2005 Writer's Market.
Kathryn Brogan. 2004. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. [ISBN 1-58297-271-0. 1,178 pages, including index. $29.99 USD (softcover).]
Within the heart of almost every technical communicator beats the desire to practice our craft independently. We dream of writing that perfect technical communication equivalent of the great novel on timelines that we set and within budgets that are totally under our control. To try to realize the dream, we might take that road less traveled--independent technical communicator, also known as freelancer.
If you can do without regular paychecks, have strong self-discipline, and possess fundamental technical communication talents, what you need nowadays is tools of the trade that can be updated instantaneously. Perhaps the most famous such tool, Writer's market, has changed with the times to support today's freelancer.
Writer's market, now in its 85th year, still offers its annual tome--this year's edition is called the 2005 writer's market. However, instead of supplementing the information with monthly updates, the publisher now offers 2005 writer's market deluxe edition, which for an extra $20.00 USD gives you not only the printed book but a year's subscription to the continuously updated WritersMarket.com online version.
This review evaluates the 2005 writer's market from two vantage points:
* Because the publication is itself an example of technical communication, how does it measure up against the fundamental tenets of our profession?
* How well do the content and delivery of 2005 writer's market support the technical communicator who wants to publish independently?
At first perusal, the text of Writer's market can be intimidating. It spans nearly 1,200 pages. However, like any good technical document, it offers the expected fundamental tools for locating desired information. It breaks the subject markets into key categories, including literary agents, book publishers, small presses, consumer magazines, trade journals, and contests and awards. Each key category has an overall table of contents and sub-tables of contents. Also, you have a getting-started introduction to the organization and symbols used, a tear-out bookmark that provides a legend of the book's signposts, a glossary, a comprehensive list of contests, a publisher's subject index, and a general index.
If there is a weakness in Writer's market, it is the indexing. The subject indexes really aren't subject indexes. Instead, they offer very high-level subject headings and then list publishers. This approach doesn't help narrow the search for publishers on specific topics.
In terms of quick lookup, Writersmarket.com makes the toolset even more powerful. It provides keyword search and subject search of the Writer's Market Web site, which is essentially an electronic version of Writer's market. When you first register at the Web site, a wizard helps you tailor the offerings to your primary interests. This results in focused offerings through a customized home page.
Furthermore, you can receive an array of notifications and e-zines focused on your interests. Unfortunately, the keyword search doesn't really offer subject-driven results. For example, when I entered the keywords technical writing, I got only four hits. None of these were about markets for freelance technical writing. Further, the keyword software yielded no hits at all.
This problem could be alleviated easily by building metadata files for each of the potential markets. Although that task might be time-consuming at first, the result would take Writer's market to the next level of usability.
Nevertheless, with the exception of the indexing issues, Writer's market is clearly a solid example of technical communication that addresses the needs of users at all levels. After the well-written getting-started guide, Writer's market provides three powerful tools to get the novice freelancer on the right track.
"For beginning writers" steps through the dos and don'ts of submitting query letters (including good and bad examples), proposals, and manuscripts; provides an array of tips and tricks pertaining to agents and venues for beginners; and gives a realistic description of what happens behind the scenes with a given submission.
"Interviews" provides useful information, in a "roundtable" format, about the publishing industry from five of its leaders.
"The business of writing" addresses in detail the business of the publishing industry in terms of content ownership (copyright), getting interviews, rates to charge, and marketing.
The reason you'd buy the book is its descriptions of over 5,600 markets. Once you've located a market of interest (for example, a publisher such as Baywood Publishing or a magazine such as Wired magazine), you find what you need before submitting to it: mailing and e-mail addresses, editors' names, pay scale, topics covered, number of pieces bought annually, rights, schedules, special tips, and much more.
With a tool like Writers market, especially in its deluxe version, you're ready to find appropriate publishers. Your success from that point depends on your talent and perseverance.
MARK HANIGAN has 25 years' experience as a technical writer, instructional designer, trainer, speaker, and project manager. He has his own consulting company. On the Write Track. He has served in various STC roles at chapter and Society levels, including president in 2000-2001. He was elected fellow in 2005.