Getting published.

7 05 2008

You want to get published. You’ve written something fantastic, but where do you go to get it into the big wide world?

Let’s look at your main potential outlets:

  1. The Internet
  2. Print Magazines
  3. Book publishers

Now let’s look at your potential earnings:

  1. None
  2. Some

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve written fiction or non-fiction, long or short. The first thing you absolutely, positively have to do is research. You need to investigate what markets are available for your particular output, and you need to be realistc about whether or not there’s an audience for what you’ve written.

Let’s start with the easy one: The Internet. I say “easy” because technically you could just get yourself a web page, slap your writing on it, and call that “published”. No editors, no agents, and nobody to protect you when the bots come-a-stealin’.

One step up from putting it on the internet yourself is to join one of those sites that builds content by letting you post your stuff on their site. Some have little to no editorial control, while others do their best to ensure all their content meets their guidelines. One such site is Suite 101 which has been going for over ten years, and pulls in 7 million visitors a month. It also pays you based on advertising revenue generated from the articles you write.

For fiction writers there is a bewildering array of opportunities out there, and there’s nothing I can say except that finding the publication for you is going to be a cold, hard slog through search engines and forums. You’ll need to find sites which list potential markets – Ralan is an excellent example – then check the publication out for yourself. Read their guidelines, see if you can find good or bad feedback about them online, ask fellow writers what they’ve heard about it. Some e-publications out there don’t bother editing at all, some have poor process, some have great editors behind them. Only doing your research will guide you in the right direction.

Next up, Print Magazines. The more your piece relates to a specific niche, the more likely you are to find an outlet for it. Just be wary of undertaking an article with too small a target audience, lest you find that no such outlet exists. Don’t just think of the newsstand magazines, either. Until you are established as a Freelance writer, you’re most likely to sell to magazines with lower circulations – hobby club publications, subscriber-only magazines and the like. And if you’re writing for a niche, you’re best off if you yourself are part of it – you wouldn’t want to try to sell to Tractor Fancier Quarterly if you haven’t a clue about Tractors, would you? Would you?

Try your nearest library – they often subscribe to periodicals outside the average. You may stumble across publications you had no idea existed, and now feel a burning urge to write for. Also get whichever annual listings book is suitable to your target country’s market (e.g. Writer’s Markets, Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, etc).

The internet can be your friend here, too. Find out whether your target publication treats its freelancers well or poorly, whether they pay up on time or hang about for months on end.

And, vitally, read whatever magazine it is that you want to submit to. You may find they already did a piece on the Magnum 7140 Tractor two issues ago and are unlikely to welcome another article on it so soon. Or you may find that the horror magazine you were about to send to likes quirky gothic romances and your epic tale of a trophy wife’s descent into schizophrenia leading to her murdering her next door neighbour and making a purse from his arse-cheeks may not be appreciated there.

Finally, Book Publishers. This is assuming you’ve written, well, a book. Again, fiction or non-fiction, you’ll need one of those aforementioned annual market books. They’ll tell you who publishes what, and who accepts unsolicited submissions (if the slush pile is the route you want to take). Some are happy to solicit you after an email or phone call, others will refuse all contact or consider you unsolicited even after you’ve contacted them first.  Every single one has a right way and a wrong way of going about contacting them, and failure to adhere to their guidelines can get you thrown out by your ear.

Realistically, though, what you want if you’ve got a book manuscript in your hands is an agent. Agents can turn you from unsoliced to solicited. It’s often said that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, agents know all the people that you need to know, and can get your work in front of them.

And you never, NEVER pay an agent up-front for their work. You never pay them afterwards. If an agent asks you for money at any time, they aren’t an agent, they’re a leech. Yes, their money comes from taking a small cut of your earnings. What would you rather have? The contacts and protection of a good agent, or a complete failure at finding yourself a publisher?

Finding an agent means just as much research as finding any other outlet, and deserves a post all to itself. In the meantime, always remember the Preditors & Editors list. It is your friend.

Getting published can be a hard slog, or it could be a complete breeze. But the more effort that you put into making it a breeze, the more rewarding you will find the experience.

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