Writer Resources

7 Ways to Get Published as a Writer

pursue a career in this area. Getting a book published is also often seen as sign of credibility with some other professions as well. In fact, many of the professional writers that work with Ultius are published authors themselves.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a desire to write and publish a book to support their other endeavors. Short of writing a full book, many professionals with expertise in their fields may have a wide range of opportunities to publish articles about their knowledge and experience with various magazines and journals.

This article will consist of an in-depth discussion of ways to get published as a writer, including the basics that all effective writers must have, and the specific avenues available for getting published in this day and age.

The topics addressed by this blog will include:

  • Developing an angle and expertise
  • The writing process
  • The freelance writing route
  • The traditional publishing option
  • The self-publishing option
  • Developing a strong brand
  • Maintaining motivation

Some of these points about getting published will be universal. Every writer, for example, has to develop an angle, go through the writing process, and maintain motivation. Other points will be more particular: a writer does not have to use both the traditional publishing option and the self-publishing option, but can rather choose between them on the basis of his own needs and situation.

Develop an angle and expertise to get published

If you want to get published as a writer, then the first thing you have to ask yourself is:

what do you have to say that no one has said before, and that will add real value to the lives of your potential readers”?

In today’s world, social media has led every random person to think that he can become a writer, or that he is a unique genius with a message for the world. Cecile Schou Andreassan et al. found in a study for the journal Addictive Behavior that higher levels of social media use are strongly correlated with higher levels of narcissism.

A writer must see through this smokescreen and conduct an objective evaluation of what he has to offer to his target audience.

Writers and the publishing industry

Publishing is a big business. According to the International Publishers Association, the total market value of the global book market in the year 2013 was 134.52 billion dollars, with a large portion of that consisting of the American market.

Global publishing market (2012) Source: IP

There is a lot of money in publishing, and much of it is concentrated in America.

These numbers are not meant to be frightening. They are meant to show that there is competition within the publishing industry, and that in order for a writer to be published, they will have to ensure that he has a solid message that will resonate with a potential audience.

If you don’t have that, there is very little chance that your product will be able to stand out from the crowd and get the kind of attention that you want for it.

Reading and expertise as it relates to writing

It is something of a cliché by now that every good writer is also a good reader—but some clichés have a lot of truth behind them. It is hard to confirm this with empirical data; there does not seem to be any academic study that has evaluated the amount of time that writers spend reading books.

But there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence out there. For example, José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, is reported by Evan Maloney of The Guardian to have said the following about his daily routine:

I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.

José SaramagoSource: TG

Saramago won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1998. He’s authored such novels as The Elephant’s Journey, Skylight, and The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.

Multiply that by hundreds of great writers who have said something similar, and it would be fair to call the statement a professional consensus.

Reading is crucial for becoming a good writer for two main reasons. Firstly, it is only by reading that you get a “feel” for language and the way in which a good book should be structured and written. Much of this learning is done through a kind of osmosis: you don’t consciously think about it, but the knowledge seeps in.

Secondly, it is also only by reading that you can gain expertise in a given field of knowledge. Whether your book is going to be fiction, philosophy, management, or self-help, you will need to know what you are talking about. You will also need to know what others in your field have done, so that you can make sure that you are doing something truly original.

If you don’t read, you may get the big-fish-in-a-small pond syndrome, where you think you’re doing new work but you’re really repeating what everyone else has already said.

The writing process comes before publication

To get published as a writer, you will of course have to sit down and bring a cohesive piece of work to completion. Whether you’re using a computer or a notebook, working on a short article, or a feature-length book, you will start with nothing but a blank page

This is the basic challenge of any writer, and if you want to get published, this will be your challenge as well. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has outlined a 4-step writing process that is good for any writer to keep in mind.

Steps of the writing process Source: MIT

Following these steps in sequence is a good recipe for success.

