My first-year university roommate had worked at Trenton Air Force Base as a file clerk for the summer. Military regulations required that hair be worn above the collar, so Lynn had to learn to put her hair up.
“They told us to practice for half an hour, and then quit,” she said. “That way you wouldn’t get frustrated because you couldn’t do it the first time.”
Making small chunks of a big task is a good way to avoid frustration and feelings of defeat. That works for finding markets, too. I’m going to quote another of Piet Hein’s grooks here:
Put up in a place
where it’s easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it’s well to remember that
Things Take Time.
With that in mind, I usually advise beginning with fifteen minutes a day to look at new markets. Set a timer, then type “pet magazines” (or whatever) into your search engine. Browse the markets pages of a writers’ magazine. Pick one letter of the alphabet and read the listing for those agencies in The Writer’s Market. Log into Duotrope.com or Ralan.com or wherever you think your markets might be hanging out and just look until that timer goes off. Make notes of anything that interests you.
Do this every day. If you accomplish nothing else, you’ll be getting that little back burner bubbling with the idea that there are, indeed, places looking for the very thing that you write.
If you have a goal magazine, read back issues in your fifteen minutes. Look at the table of contents to find the regular columns and sections. Read the features with an eye to figuring out the tone and content that this publication wants.
Go online and look for guidelines. While some publications have them right out there, with a button labelled “submission guidelines” or “write for us” or some such, others hide them. Try searching with words like “guidelines”, or “editorial calendar”. Look for a “contact” button and in your email ask for their writers’ guidelines or their editorial calendar. You can also find guidelines for a lot of magazines in Writer’s Market, which has the dual advantages of not needing batteries and doubling as a blunt object.
If you have good ideas for articles, or stories that you feel are ready to go, then once a week make a pitch or a submission. If you’ve done your homework on the fifteen-minutes-a-day part, then a story submission should take you fifteen minutes or less. A pitch may take longer at first, but some of my most productive pitches have been fifteen-minute-or-less jobs. One pitch or submission a week will get you fifty-two at the end of the year. That’s fifty-two you didn’t have before, as well as a good deal of experience.
No promises here, but you might even make a sale.