To Market, To Market

You’ve worked hard developing your writing skills, including learning how to properly format your manuscripts. Your critique group has given the thumbs up on some of your articles or short stories. The next step: try to market your work. But who do you submit to?

There are many resources to help you find the right market. Depending on your genre(s) of choice, there is probably a writer’s market guide for that type of writing. For example, I write for both the children’s and adult’s market, so I use the “Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market” and the “Writer’s Market” guides. I also write for the Christian market, so I have the “Christian Writer’s Market Guide”.

Most bookstores carry several different writer’s guides. Peruse one before you buy to find the best one that suits your needs and seems to be easy to use. Make sure you buy for the current year. The market changes often, and you want to be as up to date as possible.

With internet access you may wonder why it is even necessary to buy a market guide. Granted you can find a lot of publishing information online, but a market guide has done that labor intensive work for you. You just need to pick which publisher seems to match your interests. Make sure, though, that you check that publisher’s website to double check their current needs.

Most market guides will give you tips on how to get published, or how to keep good records. They will usually list terms used in the business, and will list conferences and contests that are forthcoming. Costs start at $18 (online) up to over $30. The newest editions come out in the latter months of the previous year or early in the current year. Try to buy around these times to get the most for your money.

“Writer’s Market” is now available online. Although it is a good source, I find it a little hard to work with. I like the freedom of being able to pull my book off the shelf and peruse and insert sticky notes or write comments in the margin. It takes a long time to look through the online list, and you can’t just “flip” to look through a particular group of books. The value of the online version is that you have the most current information as it comes in. Since it is still relatively new, I’m sure they will improve search features as time goes on.

If funds are really tight and you can’t afford the most current guide, buy an older version from a thrift store, used bookstore, or at the library’s book sales. You can use the information to give you some names of publishers, but you will have to check the websites for accurate information (new editors, change of address, current needs, etc.). You will also miss out on any new publishers that have been added to the current issue, or you may find that the publisher you were interested in is no longer in business.

A market guide is a valuable tool if you are serious about getting published. Study it and then start sending out those submissions!

Finding Time to Write

In order to improve a skill, one needs to make an investment of time. A good writer doesn’t just happen. You must dedicate a certain amount of time to develop your storytelling skills because even if you write non-fiction, you are still trying to deliver a message. But with such busy lives, how do you find the time? If you are really serious about writing, you will have to make the time.

When I first began to write seriously, I was homeschooling three of my four children. Besides teaching them for several hours a day, I still had to feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner (with all their preparations and clean up), plus do all the household chores. My husband needed attention, too, when he got home from work, so I didn’t have a whole lot of spare time.

Yet it was during that period that I was very productive. I wrote newsletter articles, inspirational pieces, and short stories. I wrote late at night or when the kids were playing in the yard. I sometimes would awaken early in the morning with an idea and jot it down on a pad of paper to develop later on.

It was easier to write during the summer when we had no school, but often I was watching my friend’s three kids during the day as well. I had more time to write, but I also had an increased noise level with seven kids running around. Eventually I learned to tune out the unnecessary sounds so I could keep my train of thought while I wrote.

Making the time to write was a necessity and a joy. I knew I needed to put my stories down on paper, and it was exciting to do so. Instead of looking at my schedule with a sigh, I tried to look at it with optimism and creativity in order to fit in those moments to write.

It is not impossible to find time to write. Be creative. Be diligent. Use every spare minute possible. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you make those minutes count.

Illusion vs. Reality

Do you have dreams of sending out your first manuscript and having it instantly picked up by the first publisher you send it to and then selling a zillion copies? To be honest, I think most writers have that thought hidden in the back of their heads. But that is just an illusion. The reality is that you will probably see more rejection letters than acceptances.

Writing is hard work. It takes time and dedication to hone your craft. You will receive rejections, but look at it as one step closer to success.

Sometimes you need to start out small in order to build up to bigger successes. Try writing short pieces for a newsletter. Enter a short story contest. As you gain confidence, branch out into online magazines and then into regular magazines.  Do all you can to gather writing experience.

Keep working on your skills, too. Listen to the tips of your critique group. Take a course online or at your local community college. Go to a writers’ conference.

That million dollar contract may be out of reach, but with hard work, dedication, and commitment, your writing career will start to become a reality.


Before you send out articles or manuscripts, you need to know the proper way to format or present your work. With the stiff competition in this field, you do not need a badly formatted manuscript to ruin your chances of success. Writer’s guides often give some specific tips that will help, but it’s better if you can see an actual working model.

One book that I highly recommend is “Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript” by Cynthia Laufenberg. This is an excellent book that discusses topics such as cover and query letters, the structure of a book proposal, and the proper formatting of your novel. You will see sample pages which includes what margins to set, how you should set your title, and so forth. This book is a must for any writer’s library.

It’s important to do your homework. You don’t want the manuscript you spent countless hours on to end up in the trash can without a second glance just because you didn’t take the time to make your work look its best.

Keep Reading

Now that you’ve figured out your target audience and genre, you need to study the type of books you want to write. Don’t call it homework: call it creative researching.

