As students, we sometimes find the act of writing a lot easier than getting that writing published. We spend more time thinking about the craft itself than about self-promotion—which is as it should be. But (with a few exceptions) the ultimate goal is to see our words in print, somewhere other than our personal computers. How can you go from writer to published writer? These are the tips that helped me do it.
- Divorce your writing from financial gain—for now.
Obviously we all intend to get compensated for our work at some point. But if you’ve never been published before, submitting a few pieces to unpaid publications can help build up your credentials so you can get into the paid ones. Publishing is a competitive business, but previously published work will give you a leg up on the competition.
- Talk to everyone.
You might be sick of the term “networking”—I know I am—but you shouldn’t give up on the concept. Networking doesn’t just happen at labeled “networking events”. It also happens at restaurants, friends’ parties, family gatherings, you name it. The more you talk to people about what you do, and the more questions you ask (even from those in seemingly unrelated fields), the more you’ll open the door for opportunities to come your way.
- Self-describe as a writer.
On the same note, talking to people won’t do much good if you don’t tell them you’re a writer. Saying “I’m a writer” when people ask what you do can take some getting used to, especially if you haven’t been published yet. But if you write, you are a writer! I’ve gotten editors’ email addresses and leads on new publications just by mentioning this fact in casual conversation.
- Don’t fear rejection.
Rejection is part of the game, so find some way to accept that your writing will probably be turned away far more than it is accepted. In fact, every rejection letter is a credential in a way—it’s proof that you are actively writing and submitting, and one step closer to getting published. Instead of getting discouraged, try doing one small nice thing for yourself every time you get a rejection letter. Or vent to your best friend, write an angry journal entry—whatever it takes to get you back to writing.
- Consider genre-crossing.
You may think of yourself in terms of a single genre, as strictly a poetry or fiction writer. But exploring new genres can be a great way to get published. Nonfiction essays are huge right now, especially online—think about the last few articles you clicked on—while fiction opens up a whole new category of literary journals to submit to. Most writing is story-based, so you might find the transition from short stories to personal essays or vice versa easier than you thought. Even “listicles” like this one can make for valuable publication credentials. Experiment and see what sticks.
- Be open to new publications.
We’ve all got a list of the places we dream of getting published, but it’s important to submit and pitch to a wide variety of publications, not just your favorites. Be open to having your work appear in a lesser-known publication. You have a better chance of getting published if you cast a wide net—within the boundaries of where your writing style fits, of course.