5 Steps to Discover What a Publication Will Pay

Carol Tice

I’ve gotten this question from several writers recently:

“I’m researching a new publication, and they seem like a fit for me. But I can’t tell what they pay, so I don’t know if it’s worth the time to develop a query letter for them.”

That’s the rub, huh? Sometimes it’s not entirely obvious what a particular market might pay you.

On the bright side, it’s not all that hard to find out. But you have to be willing to do a little sleuthing.

Before you start though, you need to do one thing: Get the right attitude.

If your attitude is “If I don’t see the answer on their website in the first five minutes of looking, then I give up,” your choices of potential markets to pitch are going to be pretty limited.

Take the attitude that this is a mystery you need to solve, and you’re going to keep going until you solve it. Period.

Once you’ve got your head on straight, you’re ready to do some research and find out what this publication pays.

Here are five ways I often use to track down pay rates at a new publication:

  1. Use The Writer’s Market — they have a 1-4 dollar-sign system that gives you at least a rough idea if it’s a low or high-paying market. The online edition has a growing stable of freshly updated online markets, too.
  2. Ask around on writer forums on LinkedIn, on regional writer forums, or writing niche forums — or of course on Freelance Writers Den — if anyone has written for the publication. If you don’t participate in any writing forums, do some research and join a few — they are invaluable for situations like this.
  3. Do some Google searches on “magazine name” and “pays” and/or “sucks” or “writer’s guidelines” and see if you pick up anyone complaining about them, or discussing their rates.
  4. Get the media kit. Here’s one thing almost all publications have, both online and off — a media kit. It contains information intended to convince advertisers to place ads with the publication, and it’s often readily available online (if not, call and pose as a potential advertiser and they’ll send you one). Media kits are often a gold mine of info about the number of subscribers, their age, average income, job title, purchasing power, and so on. You can make a good bet that if there’s a big or well-heeled subscriber base, pay will usually be pretty decent.
  5. Pick up the phone. If you can scare up a phone number, simply call the publication. Ask for editorial. See if you can get a receptionist, or an editor, on the line. You might request writer’s guidelines, which will usually give you a pay range. Or just ask what rates are like. Short of that, send a quick email request for writer’s guidelines and pay rates.

How do you find out what publications pay? Leave a comment and add to my list of tactics.

20 Comments

  1. isabella

    Great post! the tips and advice explains it all. Learned several things here! Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Pinar Tarhan

    This is one big problem for me. Not all publicaitons openly indicate their rates, and sometimes even a good research on google doesn’t help! I was wondering if it is OK to ask them openly through email. This helps a lot!

    (So many publications to learn the rates of! 🙂 )

Related Posts

You CAN Write a Query Letter That Gets a “Yes”: 5 Resources

Freelance writer getting a gig after learning to write a query letter.

Love them or hate them, queries are one of the most important marketing tools for any freelancer who wants to write for magazines. And the skills you learn from writing a good query letter also help business writers and copywriters pitch their potential clients.

If you’ve been sending queries off into space and never getting a reply, you may think it’s impossible to break into new magazines. But it’s not true! Editors are always looking for new talent.

To help you learn to write a query letter that will get you the gig, we’ve pulled together a collection of five of our best posts on pitching:

Can’t Write? Try These 9 Ideas for Writing Motivation

It’s the bane of every freelance writer’s life: You know you need to sit yourself down and get some writing done, but nothing happens. The writing motivation just isn’t there. Sometimes, you can't even make yourself sit down with the computer -- even if you...