Grab your latest issue of "Woman's Day" off the coffee table. Flip
through ?Saveur." Sneak a peak through the pages of "Cosmo Girl" at
Wonder what they have in common? Fillers.
Fillers are those small boxes that accompany certain articles. They
are the jokes peppered throughout your child's favorite magazine.
Fillers can be quizzes, humorous tidbits, sweet remembrances, or
announcements of new products, recipes or restaurants.
The pay is small, from $5 to $50. The time it takes to put a filler
together is also small. You can write a 100-word piece while
watching television. You can list 5 ways to do something better in
between putting your water on to boil and adding the pasta. Write
fillers while traveling to work on the bus, waiting in the school
parking lot for your children, sitting at a coffee shop enjoying a
Fillers take less time to send off to editors, too. Selling fillers
to magazines and websites doesn't require researching and writing a
query letter. Do write a cover letter including your contact
information and writing background. Include a self-addressed stamped
envelope. Call the publication and ask for the name of the editor to
whom you should send it. Type up the envelope, slip in your filler,
cover letter and SASE, and pop it in the mail.
Where do ideas for fillers come from? Be very attentive to
conversations you are having. Did you just toss off a comment about
a new kitchen toy you have? Maybe you rattled off one of your dozens
of fruity salad dressings. If anyone says to you, "That's wonderful.
I never knew that," take it as a hint that your little tidbit would
make a great filler for a magazine.
Why do editors love filler pieces? 25- to 500-word pieces are great
for filling gaps in the pages. Editorial policy at some publications
includes a certain amount of easy games, funny stories or quickly
scanned lists of information.
Readers love fillers. Fillers pack a lot of information in a small
space. Think of sitting at the dentist's office, nervously passing
the time with a magazine. You may not be able to read 12-page
articles on political matters, but you will probably retain the
zippy list of how to tell produce is fresh.
Successful writers of fillers say that paying close attention to the
calendar brings in more sales. Assume a magazine is running at least
6 months ahead of the actual publishing date. Send your Christmas
and New Year's fillers in by May.
Here are seven ways to brainstorm filler ideas:
1 - Write cooking tips: Aim for the magazine's readership when
writing cooking tips, and don't limit yourself to women's or food
magazines. Send "YM" (for teen girls) a filler on the Five Easiest-
To-Make, Can't-Go-Wrong Dinners to Make for Boyfriends. "Cosmo," on
the other hand, might take a short piece on Six Aphrodisiac Foods
that REALLY Work. "Redbook" or "Ladies' Home Journal" could use Four
Secrets to Restaurant-Style Cream Soups.
2 - Design Food Quizzes: You know food, right? Share your knowledge
in a fun, interactive way by writing food quizzes. Take a produce
item and make-up five questions and answers about it. Alternatively,
write questions about the nutritive value of foods, or dishes, and
have the readers select which answer is the lowest in fat, highest
in calcium or best health bang for the buck.
3 - Birthdays are always special: Get online and do searches for the
birthday (or anniversary) of potato chips, for instance. Oops, we
all missed that one -- it was last month. You get the idea -- take a
favorite, quirky or curious dish and track down when its fifth,
fiftieth, two-hundredth anniversary is. Write up five sentences
about it and send it to newspapers, magazines, or food websites.
Writing anniversaries of products also translates well to full-length articles (for future reference).
4 - How to Use Tools: Write up to 500 words on new (or classic)
kitchen tools and how to get the best use out of them. Food writers
may be up to date on slicing and dicing equipment, clay crockery and
milk steamers, but your readers may not. Sitting on your couch with
your feet up and a cat on your lap doesn't stop you from explaining
how to season and keep your clay roaster in perfect condition.
5 - Best Ways to...: Your readers need to know the best ways to get
calcium in their diets, to quiet menopausal symptoms with nutrition,
to fry chicken perfectly, and to eat for optimum energy in the
6 - Recipes: One-recipe fillers are a natural for food writers. Go
further and share one recipe plus additions to change it. A basic
muffin batter can be improved in many ways: add blueberries, grated
lemon and orange zest, or cinnamon and pecans. Suddenly you have a
7 - Profiles of chefs: This idea seems to fit food magazines best,
but can also be great for alternative newspapers, or newspapers'
food sections. Choose a local chef who has received rave reviews for
a particular dish - corn chowder, roasted game birds, vegetarian
feasts - and interview her or him for background information,
favorite dining spots, and a recipe to share.
Fillers can 'fill out' your writing resume, and add cash to your
coffer, by using what you already know and can dash off in spare
moments of your busy day.
2006 Pamela White
About the Author: Pamela White is the author of over 600 published articles, short stories and essays, and publishes "Food Writing" at http://www.food-writing.com and "The Writing Parent" at http://www.thewritingparent.net, two ezines that focus on unique writing niches. She teaches online writing classes at both sites, and invites readers to subscribe to the ezines by visiting each site.