Chef Deb

5 Things to Ask Before Writing a Food Column for a Publication

There’s no better feeling than seeing a beautiful picture of your food gracing the pages of your favorite magazine. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to write for publications both in print and online and one that I wrote recently was about using uncommon vegetables in comfort food dishes. It was a fun food column to write and better yet, I even got paid to write it!

So many chefs that I talk to want their recipes or work published to get greater publicity and credibility and also add the word “published author” to their resume. I think this is a really smart marketing move and that every chef should look for opportunities to write a food column or other health-related article for your local and even national magazine/blogs, etc. However, before you write for just anyone, I have a few guidelines to help you decide if it will be worth your time and effort:

3 Things to Ask Before Writing a Food Column for a Publication Chef Deb Culinary Business Coach

Can I get a copy of your media kit? – This is the most important question you could ask. If you only ask one question, ask this one! Before I even lift a finger to start typing a story on my keyboard, I ask for their media kit. Some publications’ media kits you can find on their website, while others you have to request via email. You need a copy of their media kit to know if this will be a worthwhile investment of your time. This will most likely come in the form of a pdf. A media kit is meant to be an overview of their readership, demographics of their readers like income level, gender, home ownership, etc.  It will also tell you the average monthly viewers on their website, what neighborhoods and businesses their magazine is distributed at, how long a shelf live it has, buying habits, etc. A good media kit should be detailed ( a few pages at least) and give you a greater understand of who their readers are and how many people it reaches. If their demographics look like your target market and have the income level that could afford your services, then it might be something worth pursuing. But you won’t know until you carefully review the media kit, so don’t skip this step.

Will the food column be featured in both print and online? – This might not be a question that you necessarily have to ask if you already know the answer, but sometimes publications have an online food blog too where they share recipes and food-related content in addition to their print magazine. It’s important to know exactly where your work will be published and to make sure you get as much exposure as possible. Asking this question might also open the door to other opportunities to contribute to their blog, not just their print magazine and start writing for them regularly. Also, in my experience editors do not always tell you where they publish your work, so you might end up finding your food column online and be a bit surprised and annoyed that you didn’t know about it before so you could share it! This has happened to me a couple of times. Definitely a good problem to have, but nice to know ahead of time if possible.

Will I be compensated for my work? – Like I mentioned before, I have gotten paid to write a 2-3 page food column for a magazine before and they are usually upfront with you about this in the beginning, but if they are not you need to be clear if it is a paid writing gig or not. If it’s going to take you hours to write, set up styling for the photo shoot, etc. then it might not be worth your time if you’re not being compensated. On the flip side, some chefs want to get published bad enough, that they don’t mind putting in the extra work to make a great impression and that is fine too! Just make sure it will be worth your while and that your target market will be reading it!

What is the theme for your magazine issue? They might already communicate what type of food column they want you to write, but ask them for the editorial calendar to see what theme that particular issue has. Usually they’ll have a theme and if you can have your food column somewhat go along with this theme, the better it fits into their publication and the more likely they’ll be to want to use it. Some publications will have their editorial calendar listed in their media kit.

What are some food columns your publication has featured in the past? This is a question to ask yourself. Before you write for a publication, you should really get to know what type of articles they publish. Go on their website and look for past digital issues of their magazine and see what other foodies have written so that you can make sure your work is up to par and you can kind of tell what they’re looking for in a food column. The better you know the publication and write specifically for it, the better it’s going to resonate with the people who read it!