2. WHO WILL BUY? RESEARCHING YOUR MARKET
The best way to find your market is become familiar with it. This means reading what they publish. If you want to write travelogues, read magazines that publish them. If you want to tell about a local farmer doing something amazing, look for similar stories in local publications. You can do this research in the library, in the magazine section of a large bookstore, or by bringing up publications on the Internet. Now, focus on a few periodicals or newspapers that appear to publish the type of story you’re interested in writing. Read as many copies of them as possible. Chances are if you have a subscription to a periodical it contains the type of articles you’re interested in writing and you’ve already soaked up their style by osmosis.
At this point you will want to write to the publication asking for their guidelines. Send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (S.A.S.E) along, and make the letter brief. In the last few years, most publishers have guidelines on their websites. Going on the Internet is a fast way to get the guidelines.
Compare the guidelines to your own goals. Guidelines give you word count, payment (by line, word count or page), deadlines for seasonal material, editors of different departments, format required and other information you need before you submit.
Ask yourself some questions? Will the amount of work I have to put into the article be justified by the amount this periodical pays? Can I meet their deadline? Am I able to write in the style they require (humorous, experiential)? If you feel you have a match then prepare a query.
This too requires research. You must query according to the publisher guidelines. If you send an Internet query, it will be lost in cyberspace unless the publisher stipulates he will accept by Internet. You would be wise to set a ‘received’ cue on your Internet mail out, so you at least know it arrived. Even then expect 4-6 weeks to go by without an answer, or even acknowledgement it’s been received. At this point you may email again asking for a status report (name article and date queried). This will usually gain you an immediate response. Many times you will hear nothing. You must decide whether to start the process again or give up. A new query or submission might hit the editor’s desk, at a time he is open to your idea.
Make your query as brief as possible. State the subject, why you are qualified to write on it and when you can deliver. Now include research material for the editor you’ve approached. If this is a new market, it is important to add your publication credits. If the list is too long, choose the newest, or those similar in style to what they print. Send photocopies of the tear sheets of several of your articles. Never cut around the article, but tear out the entire page that contains publication, name and date on the top or bottom.
In a query letter you sell your article by proving it is timely and you have an interesting angle and know who has the answers; then you sell yourself.