“How do I get published?”
I’m asked that question often.
I’ve written for many publications, as well as several books, and also worked as an editor for several years. Many types of articles come across my desk–some good, some….
I trust that, if you’re asking the above question, you have a passion for a particular topic and like to write. If not–go and get some experience, live life, and find something you’re passionate about! Then you’ll have something to write that is worth reading. For the rest of us, I can offer a few simple tips that I’ve found to be true, both as a writer and an editor.
1. Be willing to write for nothing. At least initially. The experience is worth more than money at this point! Write for free newsletters, e-zines, publications that can’t pay. Write reviews. Submit, submit, submit. Be willing to start small as you build your resume’. You aren’t required to list what was for pay and what was not, and no one will know the difference! (For great tips on building a writing resume’, see my friend Pam Calvert’s writing page. She’s an amazing children’s book author!) Consider this your “apprenticeship” and be willing to put in the time to get a feel for what differing publications look for in articles.
2. Think like an editor. Brush up on proper grammar and usage. You don’t have to be an expert–after all, that’s what editors are for! But learn enough so that your piece isn’t rife with errors. That can be off-putting to an editor making their way through many submissions, which can cause your piece to go right into the “slush pile.” Editors won’t only be reading your article, so make yours stand out in a good way! Also, honor the the format and style the publication has given for submissions–that’s usually listed somewhere on the publication’s website. It’s annoying to have clearly given guidelines ignored–trust me!
3. Hook ’em! The first few lines are essential, and tell me if I want to keep reading! Make it so interesting, humorous, something so that the editor feels they have no choice but to see how it ends. There is a big market for nonfiction articles, and yes, you can even make nonfiction compelling! If the first few lines or even paragraph or two are a yawner, I typically don’t go on. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Editors are busy.
4. Do your homework. Make sure you’re not writing a highly technical paper for a family magazine and vice-versa, unless that’s what’s been specifically requested. Take the time to read through a few back issues or peruse the website and learn about the publication before you submit. Study the publication and their target audience.
5. Believe in yourself. Even if you face repeated rejections, press on. Trust me, all writers have rejection stories! I recently read that Louis L’amour had 200 rejections before he ever published his first book. Agatha Christie’s writing was rejected for FIVE YEARS before she had her first book published. (!!) If you’re getting nowhere, regroup and study the feedback you’ve received. Take some writing classes. Join a writing group and listen to the critiques from your peers. Then try again.
You can do this! I believe in you.
Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.
Next time…more writing tips, or maybe what NOT to say to editors!