How to get published for the first time
If you’ve never been published, the whole “non-artsy” side of the writing business can seem as daunting as a genre you’ve never written. Agents, queries, advances, proposals—frankly, I wouldn’t know where to start, either. There are enough books out there to help you land a million-dollar book deal that I won’t add my two cents to the mix, but if you’re into short fiction, poetry, or essays, here are some tips to guide you on the path to publication.
- Let’s Go To The Library! Not only is the library home to any book you could possibly want on the craft and publication of writing, libraries abound with opportunities. Keep an eye out for library-wide contests—sometimes hosted through a branch’s blog—on any subject from book reviews to poetry. Then head over to the magazine departments, both adult and juvenile. From Curve to Cricket, short fiction to middle-grade stories, magazines are a great place to get started. Many libraries will have copies of literary journals, too. Check out the magazines, and then check out their websites, too—online-only content will sometimes yield contests or blog post requests. And don’t forget to peruse the “free” table on your way out. Zines and local publications are often looking for content and story ideas, and the competition isn’t as fierce as on the national level.
- Google Is My Co-Pilot. You and Google are going to be best friends. You’re going to get matching tattoos, attend each other’s weddings… You and Google are going to be spending A LOT OF TIME TOGETHER. There’s something to be said for trawling the search engines, trying out terms. “Steampunk Anthology Open Call,” “Missouri Poetry Contest,” “2017 Short Fiction Award”; you never know what you might turn up. Give yourself the time to explore, and stay flexible. The site you never expected to find might be exactly what you are looking for.
- They’re Just Not That Into You. My last piece of advice is borrowed from the harsh world of dating: Don’t waste your time on people who don’t answer you back. Whether it’s a business email or a flirty text, if there’s no answer after a reasonable amount of time, move on. Yes, everyone’s busy, but no one’s that busy.
(Caveat: Check submission guidelines for any notes about how long you can expect to wait on an answer. An organized company will usually post the wait-list time. If there are rules, abide by them, and don’t send a follow-up email until the given date has passed. Pestering editors before they’ve gotten to your work won’t win you any points.)
While you’re out hunting for the perfect publisher, you’re bound to meet other authors. Fantastic! We’re all in this together, and we all have wisdom to share. Attend classes, join a Facebook group, and find new friends in the writing community. Contacts and networking are vital, but don’t hang around waiting for someone else to get you a job. Keep your spidey-writer senses on high alert, and the “write” opportunity will come your way. The world of print media is all around us! Someone’s got to be writing all that content—why not you?
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