On The Utility Of The Annual Writer’s Market

When we moved and I FINALLY deigned to get RID of a bunch of books I no longer needed or wanted, one of the things I remember seeing was a copy of the Writer’s Market. This is an annual publication that lists all the available publishing houses, agents, and trade magazines out there, giving writers what is intended to be a comprehensive guide to markets for a writer’s work.  I think my copy was from back in 1996…  Back at THAT time, this thing was considered to be a goldmine of information, a must have for querying authors because it narrowed down which houses published what, what agents were looking for what, etc.

At this point, given I’m already represented, this is all pretty irrelevant to me, but Amazon sent me a recommendation email about them this morning (no idea why), and it got me wondering–exactly what is the utility of this book these days?  In a world of social media and websites, where you can follow you favorite agents on Twitter or Facebook and have relatively up to the minute information on whether their inbox is open or closed to submissions, what they’re looking for, etc., why does anybody want to go spend $20-30 bucks on this thing that’s only good for a year at best, and less, given the length of time it takes publishers to get things out on shelves?  I mean, I guarantee all this information is available online for free, and more up to date versions of said information to boot.  So…why?

I mean, I suppose having the compendium to narrow things down to what you’re wanting to query is a starting place for making your short list of dream agents or whatever is useful to some.  I prefer the far more interactive version of TALKING TO OTHERS and doing my own research (and I REALLY prefer my method, which involves tripping and falling into a fabulous agenting relationship, when not even looking, but I can’t say as there’s a guidebook for that kind of dumb luck).

The current edition even includes a self publishing checklist, which I found REALLY strange.  It gives credence to that notion that those of us who self publish only do so because we couldn’t hack it in the trads.  I guarantee there are better sources of information for THAT.  But whatever.

I don’t know, I suppose people must still find it useful, or they wouldn’t publish it.  It just struck me as odd.

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4 comments

  1. Once upon a time, the Writer’s Market books were really good, not for finding agents. When I started writing, most writers didn’t have, want, or need an agent – this was before publishers got tired of paying assistant editors salaries and so foisted off the slush pile on agents instead, thus passing the costs of vetting slush on to writers (that 15% you pay). We’re only talking a couple of decades ago; I’m not that old! 😉

    But the Market was incredibly good for…finding markets. Whether you wanted to write an article on cooking, or horses, or a short story, or whatever, Writer’s Market was the go to guide for paying periodicals. Back in the long ago 80s, a lot of writers made a lot of money writing random articles for all SORTS of magazines.

    I never did look at the agent section back then. 😉

    Haven’t owned a copy in years. If I want to submit a manuscript, I send it to the publisher or magazine in question. I use Duotrope to track who is buying what and how to submit, or for book publishers can always go direct to the publisher’s website (or ask other writers). And besides, these days I tend to be more concerned with KDP, Pubit, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, and Createspace than I am with publishing companies or periodicals. 😉

    So yeah, I agree – I think this is a book whose utility has passed. I still look at my bookshelf sometimes and think I ought to buy one, but then I ask myself what I would use it for, can’t think of anything, and move along.

  2. I’ll sometimes get the online subscription when I’m on an article-writing kick, for finding places in need of articles. It’s useful for that.

    For fiction… I think it can be useful to get a peek at places you’ve not heard of, but it’s not a necessity.

  3. Recently, I checked one out from the library. I was amazed at how little it helped me compared to the research I’d been doing online. I’ll check it out from the library again before I buy my own copy.

  4. I have an old copy of that book lying around somewhere. I have no idea what edition I have. I really don’t see the relevance in it these days. Everything you can imagine is on the internet. Although, I do have this weird fear that terrorists will one day figure out the best way to hurt us is to shut down the internet. But I digress….

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