Literary Success: Market Research

One thing guarantees that an agent or editor will reject a manuscript: the writer failed to research the market. Rather than finding out what the publisher needs, the writer just submitted his/her work with a hope and a prayer. Professional writers can’t afford to do this.

Fortunately, numerous resources are available to help us. Two of them are: Writer’s Market and The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. Also, such magazines as Writer’s Digest and The Writer.

I recommend subscribing to one of the magazines I mentioned. Not only do they offer great writing instruction, they also publish interviews with agents, editors and authors, provide contest information and deadlines, publicize conferences, and similar things.

Also purchase one of the aforementioned current market guides. They provide contact information, publisher website information, the types of things they publish, and how much they pay (if they do). Study the guide, find a publisher you’d like to write for, then visit its website. From the website, download its writer/author guidelines.

Print the guidelines and follow them perfectly. Some magazines will want a query letter first whereas others will want the entire manuscript. Each magazine has its own format for authors to follow.

Regarding magazines, purchase a copy or else ask the editor to send you a sample. Sometimes they’ll send you one for free while other times, an author may have to buy a copy. Once you get it, study it.

Tips for Studying a Magazine

  • Content. What kind of articles does it publish? Humor? Pet? Lifestyle? Or perhaps it publishes other kinds of articles. It’d be unwise to submit an article on “Four Ways to Catch Rainbow Trout” to a fashion magazine, for instance.
  • Read. Read the articles and short stories (if it publishes short stories).
  • How are the articles organized?
  • What kind of openings and endings do the articles use?
  • Do the articles have subheads?
  • Are the articles straightforward and simply written, or do they use long sentences and long, multisyllabic words?
  • Are its short stories literary fiction or commercial fiction?
  • What fiction genres does it publish?
  • Study. Study its advertisements. These reveal a lot about a magazine’s target audience. If most advertisements cater to women, then it will feature items of interest to them. The brands advertised tell us about the audience’s income level, tastes, etc. This helps us know what types of articles to write and submit.

Spend time doing market research. In the long-run, it’s worth the time, money, and effort.

Literary Success: Study

Professional writers not only write—they study the craft. No matter how long we’ve been at it, we writers know that good writing takes a long time to master, so the more we study and learn, the quicker we’ll master it. Yet, once we think we’ve mastered it, we’ll discover how little we know. And this is also a professional, and mature, attitude—a willingness to learn more.

Study Tips

  • Subscribe to and read writing magazines. I recommend either The Writer or Writer’s  Digest.
  • Read books on writing. Two classics I recommend are On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, and Elements of Style, by E.B. White. Writer’s Digest also publishes excellent writing books, so check them out also.
  • Attend writing conferences. At these events, you’ll take writing classes, meet other serious writers and successful authors, develop lifelong friendships, and can even have face-to-face time with agents and editors.
  • Join a good critique group. Two great groups for Christian writers are American Christian  Fiction Writers and Word Weavers International. I am a member of both groups.

Links to Christian writing groups:

ACFW | American Christian Fiction Writers

            word weavers international