It’s easy to spend a lot of time and money researching the magazines you want to pitch, especially when you’re first starting out. You feel like you need to read a million back issues cover to cover before you can even think about pitching an editor.
Research can become a crutch, something this post by Linda Formichelli hints at. You’re afraid to put your idea out there. You’re afraid you’re going to get rejected. And so you overcompensate in the research department, trying to dig up every little crumb of information about a particular market. Linda has some great workarounds in her Bust My Excuse post.
Here are four tips and tools of my own that I use to cut the time, expense and carbon footprint of researching new markets:
1. Prioritize your reading by focusing first of relevant sections and then skimming the rest. For example, I’m interested in writing international stories for a women’s consumer magazine. Knowing how they cover new skin care trends is nifty but the time I spend doing that isn’t going to add that much value to my pitch, based on the kind of queries I usually write.
2. Search consumer and trade publications in database archives like Gale Infotrac, which are accessible through many local and university libraries.
3. Sign up for Feedly or other online content aggregator. A lot of magazines repackage their print content for online readers. Get the RSS feed for whatever section you want to pitch (or whatever section is closest—it’s not always a one-to-one correspondence). Sometimes I also add the general RSS so I can skim other sections. After a week of reading this feed, you’ve done 90% of your market research, painlessly. (While you’re at it, subscribe to the RSS feed for your own website or blog so you can, say, make sure it still works!)
4. Ask your friends and family for their old magazines. As a green writer, I’m really trying to be mindful of my paper use. Getting old magazines from friends and family is a great way to recycle. It’s also a fantastic way to get magazines you want to pitch but not necessarily subscribe to. For example, I got a stack of wonderful travel and lifestyle magazines from my stepmom who lives in Minnesota, markets I considered pitching because I travel to the Minn frequently.
Hey, fellow freelancers, what time-/money-/planet-saving tips do you have for researching new magazine markets?
Photo by thebittenword.com