I’m sure I’ve done this before, but it’s always worth repeating. It is very important when you want to submit your work that you research your markets thoroughly. I’m not taking the moral high ground here as I sent out stuff willy nilly in my early days of writing, having no clue how publishing worked, or that my womag style stories would not be a happy fit in a literary magazine and vice versa. But at least I was sort of sending the right type of writing – stories – to the right people … i.e. editors … even if I wasn’t targeting my work correctly. I don’t think I’ve ever sent my work to some stranger I found on the Internet because they mentioned, in passing, the market that I wanted to be published by.
I need to stress for the record that I only write a column for Writers Forum magazine. I’m not the editor, and I don’t run the WF writing comps (though I can understand the confusion with the latter as the email addy for the writing calendar at WF does start comps@). And I hate to sound stroppy here, but neither am I in a position to be passing on other writers’ article ideas to the editor, especially if I don’t know those writers from Adam. That is something writers should approach the editor about directly. One of the things you need to learn about being a writer is not feeling shy about emailing editors with ideas. After all, it’s clear that some people don’t feel shy about emailing a perfect stranger who’s website they just happen to have come across after putting ‘writing’ in Google. It seems to me that it makes more sense to get valid contact information from the actual Writers Forum website than it does to assume that someone who mentions writing for them is also in charge of accepting submissions.
A friend of mine who runs a very helpful blog also receives submissions for the markets she writes about, even though she has nothing to do with those markets other than as a fellow writer who hopes they’ll publish her. She kindly points the mistaken writers in the right direction.
Whilst I’m all for helping other writers and pointing them in the right direction, as is my friend, it is important that someone wanting to submit to a market researches that market properly and learns exactly who they’re supposed to contact. Just because someone writes a blog or website devoted to a particular market, or as I do, to writing comps, does not mean that we are the people running those markets or comps. That’s a bit like assuming someone who runs a blog showing naked pictures of Sean Bean lives next door to him so can pass on your demand for those 300 extra free minutes (I shan’t make that mistake again!)
It’s also important to make sure that you are targeting the right market with the right type of article/story etc. Writers Forum is a writing magazine, ergo it features articles designed to be of interest to writers. It does not carry any other type of article. For special interest articles, one needs to be looking at either the womags or other lifestyle magazines to see if they fit. That means reading the magazines, rather than just closing your eyes and sticking a pin in one in the hopes it’s the right one. I think some new writers use a scattergun approach, just sending anything anywhere in the hopes it will stick. You may well get lucky and find the right market amongst them all, but you will also have let lots of other markets – and the odd blogger/comps calendar compiler – know that you didn’t do your homework properly. One day you may need those markets, so it’s a good idea not to show your unprofessionalism if you can help it.
What makes me uncomfortable is people thinking I’m the God of Writers Forum (or any other market I write for), and that I personally run all the comps I list (believe me, it takes me enough time to do the listings, let alone coordinating and judging the dozens of competitions listed every year!) Luckily the contact form does not allow for attachments, but I have had people send me their work in the past, which in these days of worries about plagiarism, makes me feel even more nervous. I never read the work, and delete it immediately, but I also live in fear of the day I inadvertantly write a story with a similar premise and the writer then believes I’ve stolen their ideas because they sent their story to me on such and such a date.
The Writers & Artists Yearbook is a good place to start when researching markets, and of course, the Internet is ideal as it contains loads of information (sometimes far more than you need). But as stated before, if you find a website or blog that specialises in writing about a particular market, don’t assume that the person running it is the editor or connected to that market in any way. Double check the information by putting the magazine’s name into Google. Most markets, if they’re not listed in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, will have their own webpage with contact numbers/email addresses so you can either email or ring up and ask who to approach with your ideas/work.
I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here, but I hope that at some point someone new to writing falls upon this blog and sees this post and learns from it. Having said that if anyone wants to contact me either on Twitter, Facebook or via my webpage contact form to ask me where they can find such information, I’m more than happy to point you in the right direction. I am generally known for being a nice person like that. Just don’t send me your work and/or your ideas then later accuse me of stealing it because you haven’t taken the time to make sure you’ve emailed the right person.