Finding Markets for Our Writing: It Only Feels Futile

Today’s post deals with finding paying writing markets. To put it bluntly, if you’re a writer, you might find this interesting. If you’re not a writer; or aspiring writer; or I guess, you know, my mom, you will likely find this information a total snooze-fest.

Also, this is a two-part post: one for this week, and one for next week. So don’t be surprised when you get to the end of this post and I haven’t talked about money. At all. Because I’m not going to. Despite what I said in the first sentence.

You’ve been warned.

So, when I first started writing, I didn’t care if a market paid or not. It’s not like I had stacks of cash mouldering* under the floorboards, but mainly, I was focused on learning, on getting in. So, publication credits (also called “clips;” aka “Look! Look! There’s my name! In print!” or, often, “I mean, online!”) were way more important than pay.

I made soooooo many mistakes, because I was making things up as I went along.

I did research, you know. I used websites like Writers Digest, books like Writers Market, and magazines like If Writing Were Easy Everyone Would Do It**. I went to Barnes and Noble and leafed through page after page of literary journals–aka “places that publish essays and poetry instead of news articles. Mostly.” When my head grew cloudy, I rearranged the magazines and took photographs, so I could research the titles later.

The main mistake I made was submitting my work to the wrong markets.

  • Wrong Market #1) Any market that publishes essays of more than 1,500 words. (Because I wasn’t writing those yet.)
  • Wrong Market #2) Any market that regularly included lines like “and so I ate the dystopian dust of society, marking time with the metronome of my biology, and took residence in a town far removed from my previous locale,” because, well, if it’s not obvious, then you are definitely reading the wrong blog here.
  • Wrong Market #3) Any market that made me feel like slitting my wrists (whether due to the chronic moroseness of the pieces, or despair at having to read yet another essay about the evil that lurks within, it’s really too close to call).
  • Wrong Market #4) Any market that sells at Barnes and Noble. Since every blessed one is all three of the first Wrong Markets combined.

But wait! These journals were famous! And gorgeous! And $21.99 each! So I naively sent off my dorky little essays and poems, filled with humorous anecdotes and sentences of less than 30 words each, and waited expectantly.

Thanks to all the writing I was doing, I got a lot of rejections. So that was cool.

Now that I’m older (by a whole year! or seven months, at least), and wiser (compared to, say, the moms on Toddlers in Tiaras) and arguably more experienced (think of all those rejections! That’s a lot of experience!), I have this to say:

Finding the right market takes an incredible amount of time.

I’m talking, for the last two days I’ve done no original writing, but have merely searched out journals online, read through a bunch of the stuff they publish, and deleted their names from my list of markets to check out. Because seriously people, apparently the need for writing that is funny, and easy-to-read, and accessible by anyone who made it to at least tenth grade, apparently this need has already been filled by Dave Barry.

So, I’ve decided it’s time for good old Dave to retire. That’s right, Dave! Step aside! It’s time for someone else to get some play around here!

Meanwhile, if you’re a writer, take your time. Join Duotrope. Write a lot, but spend hours (and hours, and hours, and hours, until they hang a sign with your name on the back of your chair in the library) researching markets till you find ones that sound like what you’ve got to offer.

Because the trick is not to find 100 publications that might like a piece you send in.

The point is to find twenty markets that will publish your work over and over. I’ve found one market like this so far, and the relationships I’ve established with the editors and other contributors are phenomenal.

If I could clone that, I would. But since I can’t, it’s time for me to hit the books, folks.

I’ve got more markets to find.


*Yes, I know that “mouldering” is technically spelled without the u. But it looks cooler this way.

**Not a real title.

Photo credit of a bunch of markets that will never publish my writing: Matthew Pack (News stand) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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