Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Random Writing Tips – Necessary distractions


Twentysome years ago, when I was getting serious about writing, I bought a phonebook sized listing of writing markets.  Basically every magazine would have a half-page summary of what kinds of stories they were looking for, what they paid, and where to mail your submission.  I went through this and marked every place that I might be able to send something.  And for the next few years, when they came out with an updated book, I would buy it and do the same thing.  But as things became more and more online, it was easier to get the information from a magazine’s website.

For a few years I used a site that let you search for markets for, say, science fiction stories.  But then they moved to a subscription base and while the cost wasn’t that much, it was still more than I was making from my stories, so signing up kind of defeated the purpose. 

I think a couple times I tried making my own lists, either as an Excel sheet or HTM file.  But these weren’t all that successful because I think I tried to do too much with them.  It wasn’t just this site takes scifi stories, it was this site takes scifi stories between X and Y words, it pays Z cents per word, they prefer these types of stories, they don’t want these types, they want a detailed cover letter, they also run contests from time to time, etc., etc., etc.  All that information was nice, but I didn’t have a way to clearly organize it.

For the last couple of years, this hasn’t been an issue since I didn’t submit any stories anywhere.  I finally got around to submitting a story a few months ago, but it was to a big magazine that I knew and had submitted to before.  If, when, it was rejection, I knew of a couple others I could submit it to, but that was it.

About the time I submitted this story, I saw a tweet asking if anyone knew good markets for microfiction.  A lot of people replied with sites they knew of, and I bookmarked the tweet, but that’s not a very efficient way of keeping information on sites to submit to.

So I decided to try again making my own list.  I did this in Excel with one sheet for paying markets, and another for non-paying.  I kept it simple, with columns listing the name, minimum word count, maximum word count, pay, and some notes like if they do themed issues.  I later added in a column if the site asked for a cover letter.  I went through the tweet and searched for all the mentioned sites, and I also went through my list of places I’ve submitted to.  All of this took a few hours, spread out over three or four days. 

As I was finishing up this little project, I thought, You know, I could make a separate sheet where I put in how many days it took for me to hear back from the sites I submitted to.  To keep everything neat and tidy I’d just have the average response time show up on the main sheet.  Because that is a nice bit of information to have when submitting to a site.  I almost started doing it, when I wondered, Would my time be better spent actually writing a story to submit?

Was my Markets spreadsheet useful?  Well, so far I’ve only used it for the one story, but I have ranked the eight or nine sites I could submit it to by how much they pay, and I’m working my way through them.  Which is easier to do when all the data is in one spot.  Could I spend hours more adding various bells and whistles to make it slightly better?  Easily.  Would that be a distraction just taking away time I could spend writing?  Definitely. 

Over the last twentysome years, I’ve spent untold hours searching through books, magazines, and webpages for places to submit stories.  Would some of that time have been better spent writing?  Certainly.  But spending some of your precious time to figure out where to send your stories, is a necessary expense.  Worse, there is no “best” way of doing this, so you’ll have to spend even more time figuring out what system works for you.


Image from Pixabay.

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