Prewriting Take notes, conduct research, and think about the scope and purpose of what you are about to write
Drafting Put all of your thoughts down on the page, without worrying too much about grammar, structure, or other technical aspects of good writing
Revising Go back and organize and polish your writing, with an eye toward making sure that what you have written has a good structure and will make sense to your potential reader
Editing Do final checks for mechanics (grammar, spelling, et cetera), and think about whether there is anything that should be added or cut from your final work. It’s worth running your work through anti-plagiarism software to make sure your work isn’t too close to someone else’s, even unintentionally.

Although some of these steps seem redundant, it is important to follow them in order. You should not think about revising or editing before drafting, because that could really get in the way of your creative flow: you may even get so blocked up that you may want to give up on your writing project altogether.

The problem of writer’s block

Writer’s block is a real phenomenon, and it can affect even highly experienced writers. There is a lot of literature on this subject. In a scholarly article, from a time when writer’s block was a relatively new object of scientific investigation, Edmund Bergler wrote the following in the journal The Psychoanalytic Review:

The creative writer, inhibited in his productivity, is the youngest member of the large family of neurotics who seek analytic help.”

Bergler took a psychoanalytical perspective on writer’s block and suggested that it has to do with blockages in the writer’s unconscious.

In general, worrying about writer’s block just tends to make the problem worse, because the whole problem in the first place is that you are anxious and your creative energy is blocked up.

Therefore, most practicing writers would suggest that in order to overcome writer’s block, the best thing to do would be to relax and take your mind off your work. You could go for a walk, or catch a concert, or meet up with some friends. When you get back to your work, you may feel refreshed, and your writer’s block may be gone.

Another good strategy is to practice stream-of-consciousness writing. This involves just putting down whatever comes into your head down on the page, without worrying about quality or whether you sound “silly.”

The point is not to publish this stuff, but just to get your creative energy moving again. After a few pages of this kind of journaling, you may find that you are back on game and able to focus on your project again.

The freelance writing route

In the Internet age, there are a plethora of opportunities for you to get published as a freelance writer. (This article itself is a piece of freelance work produced by an Ultius writer.) There is a huge demand for content from countless magazines and websites.

If you have an interest or expertise in any subject, the chances are, there’s an outlet that wants to publish content on it. Here are the links to the submissions pages of just a few popular outlets.

Freelance writing opportunities

All of these publications accept submissions from freelance writers.

If you want to start publishing articles and developing a reputation for yourself, there are many opportunities available today. Aside from having a solid article, the most important thing is to carefully follow the submission instructions for your selected magazine or website.

This will help make a good impression by showing them that you are an attentive writer and that you value their time and standards. Familiarize yourself with the content already published by your target, so that you can get an intuitive sense for what would and wouldn’t work for them.

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Pros and cons of freelance writing

One of the main advantages of freelance writing is that you can do it on your own schedule, and you can also develop experience that can then be parlayed into bigger projects, such as writing your own book. There are some very important things to keep in mind before becoming a freelance writer.

Freelance writing may not always lead to publication, especially if you are making your living as a freelance writer and trying to make your full living this way.

Pros and cons of freelance writing

While this can be a good opportunity to get published, you should be clear about your motives for engaging in this kind of work.

Pros Cons
You have the ability to gain a lot of experience as a writer in your areas of specialty. It’s difficult to make it a consistent source of income, if that’s what you want.
There’s potential access to a wide range of publications: all depends on how ambitious you are at pitching your work. If you write with agencies or for clients, they may own copyright, which means you don’t develop your own name.
You can develop your reputation by publishing articles with several different outlets. Some outlets may be less than credible, and writing for them can hurt your reputation.
You can work on your own schedule: as laid back or intensive as you want. There may be difficulties with maintaining discipline and motivation.

The traditional publishing option

Let’s assume that you have a completed piece of writing, and you want to get it published. One way to do this would be to go the traditional route. This involves getting accepted by a recognized publishing house, who will then use their professional resources to publish and promote your piece.

If you decide to pursue this route, there are two main options available to you — the major publishing house, or the independent publishing house.

