Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Tips for Writers-Market Smart


When I first started submitting my writing, I knew I had a lot to learn. Yet, my heart was ready to make a move and I leapt into marketing with only my heart thinking, not my head. Yep, the creative side of my brain took over and left the organizational side far behind.

My first marketing attempt was a very long short story for children that was basically a Bambi knock-off. I had worked hard on it, writing during my lunch hour or slow times at my secretarial job. When I was done, I had an enthusiastic story full of description and about a million adjectives. The first thing I did was find a magazine I’d seen regularly and send the story with a short letter telling the editor (I believe I sent it to the editor-in-chief) how much I wanted them to buy it. Who did I send it to? Redbook magazine. A 2500 word children’s story to Redbook magazine.

They sent a polite rejection, but I wondered how big a laugh the office had over that one!

I kept sending things willy nilly for a couple of months to magazines I read or saw at the grocery store. After attending a writer’s group meeting, I heard more about marketing. I suddenly realized that my marketing was easy because I didn’t make an effort at it.

My first sale was the result of submitting to a Sunday School take-home paper that I read every week. I knew what kind of pieces were in there and that if I wrote my own experience, I might have a chance. I wrote it, I sent it, I sold it.

Whether it’s a magazine article, an essay, or a book, how much time is spent on finding the right market and following all the rules?

Market Smart.

S – Send your writing to the right place. You’ve wasted your time and theirs otherwise. Just because it’s your favorite magazine doesn’t mean that ‘any’ piece is right for it. Get your marketing off to a great beginning by making a list of who IS perfect for that piece. Then, if it is rejected by perfect place #1, you can send it on to perfect place #2.

M – Millions of others will also be searching for the right market. So make sure that you follow all the rules, all the guidelines for that perfect publication. Don’t email if they prefer regular mail. If the guidelines say 1500 words max, don’t send 1800 just because you feel sure they’d love those extra 300 words. If your guideline information is old, make sure you have the correct editor’s name before you submit. Finding the perfect publication and then losing the sale because of a quick mistake is still wasting your hard earned writing time.

A – Always be aware of what’s out there. Maybe you wrote that short story with the dream of selling it to a giant magazine with a giant readership and getting a giant check. Go for it. But keep an eye and ear out for other opportunities. Just because all the big markets you submitted that piece to have rejected it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. I’ve sold stories to coffee can labels, to testing companies for school groups, and so on. If someone mentions a market in passing, I write it down and check it out. I’ve sold many a piece to a new market because some kind writer told our writer’s group about a small magazine, travel magazine, etc., looking for articles and no one else submitted to them from this group.

R – Read the markets you are wanting to submit to. While it’s true I’ve sold occasionally to markets I’ve only read ‘about’, when possible I try to get ahold of at least one copy of a publication or read several books published by a specific publisher. With magazines, this has become much easier with the internet. Many publications have samples or recent past issues online.

T – Taking time to market properly increases your chances of selling a piece sooner. There may be dozens of women’s magazines out there, but only 3 that would work for the piece you are suggesting. There may be a myriad of travel publications, but only a few that want personal experience essays on a travel experience. Don’t waste time marketing sloppily, save time by marketing smart and see if your acceptances, bylines, and checks don’t increase.

Write with your heart, but after that, take the time to market smart.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Create an Expert File

Whether you write nonfiction or fiction, sometimes you just need to talk with an expert.

When I wrote Cave-a-Phobia, published by Spider magazine, I talked with the father of a friend of my daughter's who had spent years speelunking. When I wrote CROWN ME!, I talked with someone I met at Scarborough Faire about working in a Renassaince festival. When I wrote about child safety for Kiwanis magazine, I spoke to a dozen experts who dealt with swimming safety, bicycle safety, and more.

When you need an expert, the quicker you can find someone the better, especially if you're on a deadline or stumped on a book project for lack of information.

