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Writing Markets You Want to Avoid
by Phil Truman

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my hundred-odd years as a writer, it’s…it’s…Well, I’ve learned a lot of things, Jim. And you don’t need to come nosing around here asking me so many questions. Especially during my nap time or Judge Judy, whichever comes first.

But that’s neither here nor there. As a writer there are certain markets you should avoid, and that’s what this piece is all about. My part-time editor and friend, Dan "Either write, read, or get the h*** out of the way" Case, suggested I put together something on this topic as, in his words, "who better than you would know what fails to make you money as a writer?" Who indeed.

The Dead Dog Market

I’ve found that this is the most popular non-paying market you want to avoid. Most people turn completely into lime Jello with cottage cheese when they read stories about pet dogs who have died. I suppose the same is true of stories about birds, monkeys, horses, and possibly hamsters. However, I’m not so sure about pythons or cats. And just so you cat lovers won’t write me indignant emails, I say that because I’ve never had a pet cat, not because cats dying aren’t sad events…to some people.

We had a hamster once – Ratbert - who we found dead-ish one cold winter morning, so the kids and I held a graveside service to send him (or her) off to that big running wheel in the sky. I say he (or she) was dead-ish, because later that day at work I related the story to a colleague and he said a vet once told him hamsters go into sort of a suspended animation when they get too cold. I still have occasional Poe-esque nightmares about possibly burying poor old Ratbert alive. And sometimes, late at night, I awaken to the sound of a hamster wheel creaking away ghostily in the laundry room. I’ve never mentioned this to my kids, who are both adults now.

But I digest. You want to stay away from the Dead Dog Market, not because people don’t love reading those stories, but because most editors have the sentimentality of Rush Limbaugh at a NOW reunion, and not only will they soundly reject your story, they will most likely ridicule you in public.

The Classy Things Done by the Clinton Administration Market

Most editors would pay you a healthy sum for stories like this, unfortunately with the Clintons there’s just nothing to write about here. This used to be the Who’s Who in Presidential Pardons Market, but that has suddenly gone from a "who cares" to a "you’ve got to be kidding" market. Also unfortunately, the only pardons left to capitalize on are a couple of Arkansas axe murderers who once sent Bill and Hillary fifty bucks each as campaign contributions.

The Shoot the Whales While Cutting Down Redwoods to Roast Spotted Owls Market

This has never been a good market to get into because everybody, including Yasir Arafat and Charlton Heston, likes whales. Well who wouldn’t, the big adorable blowhole spouting galoots. And the Giant Redwoods are a national treasure, especially when it comes to building decks around your house. Plus, nobody gives a hoot about eating Spotted Owls anymore, since there are so few of them. Besides, they taste just like chicken anyway. Now dolphins, that’s a different matter. You get a little butter and lemon sauce and mmm-mmmm. But nobody wants to buy these stories.

The Sensitive Side of Mike Wallace Market

Mike, who will celebrate his 117th birthday this year, has been doing "Sixty Minutes" ever since it originally debuted back in 1918 as "Fifteen Minutes." During all that time the closest he has come to showing anything other than a mean spirit was when he cleared his throat after an interview with Kate Winslet on her alleged story as a Titanic survivor. No money here either.

I’m sure there are other markets you writers will want to avoid, but these are the ones I can tell you about from experience. In the final analysis, there seems to be a lot more involved in picking paying markets than writing them down on an 3 foot by 3 foot piece of poster paper, tacking them up on the wall, and throwing darts at them. Some writing experts would tell you that research into paying markets takes a lot of time and effort if you want to succeed. On the other hand, you can pick up a set of darts for less than five bucks at any toy store, and poster board is pretty cheap too.

© Copyright 2001, Phil Truman

Phil Truman's website is philtrumanink.com.

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