Major publishing houses

The major publishing houses are the big names that have been around for a long time, and almost all of them are headquartered in New York City. You have probably heard of most of the following five houses, and they are all in that city:

  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon and Schuster
  • HarperCollins
  • Macmillan
  • Hachette Book Group

When a writer goes to New York to “make it big,” these are usually the companies he has in mind. These publishing houses are so large that it is normally impossible for a writer to pitch work directly to them, unless he already has a well-established reputation and/or internal connections with the houses.

Most writers who are interested in pitching to these companies would need to find a middleman or an agent, who would then be responsible for representing the works to the houses.

A note about agents

A good agent can be a writer’s greatest ally. This is because an agent knows the ins and outs of the business end of the publishing industry. Many committed professional writers don’t care about this though, and instead just want to be creative and produce new works.

Writer’s DigestSource: WD

Writer’s Digest is a magazine by writers for writers, and is a great place to find an agent.

If a good agent is found, this can result in a relationship of complementarity and mutual respect. It is not uncommon for a professional writer to stay with his agent for decades, or over the course of his entire career.

Literary agents tend to specialize in different genres. One genre may work primarily with science fiction, another may work with memoirs, yet another with creative nonfiction, and so on. Writer’s Digest is a good resource for a writer who is trying to find an agent.

Writer’s Digest provides updates regarding new agents, which is useful, because such agents are actively looking to expand their portfolios of represented writers.

The normal financial arrangement consists of the agent taking a cut of the money promised by a publishing house after the agent has succeeded in striking a deal. There is usually no upfront financial liability for the writer himself.

Independent publishing house

An independent publishing house operates on a much smaller scale than a major publishing house. The relationship between the one and the other mirrors the difference between the indie label and the major label within the music industry. Each option has its distinctive positive and negative features.

Major versus independent publishing houses

Each has strengths and weaknesses that the other lacks.

Major house Indie house
Resources
  • Huge amounts of money are available for both book deals and promotional purposes
  • Writer can expect a large amount of support
  • Resources are available at a much more modest scale
  • Writer may have to take greater efforts to promote himself, since the house won’t have the budget for more extensive operations
Creative support
  • More investment means more control
  • House may pressure writer to make creative changes in order to ensure that the book sells as well as possible
  • Getting accepted for publication usually means that the house is onboard with the writer’s vision
  • Relations may be based more on literary value than on the pursuit of money and huge sales
Acceptance process
  • Pitch project to a literary agent, who will then represent writer to the house
  • Pitch project directly to the house, in accordance with the house’s submission protocol

If you’re trying to choose between a major publishing house and an indie house, then this comparison should help you out.

The main idea is that the major publishing house would be able to give you a huge amount of financial support and possibly even launch you on the road to fame. Whereas the indie house is lower in its profile and would be more likely to provide you with personalized support for your endeavors as a writer.

Publishing GeniusSource: IP

“Publishing Genius is a small press devoted to extraordinary reading experiences” – Publishing Genius own website.

Each option has its characteristic strengths and weaknesses, and you will have to decide which option is better for you on the basis of your own motives and ambitions.

Self-publishing options for writers

In this day and age, a very feasible option for the aspiring writer is to bypass publishing houses altogether and go the self-publishing route. This entails the writer using technologies and platforms in order to make his book directly available to his potential audience, with no mediation from either major or indie publishing houses. This can be a great opportunity, but it also comes with its own risks.

The growth of self-publishing (2010 – 2015) Source: Bowker

The number of self-published books have grown by a factor of almost 5 between the years of 2010 and 2015.

Self-publishing is clearly becoming a booming sub-industry all of its own, as it is becoming easier than ever for people to try to write books and share their own views of the world with others. However, this boom itself is one of the main risks inherent to opting for self-publishing.

Anyone can publish a book, but then, anyone can publish a book. Self-publishing has no filtering process, which can make self-published books seem less credible to potential readers than books published through traditional houses.

Self-publishing platforms available to writers

One of the most prominent self-publishing platforms out there is CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company. Other services exist as well, but none of them would seem to have the same level of credibility or profile.

