Mistake No. 22: “These markets just aren’t me!”

Know the magazine I’d like to write for? Pick’n’Mix Magazine – the monthly for lovers of all forms of confectionary, sweets and chocolate bars. It has 100-odd pages of editorial and the editor actively seeks contributors to write about their favourite candy and review the latest launches from Lindt. Pick’n’Mix pays above NUJ recommended rates, and the editor remits on acceptance, also sending you a complimentary copy of the issue in which your article appears, and a spare one for your mum too.

If only, eh. Yep, I’d like nothing more than to tell the world how I used to eat my Double Deckers as a boy (three-quarters of the top layer first, then the same of the bottom, then the remaining quarter in one greedy mouthful), and why Valrhona’s Manjari Orange 64% is worth spending your last few quid on (do so at Waitrose), and get paid for it, but until Pick’n’Mix transforms from figment of my imagination into on-shelf reality, I will just have to write for the markets which are already there.

And tough as it may sometimes be to accept when you start out, you have to try to do the same.

What new writers often tell me is “I just can’t seem to find a magazine I like the look of” and “none of the publications on the shelves is really me.” They faithfully recount the lengths they go to in order to track down some just-right markets, yet those uncovered always seem to fail to make the grade. A sense of hopelessness and frustration hangs heavy over the whole correspondence.

By all means look for markets which you want to or feel you could contribute to. My article on Finding Markets will help. But if you’ve done everything – you’ve scoured shelves, you’ve trawled the web, you’ve asked everyone you know – and you still feel there’s nothing out there that’s quite you, then you need to stop looking and change your mindset.

I know. It’s a tough lesson when you’re setting out. But thing is, markets exist for the benefit of readers, not writers. They are there to entertain and inform the readership. They do not exist to give writers a convenient outlet for what they might feel they want to tell the world.

If you can’t, despite your best efforts, find your particular dream market it ought to tell you that in all likelihood the readership for such a market does not exist – and neither does the market itself.

See, as a reader, I would be unlikely to care much for reading about a mixed bunch of people’s sweet tooths and preferred choices of chocolate bars. I’m sure, as a reader, you would feel the same. And that’s why Pick’n’Mix Magazine does not exist. Nobody really wants to read it – although we’d probably bite off each others’ arms to write for it.

The magazines which people do want to read – many examples of which I gave in Mistake No. 12: “I can’t write for Yachting Monthly!” – are the ones on the shelves, which people buy, and which succeed.

But there are thousands of others out there, many of which are constantly on the lookout for original, well thought-out ideas, from writers who can put together readable and informative non-fiction, specifically targeted at the markets’ readerships. Channel your efforts towards them, not towards looking for something which may not be there. As I’ve said before, every market – every market – is a potential outlet for your writing, whether it feels ‘you’ or not.

Take on board this attitude from the start – it will stand you in good stead.

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