Try creating an expert file. With a 3X5 card box, I began creating a card for every expert I could think of. First, my friends and relatives who were experts in something whether because of their jobs or hobbies. Then their friends they could tell me about. Then I started watching the newspaper for articles about local experts and wrote down their information. Then there were people I'd met online.

Now, I have a box full of experts. Occasionally I still have to search for someone specific to talk with in an area I haven't found an expert in, but as my list grows, I sometimes find that I have the expert I need to interview or ask a question to right in my box, ready to call or email.

Who do you know that you can put in YOUR expert box?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Living the Dream

When I first started my writing career back in 1991, I dreamed of someday being famous. I dreamed of piles of fan mail from kids everywhere and walking into bookstores where I would see a row of my book titles.

But then I found that writing is more than just writing what I feel, what I enjoy, what I dream. It's learning the craft, it's research, it's studying markets, it's find editors and publishers who like what I'm saying and how I say it.

Back then, every little sale; whether a short story to an obscure literary magazine or a personal experience essay in a church take home paper was something to celebrate. I still hoped for those mega book sales, but acceptance letters and the sight of something I'd written printed in a publication that people I didn't know would be reading made my head swim.

Then after awhile, the quest for publication became a goal and a challenge. I'd had tons of those short pieces published in lots of magazines and anthologies and newspapers. I was still hoping for the big time.

When that first book sale finally came, that amazing phone call, I was delirious and right away imagined my career had suddenly exploded onto new heights.

But the road was still tough and still is. Yet, I love it too much to give up.

19 book sales later with nearly 2000 articles, essays and stories printed, I've been slowly learning that the joy of writing is once again a joy of writing. I'm not a household name. My books have had some fun things go along with them, taken me on some fun adventures, but titles aren't on the lips of every child.

For a time, my sales have changed to work for hire sales with educational markets. At first I was embarrassed to say aloud where my contracts were coming from. But with the joy of each book, I've found that yes, again, it's the joy of writing that still thrills me.

And then I realized the other day that yes, I'm living my dream. I'm a writer. This is what I do every day. I get to come up with ideas and put them on paper and sometimes, they are published and other people read them. How amazing is that?

When I keep focused on that, I am back to being thrilled with every sale. As writers we sometimes compare our career to those who are more famous or our work to those big award winning books. And though it's not a bad thing to shoot for the stars, reach for the moon, and climb every mountain; it's even more exciting to find joy in the moment.

As I hold my newest work for hire contract, I feel that joy and it's amazing. Are you living your dream?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Writer's Tip: Organizing Schedule Made Easy

Because I enjoy writing in a lot of different areas, I found that sometimes I missed the dates on writing contests I wanted to enter as the paperwork was lying in my stack of to-do stuff on my desk. And sometimes I missed deadlines on magazines that used themed lists for each quarter.

I tried putting things into folders and stacking them on my desk, but that still meant I had to remember to pull out the contest folder or specific magazine folder and see what was needed that month. Plus remember assignment deadlines for a variety of magazines and devotional publications that asked me to write or I had queried.

Finally I started using a calendar. Not a desk calendar or organizer. Just a plain calender. I tear out each page (or you can print a blank one online) and start writing down contest deadlines for that month, theme list deadlines, assignment deadlines, and my own deadlines (when I want to get a chapter done, etc.) Also I add in school visits, book signings, writer meetings. And I might include notes to myself to do a Friday Writer's Tip on my blog or submit a proposal or send out emails to bookstores and schools about visits.

Beginning September 1st, try preparing a calendar for your writing. I hang it up right behind my computer so I can see it easily. I haven't forgotten a deadline in a long while.

Next Friday:

Keeping an Expert File

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday Tips for Writers

I've been lax in working on this blog and trying to figure out what I want to do with it. For now, I'm going to add a Friday Tips for Writers. Maybe you've heard of them before, maybe not. But here's hoping something will hit you that is new and helpful.

Stay tuned tomorrow...