When I taught my Writing for Fun and Profit Series, one of the first questions I asked on the first night was, “Who here has told someone you’re a writer?” Amazingly, only one or two hands went up. I’d focus on those who raised their hands and say, “If you tell someone you’re a writer, you typically get two questions. What are they?”
The answers came without hesitation: What do you write? Are you published?
The implication is you can’t call yourself a writer unless you’re published. But that’s so wrong because the truth is you can’t be published unless you write.
Thus, I maintain a writer writes and sometimes gets published.
Still, most writers want to be published, so here are some tips for getting someone other than yourself to publish what you write.
- Write nonfiction. Periodicals publish nonfiction. Newsletters publish nonfiction. You can still write fiction or poetry, but your chances of being published increase if you write nonfiction.
- Focus on smaller publications. My first published piece was in a local newspaper, but over the years I was published by national women’s magazines, wrote a syndicated newspaper column for fifteen years, and wrote or contributed to numerous books. It all started with a smaller publication. Don’t overlook niche publications that focus on special interests or organizational newsletters. If your goal is to collect publishing clips, these are good places to start.
- Match what you’re offering to what the publication publishes. That may appear obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many writers don’t take the time to do this step. I sold my first query to Victoria magazine, my first query to Woman’s World Weekly magazine, and my first query to Mpls/St.Paul magazines. How? By studying what types of things they publish, then offering articles that fit.
- Expect little or no payment. Small publications pay less than large ones–that’s just a matter of budget and fact. But they are good places to start, just as local theater is a good place to start or local opportunities to play music are good starting places. Payment may be small or non-existent, but you’ll achieve a different goal–that of being published.
- Shoot for the larger publications as well. All of these steps are not meant to encourage you to think small, Quite the contrary. If your idea fits what the large publication needs, you may get the assignment, so go ahead and try.
Can you call yourself a writer even if you’re not published? Absolutely, yes! Remember, you cannot be published unless you write.