Ty here, on a Monday. Did you have a great weekend? Today is the last Monday of the last week of January 2014.
Okay, enough nostalgia. Let’s get to it.
When I was taking the Breaking Into Print course from Long Ridge, one of the things they told me is to analyze a magazine, to see what they publish.
For some reason, this went over my head for a long time. I got it in theory, but not practice. I’m still mastering it. Writing is a lifelong process, after all.
But copywriting helped me immensely with this aspect, almost by accident.
Copywriters have a thing they call USP—unique selling proposition. They use this to analyze businesses, products, and more. I’ve heard it go by other names, and have read arguments about using it this way, that way, or whether to use it at all.
If you ask me, what makes the most sense to say, when defining USP, is…
What makes you (your service, product, download, etc.) different? And why?
That could be anything, even if it doesn’t have to do with the product/service:
A unique combination of features that no one else has
A unique guarantee, or combination of risk-reversing elements
The way you put together, ship, or support the item
The history behind how the item was produced
A bland list of features that together deliver a unique benefit, or set of benefits (remember, benefits are the Matrix-rabbit-hole of copywriting)
How any of these things solve a prospect’s issue(s)
And so on…
I hear you fiction writers. Yeah, you, in the back. “Ty,” you’re probably saying, “this is a Decode, old boy. Have you forgotten us? What’s this USP thing got to do with the magazine market, or fiction?”
The short of it is everything.
Each magazine is a product or a service. Even the online ones. They need to be distinct from all the other magazines. Daily Science Fiction has to be separated out from Asimov’s, Tor.com, and a dozen or so others as they all wrestle for readers’ eyeballs.
This is where that USP comes in. Fiction writers call this deal “writer’s guidelines.” Read them, read the magazines, too. Sample issues, online archives. Do the best you can with it. Pay attention to what the magazines say they DON’T want—that’s usually a huge clue to the things that make a magazine distinctive.
Which will lead you to see who reads what, and what they (the readers) like.
Things like Magazine A won’t take sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories, but Magazine B loves them.
Copywriting showed me how to look for these little elements here and there, that somehow escaped me during my earlier fiction writing days.
And these suggestions aren’t end-all-be-all. Just a good starting point for thinking about rejections if a magazine tells you “it doesn’t work for us.”
Or studying a business to see how to better market it (even if that business happens to be yours).
Until next time,