Looking for Your Feedback: What Do Established Writers Need?

One of the biggest criticisms or complaints about Writer’s Digest (usually the magazine) is that it’s for wannabes, and that after a few years, the advice/information either becomes repetitive or irrelevant, especially for someone who works at the professional level.

I’ve been daydreaming about how to develop a new periodical that would offer information and insights for advanced, established, or professional writers/authors, and remain relevant even after achieving publication. (Just to be sure, such a periodical would not serve to replace the current magazine.)

But I need your help to get it right—or to ensure there’s a need for it in the first place!

  • What you would need or want in such a publication?
  • What regular columns?
  • What features?
  • Whose viewpoints?
  • What topics?

Leave your recommendations in the comments. (If it appears your comment doesn’t stick the first time you submit it, try inputting the code again—your comment will still be in the field, waiting for verification.)

Or, click here to e-mail me.

Photo credit: Marvin (PA)

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0 thoughts on “Looking for Your Feedback: What Do Established Writers Need?

  1. Jane Friedman

    @Jim – Very much appreciate the feedback.

    You bring up a good point. Is a separate publication needed for this audience? Should we be expecting more of the aspiring/beginning writer? A worthy debate.

    And I agree the new, emerging areas of digital publishing could easily take up a publication of its own.

    I’m not sure what you mean by "Is WD so big now?" The biggest potential audience will always be with the beginners (there will always be more beginners than advanced people in many fields), but the more interesting question is: How can WD best serve & survive in the current publishing environment? Given all the free information for beginners, do we have a better shot at stability in the future by serving a more sophisticated group, and offering information that’s a little tougher to get? (Only if people find it worth paying for!)

    Or … is it possible to serve ALL writers at ALL levels? And some content is free, and some content is not?

    This post and its comment thread point to the ultimate strategic question we struggle with.

  2. jim duncan

    I’d have to agree with a lot of the folks here already, though honestly, I’m not sure why you’d need a seperate mag for this purpose. All of the things that become more important for published authors are still of interest to those aspiring to be in those shoes. They still need to know, understand, and think about such things. Having an awareness of what comes after getting that contract is just as important as what comes before. If a writer is seriously career-minded, knowing about the entire continuum can only help. It can help them to keep from getting blind-sided with things down the road.

    I’d like info on marketing/promotion/publicity. I want advice on building readership, in whatever form that takes. I want news on the industry, especially now with things so much in flux. How are base contracts changing? You could easily have a column/article dedicated to digital publishing. Hell, you could likely start an entire magazine dedicated to that. The finer points of craft are always good, but again, this kind of thing is needed for published and unpublished alike.

    Is WD so big now that it can’t afford to incorporate elements dedicated to published authors? I don’t know enough about such things so I’m curious. Would I subscribe to it if I knew it had dedicated articles related to professional writing that I would find useful? Maybe. I’ve never been much for magazine subscription. A lot of what is needed can be found online for free, so that would be the real trick. Can you create something that authors will want to pay for? Probably. WD has got the brand recognition to probably make it work.

  3. Jane Friedman

    @Nate – Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. What you (and others) are saying confirms my belief there’s a pretty significant need for advanced self-promotion and marketing info, especially online tools/resources. Appreciate the view!

  4. Nate Hardy

    Hi Jane. I am a board member of Pennwriters, an organization that has a mix of beginner writers and advanced career writers of 30+ books. So we face similar issues that you do. I’ve heard advanced writers express concern about marketing, publicity, and online presence–both book authors and writers who have published practically everything except books.

    Because I work a lot on the business side (conducting online and in-person marketing workshops, etc.), many writers approach me about self-promotion. It’s something they don’t like to do or don’t know how to do, yet publishers are increasingly leaving writers on their own to do these things. I would like to see more marketing and business-related content. I read every Writer’s Digest article on these subjects.

