Friday, March 26, 2010

Never draw to an inside strait -- writing tip

That was my Daddy's advice when he taught me how to play poker. Do you ever play poker? When I was a kid I wasn’t very good. I always drew to inside straights. I’d keep all my face cards, even if I had a pair of threes. Then I took college math at the advanced age of 40, and learned to figure the odds. I win at poker a lot more often these days.

Now, let’s talk about marketing. Do you play the lottery? Entering writing contests is a lottery. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people enter them, and the outcome is controlled by a matter of the judges' personal taste. The story the selection committee likes best is judged the winner. Still it’s okay to buy a lottery ticket once in awhile. Someone will be a winner and you might just get lucky. But I wouldn’t view not winning as a “failure.” A lottery ticket is an opportunity, never a guarantee.

Writing is a game, too. And marketing stories is also a game. Like any game, it has rules. Manuscripts must be neat, clean and error free. The story must be as good and well written as you can make it. Then you choose magazines that best fit your story’s premise and you also (if you’re into poker) choose markets carefully by the odds. At first you don’t concern yourself with money, but choose new magazines (who are looking for new writers) or you choose magazines that don’t get many submissions.

Where do you think the odds are best? At Redbook where they receive 10,000 manuscripts a year and buy 10? Or at Rosebud where they get about 500 manuscripts a year and buy up to 40?

What if Rosebud is no longer in business -- small magazines come and go, after all. New ones often advertise in the classifieds at WRITER'S DIGEST and that's one good reason for reading the ads....

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