Making money with your first book is not very likely – at least not right away. From the second or third book on it gets easier, but still it might take years – if ever – until you can make a living as an author.
Don’t get discouraged, there are lots of niches were you can earn faster money with your writing, compared to books: Writing for magazines. Especially airline magazines represent real opportunity for freelance writers. Despite contractions in the airline industry, in-flight magazines still attract many readers, and they are mostly written by freelancers.
The best thing about writing for in-flight magazines is that each one is different. Some of them – such
as Sky for Delta Airlines – feature restaurant reviews, fiction stories, regular columns and technology
articles in addition to a cornucopia of other topics. Other inflight magazines are focused primarily on
travel, with in-depth articles on interesting destinations.
Bored at 36,000 feet
The readership of the in-flight magazine tends to be larger than those of regular consumer
magazines. Take for example just the Los Angeles to Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok, Delhi and many
other flights on Singapore Airlines, with an immense number of passengers on every flight and the
number of daily flights going out from Los Angeles. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of
travelers reading your article every month.
However almost 50 passenger airlines fly in the U.S. alone — many are smaller regional and
commuter airlines — and they all have magazines on their planes. Southwest alone, claims 3.4
million readers per month of their in-flight magazine. Add to that the airlines in English-speaking
countries such as Canada, the UK / Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa – and the fact, that most
in-flight magazines worldwide are published in two languages, preferable in English as well. The in-flight magazine market is global. You need not limit yourself to North American publications.
Know the magazine inside out
Travel pieces are a staple of in-flights, yet airline publications also offer articles on technology,
business, sports, and food, as well as lifestyle trends. Find as much of the articles online. Or try to
get hard copies. Since in-flights are not sold on newsstands, request a copy from the magazine’s
publisher and ask traveling friends for their help
Know your audience
The trick to writing for in-flight magazines is knowing the target audience. The vast majority of
readers are frequent flyers – travelers and wealthy vacationers. They are also savvy about technology and business trends, as well as travel and leisure pursuits. Writing for in-flight magazine readers requires to cater to a well-educated, travel-savvy audience. These free magazines should reflect their interests: Profiles of successful business leaders, great restaurant trends, management and entrepreneur tips, descriptions of new gadgets for business people or travelers,etc. If you have experience in a particular facet of business that can be applied to travelers, turn that to your advantage.
Pay higher rates
Compared to consumer magazine publishers, in-flight magazines tend to pay a higher rate for freelancers. Excellent writers might earn up to $3.000 for a three page feature with photographs. Rates typically vary between $0.70 – $1.00 per word. Also, you’ll almost never get your name put with the article, at least you have it in your portfolio with – no proof you actually wrote it.
Learn how to break into this market
Airline magazines’ web sites don’t make the guidelines easy to find. You often have to dig deep into
their website. The common misperception is that this market is nearly impossible to break into. And,
in fact, if you’re only thinking about writing for the magazines in the seat pockets on United, Delta,
Continental, Northwest, American, and US Airways — and you’re just starting out freelance writing — you could find yourself a bit frustrated. In-flight magazines are not always very accepting of beginning writers. While they’re designed to appeal to all travelers, they do tend to cater to a more upscale market, and as such they demand top-notch writing and credentials. Writers with a limited portfolio will probably not be welcomed into the features section with open arms.
Some Tips before you query:
- The aspiring freelance author must know and understand the magazine before querying. Read the magazine, their web sites often have archived copies to download, get to know their style.
- Learn about the airlines’ customer demographics and include in your pitch why your story will appeal to them. Demographics can be found under the “advertising” section of the magazine’s web site.
- Only propose stories on destinations served by the airline you are pitching
- Pitch “evergreen” stories, or stories that allow for the magazines’ long lead times.
- Start writing a travel blog with side topics, similar to those in airline magazines to see what it is like to write short pieces for an international audience.
- Mention it, if you have high-quality accompanying photos in TIFF.
- Check out the magazine’s editorial calendar, usually found under the “advertising” section on the web site.
- In-flights receive many queries for travel pieces. It may be easier for a newcomer to break in by pitching an article on a business or service topic.
- Pitch a specific column. You’ll be more likely to get an assignment if your pitch matches the magazine’s format . Many of the web sites list the specific departments for which the editors solicit submissions.
- Keep your story short. Most pieces are 800 words or less; “features” usually run under 2,500 words.
- Keep your articles positive, not challenging. In-flight magazines want to keep their readers relaxed and entertained.
In-flight magazine resources:
SkyWest (SkyWest Airlines)
Hana Hou! (Hawaiian Airlines)
Cision Navigator lists the top-ten in-flight magazines by circulation:
A comprehensive list of 101 in-flight magazines from AirArabia to Wizz Air (many with links directly to
the magazine’s web site)
The in-flight magazine market is competitive, although not impossible to crack. Even if you don’t have a long list of publication credits or an impressive resume, you can still break into the in-flight market. Important: Do your research — both about your topic and the publication you are pitching, rely on your particular expertise about a place or subject matter, and produce insightful copy, aimed at a sophisticated audience of frequent travelers.
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