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Seven Steps for Better Marketing
by Kathryn Lay

As a writer, coming up with an idea and writing it down is only two-thirds of the steps you must take to becoming a published writer. Without marketing your piece or idea, it will only look good on your computer or in your desk drawer.

There is no mystery or secret code for marketing. You don’t need a doctorate or crystal ball. You don’t need to ‘know’ someone in publishing.

The only requirement is hard work. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t helpful steps that will make your marketing work easier, your goals attainable, and the results satisfying.

Plan and Organize

Do you keep market information where it is easily accessible? Market books, magazines, website links? What about markets you feel sure you’ll want to approach? Once I go through market books and magazines and e-zines, I put information about the publications I am most likely to want to write for onto 3 X 5 cards that are easily grabbed when I am ready to market. Some writers prefer a spiral notebook with tabs for genres or types of publications. Some prefer to keep these types of records on their computer in an Excel or other type of program.

Once a month or a season (such as summer or back to school time), I make a list of the markets I hope to sell to during that time. Then I work on matching current projects, old unsold projects or reprints, and query ideas with those magazines or anthologies on that list.

This gives me a plan and a goal and I am now organized enough that marketing time won’t be stressful and time-consuming.

Become a Better Writer

To help ensure that your marketing time isn’t wasted, make sure that your actual writing is the best it can be. The competition now is fierce, there are fewer magazines available than there were years ago, and editors are often too busy to rewrite your piece or hone sloppy writing into good, readable writing.

Writers can always learn something new through writing articles, conferences, a critique group, writing course taught by published writers. A selling writer is always learning more, always willing to learn more, and always seeking to learn more.

The time and investment in improving your skills as a writer is well worth the effort and will increase both your chances of selling and of selling your pieces sooner.

Writing TO the Market

Do you have specific markets you really want to sell to? Sometimes I am writing TO a specific market as opposed to coming up with an idea first. As I mentioned above, I make lists of publications I have either sold to and want to sell to again, or new markets I’ve yet to break into.

This is the time when I begin studying that particular market, the magazine or anthology. I’ll look at past issues and guidelines. Even when I’ve written for them before, if it’s been several months I’ll look for a current issue (or more if possible) and see if they have new departments, gotten rid of other columns and departments, or changed their look and style. I check the masthead to see if the editor has changed or who the editor is if I haven’t sold to them before.

The more I can prepare and specifically come up with ideas and execute my writing and my queries for that publication, the better chance I have of making a sale, and hopefully a sale the first time out.

Idea First

You have a great idea and write it immediately. Whether fiction or nonfiction, you’re not thinking market first, but just getting it completed. Once done, you feel a deep sense of accomplishment, followed by a bit of fear. Where can you send it now? How do you begin in finding a market?

If you’ve already done #1 in this article, planning and organizing, you’ve got a list of markets, perhaps even separated by type of nonfiction, genre or age of fiction, and so on. When you finish your article, story, or essay, it’s an easy step to go through those markets you’ve found and search for a match for your written work.

The more you keep up on this market information, the easier it’ll get searching for and locating the right market for your finished project.

Follow the Rules

When putting together market information, or if pulling it straight from a market book or magazine or set of guidelines, always make sure to know and follow that publication’s rules.

If they say they want articles ranging from 400 to 1200 words, don’t send a 100-word piece unless they also mention they want fillers, or a 2500 word feature or essay. If their short story information says that they don’t want romance stories or children’s stories or stories fewer than 5,000 words, don’t assume they’ll make an exception for you. If the information says they prefer e-mail queries or manuscripts, make sure you send it IN the email or as an attachment as they require. If it says no email queries or manuscripts, send the piece through the mail (unless you have old information, then it’s best to call and find out for sure).

The more your manuscript meets their needs and their requirements, the closer it is to getting accepted.


Don’t give up when that first rejection hits your mail or email. I’ve sold pieces on the first time out and some on the 16th time out. I’ve had editors love something every time I’ve sent it out for First Rights and then Reprint Rights, and other pieces that got form letters until it finally sold after rewrites and continued marketing. I’ve had pieces that editor’s said it wasn’t well written or a true short story and then later sell to a large and bigger paying magazine.

Writing is sometimes a frustrating business, especially at the marketing part of it. But writer’s who persist and continue in their marketing, their assessment of their work, willingness to rewrite, and, did I say, persistence in marketing… Those are the writers who will sell.

The Internet Is Your Friend

The Internet is an amazing and useful tool for writers. It has saved me a lot of money in requesting samples and guidelines, in stamps and envelopes. It has saved me time in traveling to the library to research (though I still do it at times because I love the library and the books all around me) and in waiting for mailed guidelines and manuscripts. It has given me the ability to reach sample issues of magazines online and print out guidelines to put into my own guidelines notebook. I now send the majority of my manuscripts and queries through email, receive many of my acceptances and rejections through email, and teach my writing classes online sitting in my home office.

Finding markets and guidelines by Googling (or Yahooing) specific magazines and topics for publications, reading online magazines full of writing articles and market information, and sending a query or manuscript with the push of a button is exciting and has made my life as a freelancer easier, faster, and cheaper.

If you want to see bylines and checks rolling in, then take control of your marketing and see what happens.

© Copyright 2005, 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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