Should You Write for Magazines or Books?

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin

Every writer faces this question: which do I write first—a magazine article or a book?  It’s almost like asking which comes first: the chicken or the egg? As a former magazine editor who has published in more than 50 magazines (gave up counting them a while back), the quick answer is to write both. As writers, our skill is not limited to one type of writing. In the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I detail the variety of writing possibilities (follow this link to get this chapter free). 

When editors and literary agents search for authors, they read magazines, blogs, books, and any other type of writing. There are many ways for you to make new connections to these gatekeepers and magazine writing can be a key entry point. Whether you write books or magazine articles, each type of writing has a set of challenges. 

The Challenges with Book Writing

Many writers begin with a book and write a manuscript. Often, they will write something tied to their reading habits. If they read nonfiction, then they will write a nonfiction manuscript. If they read novels, then they will write fiction. Somewhere along the process, they will learn editors and literary agents are looking for a book proposal. This mysterious document contains information that will never show in your manuscript, yet these professionals use this document to decide if they will publish your book.

Everyone can learn to write a book proposal or your business plan for your book. I’ve written two proposals which received six-figure advances and teach these details in my Book Proposals That $ell. I originally wrote this book as a frustrated editor looking for better submissions. My book has helped many writers land a literary agent and a book deal. Every type of book needs a proposal or business plan and this process can present a challenge to getting it published.

It may sound simple, but books are long—100,000 words for a novel and at least 50,000 words for a nonfiction book. Crafting these books take a great deal of time and energy. What people outside of publishing don’t understand is most book sales are modest. If your book sells 5,000 copies that can be a success (depending on the publisher). In addition, the competition for limited spots at traditional houses is intense. Publishers and literary agents are looking for authors with “platforms” or connections to readers who buy books. Each of these factors make publishing books a challenge.

Advantages to Magazine Writing

Magazine articles are much shorter (800 to 1500 words depending on the type of writing and publication). As you write for magazines, you will develop some important skills such as the ability to create an interesting title or a moving opening paragraph or how to write to a particular word count and for a particular audience. Print magazines are looking for quality writing and have a high standard of excellence (another skill you develop in the process). You learn to write a query or pitch to the editor, get assignments or submit complete articles on speculation (depends on the publication).

Here’s the real payoff for magazine writing: you can reach more people. It is a huge success if a book sells 5,000 copies and in the magazine world it is fairly easy for your article to appear in a publication with a circulation of over 100,000. 

As a writer, don’t get locked into a particular type of writing—books or magazine or online or whatever. There are a world of possibilities and opportunities if you are open to explore it, then write it and get it into the market.


Should you write books or magazine articles? This prolific writer and editor explains why you should be doing both. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Review wrote, If you only have time to read one how to guide to getting published, whether it be traditional publishing or self-publishing, Book Proposals That Sell  is that one DIY instructional book.  Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, interesting article. I used to ghostwrite articles, but never submitted to magazines. I've thought about it and want to jump in, but I always have too many book things going on. One of these days I'll do it.

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for this comment. Your books would get a lot more exposure in magazines so it is well worth doing in my view. Some of the greatest feedback I've ever received for my writing has been through my writing for magazines. When I was an editor at Decision for Billy Graham, the circulation of the magazine was 1.8 million. Today the circulation has dropped to about 400,000 but that's still a lot of people to readh with your writing. I encourage you to try it.


Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks for the advice, Terry. That is a lot of visibility. I'll have to make it a goal for 2023!

Linda Wilson said...

I appreciate your article very much, Terry. I took the advice that I read about in "how-to" books and started by writing articles for newspapers and magazines. It was time well spent. Editors edited and cut my work and helped me write "sharper." The sheer practice of writing a lot of articles knowing they would be published is a powerful background that I rely on now as a children's author. Thanks to my experience writing for newspapers and magazines, I can write fiction and nonfiction with relative ease. It's such a pleasure and blessing to be a writer, but what I love most of all are the wonderful people I've met along the way, colleagues and readers. That alone brings the joy to my life that I'd yearned for before taking the plunge to start writing.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this comment and you are right the editors make your work sharper and writing for newspapers and magazines is a great way for others to learn about your children's books. Keep up this great effort. I know it's hard work but well worth it.


deborah lyn said...

Terry, another great article with helpful advice. Thank you much!
Magazine writing is a boost, in printed format and online.

Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

Thank you for this feedback. Yes, whether we write for magazines or online articles can help us expand our readership. It is a boost and a valuable use of our skill and time.


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