Friday, 5 August 2011

Know Your Market

Here are a few tips about market and genre taught to me back in the olden days, as my kids would so fondly put it, even though it was only the year 2000. The information is based on writing articles for magazines yet much of it applies to the current fiction market in some form or another. Bear in mind it's not the exhaustive be-all and end-all, but a great starter and guide.

Either way, use the principles here for both magazines and novels. Apply liberally like a good cocoa butter during pregnancy so you can avoid being overstretched in places you might later want to show off as your best work yet.

Identifying your genre should be straightforward if not easy. I say this because it’s not an overly technical thing to know where your story fits. What’s the subject matter? Is the story funny or fearsome? Is there romance? Is there mystery? Where does it take place? Ticking some of the boxes and applying them together will soon work out where your story stands.

Of course if you tick too many, you might need to hire a darn good editor or at least employ the mind of an objective friend to tell you if you’re trying to cover too many bases in one hit. Word documents aren't about to leave the planet so don’t rush to get all your ideas out on one character.

Perhaps it would be helpful to first identify what some of the main genres are.

o   Action/Adventure
o   Romance
o   Inspirational
o   Crime
o   Sci-fi
o   Western
o   Mystery
o   Fantasy
o   Horror
o   Detective

Most novels tend to be a combination of two or more, yet the main theme of the book will bring it under one heading. The Big Fat Fiction Genre List shows a graph of how much each genre sells (and this is just one graph).

So, here are some tips that might help with learning how to ID a given market. Back in the day my teacher repeated that knowing your market can save a lot of time and trouble and pointless writing for a magazine that simply doesn’t take your thing. Give yourself an advantage. Homework’s not over yet...

His Golden Rule: Never write an article or story then try to find a magazine for it; Always find the magazine first, then write the article or story for it.

Ø  What subjects does your chosen publication favour and which ones are taboo?
Ø  What length word count do they prefer?
Ø  Do you use their preferred layout?
Ø  Is there a writing style they favour?
Ø  Can you obtain several copies of the magazine to analyse in detail?
Ø  What do the publication’s advertisements tell you about their readership?
Ø  Are you covering an exhausted topic, or can you find a new angle?
Ø  What is the age and gender of the readership?
Ø  Why do they choose this particular publication?
Ø  What does the readership expect from the publication?
Ø  If the information you seek can’t be found, can you ask for help on how to find it?

The last point I would say is one of the important ones, and something I’ve learned since embarking on my writing journey many moons ago is that simply asking for information is the best key ever.

Once you start to look and write down your answers, you’re well and truly on your way to knowing helpful things about your genre and you will more easily be able to identify different markets in the future so you won’t waste your own time or anyone else’s. It can be pretty disheartening to work for months only to have it rejected because you didn’t pitch in the right direction.

Decide: What other could questions can you come up with to help you find out more about your market? The list of helps is endless, so start searching with confidence! If your story falls into more than two categories shown above, what are the main two?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7v7
Demandez, et vous recevrez; cherchez, et vous trouverez; frappez, et l'on vous ouvrira.

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