    Being active online (social networking, blogging, etc.) is a popular topic to cover. Ways to increase website traffic. The average age of authors, especially advanced ones, skew older. Many advanced authors are not knowledgeable or comfortable with the growing number and complexity of online tools.

  5. Jane Friedman

    @Meryl – I personally would love to see more business topics covered in the magazine (and overall in the community). Great suggestions.

    @Mike – Love that term you’ve used: long-term career-driven topics. It’s an interesting way to think about the strategy/philosophy behind the content.

    For the curious:
    Traditionally, what seems to sell on newsstand is a focus on fiction writing and novel publication, which is usually why you see that emphasis somewhere on the cover on 50% of magazine issues (getting an agent, getting a book deal, writing a novel, etc). We also see the same phenomenon on the book side: lots of great selling books on fiction how-to, not so much the case with business how-to.

    So we often struggle with covering topics in a way that will not overwhelm people just starting out, while still trying to provide something of value to others. (Thus the idea for some kind of separate publication.)

  6. Mike Arnzen

    It would be great if WD could address more "long view" career-driven topics. Issues to address beyond those already addressed might include:

    * home office realities (family/taxes/lifestyle)

    * sustaining healthy habits and relationships

    * career shifts (changing genres, reinventing one’s platform)

    * outlasting blocks

    * how to take a sabbatical from writing without losing steam/fans

    * marketing reprints and licenses

    * the lecture circuit and teaching of writing

    * knowing when — and when not — to quit

    * keeping it ‘fresh’

    * passing it on to the next generation

    * becoming a leader in writer’s organizations

    * working with the local community

    * adapting to new technology

    * excerpts from writer’s memoirs (and other ‘models’ of the veteran’s writing life)

    * more on what writer’s do when they’re not writing

    I’m just dumping ideas, but I think you’ve hit on an important area of need in your magazine’s audience. Good luck!

    — Michael Arnzen

  7. Meryl K Evans

    I was about to say what Joni did — the business side of the career. Writers and wanna-be writers forget that they have a responsibility to manage the business side as few start out making enough to hire staff to manage some of this.

    * Platform building
    * Marketing
    * Finance management
    * Apps

    I don’t think WD is limited to beginners because most of us do well in a couple of things but not others. For example, I’m a nonfiction writer, so I enjoy reading about fiction writing to pick up tips that could help me try to do more creative fiction.

    Not crazy about academic writing style. It might just be me — but that style is hard to absorb.

  8. Joni Rodgers

    I’ll always be learning and growing in the craft, but I’ve figured out what works for me well enough to make a good living. Right now, I need business advice more than craft advice. Taxes. Home office ergonomics. Gadgetry. Some actual stats on the efficacy of social networking, blogging, etc and some real numbers on who’s getting paid what. Legal and contract issues. Agent and editor relationships. Building and nurturing a dynamic, professional critique group. New ways to monetize the work we already know how to do — speaking gigs, conferences, etc — and creative deal-making in a tight market. Profiles of editors, agents, small presses, and booksellers.

    I’d like to think I’m not the only author out there who’s totally style-tarded; presentation — what to wear to meetings other than Amish community black, NY parties as opposed to LA parties, how to do makeup for TV appearances, etc — might be an area in which a lot of us could stand some coaching. I’d also love a way to connect with other established authors in my area.

    This is a great idea, Jane. I hope you take flight with it.

  9. Jane Friedman

    Thanks, Carol. We receive/read the AWP Chronicle and find it fairly academic or too literary for most writers, even professional or published ones.

    But point well-taken about more advanced material, particularly on promotion or finer points of craft (rather than querying, procrastination, getting organized, etc!).

  10. Carol Brendler

    I suggest taking a look at what topics MFA Writing Programs are talking about at events and lectures. The Assoc. of Writing Programs publication is full of articles and insights for more advanced writers. I’d like more about promoting my work, less about how to write a query. More about the finer, more literary points of the craft of writing, less about how to find time to write.