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3 Questions About Writing For Magazines

Hello Anne,

I was doing some research on freelance writing for magazines and newspapers and was wondering if you could help me out by answering some  questions:

  1. Freelance writing questions and answersDo freelance writers for a magazine know when their article will be published?
  2. If their article isn’t published when it was supposed to, can a freelance writer go speak with the editor for the magazine if it’s a local magazine?
  3. Are all freelance writers compensated with a kill fee?

Thank you so much for your time.


Hi LL,

Let’s take number 2 first. It’s always okay to approach an editor – editors need writers and are happy to respond to those who can write well for their market. I sometimes think I should market a bumper sticker that says Editors Are People Too! Of course, you need to be respectful of their time and understand you may not get an answer right away, or even ever, depending on why you’re contacting them. In your example I’d pick up the phone and call and ask what happened, nicely.

Now for the other questions.

Sometimes a magazine will let the writer know exactly when the article will be published. In fact, I’d say that for the better consumer and trade magazines this is mostly the case. Of course, plans can change in a hurry, particularly if the magazine deals with news. Some magazines do seem to buy articles and hang on to some, delaying publication.  If you’ve been paid this is only a problem because you can’t link to the clip, although you can claim the sale in your writing credits or resume. If you’ve agreed to a pay upon publication sale the truth is they may never publish it. You can withdraw it in writing and try to market it elsewhere.

Kill fees are a matter of contract and no, most magazines don’t automatically pay a kill fee. The idea behind a kill fee is to partially compensate the writer for research etc. designed specifically for the magazine in question. You could, I suppose, ask for one, but unless it’s in your contract or they state they pay kill fees in their market listings, you’re unlikely to get one.

Not so by-the-way, when I speak of a contract, that also includes any email assigning you the article; it doesn’t have to be a formal contract. And yes, it’s not always possible to get anything in writing from the magazine, or the contract may follow days after you and the editor have talked over the assignment.

You may find The Writing For Magazines FAQ helpful.

Do you have a question about writing? Contact me, putting Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it.


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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Sam

    Hi, I’m Sam– Engagement Editor at ContentVitamin.com

    We are a small fledgling start-up with writing projects dripping in slowly. We have paid work for, if not in tons, but surely to keep plates full. Please get in touch with us if you are a writer.

    For businesses who need content, we have an innovative pricing where you decide the prices for blog posts, tweets, and other types of content! We hope you give our service a try – feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions at info@contentvitamin.com

    PS: Thanks Anne for the post. I have another request to do. Could you please share with me your email Id? I would like to request you for guest blogging on our site. It would be an honor to have few words from you on our blog. It will boost our morale for sure. Thank you in advance.

    • Sam, all my contact info is on the contact page – anne@annewayman.com will get me. What’s your traffic like? I can see what you charge people who want to hire writers and those cost lead me to believe what you pay writers is pretty low… Am I right?

      • Sam

        Hi Anne,

        I have sent you an email.


        • ah, had to dig it out of spam, thanks for the heads up.

  • A kill fee is definitely something that should be negotiated ahead of time. That is, you can’t demand one if your article is somehow missing all-of-a sudden.

  • Luke

    I once found my article posted on another mag!

    I submitted my work, and waited for a month. After no response about the payment i decided to sell it somewhere else.

    Before i could do so, i was reading my own article, poorly rewritten with another author name….
    Luke recently posted..What degree to getMy Profile

  • Hey all,

    I’m the co-founder/CEO of Scripted.com – we just launched a few weeks back. If you’re looking for Freelance writing gigs, we have several projects up that need writers. Thanks in advance for checking us out!

    Sunil Rajaraman

    • Scripted is a place where writers bid on projects which means, on the whole, the prices tend toward cheap.

  • Great advice per usual, Anne.

    I think it’s okay to ask questions of any editor you’re working with on a project. It’s within your rights to know when it will be published, if there’s a kill fee, and if it’s not appearing when expected, then when it is expected to appear.

    What isn’t okay, in my opinion, is when the article doesn’t appear for months after it was expected with no explanation from the editor. Writers are well within their rights to let the editor know they’re retracting the article and taking it elsewhere.
    Lori recently posted..Balancing ActMy Profile

  • Good advice Anne.

    It’s smart to pay attention to whether or not a piece has actually been published. In the late 1990s I wrote an assigned article on hiking in Zion National Park for a bimonthly outdoors magazine. The magazine went out of business before the publication date of my article, and the editor didn’t bother to tell me or the other writers that fact. (And payment was on publication.)

    I eventually found out and was able to sell the article elsewhere.
    John Soares recently posted..Freelance Writers Guide to Internet ResearchMy Profile

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