Read as many copies of the magazine you want to write for as possible. This is called learning your market. You'll have to prove to the editor that you can write for his or her target audience and the best way to learn how to do this is through research. Take note of the publication's different departments, columns, and fillers. You will be more likely to get an editor's attention if you pitch an idea that perfectly fits an existing page. New freelancers often break in with a small blurb in the front of a magazine rather than a 5,000 word cover feature.
If you are part of the demographic the magazine targets, you may have an easier time getting your story sold. For example, the first feature I wrote was for College Bound magazine. I had just finished a three-year tenure writing for that age group at my student paper, and I was twenty-one years old myself. It would have been quite a feat to get published in Modern Maturity, so I didn't even consider it. Selling this feature was quite straight-forward. I wrote the advice piece, included a sidebar, and sent it to the editor via e-mail. It was a full three months later before I heard anything. I received a letter in the mail informing me that my feature would be accepted. I signed a rights contract and four months later received a check and two copies of the magazine…with my feature as the cover story! Most of my writing endeavors have not been this simple, however. Read on…...