Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy New Year!

Yes, it's that time of year again, just as everyone has got used to writing the date as 2010, out come all the 2011 writing handbooks!

If you've never come across the annual yearbooks, then firstly, read Alex Gazzola's excellent review of The Writer's Handbook, on his blog.

There are several of these books on the market, the longest running is the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (often abbreviated to WAYB). It's 2011 edition comes out at the end of this month and is the 104th year it has appeared on the shelves.

You may also come across the Writer's Market UK, although it looks like there will not be a 2011 edition. (In my opinion, having 3 such books aimed primarily at the UK market, is a little overkill.)

As Alex alludes to in his posting, a similar guide exists for the USA market, the Writer's Market 2011, published by Writers Digest, and it's possible to obtain a copy of Australia's handbook The Australian Writer's Marketplace, which provides similar listings too.

What I think is important about these books, is that they are great 'starting points'. The reason, I'm blogging about this subject today, so soon after Alex's review of the latest handbook is because this morning the postman delivered a batch of student assignments. The first one was from a student who said, "I've found XXX magazine in the WAYB, so I'm going to send it to them."

Wrong. These books do not replace the need to buy the magazines. They simply bring to your attention possible markets for you to consider. As Alex says in his post, standing in WHSmiths, or any large newsagent, can be overwhelming. Sitting down with these yearbooks can be less daunting.

But they are not the writer's panacea to avoiding market analysis. You still need to go out and buy the magazine and look at it.

The problem with these handbooks is because they are books, which need the information collating, proofreading, layout and designing and then printing, it's quite possible for a lot of the information to be out of date. A handbook may be labeled as the 2011 edition, but some of the information may have been collated back in 2009.

Which is why they make excellent starting points. The name of the editor may have changed since the book was published, but the handbook will give you an address and phone number so that you can ring up to check, and usually a website too, so you can begin your market analysis there.

They contain other articles too, often commenting on current trends and thoughts in the publishing business, and these can be immensely useful.

I would recommend purchasing as least one of the UK handbooks and the USA one too. (One sale to a magazine will cover this cost, which is also a tax-deductable expense, if you're writing to make money.)

But bear in mind that the directory listings you're getting in these books may not be up-to-date. The publishers are aware of this, and make some of the information available online.

Because the American and Australian versions charge, you get all the market listing information contained within the book. The benefit of having access to the online version is that when anything is updated, you have immediate access to it, you don't have to wait until the next edition is printed.

So, do invest in one or two of these handbooks. They are immensely useful. But don't think that they are a shortcut to market research.

Good luck.