“How Do I Get Published?”

January 30, 2011

Great question! And not necessarily an easy one to answer. In fact, asking that question is not unlike asking how to build a house, the answer to which depends on a number of factors.

If you are serious about wanting to get published, I suggest making an honest assessment of your goals, as this will keep you focused and help you avoid building a sprawling condominium when what you really want is a quaint log cabin:

  1. What kind of writing do you prefer? (Genre, style, category)
  2. What writing experience do you have? (Frequency and quality)
  3. Who’s your target audience? (Age, income level, ethnicity, interests, etc.)
  4. Why do you want to get published? (Motive)
  5. How much are you able/willing to commit to the process? (Time and resources)
  6. Why do you think your writing is good enough for publication? (Perception versus reality)

Once you have answered these questions, it’s critical to understand that there are no shortcuts and that getting published rarely happens overnight or haphazardly. Like building a house, the journey of getting published takes time and energy… and a plan. The best advice I can offer (and have ever received) includes:

Learn all you can about the publishing business. Read books, subscribe to magazines, attend conferences, and take workshops. Learn about literary agents, online publishing, self-publishing, etc. Feel free to reference my article posted last year on our web site which outlined Lawrence’s recommended resources for writers. Also, for the Christian writer, we recommend attending The Glen Workshop and the CLASS Writers Conference.

Research your audience. Define your target market. Understand your market’s demand for your subject matter. Search the Internet to see how many other works (articles, essays, books, etc.) have been written on your subject as an indicator of interest. Know your competition and how your work is different and/or better.

Learn how to write and write well. Writing and rewriting are necessary steps to getting published. However, your best work shouldn’t be limited to your submissions. Take the time to also learn how to write query letters and book proposals, and remember that the same requirements for grammar, spelling and punctuation apply here as well.

Create a plan. Identify the publishers you intend to target with your submission. Create a calendar of activities and deadlines for your effort, and designate time for writing your query letters and proposals, along with time for trips to the post office for mailing your submissions. Track your submissions and define your personal measurements for success; a simple spreadsheet is helpful with this exercise.

Stick to the plan and don’t give up. Be tenacious in your effort. Accept that getting published is a long and involved process, and be patient with your progress. Keep focused on your end goal and execute your plan for achieving that goal.

Charles Caleb Colton, (English sportsman and writer, 1780-1832) once said, “To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” He was exactly right! The publishing business is complicated and highly competitive, explaining why there are thousands of pages printed on the subject. On the other hand, writing for publication can also be extremely satisfying. I would just encourage you to be realistic about what’s required in terms of your investment in time and energy. Otherwise, good luck!

“When one has finished building one’s house, one suddenly realizes that in the process one has learned something that one really needed to know in the worst way – before one began.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”  Proverbs 1:5