2012 Writer’s Market: Disappointments and Discoveries

Posted by Derek Chamberlain on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 Under: Book Review

Any of you who are regular readers should already be aware of this, but, in the name of full disclosure, I will state here that I am, for the most part, a genre writer. That is, my fiction usually falls into one of the genres commonly called Speculative – science fiction, fantasy, horror – or one of their sub-genres. Also, disclosure again, I live in Japan and my non-fiction is usually articles about Japan, its culture, history, or technological innovations; all written for the local expat community or Japanese who want to read expat opinions about Japan. All of which means that, really, my only reason for buying the Writer’s Market is to find genre markets outside Japan. 

At the beginning of January, having just finished writing a short story, I went online to a magazine I subscribe to, to check the submission guidelines of my chosen market to see who I should be sending it to. When the homepage opened, however, I got a shock. The magazine had gone belly-up at the end of last year. This explained the email I had gotten saying that they had cancelled my subscription which I had assumed was because I had been forced to change my online payment options and hadn’t gotten around to informing them yet. I read the final editorial, mourned the loss of a fine magazine, and wondered why they hadn’t decided to go electronic if print was no longer a viable option.

A day or two later I took my copy of the 2012 Writer’s Market, Deluxe Edition*, down from the shelf. With 1,015 pages of articles and market listings, it’s a real brick of a book. It calls itself “The most trusted guide to getting published” and has a quote from Stephen King’s book, On Writing, on the cover. Purchase of the Deluxe Edition includes a free, 1-year subscription to writersmarket.com. 

It looks impressive, authoritative, informative. Looks, as we all know, can be deceiving.

A brief glance through showed me that there was very little distinction given to genre. The major market divisions are; literary agents, book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, newspapers, screenwriting, playwriting, greeting cards, and contests & awards. Not finding a nice section labelled ‘speculative fiction’, or even ‘science-fiction & fantasy’, I turned to the index at the rear. Another disappointment. The index is merely an undistinguished, alphabetised listing of every entry in the Markets section of the book. Given the predilection for cute icons in the body of the text, I would have thought that it would be natural to apply those to the index. A little icon showing that this is an agency, this is a magazine or book publisher that accepts this type of work, this is a trade journal, that sort of thing; the more so as there is so little distinction given to these differences in the main body of the book.

Turning to the TOC, I saw that they had provided a little more separation between market listings. True, the Book Publishers section, all 177 pages of it, contains no sub-divisions, but the Consumer Magazines section is divided into forty-seven sub-categories, one of which is Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I turned to this section and found four pages containing less than a dozen entries. Still, there was a nod towards genre fiction; not a significant enough one, an unsatisfactorily categorised and referenced one, but at least an indication that the people of Writer’s Digest are aware that there is a segment of society who are interested in popular culture. 

I took another deep breath, set the book down on my desk, and went and made myself some coffee. While the kettle boiled I considered the possible reasons why a book that size wouldn’t devote more effort to categorisation of content or the development of a more informative index. Unfortunately, the only reason was that the book was ‘that size’, which really, when I thought about it, should ensure the opposite — the larger the book, the more it requires careful categorisation and indexing. Faint of hope, I returned to my desk, set my coffee atop the print edition, and pulled up the on-line version of writer’s market.

My first attempts to search their database yielded 661 results. I was overjoyed. This was more like it! Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I clicked through each of the ten results on the first page. Eight of them had shown up in the search because they had listed fantasy, under the ‘Not Interested In’ field. The other two were interested in fantasy, but, clicking through to their websites revealed that one of them had a tombstone up on its homepage to celebrate its own demise. Still, one out of ten, not too bad, right? Wrong. This was almost as time consuming as going through the Book Publisher’s listings in the print edition because the only way to know if a market was interested in genre fiction was to click though each individual link and wade through the responses on their listing. As with the index in the print edition, there was no indication on the search results page as to what the individual markets published.

Disappointed and frustrated, I logged off and went trolling the internet for markets. An hour later, having found a couple of interesting magazines but no real market possibilities, I quit for the day and got on with other work. Several days later, confronted by my story’s title on my ToDo list, I went back to writersmarket.com. Opening the main page I gave it a look-over before moving to the log-in panel and saw, along with a sidebar item asking what I wanted to do today, a ‘Tour’ of the facilities. I hesitated a moment, then shrugged and gave it a click. The tour did more than just tell me that, wow, Writer’s Market provides information on thousands of markets so why don’t I buy a subscription. It also showed me how best to find, amongst those thousands of listings, those few that might find my work of interest. 

Logging in, I was confronted with the normal page – a number of advertisements for Writer’s Digest services, a little list of the number of items that had been recently updated, and two separate search boxes. Having just run the tour, I now thought I knew what to do. I chose one of the criteria listed in the second search field, the Advanced Search function, and clicked search. Instead of giving me a list of markets, most of them irrelevant, as had happened when I had done the same thing the first time around with the first search box; clicking ‘Search’ took me to another search page which enabled me to enter a wider variety of search criteria. Running this Advanced Search gave me fewer results, forty-one, but most of them were of at least partial relevance and several of them looked like they might even be worth submitting to.

All of which brings me to today, and my lingering disappointment. Both the print and on-line version focus quite closely upon mainstream literary fiction and trade-journal non-fiction, despite the quote from King on the cover. Given the exploding numbers of e-publications, I expected there to be a section dedicated to that category, but failed to find one. And both versions focus almost entirely upon US markets, to the exclusion of all else. There is a search option that allows you to limit your search to any of the 50 states, to the whole of the US, to Canada, to Other, or to All. A search I did using the Other category turned up only three listings – a French magazine published in Esperanto, an Australian science fiction magazine, and a British literary magazine. 

All in all, as a genre writer, I was deeply disappointed. I have been left with the conclusion that, really, the best part of the print version is the articles which are divided into three categories – Finding Work, Managing Work, and Promoting Work. The on-line version had all the information of the print edition with the benefit of clickable links to the magazine’s homepage. It is, supposedly, being constantly updated. The search engine is also a little scatterbrained. Perhaps a quarter of the markets that came up after my more focused search were still literary magazines antagonistic to genre fiction. They need to tighten their searches from entire listings, to fields within those listings; a monumental job to be sure, but I have to wonder why they didn’t create the database with that possibility in mind. 

Though my original disappointment has been tempered by finding several possible markets, I still find it difficult to recommend the book or provide whole-hearted endorsement for the website to other wholly-genre writers. A genre writer would be better off subscribing to a fanzine like Locus for information on book and magazine publishers doing science fiction, fantasy or horror; or one of the other Associational publications for genres like the Horror Writers Association [www.horror.org], the Mystery Writers of America [www.mysterywriters.org], the Romance Writers of America [www.rwanational.org], or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America [www.sfwa.org]. I have to wonder if Stephen King has even looked at a recent version of the book upon which his endorsement-quote is prominently displayed, because the fact is that any short-horror writer new to the marketplace picking up a Writer’s Market based on the King quote is bound to be disappointed.

*2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2011, (¥4,250)

In : Book Review 

Tags: markets writing "genre fiction" "on-line markets" books 
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Meet the scribbler

I'm a writer, editor, indie publisher, and dedicated Magic Spreadsheet user. Originally from Adelaide, Australia, I've been living in Japan since 1995. I've had a life-long interest in writing and in speculative fiction. My first book was published in mid-2014.
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