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Market Smart
by Kathryn Lay

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. I did know about guidelines and occasionally glanced at them, but after attending a writer’s group meeting, I heard more about marketing. The others talked about how hard it was to find the 'right' market. 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.

MMillions 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.

AAlways 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.

Most recently, a friend told me about an educational publisher where she’d sold a series. She urged me to submit. I had an idea for a kid’s series that I’d never written, but had it all planned out on paper. I’d hesitated writing it because I know it is difficult to sell a series as a series. Often they are born from one book becoming popular and the author being asked to continue. This market won’t bring in royalties probably and more than likely not sell in bookstores, but I needed the money and I needed the reassurance in my writing for children. After working hard on a complete proposal, the contract was sent.

RRead 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.

TTaking 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.

© Copyright 2009, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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