Write From Home

Home  Busy Freelancer  Bookstore 

2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.

Selected by Bella Life Books as one of the top ten lists for writers in the "10 Top 10 Lists for Writers."

Boost Your Income by Writing for Trade Magazines!

This site best viewed using Internet Explorer at 1024 x 768 resolution.)



About Write From Home

Contributing Writers & Columnists

Reprint Policy

Privacy Policy

Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Targeting the Market
by Patrick Riley

My opinion: one of the hardest things a writer learns is how to target the market. To ferret out that perfect editor who will not only enjoy but also publish the piece. It takes a mound of postage and dozens of rejection letters to sell one story.

Editors routinely claim writers don't read their magazines before submitting. While this is probably true, I'm not sure reading would help. Often, the writer doesn't know exactly what style of piece he or she has produced, let alone how to match it to any particular magazine's seemingly elusive tastes.

I've spent years trying to shoehorn submissions into almost every market. I suspect I have this not-so-unique ability to convince myself my short fiction is appropriate. Science Fiction magazine? Sure, I've the story right here. After all, one of the minor characters is a chemist. Mystery zine? Absolutely. I'll add a dead body. That'll cinch it.

My manuscripts were Skud missiles, launched in the hopes of hitting something. Anything.

Eventually, this ill-focused strategy brought me increasing guilt. The only hard criteria for submitting became the length of the piece, and my cover letters withered to an apologetic whimper. Ironically, one of these cover letters led to my first sale.

I wrote a story about two brothers, the younger was dying. Naturally, I fired it off to a children's magazine, adding this caveat: "I'm interested in your comments, as this story may be too racy for younger teens."

The editor wrote back that while she enjoyed the story, it wasn't too racy, it was too moralistic for what she needed. She recommended sending it to a religious magazine. (I never would have considered this type of venue for my story.)

Giddy with this nibble of professional insight, I searched the Writer's Market and sent the story to Liguorian, a large religious magazine that accepts fiction. Six weeks later, they telephoned to say they were interested in purchasing the story. I played it cool on the telephone, not asking when it would appear or how much they would pay. The only detail of the conversation I remember was the name of the magazine, and my realization that another editor had helped me to sell a story to a national magazine.

Another example: About a month ago, I e-mailed a requested essay to an editor at another magazine. She'd enjoyed one of my previously submitted fillers (a great way to break in, by the way), and, even though she didn't buy this filler, she asked if I'd written any longer nonfiction.

I don't write much nonfiction and what little I had available was, I thought, inappropriate for her magazine. (I must be improving my targeting skills somehow.) In my response, I stated I didn't think my essay was a match, asked her advice, and attached the essay anyway. She wrote back within a week, said I was correct that my submission didn't fit, but added that she personally enjoyed it. She also recommended a few specific markets. That day, I mailed my essay to the journals she'd recommended.

I've often heard a writer should be confident in his or her cover letters, positive the submission matches the market exactly, but in my case, I've found the better responses come when I'm a little humble.

Humility, I think, makes it obvious that any feedback will be greatly appreciated and carefully considered. Most of the time, editors still don't personally respond, but on those rare occasions they do, their objective and informed comments can help target the next submission.

I also believe that if the story is well written, but targeted poorly, the editor is more likely to comment. I imagine, it's hard for any editor to deal with mediocre writing all day. They probably feel some twinge of excitement when they find a better piece, even if it's not the same twinge they'd feel if the story were also perfect for their magazine. I bet some editor's feel it's worth a moment's reflection and a quick note to encourage a good writer.

So whenever I submit a piece for consideration, I try to end the cover letter with a provocative question, preferably one that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Something that won't require an involved explanation the editor might be unwilling to tackle.

Try asking a question when submitting your best pieces and see if an editor doesn't help you to better target your next submission, that is, if the editor doesn't accept your work outright.

Patrick Riley has spent the last 17 years writing nonfiction and marketing materials for high technology companies. They have been published widely in trade magazines, internal company materials, and on the Internet. He has sold his short fiction to FUTURES and Virginia Adversaria, both literary periodicals, twice to CityTalk, a local Chicago newspaper with a circulation of 180,000 and three times to Liguorian, a Catholic magazine with circulation of 350,000. In March of 2002, his latest project became a finalist in the FUTURES magazine contest for in-progress mystery novels.









Free Mini E-Course Download PDF
Writing For Profit: Break Into Magazines
by Cheryl Wright



Article Library

Off the Page

Life of a Writer Mom

Dabbling for Dollars

Interviews with Authors & Writers

Copywriting, Marketing, PR & General Business

The Writing Trade





Writing For Children

Writing With Children

Taxes & Freelancers              
Great Magazines For Writers

magazine cover


Subscribe to
Writer's Digest magazine!

magazine cover
Subscribe to The Writer magazine  

New to freelance writing?

Read this informative article.

Read Glossary of Writing Terms

Authors Area

Agents & Publishers

Book Marketing


(Electronic & Print)



Associations & Organizations

Job Boards & Guideline Databases

Research & Reference


Author &

Writer Web Sites

Writing Sites

Copyright 2001-2013 Kim Wilson/Kim Wilson Creative Services.