11 Tips for Getting the Most out of Writer’s Market

Steve Sears asks: how about a post on the specific benefits of Writer’s Market and using it properly?

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 [1], 8725 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 824-2400 [2] E-mail: ryelton@hanleywood.com [3] [4] Website: www.theconcreteproducer.com. 25% freelance written. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7] Accepts queries by mail, e-mail, fax, phone. [8] 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. [9] Send complete ms. [10] Length: 500-2,000 words. Pays $200-$1,000. [11] 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.

[1] 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!)

[2] 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.

[3] 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 firstinitiallastname@hanleywood.com. 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?)

[4] Some magazines list only a general editorial e-mail address such as editorial@magazine.com or info@magazine.com. 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 firstname.lastname@magazine.com.

[5] 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.

[6] 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!)

[7] 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.

[8] 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.

[9] 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.

[10] 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.

[11] 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]

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33 comments… add one
  • I’m just diving back into Writer’s Market as I’m returning to freelancing, haven’t used it since the early-to-mid 1990s. It is a bit daunting, but these tips are quite helpful.

    I particularly like the suggestion of finding other publications the publisher may produce that would be more appropriate; years ago I wrote FT for a trade publisher of multiple publications, and it would surprise me when a prospective freelancer couldn’t do a bit of homework to learn which publication to target!

    • Hi, Patrick~ That’s one of my super top-secret tips for using WM. (Well, not so secret anymore.) Good to know from a trade professional that this is a good idea. Thanks!

  • I have the latest tome weighing down my desk as we speak, and I’ve owned one a year since I was 16. It’s a great starting point, but I have to admit I don’t use it as much as I used to. I use actual magazines much, much more.

    By the way, Linda, your sense of motivation and vigor has rubbed off on me. Four days into the New Year and I’ve landed an assignment! And for an article I nearly gave up on, because it was rejected by the TWO editors I sent it to. I admitted defeat a little too early, didn’t I?

    • HOORAY on your new assignment! That’s fabulous, and what a great start to 2011.

      I use WM not so much for finding out what magazines want — for that, I find the magazines themselves to be better resources — but for finding good markets I’d never heard of.

  • Ummm you are a saint for posting this! I have WM but can’t understand how to use it. I’ve always felt like I kind of wasted my $ on it, but with your tips, I’m hoping I can put it to use…

  • This is perfect timing as I am about to renew my subscription to the online WM.

    Thanks Linda!

  • I use the online version. I love it, just wish they could include the editor’s names. Not that it is too much trouble to look up, but I find most times they aren’t on the website so I have to get to the bookstore. Of course, in the ‘olden’ days prior to Internet I would have had to do that anyway :0) Great post!

    • Kathy, thanks for your comment! Even if there were editor names I would contact the magazine to make sure the name is correct since editors move around so much!

  • Tanisha

    I received my first ever WM yesterday based on your suggestion in a previous post. The size and amount of information surprised me. I’m excited by the possibilities it holds. Thanks for all your information and support Linda.

  • Star

    You can also join the American Soc of Jouurnalists and Authors, asja.org, and in their magazine is a great section called Paycheck about what people are getting and which pubs are slow-pay/nopay bums.

  • What a great post, Linda. It’s so interesting to see how different writers who different resources– thanks so much for sharing. Question for you regarding manuscripts. I’ve recently been talking with an editor at a trade pub and she sent me their author’s guidelines. In the guidelines, they never once said the word pitch/query, rather “submit your manuscript”. I really wasn’t sure what this meant, as I’ve actually never heard the term manuscript when working with magazines. Does this mean all assignments will be on spec?

    I’m curious: what has your experience been with trade publications (or consumer) and manuscripts? Do you find that most trade pubs prefer to have freelancers write on spec, as opposed to pitch and assign?

    • Yes, “submit your manuscript” means they want your whole article on spec. As I mentioned though, you can always try a pitch, or call or e-mail and ask if the editor ever assigns articles based on queries.

      I’ve written for more then two dozen trades, and all of them worked on assignment, not spec. On spec publishers are out there, but I think on assignment is more common.

      • Star

        If no fee is mentioned, this “submit your manuscript” thing can also mean their members or professionals in the field are willing to do it for nothing, to be seen or sell a book, the infamous “exposure.” A lot of mags, I find, entice people into the glory ride.

  • Kari

    Very helpful post. Thanks for the information. 🙂 One thing that still confuses me is the number different editors some publications employ. How do you know which one to contact? (I apologize if you’ve covered this in a previous post.)

    • Kari, it’s so hard to say because editors have different responsibilities at different magazines. For example, at some mags the managing editor is the assigning editor, but at others she does more production work. Your safest bet is to call and ask who assigns the department you’d like to pitch. If calling doesn’t work, I always send to a senior editor (at a large magazine) or the editor (at a small magazine). Not sure if that’s the best way, but it works for me!

  • Ronald Sieber

    If you had to prioritize, would you suggest the hard cover source first, or the online source for WM? Or, is this a matter of taste, convenience, and personal preference?

    • Ronald, I’d say it’s a matter of taste. I go back and forth. I had an online subscription last year, and this year I’m using the hardcopy version. Online is great because you can limit your searches by certain parameters, such as (if I remember correctly) all magazines that pay four dollar signs. The print version is good, though, because it’s easier to leaf through and read the whole thing when you’re looking for new markets and you don’t have a particular title in mind. Keep in mind that you can get the Writers Market Deluxe edition that is the print version PLUS a year subscription to the online database: http://www.amazon.com/2011-Writers-Market-Deluxe-Online/dp/1582979499/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1294255617&sr=1-3.

  • Beth Chariton

    This is great info, thanks. If you could only choose one resource to start with , do you think WM is better than starting with the data bases of Wooden Horse or Media Bistro? And do you prefer to have the WM book instead of on-line access to their info?


    • Hi, Beth! Hmmm….I’ve heard negative comments about both Wooden Horse and MB, but I haven’t tried them myself. And all of them are likely to get out of date quickly. I’m not sure how often each of the three update their databases. That’s why, no matter which one I use, I would call the magazine or at the very least check their website for the most updated info.

  • Love the post Linda! Your advice is always helpful. Now I have a more efficient way to utilize WM than I did before. Thanks.

  • Star

    I use old paper editions–from Amazon, used…you have to check for currency anyway.

  • Jenn Crowell

    Thanks so much for this, Linda! I always feel a bit paralyzed by the information overload market research inspires, so this is great info.

  • Wonderful article – for the information and because it was a pleasure to read. Whoa, would I hire you if I were editing a trade? In a heartbeat…

  • I love it when you give permission to trust my gut.

    That “send your ms” thing–I tend to skip those because it is too much work with no guarantee. Before I read this I did what you advise. I sent an LOI to a site with a very clear ms submission form, mentioned I saw it but wondered if they would consider adding a contributor (of course, I listed my credentials). So we will see. Glad to know I’m not the only rebel.

    I also like the idea of ignoring the snail mail command. Really? What century are we in? And this comes from some of the HUGE magazines.

    • Thanks for your comment! It’s funny…I make a lot of my blog income trying to help writers trust their gut. I’m glad you’re trusting yours!

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