Can You Call Yourself a Writer Even if You’re not Published?

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.

Happy writing!



3 Responses to Can You Call Yourself a Writer Even if You’re not Published?

  1. I’ve really been learning a lot from reading your blog, Sharron! On this topic of being a writer if you have’t been published…my question would be, when can you tell people (and yourself) that you have been published? What counts toward being published? Example: I write on my blog, I have written true, personal stories on forums, I have had a personal story printed in a local newspaper’s online site, I have entered a poetry contest, where lots of people could read it. Now, are any of these considered to be published? I appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks for sharing your writing experience.

    • I’m so pleased my blog has been helpful to you. Thanks for letting me know.

      Most people consider a writer as published when someone other than the writer does the publishing. Of course, with today’s technology, being self-published (as in writing blogs) is popular and acceptable, but conventional wisdom still thinks it’s important that a second party published you.

      Thus, if any one of the venues you mention belongs to another party, you can definitely lay claim to being published! Of course, you are also published when you make your writing public yourself, but it never hurts to have someone other than you deem your writing worth making public on a website, an online journal, etc.

      • Thank you so much, Sharron, for your reply. You have made my day! I will definitely lay claim to being publshed, as all the examples I mentioned (except my blog) do belong to others, and were, I’m pretty sure, moderated before being released to the public view. Thanks, again. I will be looking forward to reading more of your writing advice and tips.

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