What is a trade journal?

by W. Terry Whalin


Why should I read trade journals? Where does a writer find trade journals with publishing news?


You may be wondering, "What in the world is a trade journal?" To newcomers, publishing is almost like a secret society where there are code words and unwritten expectations about what to submit to magazines and how to submit your material to publishers. First, it is not a secret society--but there are expectations and specialized language that every writer who wants to be consistently published needs to learn.

One aspect of this business which is also eye-opening to newcomers is the constant changes in the industry. Publishers come and publishers merge and sometimes completely close their doors. Magazines have an extremely high turnover of editorial personnel and new magazines have a high failure rate. How do you keep track of who is doing what and when? New books and new magazines are constantly appearing. A working writer needs to read trade journals to continually learn about this type of information.

A trade journal is a publication targeted to a specific segment of the population and some of the language in the publication is specialized. In the publishing arena, Publisher's Weekly is a magazine that every writer should know about--and try to read the magazine on a regular basis.

You can see the online version at: http://www.publishersweekly.com. This publication is about the size of a news magazine like Newsweek or Time and is a weekly magazine. The publication is specialized and has a limited circulation and a large subscription price tag (currently $225 a year for 51 issues).

Before you totally discount my advice to read it on a regular basis, here's how to see it from time to time. Almost every public library in the U.S. subscribes to Publisher's Weekly but it is not a publication that will normally appear in the magazine section of the library. The librarians use this publication to read reviews of bestselling books and other types of books before they appear in print--then they order them for the library customers. That means when the latest John Grisham book appears in your local bookstore, your public library has a copy or two available for check out.

OK, back to your library issue of Publisher's Weekly. Ask the reference librarian if they have a copy that you can read. Usually the librarian has to look around to find it and will often require you to read it nearby then watch to make sure you return it. These magazines are librarian tools as well as tools for the writer. I suggest you make friends with your local librarian and read Publisher's Weekly. It's how I read it for many years until I became a subscriber.

Beyond Publisher's Weekly there are other specialized publications for different segments of the marketplace. For example, if you write for Christian magazines, then you need to be reading Christian Retailing. Almost every Christian bookstore in the nation takes this publication. The retailer may be behind on reading it, but they have a stack of them. If you stop by the store and politely ask for it, they will often let you stand in the store for a few minutes and read through an issue. Anyone can subscribe to Christian Retailing which has a subscription price of $75 per year but does give away free issues if you qualify. See the qualifications at: https://secure.strang.com/strang.com/cgi-bin/subscribe.pl?offer=cr

CBA includes a free online newsletter at: http://www.cbaonline.org/

Christian Retailing includes a free online newsletter at: http://www.christianretailing.com/

One note of caution: these online newsletters may tell you the highlights or breaking news but the in-depth reporting is in the printed magazine--not online. Many writers wrongly assume they can get all of their information online. They can't and it's something you should keep in mind--no matter how much time you spend surfing the Internet.

Change is constantly happening within publishing. New editors come on the scene and others fade. Some companies are purchased by other companies and that purchase normally means a transition and change for the authors as well. I learned about this acquisitions change first hand last year when the publisher where I worked purchased two lines of books from another publisher. Instantly it added over 300 books to our backlist and authors began to phone me from out-of-the-blue to introduce themselves and ask questions about their books. As an editor, I had a huge learning curve and worked to find answers to their questions. My lesson as a writer was that I should have been aware of this change in the marketplace from several years earlier. The parent company, Eagle Communications sold off one of their lines of books to Bethany House Publishers . I had heard some horror stories from other writers about their books but I hadn't paid too much attention--until the publisher where I worked purchased two of the lines from Eagle Communications. I was suddenly involved handling many transition issues. Authors received their royalty statements and wondered why their book hadn't sold as much as previously. In the transition, book sales will often plummet because the sales team has left the company or they are a change mode.

From a learning standpoint, you can get a lot of insight and this type of information about the constantly shifting industry--from reading trade magazines. Admittedly it takes effort on your part as a writer--but it pays off in your understanding about a particular area of the marketplace and who is doing what. A key factor in getting your material published is often simply sending your submissions to the right editor at the right time and place. Writers need to keep learning about the marketplace and one of the ways to track this information is through consistently reading trade journals.


W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as an editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and one of his latest is Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Write Now Publications). See more about Terry at:www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the former Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Books and creator of www.right-writing.com. Sign up for Terry's free newsletter, Right Writing News.

© 2013 W. Terry Whalin

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