How I Cope Without a Marketing Monkey

Lit by David S. Johnson, 10/13/07

In her eternal quest to understand this crazy world of writing, Ms. Susan emailed me to ask how I find markets for my work and who I submit to. I thought a moment, took a sip of my Pepsi (as it's always on hand) and stretched my conversational fingers:

"For me, looking for a market for my work is like looking for a book to read in a big-chain book store. There are so many new titles screaming at me, begging, pulling and clawing at my wallet that by the end of just ten minutes perusing titles, I have indecision weeping from my pores until I'm literarily incapacitated and chewing on the bookshelves and growling at other customers. This is how I feel about large market lists like the Writer's Market. I've tried the Writer's Market and other mass listings, but it's overwhelming and I diffuse my efforts (and dare I say, talent) across so many journals, contests, and magazines, that I send out an inferior product (*gasp!* not from this writer!).

Sticking with bookstore metaphor, there is a used bookstore in New Orleans called Arcadian Books (La Librairie d'Arcadie) where books are delicately shoved into every available space. You cannot walk arm-and-arm through the aisles with your favorite gal because only one-person wide paths that meander like the Mississippi exist between books piled high on floor and on shelves. In fact, if more than five people are in the store, you may have to leave your favorite gal on the street (don't worry, it's just off of Bourbon Street, so a Hand Grenade will suffice to keep her entertained). In the store, dog-eared pages, cracked binding—the accolades of a well-read and oft-enjoyed book—are found throughout. I just know I'm going to find something good here. Tender treasures find themselves in my hands, books I didn't even know I was looking for. Alternatively, I can tell the polite and well-dressed man behind the modest desk what kind of books I like and he can make many perfect suggestions, going directly to the book in all the chaotic piles as magically as one might turn to a precise page in a large book.

When looking for markets, my used bookstore is the Poets & Writers Speakeasy Message Forum. I found her magazine here after asking others where to shop around my essays. Someone who enjoyed and had experience with her magazine suggested I try Tiny Lights. Also in the forum, up and coming or relatively unknown magazines will make announcements. This is how I found Sea Stories.

What I'd like to see is a compendium of magazines that is recommended by people who have some relationship with the magazine without being the editor. Personal experience is the advantage the forum has over mass listings because those provide advice from the editors. A submitter will have meta-knowledge about a particular magazine with which they have
experience. For instance, I've recommended to a friend(paraphrased): "I've sent submissions to the Tiny Lights magazine, but without much success. However, I will continue to send because the editor, Susan Bono, writes personal, handwritten notes on your essays. That personal touch softens the sting of rejection like a mother who kisses your boo-boo." This personal touch shows a depth of caring (for my boo-boo or the craft or the just the connection with another human being) that you don't get from The New Yorker.

So to answer your question in brief. I consult others to find markets for my work. I also keep my eyes open. My first published essay was in the Sunday Advocate Magazine (Louisiana paper) when I read some of their essays and said, "I can do better than that." And so I did! In an unrelated incident, I saw an announcement for Katrina stories for the Southern Quarterly and was able to get a lead (interview) article in their special issue. I only regularly submit to the following places because I don't much time to submit (you asked for a short list, but this is complete and short): Tiny Lights, Sunday Advocate Magazine, and Sea Stories (West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and East Coast, respectively). I choose Tiny Lights and Sea Stories because I enjoy them. I submit to the Louisiana paper because it's local and they take only local (at the most, regional) work. I have tons of stuff written, I just need a personal marketing monkey to take care of the business of flinging my work into the world. And to do the dishes. God, I hate dishes."

Links: (the Louisiana newspaper) (oh, you're already here!)
(The Southern Quarterly)

David Samuel Johnson is a graduate student at Louisiana State University as a saltmarsh ecologists. Sounds fancy doesn't it? It just means that he gets to play in the mud during the summer. Find out more about that here: David still doesn't have a marketing monkey but he's eyeballing a goat down the road that would make a great lawnmower. You can see some of his published essays here (David's not the goat's):

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