com, the phrase “Writer’s Guidelines” won’t  jump out at you. That’s intentional, I’m sure. Magazine editors (especially those working for publications with more than a million readers) don’t want every site visitor who has an inclination to write–but no experience– to impulsively send them material.

So: on this particular site, if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page, in tiny print you’ll see Customer Service, then Contact Us. Click there, and you’ll find a link to Writer’s Guidelines. However, every magazine’s site will be structured a bit differently, so here’s an even easier way to find guidelines online:

Using Search Engines

Type into Google’s search box the magazine name, followed by the words writers guidelines (punctuation not necessary). Sometimes it helps to enclose words that you know will be together in quotes (“Parenting magazine”  “writers guidelines”). You can also try the phrase “submission guidelines”.

You should find a useful link within the first few Google hits to click on that takes you directly to a sub-page within the magazine’s own website. Here’s the link I found to get immediately to Parenting’s guidelines:  http://www.parenting.com/article/Mom/Relationships/Parenting-Magazines-Writers-Guidelines.

Check before you click to be sure the site address matches the magazine’s site address. Note in the above URL that by clicking this link you go directly to parenting.com,  which we already know is Parenting’s website based on a previous search of the magazine’s title (or from the website address listed within a copy of the magazine). Other hits in your Google search may land you on a page in another website that simply contains information about these guidelines. (Many great sites for writers cut and paste the guidelines.) However, to be sure  information is current, it’s always nice to go directly to the source.

Let’s try another search, for a lesser-know magazine called Lion, a publication for the Lion’s Club (a service organization that assists the blind). I have a personal interest in this because my husband volunteers for them and copies of this magazine land in our mailbox. I’ve discovered that not only is it an international publication with high circulation, it also pays well.

Doing a Google search for Lion‘s guidelines, I found their site has two pages, one addressing freelancers and another for club members (“How to get in Lion Magazine”). The one for members offers much more detail, but both pages offer information freelancers can use. I’d check out both if this magazine appeals to you, to make sure you send queries proposing articles that will be a good fit.

But That’s Not All, Folks

I still recommend you look up guidelines for magazines in the Writer’s Market. (I often see more elaborate instructions from editors there.) Since writing professionals use that directory, editors are more willing to share details about what they want and need, including details about word counts and more specific pay rates.  You can always find the most current Writer’s Market at your local library ( in the Reference section) if you only need to look up a few listings and don’t want to mark up a copy with your own notes.

Remember, though: nothing truly beats reading several issues of the magazine—as many as you can get your hands on. For the highest rate of success, however, you do more than read those copies. You analyze them to death, using more intense Magazine Analysis (more on that, later). This intense analysis is especially crucial if you’re going for way more than just a one-shot-deal with a magazine and would like to become a regular contributor, or if you want to greatly increase your odds of garnering an assignment.

Next up will be Question 6:  “Can I meet editors in person?  Does it help?”

To automatically receive quick answers to all 12 questions in this series, click EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION  (bottom right) on any Sell Your Nonfiction blog sub-page.

By the way, if you’ve  popped onto this website in the middle of this series, I suggest you click to the Magazine Writing Basics page, to read the overview. You can catch up by reading answers to the first four questions in the ARCHIVES. That will help you avoid confusion, if you see writing terminology you’re unfamiliar with.

Happy Writing!

Laurie Winslow Sargent

©  2010  Laurie Winslow Sargent. All Rights Reserved.

Note: Some links here are affiliate links to products  I believe will benefit you as writers. I do receive an itsy bitsy commission if products are purchased after the links are clicked. That might just treat me to a cup of coffee to keep me energized as I post free — and ideally helpful — info about how to get your writing published 🙂 (Required Affiliate Disclosure)


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