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Researching Markets: Looking Beyond the Obvious
by Karen Luna Ray

Return to Queries, Submissions & Market Research · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

What constitutes thoroughly researching a publication before submitting a query, in your opinion? If you have obtained the writer's guidelines and read an issue or two of the publication, you are headed in the right direction. On the other hand, if you've stopped there, you have not completed your homework.

Take the study of your prospective audience one step further. Delve a little deeper into what the publication is all about. What is the magazine's statement of purpose? Perhaps you have a travel article in mind that you would like to submit to a magazine whose focus is on families spending more time together. You have found two prospective targets for your article. One magazine's mission is helping families spend time together, but with an emphasis on education. The other magazine's purpose is to provide information and inspiration for families to spend time together with an emphasis on fun. If your article is about visiting Washington, Arkansas, one time Confederate Capital, you would target the first publication, whereas you would target the second if you were planning to write about a fun weekend of canoeing and horseback riding at a dude ranch or spending the day at a theme park.

Learn more by reading the letter from the editor located in the front of most magazines. The goal is to get your finger on the pulse of the readership.

Find out who is most likely to be reading the publication. Where do they live? If the readership is spread out across the US, try to pinpoint where the highest percentage of readers is located. Some subjects are universal, of course, but as I once learned from a co-worker, if you are writing about travels in Oklahoma and providing a list of great restaurants, with recommendations on foods one might order, and your readership is mostly in Maine, then you had best be clarifying what chicken fried steak is.

What age is the average reader of the publication? Are there children in the household? What is the age span of those children? For obvious reasons the answers to these questions will make a difference in your article submissions.

What is the average number of children per household? If you are writing for readers who, on the average, have several children, as opposed to a single child family, their outlook will vary on many matters. Even though they may both be interested in subjects concerning children, those subjects will not be applied in their every day life in just the same way. The more information you have about your reader, the better you can address their interests.

The average income of the readership also holds a key to what subjects they will find of interest. The higher income reader with one child probably will not be as interested in tips on frugality as the lower income reader with three children. Are you writing for stay-at-home moms, or for moms who work outside the home? One audience may be interested in cooking from scratch and tips for cleaning her home more efficiently, while the other finds it more interesting to read about what qualities to look for when hiring a cleaning service and recipes for quick and nutritious meals she can serve her family after a day of working outside the home, with an emphasis on quick.

Is your article directed toward women who are married, or women who are single? Some things will always be the same in dealing with children, but a single parent has an entirely different set of problems than a married parent. What is the average reader's level of education?

All these things matter in the overall picture. Finishing your homework by doing a complete research on the publication you wish to write for will make it easier to find the pulse of the readership. The more you do, the more likely you are to gain a sale. While you may not find all of this information in a print magazine, most, if not all, magazines now have a website. Some offer more information about their market than others. Check out the links to "Advertising Information" on a magazine's website to find reader and circulation profiles, as well as the primary location of readers. "About Us" will provide you with the magazine's mission or statement of purpose.

Look beyond the obvious. Finish your homework and you will be better prepared to target the reader of the publication you choose to submit to.

Find Out More...

Bread and Butter Markets - Moira Allen

Exploring New Markets - Moira Allen

Finding Sample Magazines - Without Breaking the Bank - Moira Allen

How to Study a Magazine You've Never Seen - Mridu Khullar

Targeting the Wrong Markets: The New Writer's Most Common Mistake - Moira Allen

Copyright © 2003 Karen Luna Ray
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Karen Luna Ray is a freelance writer living in southeastern Oklahoma with her husband and two children. Her writing interests include nonfiction, parenting, and humor. Karen's work has been published in Reunions Magazine, North American Manx Association Bulletin, and various newspapers.


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