Finding Good Markets, Avoiding Bad Ones
by Paula Fleming

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Writers whine a lot. I'm no exception. Writing is hard, market research time-consuming, manuscript packaging laborious, manuscript tracking tedious, waiting for responses onerous, getting rejected dejecting, and even selling not always a good thing when the market turns out to have problems.

While whining in moderation is just fine, there are, of course, more productive ways to deal with these trials. In this article, we'll focus on that last whine -- on inept, unfortunate, or just plain rotten markets and how to avoid them. We'll also take a moment to appreciate the all good markets. When you think about it, we really are fortunate that editors are willing to read mountains of submissions, publishers are willing to pull together issue after issue or project after project, and readers are willing to buy them. It's not as though we're providing food, shelter, or health care after all. We're just writers.

The best way to sell only to good markets is to avoid submitting work to bad ones. It is often (not always) possible to tell the good markets from the bad ones through just a little research. Before we talk about how to do that, let's define a "good market."

What Is a "Good" Market?

For the purposes of this column, a good market is one that does what it says it will do. Generally, that means:

A market is "good" when it meets your expectations. I'm not telling you what your expectations should be. That's your business. Some writers feel that anything less than a professional rate of pay, as defined by Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, or other writers organizations is bad. Other writers think that waiting more than three months for a response to their submission is bad. Still others get upset if their work isn't available on the Internet for their friends to read without paying. As I said, what you want out of a market is up to you. The important thing here is that the market meets your expectations.

Our expectations are formed by first and foremost by the market's guidelines. We can filter out most disappointing experiences by reading guidelines with a critical eye. Here are some clues that signal that a market is likely to disappoint.

Possible Signs of Trouble

In addition, comparing the guidelines to other information about the market can raise red flags.

In addition, here are three more warning signs that a market may disappoint you.

How Being a "Good" Writer Can Help

While no amount of research can completely eliminate risk, you can significantly reduce your chances of an unhappy sale. In addition to watching out for bad markets, we can also make sure that we aren't "bad" writers the ones that editors kvetch about when they're together.

Copyright © 2002 Paula Fleming
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Paula L. Fleming's science fiction and fantasy have appeared in a variety of publications, including; Tales of the Unanticipated #20, #22, and #24; Meisha Merlin's Such a Pretty Face anthology; and Lone Wolf Publishing's Extremes 3: Terror on the High Seas anthology. By day, she's a human resources generalist at the Wedge Community Co-op. To help her, she has three big dogs, two cats, and one husband. Visit her home page at or her blog at


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