This is a guest contribution by Lee Boyce.
The past 3 years have been pretty good.
From 2009 until today, I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of my hard work pay off, which makes me very grateful. What I'm more grateful for, however, are the important mentors who led me down the right path and got the ball rolling. Taking their instruction to heart has landed me quite a few opportunities in the industry including:
- Submitting to Men's Health, Musclemag, and Oxygen (women's) magazines
- Securing a regular contributor spot on TNATION
- Running a new, and already pretty successful website (www.leeboycetraining.com) and remote coaching service
Everyday I get emails in my inbox from trainers asking the same question - "what do I have to do to start writing articles and getting published by major fitness magazines?" I figure the Personal Trainer Development Center is the perfect forum for me to divulge my secrets.
Rule 1: Know what you're Getting Yourself Into
The first place that ever paid me to write for them was TNATION. When I read an article by guys like Chad Waterbury, Eric Cressey, Chris Shugart, and Christian Thibaudeau I was blown away. I considered those guys, among others, to be these pinnacle trainers - people who were irrevocably at the top of the real training game, and virtually unreachable.
Nate Green was the most impressive to me, however. He wasn't a scientist, nor did he have the most cutting edge information. What he did have was an age advantage. He was the youngest writer for the magazine and fit in beautifully. He had the respect of every last one of the hundreds of thousands of readers.
Before I contacted Nate, I made sure I had read every article I could get my hands on for TNATION. I got a feel for what the popular content was for the articles, and how readers responded to various topics. It led to a much more seamless breakthrough. A problem I see is folks looking for writing opportunities message editors left, right, and centre. I took the necessary time and got prepared to write for TNATION, and then I wrote for TNATION. I had found the site that I wanted to house my voice and got to know it well.
It's not too difficult for an editor (of any magazine, not just TNATION) to pick emails or messages from aspiring contributors who know a thing or two about the magazine itself, apart from ones from those who clearly have no insight. You can be a training genius, but if you don't fit the tone and understand the style, delivery, and content of the fitness magazine, you'll be fighting an uphill battle. It's not what you say -- it's why you say it that matters.
Rule 2: Be Ready for Rejection
After getting the green light to start giving article proposals to an editor, be prepared to send a number of pitches before getting approved. It's usually tough to break in fresh to a new publication. My fourteenth proposal to TNATION got approved as a 600 word contribution to a 3000 word article. A golden idea you may have, has probably been pitched before. It's gonna come down to the way you can spin the content to really appeal to the readers. If you're looking to write for major fitness magazines new and profound information is hard to come by. Learn to spin the info you're comfortable with in a way that it will be attractive to the readership.
In most cases, a counter-intuitive twist really helps.
Not to sound negative here, but rejection is probably imminent from another group as well - the readers. A really humbling thing to keep in mind is that you won't always be everyone's favourite writer. People will ALWAYS hate on you. That's how you know that you've made it. That means they'll have read your stuff. My guess is you haven't seen any of their writing in a major fitness magazine.
Rejections a good thing -- it means you've put yourself out there.
Rule 3: Start a Blog
Men's Health contacted me mainly due to my track record on TNATION.
Maybe I lucked out.
It was the biggest mistake in my young career for me to not have followed this advice firsthand. A great tool to get exposure is to practice writing first. If you're passionate about training, write about it. Don't even worry about what kind of traffic you accrue. Just write. It's a quintessential step towards making readers (and possibly editors) familiar with your style before you even propose anything to them. Write for yourself and for your own enjoyment. In your own voice. Take ownership over your writing and be comfortable sharing your opinions. Don't be a boring writer.
I've come across people who think working for free isn't something you should do under any circumstances. I disagree. Especially in this case. A well-run blog will always result in a following. Before long, that blog and all the time spent writing can make its way onto your portfolio and ultimately turn into an easy article deal. Guest posts (like this one) are also key players. Site owners will be happy to accept proposals from guys who have a bunch of people already reading what they have to say. If you don't have a blog already and want to write for major fitness magazines stop reading right now and go to wordpress.com to get started.
Rule 4: Be in it to Win it!
A wise man and I were having a chat earlier this month about making a living by writing. Here's what he said:
"When Michael Jordan was well into his career and had already won his first 4 championships, a reporter asked him one question: 'With all these games, traveling day in and day out, leading your team, how do you perform at such a mind-bogglingly high level without fail? How is it humanly possible for you to keep dropping 30 points per game and just be such a star?"
"Jordan replied and said , 'every game I play, I always know that there's someone out there in the stands who's never seen me play before. I go out and play for that guy.'"
This message is clear. As an aspiring writer, whether you're just trying to break the ice, or have been doing it for a while, applying the same mentality to your work is key. Pump out quality with every post. Good content always wins out even if you don't blog often. It's really easy to throw down an article or blog post in 10 minutes about your "5 random thoughts". My suggestion is to solve a problem with every post.
Rule 5: Be easy to work with
Editors are busy and don't have time to work with aspiring writers who don't actively want to make their lives easier. Respond to the emails right away and with purpose. Add value to them and do whatever you can to make their lives easier. Work late into the night to get an article done early if need be.
Rule 6: Help push others up
I'll level with you here. Things have changed. You probably won't be able to contact the editor in charge of a major fitness magazine directly. What you can do however is go down the ranks one level and follow the writers for that magazine. I'm willing to bet that these writers are active on Facebook and Twitter. Add them to both (if you haven't already added Jon Goodman, here's his Facebook, do it now) and do whatever you can to help them promote themselves.
- Buy their materials and send back testimonials. Or better yet -- write a review of their product on your blog and send it to them.
- "like" their Facebook status updates
- "Share" their articles and posts on Facebook to your network while tagging them in it
- Intelligently comment on their Facebook statuses and blogs
- Re-tweet their tweets and respond to their updates
It surprises me how few people actively do this. The process takes time but eventually the high profile coach will take notice of you. All of a sudden you'll notice them "liking" your material. After you've developed the friendship you can ask them if they'd be interested in housing a guest post on their site. Do a damn good job! This is your interview. Editors of major fitness magazines read the blogs of the top pros.
Your information doesn't have to be profound. You don't need to say anything new. What you do need to do is write passionately and personally. Write for yourself and for your own enjoyment. Take ownership of your thoughts. Know your audience intimately and learn to spin your thoughts to fix their problems.