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Thursday, March 17, 2005


"To market, to market to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!"
Nursery Rhyme

Every once in awhile a writer must take time to do some marketing. After all, if you don't send your work out, it will never be recognized and published. I'm personally not as diligent with this aspect of writing as I should be. But if I want to have success as a travel journalist, I have to discipline myself to do the marketing. So, for this past week I've spent most of my 'writing time' researching both short-fiction and travel markets on-line and sending out stories to appropriate publishers. I also made new lists of markets for my classes. This required checking the old lists to make sure the publications are still in existance because small magazines come and go quickly. I also went over the publishing guidelines. This is a very important part of marketing because you must research your markets otherwise you're wasting time. For instance, no use sending a back--packing adventure story to Conde Naste which generally publishes for the jet-set traveller. And it's a good idea to also check the publishing schedules for the various newspapers and magazines. That way you get a heads-up about what they will be looking for and if you have an appropriate story written, you can send it off in good time.

I've got a number of good articles written which haven't been in print yet, and others that have been previously published and can be re-run. So I browsed through my stories this week and sent a few off to appropriate publications. Some are paying markets (the best!) others are not. But it's good to get things in print on-line or in a print publication just so you can add them to your publication portfolio.

It's wise to keep track of everything you send out. I keep a notebook with lists of articles, where and went I sent them and if I included photos (jpegs or print). I used to market with hard-copy but these days life is simpler and you can submit on-line. However I have found with on-line publications you don't always hear back from them. So you must keep track of the responses and queries too.

An example of this happened this week. A year ago I had sent two articles to an on-line publication I don't recall ever getting a reply to my queries about these articles. And it just happened that I was ego-surfing on google this week and lo-and-behold there were my articles listed. I checked the site, and sure enough, they had both been published last year. (You can see them on the site: "Firedancing" and "One Full Moon Night in Athens" both creative non-fiction travel stories.) I queried the publisher, thinking that they might have sent me a cheque or response letter via snail-mail as I had no record of having a reply from them even though I'd queried some time after submitting.
The editor says that I must have been contacted and unfortunately there is no pay for this publication. At best, I figure the response must have gone automatically into 'deleted mail'.
Anyway, even though there wasn't any monetary reward for the publications, they do look good up in print.

"One Full Moon Night in Athens" had been accepted for an anthology to be published by Lonely Planet some time in 2003. I was thrilled when I received the contracts from them.
I signed the contracts and, unfortunately didn't check the fine print for 'kill fee'. And much to my disappointment, a few weeks later was informed by L.P. that their 'target market' people decided not to use my story as it might discourage travel. (The article, which was for an anthology for first-time back-packers in Europe, was a cautionary tale about the danger of date-rape drugs.) I had only worked with a contract like that once before when I was hired by A.P.A. Insight Guides to write up the "Trips and Tours" part of an Insight Guide about Vancouver and environs. Their contract provided $500 U.S. when the work was submitted
(on both disc and hard-copy) and $500 on publication plus copies of the book. I'd had no problems with them so had not thought there would be a problem with L.P. So it was a good lesson to remember to check for 'kill fees' if you sign a contract, otherwise you will not be reimbursed anything for your work even though they had accepted it.

By the way, when I was working on the Insight Guide, we had a five week deadline to meet. I had never worked on a computer before so this required me taking a crash course in computers in order to get my work on disc. And I had to make many field trips around my city and environs to get the material. It was quite a challenge but an exciting project and I was working with an old newspaper journalist, the former editor of The Village Voice who had also published several travel books about Greece. So it was a thrilling learning experience. And an even great thrill when, browsing in a book store in London England, I picked up a copy and there was my photo and bio along with the credits for my work!

Marketing is a vital part of the writer's life. You have to be tenacious and not deterred by rejection slips (of which you will receive enough to paper your walls). The symposium I attended last weekend put on by the B.C. Association of Travel Writers (of which I'm a member) was a forum about marketing your stories. In my travel writing classes I stress this valuable aspect of travel writing. And I always invite a former student of mine to my class to give the marketing pep talk. Andrew started out in one of my travel writing classes several years ago and has since become a successful travel journalist. He's a retired realtor so has the marketing skills it takes to get published. His pep-talk inspired me, too, so that's why I decided to take time out this week to do my marketing. Let's hope a few of them sell!

"'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print..." George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron
"Any work that we love to do will certainly bless us in return." Daily Word

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