I’ve been known to tell others: If you can’t be a good example, serve as a horrible warning.
I stand before you today as that horrible warning. Well, maybe horrible is too… er… horrible a term, but let’s just say I’m going to use myself as a bad example.
Pay attention you young whippersnappers and you old ones, too. Way back in the dark ages, we learned about new markets through trade magazines, newsletters, and newsstands. Now, you can’t roll your mouse across your desktop without running up against places to sell your writing. This is both good and bad. This is where the horrible warning part comes in.
See? There it is in big letters.
I become absentminded when I’m busy–and it seems I am always busy. While I’m working away I’ll often find the perfect venue for something I have written, or would like to write as soon as I have the time. Like the industrious little freelancer I am, I will jot a note about the market and carry on with whatever I’m doing–which pretty much means forgetting all about the new market I just found. Completely. Wiped out — at least until I stumble on my note (have you seen the piles of papers in here?), or, more likely, re-stumble upon the market months or even years (!) later.
I have lots of excuses for why this happens, but they all boil down to the difference between having time and making time.
Writing is ripe for opportunities to procrastinate or delay action. Deadlines, research, distractions… all make it easy to set aside a new market for a rainy day when we have the time to check it out. I don’t know about you, but I never have enough time. Something always rushes in to fill what little I possess. And once that market is out of sight, it’s out of mind, too. In fact, it might be gone for good.
Okay, now that I’ve served as the horrible warning, I’m going to give you a four-step process to keep from falling into the same pit of despair. The good news is, all you have to do is make 15-30 minutes and jump in. Ready? Here we go.
Step 1 (two minutes tops):
Capture the name of the market. Print a page from the web, write it down, or put the information on an electronic sticky note on your computer. Whatever you do, be sure you can use the place you capture the market to make a few notes.
Step 2 (five-ten minutes):
Dip a toe into the water. Spend a few minutes skimming the venue’s website. Note the common topics and the tone of the writing you see.
Step 3 (five-fifteen minutes):
Jot down 5 ideas you could pitch that would fit the market (they don’t have to be fleshed-out ideas, that comes later). Write them directly on your note or printout or file you started for this market. Stumped for ideas? Read the reader comments and see what’s on their minds. It’s a great way to spark your own ideas.
Step 4 (three minutes or less):
And this is the important one. Right now, while all this information is fresh in your mind, make a slot in your calendar to write a pitch for one of your five ideas. No time this week or month? No problem! Pencil it in for when you have an opening.
Congratulations! In that short amount of time, you have found a new market, corralled five possible ideas/topics to pitch, and scheduled time to work on a query.
It feels good to be a good example, doesn’t it?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)