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How To Get Those Ideas Sold In 3 Steps

freelance writingHi Anne,

I’ve started to master the idea generation. The part that gets me stuck is finding homes for my ideas. I get as far as:

Idea X… good for a family mag.

Idea Y… good for a business publication.

Then, I start looking and get so overwhelmed at the forest that I can’t find a tree.

What is the best way you have found to identify potential markets for a particular story? (Besides the obvious Writer’s Market).

Carry Schmeck in comments

Hi Carry,

I don’t know that there is a single best way “to identify potential markets for a particular story.” And I find Writer’s Market invaluable, but pretty overwhelming at times.

That said, here’s roughly what I’d do with an idea that I thought was perfect for a family magazine:

  1. I’d make a short list, maybe at the top of the page where I was going to write the query or the article, of the magazines I know without looking up anything that might be a fit. In this case I’d probably list:
    • Family Circle
    • Woman’s Day
    • First
  2. I’d look up each of these to make sure they paid enough to make it worth my time, and that the pay on acceptance rather than publication so I’m not just waiting around hoping they publish it.
  3. I’d pick the highest paying market and send them either a query or a completed article.

Another approach I sometimes use is to go browse a good newsstand, one with lots of magazines. I’d be looking for a family magazine or two I wasn’t familiar with. First, usingWriter’s Market or googling, I’d determine if they were open to freelance writers and if the pay was good.

Finally, if I really have trouble finding a market for an idea I google, adding magazine orpublisher or some such to the search term.

I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time doing any of this except on the query or over-the-transom submission because I’d want to move quickly on to the next idea and the next market.

I think the sense of overwhelm you speak of comes from having some idealized idea of a ‘perfect’ market for an idea. There’s no such thing. You’ll submit ideas that will sell and you will submit ideas that don’t sell. With practice it gets easier to hit the right market, but there are far too many variables you have no control over to worry about perfection. This is a great place to just do it – find a market you think will work and fire off your query or article, then turn right around and do the same thing with the next idea, and so on.

How do you find markets for your ideas?

Have you got a question you’d like answered? Contact me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll probably answer it here.


{ 9 comments… add one }
  • A great “one step at a time” approach. Marketing can be really overwhelming at times. When I started, I too would have so many ideas, that I ended up overwhelmed and not knowing where to start – often leaving me doing nothing until I got motivated again! Now I do something similar to Jessica above. having a “just in case” database is great. You never know when that name might come in handy.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..Protect Yourself Against Lyme DiseaseMy Profile

  • I find it helpful to keep a little database of magazine markets that match up with my writing specialties in an Excel spreadsheet. I just enter the magazine name, the pay rate, the subject focus of the magazine (i.e. parenting, sports) and which of my niches might be appropriate for it (green living, finance, whatever) . When I come across a promising seeming market, even if I don’t have an idea for them just then, I do a little research on them and add them to my database. Then, when I do have an idea in need of a market, I always have a list of appropriate markets at the ready.

  • Thanks for the answer!
    Carrie Schmeck recently posted..Copywriting: Why Pay for It?My Profile

  • Excellent advice. I’ve been a freelancer for 4o years and still feel overwhelmed at times by the querying and marketing aspect of writing. For me, the most frustrating aspect of being a freelancer today is getting answers to queries and submissions. Often submissions via the internet are either ignored or go unanswered. Even with mailed submissions, with SASE’s, it isn’t uncommon for them to go unanswered.

    • Richard, you’re right… they often go unanswered. It’s the nature of the beast and we freelancers are happier if we just accept that. Then, if we ever go inside as an editor, we can do better. But until then… just let it go.

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