A Google search for self-publishing platforms actually makes it difficult to sort out the legitimate options from potential scams.

Features of self-publishing platforms

There are several platforms that offer similar services, but Amazon’s CreateSpace would seem to be the most straightforward and effective of the bunch.

CreateSpace (Visit site)
Print copies? Yes
E-book option? Yes
Distribution on Amazon? Yes—automatic
Upfront costs? No: books are printed on demand
Lulu (Visit site)
Print copies? Yes
E-book option? Yes
Distribution on Amazon? Must be set up independently
Upfront costs? Yes: manufacturing costs per book
IngramSpark (Visit site)
Print copies? Yes
E-book option? Yes
Distribution on Amazon? Must be set up independently
Upfront costs? Setup fee, plus manufacturing costs
Draft2Digital (Visit site)
Print copies? No
E-book option? Yes
Distribution on Amazon? Yes—across multiple digital stores
Upfront costs? No: platform just takes a cut from every copy sold

Some self-publishing platforms focus on printed copies of books, whereas others focus on the digital e-book format. Some are connected directly with sales outlets, whereas others will require the writer to set up such accounts on his own.

Some charge upfront fees, whereas others are based on a commission model, where the writer only owes the platform a percentage of every sale.

The advantages of CreateSpace

The present writer is personally familiar with the CreateSpace platform, and it can be strongly recommended for any writer who is trying to go the self-publishing route.

CreateSpaceSource: CS

CreateSpace from Amazon is a great platform for those looking to self-publish.

The advantages of CreateSpace are rooted in the fact that Amazon is a major player in the self-publishing industry, and CreateSpace is an Amazon company, which means that it is well-integrated into Amazon’s broader product ecosystem.

For example:

  1. A book published through CreateSpace is immediately available for sale on the Amazon marketplace, without any further steps having to be taken by the writer.
  2. Any book can easily be converted into Kindle e-reader format, with a high level of compatibility existing between CreateSpace and Kindle, given that they both belong to Amazon.
  3. There are no upfront costs, because Amazon has the logistical capacity to print on demand: one copy of your book is printed every time one copy is ordered.

Other platforms may serve the purposes of different writers who are looking for different things, but the point still stands that it would be a tall order for any other company to match the level of integration of services provided by the CreateSpace platform.

The ideal way to proceed may be to publish both physical and digital copies of your book through CreateSpace, and then supplement this effort with Draft2Digital to make the e-book available through further sales outlets.

Developing a strong brand

In the modern marketing environment, branding is everything. As published writer, you will have to develop a strong brand for yourself. Have a clear and coherent value to your potential readers about why they should spend their time on your book and thoughts, versus so many others available for them to consume.

This is especially important if you choose the indie or self-publishing options, since you will then have very little to no external marketing support. Once your book is out there, the next battle consists of marketing it.

Marketing via social media

Social media has been a real game-changer when it comes to marketing and branding. Patrick Barwise and Seán Meehan have written the following on this subject for Harvard Business Review:

Historically, market research was product- rather than customer-centric: Marketers asked questions about attitudes and behaviors relevant to their brands. More recently we have seen the rise of ethnographic research to help them understand how both a brand and its wider product category fit into people’s lives. Social networks take this a step further by providing powerful new ways to explore consumers’ lives and opinions.

When you’re developing your brand, the question you should ask yourself is:

What is your reader missing in his/her life that your book would be able to provide?

This is how a writer naturally thinks about his own work, but it is the necessary mindset for effective branding.

For example, if you’re writing a self-help book, then you would need to think about the kind of person who would be in need of the advice you are providing, and then you would need to calibrate your brand in such a way that it resonates with that person and other people in his broader category.

A truly effective brand should be able to insinuate itself into the everyday lives of potential consumers. Your brand as a writer should structure the way that your readers think about the world around them, and it should also encourage readers to connect with each other and engage in brand-centered social interactions through social media and other platforms.

