When a Great Idea Isn't Great Enough

Saturday, June 23, 2012
There are a few freelance markets I regularly consider, and WOW! Women-on-Writing is one of my favorites. So when I read about the topic for an upcoming issue, I let it rumble around in my brain for a while.

And my brain eventually spit out a couple ideas for an article. But my brain also spit out a “Not so fast, sister.”

Sometimes, a query idea may be really great—except when it’s not great enough. Which sounds a little crazy so I’ll try to explain.

If you’ve ever read the submission guidelines for WOW!, then you’ll know exactly what the editors look for in an article. You know important details like word count and fonts and where to pitch the idea. But there’s another step that is just as important as reading submission guidelines, and that’s reading the market.

Reading the market where you want your idea/article to find a home is absolutely necessary. It gives you the depth, as well as the edge you need to catch an editor’s eye. Think of when you meet someone for the first time. You can see whether she’s short or tall, or if her eyes are green or blue. But when you talk to her, you find out the really interesting stuff, the juicy details that you remember much longer than how she wore her hair.

Your submission guidelines are like that first meeting; they give you the facts. But reading the market content is like getting to know someone better; you get details like style and tone, and what an editor likes.

So when I came up with my splendiferous WOW! ideas, I knew they fit the topic, but I wasn’t so sure they’d work for the ezine. One didn’t have enough take-away information (a big plus if you want your query accepted at WOW!) and the other idea was much more suitable as an essay rather than an article.

Still, I’d written down plenty of notes about those ideas. One might be sent off to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Another might morph into a children’s poem. And one might even show up here at The Muffin.

Because I never waste a great idea. Including the one about when a great idea for a market isn’t great enough.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Wonderful post, Cathy. Comparing guidelines and getting to know a market to a first meeting and getting better acquainted with a person makes your point crystal clear. (And check out my post yesterday. It's about you ;)

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Excellent advice, as always!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thank you, Cathy! This is great advice and something I was just thinking of the other day as I was tackling our queries and submissions. Many writers fail to actually read the e-zine, and we can tell!

You also figured out the number one problem we see in submissions: it reads more like a personal essay or blog post than an in-depth article with a lot of take-away info.

I hope that anyone thinking of submitting to us read the post I wrote on New Year's Day about how to write and pitch to us: How to Write for WOW! in 2012: An Editorial Guide

It has a list of editorial themes; and another main reason for rejection is that writers didn't submit to a theme. =/

Right now we have one or two spots left in the Blogging/Social Media issue, but both The Gatekeepers and Editing & Revision are wide open. We also haven't received a query for our Inspiration column in a while, so we're open to highlighting a great woman who has given back in some way.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you.

LuAnn Schindler said...

Good advice, Cathy. Hate to say it, but I've been lucky and landed a few assignments without ever reading the publication or only perusing one copy. Doesn't happen often, but sometimes thre's just a feeling that a piece is the right fit for a publication!!

Usually, though, it's a matter of reading a year's worth of magazines and then submitting. :)

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