Tuesday 7 June 2011

How I write . . . Market Targeting.

Most of the time I'll write any poem that takes my fancy, but sometimes I'll do market targeting for a specific market. I'll take Asimov's as an example.

I market target by:
Reading poems previously published by the venue. I found a fine clutch of poems by Geoffrey A. Landis.

Searching for clues about the editors/slush editors preferences. I found an editorial that mentioned that humorous poems were well received. 

Then writing my poem with whatever knowledge I've found, but not being too strict about it. If the poem slopes off in another direction, that's cool.


I've no evidence that this works. I'll do a  little stattage, for previously subbed poems, but my sample size is smallish and there are many variables.
It might be considered a cold way of going about things. As if I'm trying to rack up sales rather than follow my muse.
It's time consuming and it's not time spent writing.
I could be making false assumptions and limiting submissions. 

It's enjoyable and it feels constructive.
It supports a 'zine by reading it online, perhaps making the odd comment along the way. 
I'm widening my reading, and thinking about successful poems in a meaningful way.

Now to the stattage, on 100 poems.

untargeted poems sold = 50%
targeted poems sold to intended market = 50%
targeted poems to any market = 70%

A couple of things to mention, these are sell figures, not acceptance rates, a poem might have been to many markets. My poetry sales are a lot higher than my short stories (mores the pity) It's not totally convincing, but it seems that a story written for a market is more likely to sell. I'm gratified they've come out the right way, confirming that market targeting does seem to have a beneficial effect because it seems as if it should.

So, I'll be very interested in hearing if anyone else does this.


  1. Very interesting. I do this only occasionally I admit, for both poetry and fiction. Most of the time I just write what needs to be written and then look around for a market. But I'm beginning to think I should target a little more.

  2. Great stuff, Deb! This reminds me of something I read about a year ago in Fantasy magazine. Juliette Wade's fiction centers around linguistics--which isn't surprising since she's a linguist--and she was tipped off by a friend that Analog's editor was particularly fond of such stories. Well, she writes her story and subs it to Analog and makes her first pro sale!

    I think at the very least we could all stand to do some more homework on the markets we submit our stories to. I don't see how it could hurt.

  3. I write for themed anthologies if the theme strikes me as inspiring, but I often worry that the piece will go to waste if the anthology is too specific. As far as magazine subs are concerned, I think I tend to do a little more choosing markets based on the story I've got in hand than researching markets before I write. Then again, any market research can slant a piece one way or another: I have on occasion thought, "This feels like an Apex-y sort of story," or something along those lines.

    It's all a gamble.

  4. So far, whenever I've written for a specific market, the story is always accepted -- by a different market! And usually right after I submit it to the intended market. It's happened with two stories I wrote for The Pedestal and two I wrote for Pill Hill Press. The only sale I've made to an intended market was with 10Flash Quarterly.

    I'm convicted by your post; I need to read more to determine if my stories are a good fit for particular markets instead of just relying on the submission guidelines. I should make the time.

  5. Thanks guys, a positive response so for market targetting. The main disadvantages is that it could be considered cold, and I don't know if it works.


    Yet, I am learning stuff. Continuing my research on Asimov's poetry (and Analog) it seems that they publish a lot of rhymming poetry. This is very valuable information, as I didn't know that, and a lot of venues (online) don't like it)
    Joe, I didn't know that about Analog -- cheers.

    Elizabeth-- yep, I know that feeling about themed anthologies. Although I don't have any specific stats, I've got a feeling that they do sell to other markets, even the most specific of themes, might take a year of so.

    Milo, tht's interesting that you targeted stories sell quickly to other market.

  6. Thinking a bit more about anthologies, its seems that some are very specific.

    'Machine of Death' would be a hard sell to another venue, wouldn't it?

    but the Dagan, 'Fish' one would be easier.

    Hmmm, I have thoughts about anthologies. They seem much harder to get into than equivalent magazines. I'm not sure why that is, if it's something to do with me, or if it's something to do with the anthology process.

  7. Wow, awesome that you kept up with your numbers. I also find that targeting helps, though I haven't tracked it. The first poem I wrote that sold to Strange Horizons was something I wrote after reading a huge chunk of their poetry archive. In that way I would say that it's targeted. Actually, Strange Horizons is the only one I've actively targeted, but I also feel that a Strange Horizons poem is transferable to other markets. Since other magazines don't have online archives, it's harder for me to actively seek out their work during the composition process.

  8. I've had okay luck with anthologies, so I've thought of them as easier to get into than magazines. I suspect the real answer is that everything is hard to get into.

    An MoD story might be a hard sell elsewhere, yes. I'm still reading the first MoD antho, though, and I am getting IDEAS. For me the best way to look at hyper-targeted themed anthology writing is: this is a writing exercise. If I'm going to have fun writing it, then it's okay even if it doesn't sell. I try to limit the frequency of this type of submission, though.

  9. @Elizabeth, yep. Ain't that the truth, everything is hard to get into. And good luck with the MoD.

    Hi, Helena, I keep a list in word of all my subs and the repsonse they get. Then I can pull stats when I need them. When I get the urge to analyse.

    I also keep files of poems I like from various markets. My own archives. Good poems will often pop up as reprints. Here's a
    from Asimov's from Jane Yolen from the new SFPA 'zine.