Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog for a Marketing Moment

Okay, you've written a minor masterpiece and workshopped it to gleaming perfection. Now what? One prominent theory is that you send it to the highest paying market and work your way down until it sells. There's nothing wrong with this approach and, in fact, it may be the most income-efficient way to proceed in this age of internet submissions that do not require stamps. The reality is, however, that not all stories really ought to go to all markets. We live in world with a highly diverse marketplace and in an age of better than competent competition. Which generally equates to "it's a buyer's market". As an editor at Triangulation, I can confirm that we turn away perfectly solid stories year in and year out because we know we can get "better", which for us generally means speculative stories that have a strong narrative shape and also manage to surprise us or expand our horizons in some way. Often, the choice of stories we take does come down to editorial taste or the mix of stories already in hand.

What we like to find in our slush pile are stories that indicate an author has 1) actually read our guidelines; 2) formatted the story to be easily readable (standard manuscript formatting ideally); and 3) achieved at least some understanding of the types of stories we publish. We aren't fond of writers who bombard us with trunk story after trunk story, especially if they miss the mark for the very same reasons we pointed out in a previous rejection. We like to think that our authors actually listen to and learn from the guidance we are able to provide, that we're not just another credit on their ever growing list of credits. Pragmatically, we realize that's what we are to many writers who submit, but we like to believe otherwise. It makes the hundreds of volunteer hours we put in feel a little more purposeful.

With that in mind, how should you go about marketing this gleaming new story of yours? Here's how I do it. First, I go to Duotrope (Ralan is also a good option) and enter the particulars of my story, then I run a search for markets based on that. I order the search list from highest to lowest paying, then go down that list to the first market that I know or suspect publishes stories with a similar feel to mine. This is fairly easy for markets I read semi-regularly (e.g. Daily Science Fiction, Asimov's, F&SF, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, OSG's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, trapeze, Necrotic Tissue, A Fly in Amber, Bartleby Snopes). For others, it's a matter of clicking through to their website, reading their guidelines in detail, then reading the current issue and/or sample stories they publish online. If the market sounds particularly interesting, I'll purchase a copy of their latest issue or anthology and read through that. For example, Realms was an excellent resource when researching Clarkesworld as a potential market. The main thing I learned from that anthology was that the bulk of my fiction was not nearly strong enough literarily, nor quirky enough idea-wise for their taste. Rather than bombard them with stories I knew they would not like, I marketed those stories to more likely venues. When I do send a story to Clarkesworld now, I know it's something that at least has the potential to appeal to them, rather than becoming just another manuscript taking up space and time in their system. When in doubt, submit, but do your research first to minimize that doubt to the degree possible.

For my next blog, I'll write about specific markets I've researched for Write1Sub1 submissions.


  1. "Often, the choice of stories we take does come down to editorial taste or the mix of stories already in hand." - Definitely seems to be the case for most magazines and e-zines, which is why I refuse to give up on any of my stories. Somewhere out there is an editor with an issue that will be a perfect fit!

  2. Good advice, Steve.

    I keep files of my favourite stories from my dream markets. I also like to look at response times and acceptance rates when deciding.

    I'm looking forward to your next post. Writing to market is something that I've experimented with in the past. Not only to themed anthologies where it's necessary, but to markets like Clarkesworld.

  3. Great post. And I'm convinced sheer luck plays a part too. If you catch the right editor in the right mood on the right day ...

  4. Thanks for the post, do you have any other similar related posts?

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