In a way, you are not just selling your book; you are also selling everything that your book represents. This is the underlying principle of all successful branding, and considered in marketing terms, a brand for a book is not any different from a brand for anything else.

Maintaining motivation

One of the most difficult things about getting published as a writer is simply sticking with the project, from conception to publication and beyond. Staying motivated can be a challenge .

Staying motivatedSource

Taking breaks, and changing your surroundings when you write can help you not get bored, and stay motivated.

Writing is always exciting at first when the new ideas are coming and the whole process is flowing.

At a certain point, every writer gets to a phase where the inspiration can’t carry the project anymore, and it becomes necessary to just engage in day-in, day-out work.

After you’re done writing, this work will shift into sending out queries to publishers or agents, managing social media accounts to promote your work. This can be fun, but not always.

If you’re serious about being a writer, you’ll reach a point where you will have to stop romanticizing being a writer and begin treating it just like any other job. This is the only way to make the slow and steady progress needed to meet with professional success.

Dealing with rejection

Writers are notorious for having thin skins. Coupled with the almost inevitable process of getting rejected by publishers, this can be enough to make many potential writers just give up altogether, instead of continuing to push through such trials.

This would be a mistake. The fact is that many books that are now famous bestsellers began their lives with a large number of rejections from publishers.

Rejection by publishers Source: BF

Many books that are now bestsellers were rejected many times by publishers before they made their way in the world.

Book Author Number of rejections
Lord of the Flies William Golding 20
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell 38
Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank 15
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert E. Pirsig 121
A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle 26
Dune Frank Herbert 23
Dubliners James Joyce 22
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J. K. Rowling 12

This litany just goes to show that publishers often don’t know what they’re talking about. For instance, the publishers who rejected Harry Potter must be kicking themselves now.

It is also a well-known fact that many great books are ahead of their time. They may be brilliant, but it takes a visionary agent or publisher to become aware of their value and take the risk of believing in their potential. The American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, is a great example of this.

Getting rejected by publishers is thus no reason for you to give up on your ambitions as a writer, as long as you are certain that you have created a product of value that needs to make its way into the public consciousness.

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Rely on intrinsic motivation

Publishing your book shouldn’t just be about the money. If that’s all you want, there are probably easier ways to make money that do not involve as much solitude or risk of rejection.

Rather, you should focus on the message you want to share with the world, and the positive impact you believe it will have on people’s lives.

You should also rely on intrinsic motivation as opposed to extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is when you’re working just so that you will make money or earn the praise of your peers.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is when you’re working because you see inherent value in the work itself, with a job well done being a source of satisfaction all on its own, with external rewards just being a bonus on top.

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

The image below explains the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Writers should rely on intrinsic motivation to the greatest extent possible.

If you believe in your own work as a writer, sustain an adequate level of motivation, and follow the strategies delineated in this article, the odds are that you will sooner or later meet with the kind of success you seek as a writer.

There are a lot of opportunities to get published in this day and age. But with so many people competing for the potential reader’s attention, it is crucial that you have a strong product and that you engage in marketing efforts to draw attention to that product. Patience will also be a virtue: even for the best of writers, success in publishing often does not come fast.

Works Cited

Andreassan, Cecile Schou, et al. “The Relationship between Addictive Use of Social Media,Narcissism, and Self-Esteem: Findings from a Large National Survey.” Addictive Behaviors 64 (2017): 287-293. Print.

Barbuto, J. E., Jr. “Motivation and Transactional, Charismatic, and TransformationalLeadership. [email protected]–Lincoln. 2005. Web. 2 Oct. 2017.
cpub>.

Barwise, Patrick, and Seán Meehan. “The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building aBrand.” Harvard Business Review. Dec. 2010. Web. 2 Oct. 2017.
.

Bergler, Edmund. “Unconscious Mechanisms in ‘Writer’s Block’.” The Psychoanalytic Review(1955): 160. Print.

Maloney, Evan. “The Best Advice for Writers? Read.” The Guardian. 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 Oct.2017.
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Writer’s Digest. “New Agency Alerts.” n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2017.
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