Print or electronic: the 2007 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market and online submission databases
Fall is the time for fiction writers to regroup. As the wind picks up a chill and costumed kids run amuck in search of candy, the distractions of spring and summer disappear. Soon winter will be here, offering the solitude of cold and sleet and snow. If writers can’t lock themselves into their converted den and hammer out their fictional masterpieces now, they’ll never get them done.
Fall is also the time when writers reassess their publication success. The reason for this is the annual reappearance of the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. For 26 years this wonderful collection of markets for short stories and novels, published by Writer’s Digest Books, has reminded writers in exquisite detail of all the places they’ve yet to be published in.
Seriously, I dare say there isn’t a fiction writer out there who hasn’t used this book at some point to plot their submission strategy. I’ve personally used N&SSWM for a number of years and always look forward to each new edition. And based on what I’ve read so far, the 2007 N&SSWM is an improvement over the already high standards of previous years.
That said, the submissions game is changing. As I’ve recently mentioned, there is a new online submission tool called Duotrope's Digest. Duotrope offers much of the same information as N&SSWM, along with a similar number of markets (with both offering around 1,300 markets, although Duotrope includes poetry markets in its total but excludes publishers of novel-length fiction, while N&SSWM offers short stories and novels but omits poetry since Writer’s Digest Books offers an entirely different book for poetry markets). Unlike N&SSWM, though, Duotrope is a searchable database and compiles submission response statistics for its listed markets, enabling writers to estimate how long each market might take to respond. Finally, Duotrope is free to use while N&SSWM costs $26.95.
For all of those reasons, a few writers have asked me why they should bother with N&SSWM.
My answer: fiction writers face long enough odds on getting their stories published. I find both N&SSWM and Duotrope useful—although for different reasons—and if using both tools gives my submissions an edge, then so be it.
Unlike Duotrope, each entry in N&SSWM is compiled by professional editors. This gives me a trust factor which Duotrope has yet to earn. N&SSWM is also more than a listing of markets. For example, the first quarter of the 2007 N&SSWM is stuffed full of useful articles on publishing your fiction and includes sections on craft and technique, getting published, and interviews with authors. There are also individual sections devoted to each genre of fiction writing, including mystery writing, romance writing, and so on. The articles focusing on the needs of genre writers are both useful and fun to read (I particularly loved the article “Laugh Until You Scream” by Carol Pinchefsky, which tells an author how to write funny horror stories).
Another reason I still use N&SSWM is that it contains more listings than Duotrope and is easier to quickly locate the market I want. When I find a market I’m interested in, I then go to Duotrope and see what their submission response time is. In short, I use both Duotrope and N&SSWM because at this point they complement each other perfectly.
That said, what about the future? Duotrope Digest is rather new, meaning it will probably grow and adapt significantly in the coming years. There are also other useful compilations of submission data on the internet. What does this foretell for N&SSWM? Will N&SSWM eventually go online and offer both a print and internet edition or will it remain a book edition only?
Currently Writer’s Digest Books offers an online, fee-based searchable database at WritersMarket.com. Personally, I’m not a fan of this database, finding it to be poorly designed and, most importantly, including only paying fiction and nonfiction markets. The fact that WritersMarket.com omits the non-paying markets that are more receptive to beginning fiction writers is the main reason I won’t use the system. Even though the database is updated daily, what good is updated data if the data doesn’t include the markets I’m interested in?
I recently asked Lauren Mosko, the editor of the 2007 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, if Writer’s Digest Books is considering making all of N&SSWM’s listings available online in a fee-based system. Lauren said that:
“Free market resource sites like Duotrope's Digest are certainly on our radar, but we feel confident Writer's Market will remain the brand writers can trust. Our printed market information is updated annually (and in the case of WritersMarket.com, daily), and all our submission, payment, and needs information comes directly from each publishers' editors. The editors of each book in our Market Book series take personal responsibility for contacting publishers for updates, so we don't have to rely on publishers' Web sites for information or place the burden of research on our readers. Although we'd love to see all nine Market Books online in the near future, right now we're preparing for the upcoming redesign and relaunch of WritersMarket.com.”
Lauren is correct about how the currently available online submission systems, like Duotrope, place the burden of research on their readers. As I said earlier, the accuracy of N&SSWM is why I have returned each year to this wonderful book. I’d strongly recommend any writer who is serious about publishing their fiction purchase the 2007 N&SSWM.
That said, I’m not sure if I will be able to make the same recommendation a few years down the line. In the market for useful submission data, Duotrope Digest has made a solid start into N&SSWM’s territory. In many ways this challenge reminds me of how blogs and online news sources have taken on the print newspaper industry. While newspaper editors initially ignored this competitive threat—stating that they had brand loyalty and the trust of their readers—today the headlines are full of newspapers cutting staffs and trying to save their sinking bottom line. Ironically, most people read such dire headlines online instead of on newsprint.
How Writer’s Digest Books responds to this changing playing field will determine if they remain the premiere source of market place information or if they are overtaken by the new kid on the online block.
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