Mistake No. 29: Unimaginative Market Choices

With around 10,000 publications in the UK – and surely a million around the world – you might expect that the range of markets targeted by new writers would be vast.

Any writing tutor would probably tell you the opposite is true. Most of us see the same titles namechecked over and over again. Reader’s Digest, Saga, Psychologies, The Daily Mail, The Lady, Yours, Best of British, Wanderlust.

Many of these publications are ultra-competitive, and use only journalists at the top of their game. Yes, RD take fillers, and one or two of my students have sold some in, but in almost fifteen years in the business I still haven’t met a writer who has written an article for them.

Others get swamped with submissions. I met a young editorial assistant from one of these titles above at a press event in the summer, and the poor thing’s shoulders visibly sagged when I brought up writer submissions. She dealt with several hundred a month, she said, almost all unsuitable, and was charged with the somewhat sad task of putting them back into their envelopes for return to senders. She also regularly fielded phone calls from impatient scribes seeking decisions on their manuscripts. It was clear she was run off her feet.

My suggestion? Try something different.

If you ask any jobbing writer who they’ve written for, they’re likely to rattle off a selection of titles from which you might only be able to pick out one or two familiars. Here are some of mine: Balance, Beyond, Career Zone, City Appointments, Drum, Foods Matter, Friday to Monday, the London Career Guide, Longevity, Midweek, Oryx, Palladium, the Planet, Red Handed and Spectrum.

How many of those do you recognise?

Okay, I’ve selected these deliberately to make a point, and yes I could have included the Guardian and the Times and some well known health magazines too, but the thing I want you to take away from this post is that many writers’ earnings come predominantly from clients who lack glamour, cachet and household-name status.

For tips on finding such markets, see my Finding Markets article.

If you think you can’t write for quirkier or niche markets, see Mistake No. 12, and if you think they’re not up your street, see Mistake No. 22.

Give it a go. Let me know how you get on.

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