Follow these basic steps to success with feature article writing.
What is your feature article about
First, determine the subject you intend to write about. It must be of interest to the people you are trying to reach. What problem can your article help them solve? What idea can excite them to want to find out more?
Determine what magazine you want to target for your article. If you are not sure, there are a number of directories on the web that list magazines. You can easily search by topic.
Research the magazine
If you are familiar with the magazine, you have a good idea of what kind of articles they publish. If you aren’t familiar, locate several issues and carefully examine their content to see:
- What are the topics that are typically covered?
- What types of questions do the articles answer?
- What is the typical article length?
- What is the writing style?
- Are there many pictures?
- Who are the authorities that the author quotes to answer the questions that the article raises?
- Who are the authors, business people, or freelance writers?
- Who advertises?
A thorough examination will tell you if the magazine is a good fit for what you are considering.
When you find a magazine that looks promising, look at their web site for writer’s guidelines. Writer’s guidelines will often provide specific do’s and don’ts about writing for the magazine. If you cannot easily find the guidelines, email the managing editor and ask for them.
The Query Letter
The next step is to write the query letter where you propose your story idea. This is typically somewhat formal and no more than one page in length. This is where you show that your idea offers value to the magazine’s readers. You will do this with a lead paragraph in your query that could be the lead for your article.
Then you will describe what topics you will cover, suggest a possible title, and talk about who you will be interviewing for source material and for quotes in the article. You will also mention your plans for pictures or illustrations. In addition, you will introduce yourself and say why you are qualified to write this article.
Nowadays, it is possible to query by email. I prefer that way because it is cheaper and faster. Most magazines will let you know if they accept email queries. If they do, remember to maintain the same professional writing approach you would take if you actually sent a letter through the mail.
Query Letter Example
Here is a query I wrote for a feature article on the best way for physicians to present bad news to their patients. You can see that it follows the advice above.
Giving patients bad news is never easy. Whether it’s telling a new patient that she has cancer, a regular patient that he has a chronic disease, or the parents of a newborn that their child has a heart defect, giving bad news is always difficult to do and even more difficult to do well.
In some cases, the patient may not want to know. In others, the patient must know. How do your readers determine when it’s appropriate to give bad news to a patient? What are their responsibilities? What are their patients’ responsibilities? What are the best ways to break bad news?
I’d like to propose an article of approximately 1800 words, tentatively titled, How to Give Bad News: Making It Easier on Yourself and Your Patient. It will offer your readers some practical insights on dealing with this difficult process.
In the article, I will provide information on the following:
- dealing with patients’ right to know or not to know
- determining how much to tell a patient with a poor prognosis
- strategies for delivering bad news
I’ll provide insights from physicians who routinely deal with giving bad news, recommendations from specialists who study the subject, and opinions from medical ethicists. Because it’s often difficult to think of everything in these stressful situations, I’ll provide a short checklist of important points to keep in mind. I’ll also provide side bar material that will help your readers find additional resources. The article will take approximately one month to complete.
I’m co-author of The Homeowners Property Tax Relief Kit (McGraw‑Hill, 1992). Credits include The McGraw‑Hill Real Estate Handbook, 2nd Edition, Florida Hotel and Motel Journal, Business Today. I also have over fourteen years experience writing technical and marketing documents.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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