The Pity Stuffer

Today I went out and partook in my tradition of picking up the latest edition of the Writer’s Market and carrying its phonebook-sized mass home with me and parking it on my desk. I’ve been doing this more or less every year since I became a full-time freelancer, in 1998; in no time since then have I ever actually used the thing to get gigs, because due a curious combination of personal connection and unspeakable luck, in all this time work has generally found me rather than the other way around. In the next year, I do not expect to use the book very much either; I’m nicely busy, and — once again through personal connection and unspeakable luck — I generally have ready markets for the stuff I write that I don’t already owe to people, and editors are still kind enough to drop me notes asking if I wouldn’t mind writing something for them. I love these guys.

If I don’t plan to use the Writer’s Market, why did I bother dropping $29.99 on the thing? Simple: It’s on my desk so that if the unthinkable happens and the floor drops out from underneath my serendipitous business plan, and I start feeling sorry for myself, my wife can pick the thing up and beat me over the head with it, and the sheer bulk of the object I am being bludgeoned with will serve to remind me that it is filled with a couple thousand markets into which I may sell my writing. That being the case, I should stop with the whiny little pity party and get to work. Because at this stage in my career, it seems fairly inconceivable that I couldn’t sell something to someone. Particularly when there are a couple thousand markets out there, all looking for writing.

So yes: As an actual aide to finding work, it’s $30 down the hole, at least for the next year. As a preventative measure against basic writer’s neurosis, it’s cheap at twice the price. I think about all the therapy an annual application of the Writer’s Market has spared me from, and I realize that it pays for itself each year, probably somewhere in the third week of January. It’s worth it.

11 thoughts on “The Pity Stuffer

  1. Time to rewrite the resume’. Thanks for reminding me. Haven’t used it in ten years, but the exercise is invaluable nonetheless, if only to remind me what the “trying out” part of my career was like.

  2. As an actual aide to finding work, it’s $30 down the hole, at least for the next year.

    Not quite that much of a loss, I’d think. Surely it counts as a deductable business expense.

  3. Since I live in a big city I could just about trip over Writer’s Markets when I walk out the door. They’re not hard to come by. But I have to ask — and believe me I feel like a dope — where the hell do you go to buy a copy of personal connections and unspeakable luck? Because, frankly, that sounds like a really sweet way to do business. “Sign me up,” y’know?

    I understand if it’s one of those things where you can’t divulge your source. Regardless, good thinking!

  4. Jeff: I recommend going to school with rich and well-connected people, myself. Of course, Scalzi started early at the Webb School, but I’ve found the University of Chicago’s undergraduate student body to have the right sort of nerdy connectivity.

  5. If you read carefully at the top,the book says “Over 5 Million Wil lBe Sold To John Scalzi.”

    I suppose you could club people with it and fish their pockets if the book gig ever fails.

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