One of our WM readers, Alice Knisley Matthias, wrote recently to ask if we could break down the best ways to use the Writer’s Market. I’m happy to answer that one today, as I highly recommend using the Writer’s Market to all the writers I mentor. It’s a great time to ask because the publication is changing and offering more options than ever to help writers.
For the uninitiated, the Writer’s Market has traditionally been a vast, annually published reference book of places that publish writers — from consumer magazines to trade publications to writing contests. It’s published by the folks who bring you Writer’s Digest magazine. It also lists book publishers, screenplay markets, greeting-card markets and much more. My current copy is more than 1,100 pages long. When I was starting out, I made much use of this resource to find entry-level markets, and since the downturn have been back to browsing it again to identify markets in the top pay rank. No matter where you’re at in your writing career, there’s useful information in this guide.
Here are my tips for getting the most from the Writer’s Market:
1. Get it with online support. In the fast-changing media world of the 21st Century, getting the Writer’s Market as a physical book only is a mistake. Getting the Market with online support offers many advantages in using the data in this enormous volume — and it’ll be the best $40 you ever spent on your writing career.
Or if you’re interested in a particular writing niche and buy one of Writer’s Digest’s niche guides, you can now also buy it bundled with access to WritersMarket.com. Or, if you’re a virtual type, you can now subscribe to WritersMarket.com without getting the book. I see they’re also offering a free 7-day trial, and you can also subscribe month-to-month now, and quit anytime. So there’s lots of new flexibility in how you can access their listings.
2. Use the search engine. The prime advantage of online support is that rather than leafing endlessly through physical pages, you can use the Market’s online search engines to slice and dice their data and cut right to what you’re looking for. You can use their advanced search to find only consumer magazines in only a certain region, at only a certain pay level. Saves a lot of squinting time poring over the book.
3. Browse the new listings. One of my favorite ways to use WritersMarket.com is to click on the link that says “X number of listings were updated in the past week.” Why? I have a theory about people who take the time to fill out the surveys Writer’s Market sends them asking for updates to their information: Editors fill them out when they are interested in finding new freelancers. When they’re not interested, they throw the update form in the trash. So the new listings are a great resource for finding new editors and publications that are good markets. At the speed editors are changing jobs these days, this is a great place to browse for inspiration on new places to query, and to make sure you’ve got current information about a market.
4. Build your market list. No more scribbling down contacts on a sheet of paper, or copy and pasting contact info into a Word doc — on WritersMarket.com you can create your own “My Markets” database and store information on any markets you find interesting. Also no more scratching your head trying to recall that market you saw three months ago that’s a fit for a great story idea you just got.
4. Get the free marketing newsletter.As a perk of membership you can get a free newsletter with tips on how to market your writing. Nice!
5. Check the news. Writer’s Market’s Debbie Ridpath Ohi assembles a great compendium of breaking news that affects writers — news of bankrupt publishers, new magazine launches, and editor changes. For instance, glancing at my newscatcher on my WritersMarket.com dashboard right now, I see that AOL has launched a food site with former Gourmet magazine editors, and that Editor & Publisher has gotten a new owner and will resume publication. These are great leads for places to send pitches or resumes that put you ahead of the pack, before these markets send out want ads.
6. Dig the community. WritersMarket.com has its own writers’ community, with subgroups for many genres. If you’re looking for a niche affinity group within writing, this could be a great place to connect.
Whatever way you get and use the Writer’s Market — the main thing is to use it! Put it on your marketing plan and make a date with yourself to check it regularly. It can be a powerful tool for increasing your writing earnings in 2010.
This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.