Hi friends, it’s me again– that quirky, largely unidentified voice from the creative writing page on this blog. So, you want to get published? That’s fabulous, and I’m super happy for you. What does it mean to be published, exactly? Well, it means a lot of different things.
Basically everyone CAN be published, but there are some ways that are not so smart. If you’re going to share your wonderful writing with the world, make sure you’re smart about it.
Lots of different things are “published.” For example, this, right now, what you’re reading and what I’m currently typing, is published. Yep. Technically, blogs are published, and so is anything you put online where the public can see it– Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, . This can be a little tricky, however– make sure you retain your rights to your work when you post it on ANY website. That information will be in those “terms and conditions” that no one reads when they sign up for things. For example, Facebook assumes ownership of any image you put on their website– even if you delete it. Don’t let something like that happen to your writing.
A few things need to happen before you can go the “traditional” publishing route– and let me warn you ahead of time, traditional publishing is tricky and time-consuming. So, what needs to happen before you can pursue your publishing dreams? I’ve got some suggestions, and then a LOT of links.
1. First and foremost, EDIT YOUR WORK
- Please, seriously, edit your work. This is the best and most important thing you can do. I do a lot of editing. A lot. Seriously. Really. There is nothing more important to the chances your work has of being published than that. Yes, there are editors at every magazine, newspaper, and publishing house anywhere on this planet. Their job, believe it or not, is not to translate your writing into something readable. You could write the best story or poem in the world, but if you rite It lyk3 th1s ur alredi don.
2. Proof read
- Okay, you might be thinking to yourself, “Isn’t that like editing?” Yes. But take your proofreading a step farther: proof read out loud. Multiple times. Proof read multiple times. Proof read multiple times. Proof read multiple times. This is how you catch mistakes.
3. Do your research
- Oh, my. It is so important that you do your homework when you’re trying to get published. There are a tremendous number of resources and companies out there– both bad and good. Make sure you know who you’re trying to work with, and try to find out about them. See who publishes your favorite authors, who their agents are. See who publishes the genre you’re trying to work in.
- Seriously. Please. Edit. I beg you. I read so many things that are in sore need of an editor. Edit. Just…believe me.
5. Get beta readers
- What is a beta reader? Beta readers are wonderful people who will read your work and help you make it better. They might help you with plot or rhyme or spelling or grammar…you name it. Beta readers can be anyone. If you’re writing a novel, make your friends read it. Make sure your friends know how much you love them. It takes a lot of time, work, and love to be a good beta reader. Friends and family can become indispensible advocates for your work, especially if they’ve read it and they love it. I read at least one thing for a friend every year, and I still ask friends how their writing projects are going years later. Best case scenario: swap drafts with a friend. You read his, he reads yours. Everyone wins.
6. Keep an eye out for contests
- Contests are great places to get your work out there. Henrietta Public Library has an annual teen writing contest– Minerva Campbell. It’s free to enter, you get your picture in the paper, and your story gets put out in the library for people to read. Hey, look. Publication! 😀 Look in magazines, newspapers, or just google “writing contest”– you’ll be astounded by the amount of what comes up.
7. Be frugal with your money
- $20 to enter a contest isn’t so bad, maybe, but beware “vanity presses” and “self-publishing” venues that publish books for you. Often times they cost YOU, the writer, lots of money. No fun. It’s not worth it, and you’ll probably never get the money back. Publishing is hard work– don’t take the easy way out.
8. Understand that publishing is a business
- Understand that thousands of books get published each year, but that millions of manuscripts are submitted. Rejection might have to do with the “marketability” of a book (I know, an ugly idea, but welcome to the publishing business) and less to do with the caliber of your writing. That being said, know who your audience is. If you’re going to submit a fantasy novel, submit it to agents and publishers who focus on that. Also, write a killer query letter (query letters are similar to what you read on the back of books, in that they’re supposed to hook you in, but they’re for editors and agents. See my helpful links).
9. Get to know the industry
- There are a couple of ways to do this. A lot of people recommend subscribing to Publishers Lunch or a similar daily publishing newsletter. There are also a lot of brilliant literary magazines out there that will be more than happy to help you stay in the loop.
Here are a bunch of resources from people in the field, that will say it better than I will:
- Advice about retaining your copyright
- Creative Commons -A website for people who want to give others “the right to share, use, and even build upon a work [they’ve] created.” Their tagline: Keep the internet creative, free and open.
- Preditors and Editors: know thy enemy! This is a well-established blacklist, more or less, of folks to be wary of. This page is particularly informative. Notice that most of the websites that threaten copyright are free web domains. Make sure, whenever you put things online, that you know what happens to it.
- Writer Beware: similar concept. Remember when I said to research? These are great places to do that.
- Publisher’s Lunch: it’s free, it shows up in your email every day. It’s not the most exciting thing to read, usually, but think of it as reconnaissance.
- How to Get a Book Published in Ten Not-So-Easy Steps: Hey, they’re honest. A lot of the advise is similar to what I’ve given here.
- Glossary of Publishing Terms: it’s important to speak the language.
- The Fearless “How to” Guide: it’s general, but sometimes repetition is the key to understanding.
- Writing World’s Collection of How to Publish: This website is a compendium of relevent information. They desperately need to rescue their layout from 1997, but their information is good, even if their graphic design is not.
Blogs about Publishing:
- Book Ninja: Canadian, based out of Toronto. He does a staggering job keeping on top of news. Lately he has been slower, but his archives is a great source.
- Editorial Anonymous: great resource, great archives. Editors and their assistants are tremendous sources of information– especially when they’re anonymous.
- Editorial A$$: another great resource, with great archives.
- Query Shark: If you’re at the end of your journey through the editing process, and ready to send your manuscript to publishers, use this resource. She will review your query, for free, and give you feedback. She is the best beta reader for your query letter.
- The INTERN: she doesn’t post new things anymore, but her archives are phenomenal. Never underestimate the intern– the lowly intern is who reads things at big houses. You want the intern on your side.
- The Rejectionist: Very similar to the INTERN, but a little more broad-based. She will also answer questions emailed to her.
(There are many, many more out there, but these are a few of my favorites.)
Online Community and Feedback
- fictionpress.com – account required. A writing community, pretty well-established. You retain copyright.
- figment – account required to upload. Another writing community, newer than some of the others on this list. You retain copyright, they have permission to reprint your work for as long as it is on the site (don’t worry, you still get credited.)
- fanfiction.net – account required. It’s for fan fiction writers, but it’s big, and well-established. So, if you want to get readers for your Twilight/Buffy/Gears of War cross over, here’s a great place for you.
- wordpress.com – account required. Yep, it’s a blogging site, and really any blog platform would be appropriate for a writer to use to promote/serialize his or her work. Blogger, livejournal, blogspot, whatever makes you happy. But again– read the fine print. Make sure you retain copyright.
- webook.com – account required. The uploading is pretty intuitive, and though I have not used it much, there are a lot of opportunities to share through this medium. You retain copyright, they have permission to reprint your work for as long as it is on the site (don’t worry, you still get credited.)
- writing.com – account required. I haven’t used it, so I can’t vouch for it. You retain copyright.
- fanstory.com – account required. Despite the name, I don’t think it’s fanfiction only. I haven’t used it, so I can’t vouch. You retain copyright.
- Teenink.com – monthly magazine, which has also published a few anthologies of teen work over the years.
- Cicada – another magazine, takes submissions from readers aged 14-23.
- Tips for Teen Writers – she has some good advise about how to use social networking to your advantage, and some good links, too. Worth a look.
Literary and Writing Magazines
Best of luck.