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Researching Your Markets
by Tina Morgan
The advent of the Internet has provided writers with a whole new outlet for their work. While the potential of this medium is still being explored, some things havent changed.
There are now more potential markets than ever before, both online and in print. The prospect of being able to submit something and knowing that there are enough markets out there for someone to eventually buy it, is an exciting thought.
But you can greatly increase your chances for acceptance by simply taking the time to research your intended market. By knowing what an editor prefers, or what intended audience a magazine is aiming at, or even simply knowing the editor's name - these things can help the person reading your query letter to see you more as a professional, rather than just another writer, who is currently submitting his piece to everyone in the yellow pages.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, the research techniques are the same. If you are writing on spec (that is, not writing a piece that was specifically requested by an editor, but writing because you want to write it), then you must determine where to market your work. For fiction, genre and length are the primary determining factors. For non-fiction, topic matter, technical level of subject matter and length will decide where your article will sell.
The three easiest places to research your market will be your local library, bookstores or newsstands and the Internet.
Talk to your librarian. Dont just go to the computer and start searching for your topic there. Ask the librarian about periodicals, local papers, newsletters and publishers. As with any field, not all librarians are created equal. Some are more knowledgeable and willing to help than others. Dont be deterred if the first person you talk to doesnt have the time or patience to answer your questions. Research what you can anyway. You may learn of a new international market that you've never heard of before, who's editor might just be willing to snap up your work.
Look for publications or books that are currently covering the topic or genre you are writing about. A publisher will be more likely to invest in a piece of work which is already similar to the style they are used to. Again, ask for help. A knowledgeable salesperson can be invaluable in your research. They can tell you what is selling in your area and possibly direct you to publications you have never before considered. Invest in a copy of the Literary Market Place. This resource can be invaluable for discovering and researching new markets in the strangest places.
The Internet can provide you with information quicker than driving to your local bookstore or library. These days, most publishers and magazine have an online presence, actively displaying their guidelines for quick reference. Unfortunately, not all publications have web-sites yet. Then there are some publishers who can only be found on the Internet. Use the Internet, but do not limit yourself to on-line research.
Once you have located some possibilities for your article or story, take a look at the submission guidelines. Some magazines and newsletters will print their guidelines in each issue. Some you will have to write to, or search their website for the guidelines.
NEVER submit your work without reading the guidelines and be sure to follow their individual requirements to the letter. Improper submissions mark you as an amateur and can result in getting your work thrown away without being read. Dont be cute! Professionalism is the key to success here.
If your work meets the length requirements for the publication you are considering, take the next step and read some of the other works they have published. Research and scrutinize the preferred style carefully.
Every editor has different tastes and will lean toward one style of writing or another. Dont waste your time or stamps sending an article/story to an editor that is not going to be interested. This can be crucial to cross-genre pieces of fiction. Most magazines and publishers do not allow simultaneous submissions. Sending to the wrong market may tie up your work for months, when you could have sent it to someone that might be currently looking for a piece like yours.
Make certain the publication you are querying accepts email submissions before sending them your work. Do not dump an unsolicited piece in an editors inbox. Its also a good idea NOT to submit an entire 500 page manuscript through email, unless the publisher has specifically requested that you do so. All you will do is tie up their phone lines and irritate them. Do that too often and they may never consider your work, regardless of its merits.
When querying by email, do not send an editor a personal, chatty note. Follow the guidelines and write the letter as though you were sending it through the postal system. Your query letter is your resume. It shows the editor that your are serious and capable of behaving in a polite business manner.
Remember: PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS
Regardless of how much of your heart and soul you have put into your words, it is still a business and you, the author, are selling a product - your work. Publishers and editors do not exist to pat you on the back and make you feel good. They are in the business of printing (hard copy or e-press) their magazine, newsletter, or books for money. This is their job. If the editor likes your work and makes you feel better by buying it for publication then thats a plus for both of you. (Receving the check is a pretty nice feeling, too!)
Professionalism is crucial in any business, especially in a business as competitive as publishing. Research, research, research. Be able to show the editor that you know what you are doing and that you are capable of handling the job.
The best part is, if you did it right the first time, your chances for selling another piece to the same editor are greatly improved.
© Copyright 2001 Tina Morgan. All rights reserved
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