Thanks for the great suggestion, Steve! I decided that I would show readers how I decipher a Writer’s Market listing. As you’ll see, one thing I don’t do is simply find a magazine that sounds good and fire off a query or letter of intro to the editor listed.
Below is a trade magazine’s entry in Writer’s Market. I’m thinking WM won’t mind that I’m posting this here as I’m about to plug the heck out of their book! (I love you, WM!)
$$$ The Concrete Producer
Hanley-Wood, LLC , 8725 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 824-2400  E-mail: email@example.com   Website: www.theconcreteproducer.com. 25% freelance written.  Monthly magazine covering concrete production. Our audience consists of producers who have succeeded in making concrete the preferred building material through management, operating, quality control, use of the latest technology, or use of superior materials.  Estab. 1982. Circ. 18,000. Byline given. Pays on acceptance. No kill fee. Published ms an average of 2 months after acceptance. Editorial lead time 4 months.  Accepts queries by mail, e-mail, fax, phone.  Responds in 1 week to queries. Responds in 2 months to mss. Sample copy for $4. Guidelines free.
Nonfiction: Needs how-to, promote concrete, new material, new product, technical. Buys 10 mss/year.  Send complete ms.  Length: 500-2,000 words. Pays $200-$1,000.  Sometimes pays expenses of writers on assignment.
Photos: Scan photos at 300 dpi. State availability. Captions, identification of subjects required. Reviews transparencies, prints. Offers no additional payment for photos accepted with ms.
 Here’s a secret tactic of mine. Notice that The Concrete Producer is published by Hanley-Wood. Now, you may or may not be interested in writing about concrete, but if Hanley-Wood is a trade magazine publisher, they may print other magazines that are more up your alley. You can see from the editor’s e-mail address that the company’s URL is hanleywood.com. Go to that website, click on magazines, and — whoa! They list 20 or so magazines, some of which are probably not in Writer’s Market, from Apartment Finance to Residential Architect. Now you have 20 markets to check out. (Writer’s Market is big, but if they were to print a guide to every magazine in the U.S. you wouldn’t be able to lift it!)
 See that phone number? Use it! You’ll need this to make sure the information listed here is up-to-date. I love Writer’s Market, but with the pace at which editors move around, listings can become outdated quickly. Call and ask if X is still the assigning editor at Y magazine — and if not, ask who is and what his e-mail address is.
 Notice that this listing doesn’t include the editor’s name, but it does include the editor’s e-mail address. In cases like this, visit the magazine’s website and see if you can figure out who the editor is so you’ll know who to ask for if you call. Fortunately The Concrete Producer lists the names and e-mail addresses of the editors, so I may not even have to call. I notice that there’s no editor there with the last name Yelton, so this entry may be outdated. Also, if this magazine’s website didn’t list editors’ e-mail addresses, I could tell from the address listed in Writer’s Market that the e-mail format is firstname.lastname@example.org. Good to know. As you can see, there are a lot of formulations going on in my head right now. (Is this editor correct? Is there a better editor listed on the website? Can I sleuth out an e-mail address that’s not listed?)
 Some magazines list only a general editorial e-mail address such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re dealing with a very small magazine with only a few staff members, there’s a chance that an actual assigning editor checks this address. But for bigger magazines, a generic address can be a black hole of nothingness from which no queries can escape. If the magazine’s website doesn’t list editors’ e-mail addresses, check out the ad sales page to figure out the magazine’s e-mail format. For example, if the ad sales rep is Jane.Smith@magazine.com, you know to use the formula email@example.com.
 The percentage of articles that are freelance-written means nothing to me. If only five percent of the magazine’s articles are written by freelancers — well, why can’t you be part of that five percent? Don’t be discouraged. You rock.
 This brief description can help you determine whether the magazine is even in your ballpark, but before you send a pitch or a letter of intro, check out the magazine’s website to find out the kinds of articles they run. It’s also great when you can tell an editor in your e-mail, “I read through some back issues of your magazine and especially enjoyed the article ‘Super Salts: A Powerful Solution’ in your November issue.” (Don’t say this unless you really mean it!)
 The editorial lead time lets you know how far in advance the magazine works. If you want to pitch a holiday concrete story (!), you’ll know to pitch it four months early — or even earlier, as you need to give the editor time to consider your pitch, give you the assignment, etc.
 Here’s where the magazine tells you how to pitch. However, if it says to pitch only via snail mail, I call B.S. I pretend I never saw that and proceed to sleuth out the correct editor and her e-mail address. I’ve never had a magazine chastise me for sending a great idea via e-mail.
 Again, don’t be discouraged! Why can’t one of them be you? I would never not pitch a magazine just because chances of success are slim. If you don’t play, you can’t win.
 A little miscommunication here: Earlier in the listing it tells you how to pitch and it also says that the editor responds in one week to queries — but then it says that you should send the full manuscript. I would err on the side of caution and send a query because it’s easier to research and write than an entire article. In fact, I would always send a query because I don’t write on spec, and you never know if an editor is willing to negotiate an assignment unless you ask. My take is that the editors who fill out the WM listing are telling you the best-case scenario for them, and hoping you don’t question it.
 If article lengths are 500-2,000 words and the magazine pays $200-$1,000, you can surmise that the magazine pays about 50 cents per word or a little under. This will give you an idea if this magazine is one you want to write for. And don’t forget that you can always negotiate, so if the magazine’s payrate is almost-but-not-quite there for you, you may want to give it a shot anyway.
I don’t generally offer photos with my articles, so I don’t have much to say about their photo specs.
That’s it! Every year I read Writer’s Market from front to back — because you never know where you’ll find a great market — and when one looks interesting to me, this is the process I go through to investigate the mag and get in touch with the editor.
How about you — do you read WM in its entirety? Do you have any special super-secret tips for getting the most out of its listings? Let’s hear them! [lf]