Why do magazine editors tell writers to read a few of the magazine’s issues before submitting to them? It’s because they want to increase their sales or website hits, right? Wrong—well, partially right. But did you know that reading what your potential market publishes is more beneficial to you, the writer?
Writers love to read—or at least they have to read. Most of us have no problem reading novels. But if someone asks us to read a magazine or a literary journal, we need to stop and think about it for a long time before we decide we don’t need to. We think that if we read mystery thrillers, then we are fully capable of writing a short story fit for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. Well, I used to think that way, until I read one—yes, only one—issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s magazine. I realized that the story I wanted to submit for that market was not a great fit. And after reading a few other issues, I realized what I needed to do to fix it.
“But, why?” you ask.
Because it’s that simple. You need to get the general feeling of a magazine before you can successfully submit to it. You need to know what subjects have been dealt with so you don’t repeat them. You also need to pay attention to certain details, especially in fiction, like the degree of violence, swearing, sex, etc… I’m not suggesting that a magazine is a monotonous mastermind that only publishes one thing or the other, after all, several authors contribute to every issue, and each one of those authors has his own style. You do need to be familiar with what the editors like before you send them your “masterpiece”. Your story sometimes is too much for a market—too good, if you want to believe that. You owe it to your story to get it published in the most suitable place, where your story’s counterparts are just as good as it is.
Think of reading issues of your potential market as going out on a date. There are different types of personalities, but even similar personalities have disparate likes and dislikes. If you like outgoing people, it doesn’t mean that you are going to be compatible with every outgoing person you meet. Every conversation with that date of yours will reveal something about their personality. After a while, you will have enough data to determine whether you want to continue seeing this person or not. Similarly after reading a few issues of a magazine, you will be able to determine whether your story is a good fit for it, if you need to tweak your work, or submit it somewhere else.
Hope this helps. What magazines are you reading?