Writers are supposed to do what we do for the passion of it—for the pure creative urge to get our stories out of our heads and onto the page.
And, of course, that’s a huge part of what drives us. But the last time I checked, the power company didn’t take short stories as payment, and eating typed manuscripts provides a lot of fiber but not much else. So it’s important that we get paid for all that rampant creativity and passion.
There are a lot of different ways to get paid for writing, from producing business books to writing blog posts or ad copy to releasing novels. No matter what you’re writing, there’s a way to turn it into a career and even into a full-time income.
One of the best ways to earn a living as a writer is to just keep writing—novels, short stories, flash fiction, nonfiction, essays, blog posts, etc. There’s a market for nearly anything you can dream up…you just have to find it.
And an entire industry has grown up around helping you find the right market for your work. But in the age of Google, is it worth paying for a subscription to a marketplace search site in order to streamline your submissions process?
Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular to see whether subscribing to a marketplace makes sense for you.
Writer’s Market is the first resource for paying markets that most writers stumble across—and for good reason. It’s been around since 1921! That’s right, for nearly 100 years, it’s been providing writers with listings of magazines, journals, editors, agents, and others who might be interested in their work.
It includes listings for every genre imaginable, and the online database is highly searchable, so you can look just for markets that are currently buying, say, erotic horror.
You can sign up for a monthly subscription or go for a six-month or year-long subscription. One month costs $5.99, six months is $24.99, and a year is $39.99. All subscription levels renew automatically unless you cancel.
Listings are extremely detailed: you’ll get information about a publication’s current submissions status and pay rates, as well as what types of writing they’re looking for, their circulation stats, their average response time, what rights they purchase, how many pieces they tend to purchase in a year, and more.
You’ll also find contact information for an actual person at the publication, where available.
This last part is a little less useful than it seems—you should never, ever attempt to bypass the stated submissions process when sending out your work. It’s the quickest way to not only get your story rejected, but to get yourself red-flagged for future submissions.
Nearly every editor around the world is constantly overloaded, and literary magazine editors often doubly so. Submissions processes exist to help them manage the flood of submissions fairly and efficiently, so attempting to skirt the process by emailing an editor directly when you’ve found their information in a database is a great way to make yourself look rude, at best, and arrogant at worst.
So if you do subscribe to Writer’s Market and get access to the editor’s name at a magazine you want to subscribe to, use it wisely: address your submission to that person, but follow the stated submissions process instead of sending it directly to the editor’s email.
Writer’s Market does offer some particularly useful tools, though. It lets you save listings to custom folders, so you can bookmark the perfect venue for that sword-and-sorcery fantasy you’ve been thinking about separately from the market you want to send your literary family drama to. It also has a system for tracking your submissions and can automatically remind you when it’s time to follow up based on each market’s average response time.
This is one of the most comprehensive databases you can get access to—from children’s book publishers to people looking for screenplays, you can find someone who wants to buy precisely the type of work you’ve done on Writer’s Market. If you buy a year’s subscription, it’s pretty affordable, too.
Poets & Writers
Poets & Writers has been around since 1970 and is the largest US nonprofit that serves creative writers.
You don’t need to pay to use Poets & Writers’ huge database of markets. They offer a simple search interface for free, which lets you search literary markets by genre, subgenre, and whether it allows simultaneous submissions. There are also databases for literary agents and small presses, if you’re looking to go the traditional publishing route.
So why would you subscribe? Well, for $15.95 for the year, you get the monthly magazine, which includes up-to-date market listings, exclusive essays and tips on the writing life, information on upcoming contests, and more.
Overall, subscribing to Poets & Writers is more of a statement about your support of the writing life and the creative arts than it is a business expense.
The free database is somewhat scattered in what genres it lets you search by—for instance, “science fiction” doesn’t come up as a category. It also doesn’t let you sort by whether a market pays or not. You have to click on each listing to read details about submissions and payment, which is kind of inconvenient.
Still, it’s free and it’s a great starting place for finding publications that might be interested in your work. If you have a little more time than money, Poets & Writers is a great place to go hunting for venues to publish your work…and if you’re looking for broader audience exposure and enhanced resume material more than you’re after a payday, then it might be the right choice for you.
Duotrope offers a number of handy tools for the professional writer. In addition to a searchable database of markets currently publishing fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, it also has stats on all the publishers it lists and compiles a list of upcoming publication themes so you can write specifically for what a particular market’s going to be buying.
A particularly helpful tool is the submissions tracker—if you’re the kind of writer who hates making spreadsheets, this could be the thing that makes Duotrope worthwhile for you. Unlike a spreadsheet, the Duotrope tool adds the approximate timeframe you should expect to receive a response from each unique market so that you can follow up appropriately. Of course, this can also be done on that homemade spreadsheet if you pay attention to the response time that most submissions guidelines list, but every little bit of automation means more time for writing.
But the thing that really sets Duotrope apart is its highly specific search function. You can configure more than two dozen parameters, narrowing possible markets down by genre and subgenre (think about it: search for only markets looking for steampunk romance!), what length they accept, etc.
Importantly, Duotrope does let you search by whether a market pays.
Some of the analytics that Duotrope collects can be very useful. Imagine seeing stats on exactly what percentage of submissions are accepted, how long it takes to get a response, and whether rejections are form letters or include a more personal note or critique. Plus, for more popular markets, it gives you information about where authors who’ve been published in a given magazine have also gotten acceptances. This makes it pretty easy to start planning your next round of submissions.
Access to everything Duotrope has to offer costs only $5 per month, or $50 for the full year.
If you’re looking to find a magazine, website, or publisher that’s looking to buy your work, you can run a Google search. But that takes valuable time that you could spend writing. Instead, subscribing to a marketplace site may speed up the process.
You can get basic search functions for free with Poets & Writers.
For $5.99 a month, Writer’s Market gives you great search functionality, custom folders for bookmarking, and thousands of listings that you can sort by paying markets and more. Writer’s Market might be your ideal tool if you like detailed information on what a market is looking for.
For $5 a month, Duotrope provides tools for tracking your submissions, a super-customizable search, and amazing data on submissions stats compiled from all its users. If you’re an analytics person, Duotrope might be the right choice for you.
Do you use a marketplace subscription to help sell your writing? How do you track your submissions?
Want to learn about other tools that can help you make a living from your writing? Read on!
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