Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Breaking Into (and Out Of) Print—Part Two

Yesterday I suggested that in order to get published and begin to feel like a “real” writer, that you put away your current project and look at some alternatives. Today we continue with my final suggestions.

#4 Start a blog.
You don’t have to write a lot or every day but pick a theme and commit to it. Write regularly so your followers know that they can depend on you. Blogging allows the previously unpublished writer to have a platform and let the world know that you have a skill with words.If you manage to commit to it, you are also proving that you are dependable and, as I mentioned yesterday, can write to a deadline—even if the deadline is one you created.

I think blogging is one of the best things on the web. This option did not exist when we Write Sisters were getting started. Take advantage of this gift!

#5 a) Prepare a résumé.

If you haven’t been published yet, your résumé may include some related experience that you’ve had such as writing curriculum for a particular age group. Or, another way to break in is to send a writing sample. My publishing company, Apprentice Shop Books, specializes in non-fiction. We don’t accept freelance submissions as all of our series are developed in-house. So, how do you break in to this kind of publishing house? One writer studied our “America’s Notable Women” series. Each book tells the story of 25 outstanding women from a particular state. I generally hire 5 to 10 writers to complete each book. They write 1 to 5 of the profiles in any given book.

One person I did not know broke in by submitting an entry for a state that we had not yet covered. She modeled the word count, readability level, and required additional matter. I could see that she “got it.” I kept her work on file. Just a short time later, one of my writers faced an emergency and had to bow out of part of her assignment. I needed someone to complete two 550-word profiles in a very short turn-around time. Guess who got the job?

#5b) If you completed #2 above and managed to publish some short pieces, your résumé might include the clips you’ve started to accumulate. What if you’ve sold a piece but it hasn’t been published yet? Send a clean (unedited) copy of the work with a note that says, “This (article, story, filler) was purchased by Junior Traveler magazine for their September 2013 issue.”

So, in short, write something different. Doing so will serve a number of purposes. You will get some distance from the primary piece you’re creating. You’ll work some different parts of your brain. If you’re writing fiction, research some non-fiction topics. If you’re writing a novel, try some poetry. You’ll probably get to see your name in print much sooner and have the ability to feel like a “real” writer instead of a wanna-be.

Next week, I’ll put my publisher’s hat on and talk about how some writers shoot themselves in the foot and derail their careers.


I'm Jet . . . said...

Wow. This advice should be in a book!

Diane Mayr said...

Great advice, Muriel! I wrote a LOT of quizzes for kids way back when. I also wrote poems, nonfiction magazine articles, a gazillion picture books, a series of easy readers, instructional materials, etc. I think if you want to write for kids, you'll end up writing anything and everything. It's all practice. And, as my late mother used to say, "Practice makes perfect." Nowadays I'm practicing with blogs.