If you want to write picture books for kids, go to your local library and start pulling out stacks of books. Try to read the most recent arrivals to see what the market is currently generating. But don’t discount the old classics. Look at those, too, and try to see what made that book appealing in the first place.

If you want to write biographies, start reading several to see how the various authors structured their books. Did they start with a little blurb from adulthood and then go into the person’s past, or did they automatically start from the day the person was born?

Is your genre in one of the books from the best sellers list? Study the book to find out why it made an impression.

By reading many books in your genre of choice, you will better understand how to develop your story.  In time you will develop your own voice, which is the distinct way you express yourself in words.

So grab your library card, visit, or take a trip to your favorite bookstore. Stock up on your books and read, read, read!

Choosing a Genre

A genre is a particular style or category of writing. Western, mystery, romance, adventure, and science fiction are all examples of genre. There are even stories that mix genres, like a mystery in space or a historical romance.

Although recognized more for fiction, genres can be non-fiction, too. Biographies, action/adventure, and police stories are examples of non-fiction genre. 

Think about what kind of story you would like to write. Be creative: mix two or three genres to give you lots of room to stir your imagination. Picking a genre is fun. Now let’s see how creative you can be.

Choosing a Target

As you start developing your writing skills, you need to think about your target audience. Who do you want to write for? Do you want to write for adults, kids or teens? If you want to write for children, what ages? These are very important considerations because each target audience will have very unique requirements.

How do you go about choosing your target audience? Decide what types of books you are most passionate about writing. If you want to write non-fiction books about the Civil War, then you need to decide for what age group. An indepth look at the Battle of Glorieta in New Mexico would appeal much more to adults than children. If you want to write mystery stories, do you want your character to be more like Nancy Drew or Miss Jane Marple? If you want to write math concept books, do you want to discuss analytical geometry and advanced trigonometry or simple problem solving?

You, of course, are not limited to just one target. But since you are just starting out, it is best to stick to one. Make your choice and then we will look at the next step: genre.

Critique Groups

You’ve written a few stories and read a couple of books on how to write. Now what? I would advise joining a critique group.

A critique group is a made up of a number of writers who get together at least once a month to share their writing projects. The purpose is to help develop and fine tune writing skills and styles. A good critique group is meant to encourage its members by offering positive remarks and suggestions that will help the writer improve his/her work.  

Depending on the size of the group, there will usually be a maximum number of pages a person can bring and usually a certain amount of time to read your manuscripts aloud to one another. Sometimes if a group is too big, the members will be divided into smaller, more manageable groups.

I started out in a general critique group that took both serious and casual writers (those who were more interested in learning how best to express themselves in words than in publishing them). At first it was scary sharing my stories with others, but I came to value the comments and encouragements of the members as I worked hard to improve my craft.

I now belong to a wonderful critique group called the Wordsmiths. We are a group of eight professional Christian writers who are serious about developing the calling God placed in our hearts to write for His glory, whether in the secular or religious markets. I love the Wordsmiths. The ladies are so loving and so encouraging. I look forward to our meetings every month.

You can find critique groups in most major cities. Writers’ guides will give some type of reference to a critique group either through a club list or by an organization that has their own critique list. A Google search will also come up with a series of choices.

Looking for an online critique group? Writers’ Digest came out with an article in the February issue on this very topic. Read it on .

Where Do I Begin?

You want to be a writer, but where do you start? 

Start writing. I’m not talking about shopping lists and sticky notes; I’m talking about writing stories. Hand a friend a stack of 3 x 5 cards and have her write a topic on each one. Pick a card each day, set a timer for thirty minutes, and write. Make sure you have an opening paragraph that introduces your topic, then support your subject using at least three points. Sum everything up in a final paragraph, making sure you’re not bringing up any new information.

Read through this first draft. Does it make sense? Do the ideas flow from one to another? Make corrections and then try again.

This will basically help you formulate ideas. Take classes to develop your grammar skills. A creative writing class will also help you develop your own style and voice.

Start Reading. It’s time to do your homework, but this time it’s homework worth doing since it will help you hone your skills and move you a step closer to becoming a writer. Read books about writing. If you are interested in children’s books, get books in that genre. Fiction? Non-Fiction? Pick a genre and you will find how-to books on that area.

Find books on how to format what you write. No one accepts written manuscripts anymore, so you need to learn how to type (if you don’t know how), and what format to use when you type it. An excellent resource is “Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript” by Cynthia Laufenberg. This book was a huge blessing when I first started out. Don’t forget you can get great books on e-bay and in the used book section of for a lot less than retail. Pull out that library card, too, if you don’t want to invest in a bunch of books as of yet. 

Do You Want to Be a Writer?

Writing isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only do you have to know how to spell and how to write a proper sentence, but you have to be able to tell a story from the beginning to the middle to the end.

 Of course there are helps you can use. There is spell check for words (although I wouldn’t recommend it sometimes for grammar), and there are classes that you can take to improve your sentence structure and your grammar skills. The best thing you can do is to start writing and then work to better your style and technique.

Come back and visit if you want to learn more about writing. I will be including some helpful information and maybe even some funny stories about the process. You can also come back if you want to see more of my cartoons. I will be posting them every so often on my cartoon page.

 Thanks for dropping by!