New Discoveries At My Local Bookstore By Dan Heaton

A day at the local mega-bookstore rejuvenated my freelance career.

On a recent evening, I had some time to kill while waiting to pick up my son from an event. So, I popped into the big bookstore down the street. As I breezed through the magazine rack, I realized there were many, many magazines that publish articles in my primary area of focus of which I was either unaware or had forgotten about. I quickly went back out to my car, grabbed my notebook, and started making a list of various titles. Being able to flip through each of the titles helped me get an editorial sense of the magazine in a way that a visit to the web site simply does not, at least for me. Call me old-school, but holding the magazine in my hands made it come alive with possibilities.

Sitting in the bookstore, I was able to take notes on the articles that I found in each title. How long were they? Did they include pull-out boxes or other features? Was the credit line on the art the same as the author byline? Were there smaller “department” type pieces? Once I was armed with that information, I returned home, and began my on-line searches for editor contact information, and writer’s guidelines. Then, I expanded my notes on the various titles, thinking about ways some of my past research for other projects might be re-visited for an article for a new audience.

I had fallen into something of a rut in marketing my writing Ò it always waxes and wanes over the years Ò and my list of potential outlets had been dwindling as publications Ò or my contacts at those publications Ò had changed. My new list of potential contacts not only opened new horizons, but it also lit a fire under me to explore those horizons.

I have since paid a visit to another mega bookstore from a different chain. There, I found a few other titles that were not at the first store. I recently received my first positive response to a query from one of my new contacts.

Dan Heaton is the author of three books on military history, most recently Forts & Fields: A History of Michigan’s Military Places. He has written numerous articles on military subjects, primarily focusing on the history of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.