Escaping the Pile: Part III

Well, the two week long fugue of parties, presents, food, ball games, and drink is over, and it seems we’ve stumbled into another new year without too many casualties. So it’s time to return to real life. While we were all busy, Sarah Hans accepted my short story “Coffee and Collaborators” for her debut anthology effort, “Sidekicks”. Sarah is funny and whip-smart; I’m confident she’ll assemble a first-class collection for you all to read. Check back here for updates.

But back on track. Last week, we talked about the importance of respecting a publisher’s submission guidelines. This week, we’re moving on to talk about Market Compatibility:

There are many hundreds of paying literary markets, each trying to carve out their own audience. Think of it as a market ecosystem, with every magazine, website, and anthology series acting as a unique species.

Just like in nature, markets evolve to fill specific niches in their environment. Some are generalists that publish work from diverse genres. However, most markets are specialists who have built a reputation around a specific genre, be it high fantasy, hard sci-fi, urban supernaturalism, steam punk, space opera, etc.

The market I read for established a reputation for horror and suspense stories with a fantastic or supernatural bent. It’s what their subscribers have come to expect. Yet still I was sent stories every week that contained no horror elements. Many of them are quite good, but were incompatible with our goals; so back they went.

Before you hit the ‘Send’ button, or lick a stamp, take some time to read a handful of selections from the market you are considering submitting to. Figure out the genre and tone of the stories the editors liked enough to print. If your story feels like it’s in good company, send it along.

However, if it doesn’t mesh, then don’t send it to that market. This wastes not only your time, but the time of the reader on the other end, which won’t endear you to that editor should you send another story in the future. Some of us have surprisingly long memories for that sort of thing. As I said earlier, there are hundreds of paying markets. You can always find one that will be a good fit for whatever you choose to write.

One of the best tools I’ve found for sifting through markets is the excellent website, Duotrope. With over three thousand markets to search, and a super-handy submissions tracking system, Duotrope will slash anyone’s market research time, and help you keep your queries organized. As of yesterday, they have moved over to a pay model, whereas before they had worked on donations only. Still, I believe it’s well worth the cost.

Now if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to take a moment for a shameless plug. Last year, a couple dozen of us writerly types got together and wrote a World-Building textbook of sorts for authors and game masters of any stripe. Each chapter deals with a specific aspect of crafting a realistic world setting, from ecology, to economy, religion, geography, even the physics of building whole solar systems. It’s called Eighth Day Genesis, and you can pick it up in eBook or trade paperback. Give it a try.

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