The Renegade Writer

You Ask, I Answer: Do I Develop the Article Idea First or Find the Market First?

By Linda Formichelli

Here’s a question I get often from my Write for Magazines e-course students: When I want to pitch an idea, do I come up with the idea or the market first?

And it’s a good question. Doesn’t it make more sense to find one market you really want to pitch, study it, and brainstorm appropriate ideas? Or, wait — maybe it’s more efficient to find an idea and then tweak it to fit the publications you love.

The answer is, you need to do whichever works for you.

In Write for Magazines, I have students brainstorm three ideas — which I critique — choose one, and then find five markets for it…because that’s the way I’ve always done it. I can’t stop the ideas from flowing in, so I like to write them down, filter through them to pick the best ones, and then brainstorm markets.

But some writers have trouble coming up with ideas they like, and having a magazine in front of you can be a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Looking at ads, reading articles, and scanning the masthead can often spark a salable idea. And the good news is that even if you develop an idea specifically for this one market, chances are it will work in others with a little tweaking. Kelly James-Enger of the Dollars and Deadlines blog is a proponent of this method.

So whichever mode works for you, don’t worry — as long as you end up with salable ideas and markets to send them to, you’re fine.

How about you: Do you come up with the idea first, or the market first — and why?

Mar 18, 2013 Advice, Ideas, You Ask, We Answer

6 Responses

  1. Yep, I’m one of those people who’s asked that very question. For the ideas I recently came up with, I had the magazine first. But I suspect that once I get into a grove, I’ll generate more ideas before I’ve identified a market.

    Right now I need the market first because I haven’t developed an eye for good ideas yet. With more practice and experience, I’ll be able to know a good idea when I see it, even without a market in mind.

    Make sense?

    • Sure it makes sense! I’m sure lots of writers start out one way and then switch to the other.

      BTW, you’re in the Den, right? Diana Burrell will be discussing this very question in this week’s Den call.

  2. I do both. For me it truly is how I feel about the idea. If the article shows up I go with that. Right now I am developing two ideas…one already pitched with possible interest.

  3. I like to mix it up. If I get an idea, I’ll go ahead and outline it and then pitch it. But, sometimes I’ll read guidelines, and that will spark an idea.

    I like working both ways — it keeps things fresh!

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