Monday, April 1, 2013

The Writers' Bible for Newbies and Veteran Writers

I purchase this book every year. It' s a terrific resourse for writers, whether new or old-hands in the business. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for information from publishers in any modality or genre--books, newspaper and magazine articles, poetry, you name it. Publishers of all types are flooded with submissions of manuscripts every month. Unfortuantely, many good writing efforts go into the "slush pile" or the trash because writers haven't played by the rules. Publishers want to find the gems, the writers who reach audiences and sell books and magazines. Thus, they contribute information to the Writer's Market each year to help writers do a better job at targeting readers.

I've sold a number of articles to magazines by using the guidelines publishers submit to Writer's Market. In the early 1980s, I found Sea Frontiers and Mobil Oil's The Compass, two of my earliest article sales, and established a longtime relationship with several hobbyist, boating, and maritime magazines with contacts I made through this resource. I even found my first book publisher, Pineapple Press, Inc., using the Writer's Market.

In addition to an expansive listing of book publishers, magazines (by topic and region), and literary publications, Writer's Market also includes lists of agents, contests and prizes for writers, a glossary of sorts of terms writers and publishers know ("simultaneous submissions," "slush pile," "kill fee," etc.) and how-to articles written by writers for writers, such as how to write a solid query letter/email, what a book proposal should look like, developing characters in fiction, the sales process for writing, and what writers need to do to keep the IRS happy. Lately, I've seen information on eBook publishing as well.

The cover pictured above is the general, all-inclusive Writer's Market. You can find it in hardcopy at most bookstores and on Amazon at There are other versions--for novel and short story writers, children's books, photography, poetry, christian writing, and probably more that I'm forgetting here. There's a deluxe version that comes with a CD of additional resources. I recommend the hardcopy version of any Writer's Market, as I think it's actually easier to use, though a burden if you carry around the general title--it goes a couple of hundred pages. A spin-off (or perhaps a predecessor) is Writer's Digest magazine. It's a good monthly by the same company that offers Writer's Market.

I consume my copy of Writer's Market each year! It's usually available by October for the coming year. I order it on Amazon, and then when it arrives I set aside a day or two to study it--see what's new and make a list of some of the publishers I might contact and the projects I have that fit their requirements. I heavily annotate my copy with a pencil and highlighter and make lots of bookmarks with skinny sticky notes. I am old-school in terms of this activity; I need a hard copy and hands-on writing tools for annotation.

One of the lucrative aspects of freelance writing is re-selling articles or recyling topics. The trick? Write it once and sell it again and again, or write it once and do basic updates for new buyers. I've done this with a number of articles. Rule one of this activity is: If possible, never sell a magazine anything but "First North American Rights." This returns the rights to the article back to you for re-sale or re-use of any kind--to another magazine, to include in a book or anthology, or whatever other use you can find for it. It's surprising how many magazines will buy an article that's been previously published or republish an article from an earlier issue once sufficient time has passed. You'll see this listed in their Writer's Market entry as "buys reprints." They pay less for this second-round, and because it's already been in print, they know it's well done. (Some other magazine or editor has deemed it publishable.) So this is economical for them in terms of money and time. But it's also economical for writers. We can get some serious mileage (a.k.a. income) out of articles, even books if enough time has elapsed since initial publication. Writer's Market is a wonderful resource for possible re-sale.

Be aware that simply picking out a magazine or book publisher in Writer's Market and then sending in a manuscript is not likely to bring you a contract or sale. It's not catalogue shopping. There's a lot more to selling a piece of writing. You don't want to contact a publisher or publication until you've done all your homework (e.g. studied the publication you're pursuing from cover to cover and back again, written for a well-defined and appropriate audience, adhered to length requirements, and observed the courtesies all publishers expect). I'll cover some of that information in a different post in the coming months. Here, I'm just tossing out a good resource for writers, seasoned or new.

For the record, WD, as writers call this important book, is not paying me a fee to offer all these platitudes. Writers share information, just as any occupation might. I see writers toting arounf the WD at conferences and meetings. It's become a standard for reference and research. Currently, Amazon and other booksellers are offering WD for about $15. I'm saying here, that it's worth every penny.

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