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.