Here is some of the advice I've picked up on the way from both expert writers and writing buddies and from my own recent experiences on how to get your features noticed by editors and published. You've probably heard them a thousand times before but it never hurts to have a gentle reminder - they work, that's the main thing!
1. Check the magazine you want to write for will consider contributions from freelance writers. If this is not apparent from looking through the magazine then don't be afraid to ring them/ look on the web site/ email them to ask. If you don't ask you won't know if they are a potential outlet for your work, or if you're just wasting your time trying to write for them when they won't even look at your features - no matter how good they are. If they aren't interested in freelance work, do yourself and them a favour and move on to a magazine which does. For lists of magazines have a look on the Internet, or get a copy of Writer's Market UK and Ireland. It lists all potential outlets for your work as well as containing articles and advice on all aspects of writing. It's a great book and one no aspiring or experienced writer should be without. It really is invaluable. You can get in any good bookshop and on-line sites such as Amazon.
2.I know it's been said over and over again but it's such good advice I'm going to say it again - read the magazines you want to write for. I don't mean just one copy. If they are published monthly you need to read at least three issues, more if you can. If they are weekly, read about 4 - 6. If they're quarterly, read a years worth. If you can't afford to buy them, or they don't stock them in your local shops try the library - they sometimes have the current issues of a wide range of magazines you can read for free. Or try the magazines web site if they have one. Some magazine publishers will send you back copies of their magazine, but may charge a fee for this.
3. When you are reading your chosen magazine don't just skim it. Take the time to look at the whole thing, adverts and all. They give you such a valuable insight into the type of people who the magazine is aimed at and who you are writing for. Note the features in there. Who are they written by - are they all qualified in the topics they teach? Or are some using their jobs/ experience? How will you qualify your credentials and give the editor/readers and assurance that you know about what you speak? Look at the style, word length, how features are illustrated, tone, language and write your feature in the same style.
4. Be original. Don't deviate from the magazine's house style as it's likely your feature will get rejected if it doesn't conform to their accepted parameters. But that doesn't mean your feature should be predictable or banal. Infuse some freshness into your style. Look for topics or themes that haven't been done to death - if they have, either look somewhere else for inspiration or find a different angle.
5. People are fascinating so have a snoop around your locality - local paper, local free magazines/papers for potential interviewees who would make a good subject for a feature: people with unusual hobbies, coming up to important anniversaries, lead unusual or interesting lives - that sort of thing.
6. Don't waste your own or the editor's time by pitching/sending your work to the wrong type of magazine - I know it sounds daft but I've heard other writers and editors say that it does happen! If you've read the magazine properly you shouldn't make that mistake. Even if you have read the magazine and written your feature to the best of your ability it doesn't mean it will be accepted, but that's when you need the next tip!
7. Be persistent. That doesn't mean be a nuisance or stalk the editor or argue with the editor that they're wrong to reject your feature. You won't change the outcome and may find your self black listed. No means no so move on and pitch it somewhere else. Just because one editor says no it doesn't mean they all will(as I've had recent experience of). If you work is good enough it will find a home somewhere, eventually. You've just got to keep trying and revamping it.
8. Most importantly of all believe in your work because no-one else will. If you don't believe you can get your feature published then you won't. Have the confidence to write your feature and approach editors in the way they prefer and in professional way. Remember we all had to start somewhere and editors aren't out to make your life a misery. They need a continuous supply of good copy to fill their pages - so why shouldn't it come from you. I used to think that no editor would ever take my work, let alone pay me for it. But I started off small and have now had 21 articles published, since I started recorded my achievement in Jan this year. Most have been in free, community magazines, and association magazines but I've worked up to now getting them into the local paper, local glossie magazine and a national writing magazine. I know several others have done so in blog land too. So you can do it. You just have to take the plunge.
9. Visualise your success - I know it sounds crazy but it works. It's something Mr Whaley told me to do and I know he's mentioned it hos blog too. I lie on my bed, holding the magazine I want to get published in in my hands, close my eyes, take deep, calming breaths and I visualise my photo in the contributors list some magazines have and my name is there too. I then 'open' the pages of the magazine until I get to my feature in there. I can see the text and my name in the byline. I can see the images the magazine have chosen to illustrate my feature. It's a wonderful feeling and I let myself hold that visualisation in my mind for a few minutes. Then I get up and get typing. Try it! It's really motivation and call me daft if you like but it works for me!
Keep us posted on your writing achievements