How to Get Published

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There’s plenty of advice on how to get published, but I’m going to tell you the real secret. Ready?

Submit. A lot.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I’m convinced that being published isn’t necessarily a mark of how incredibly talented you are. Yes, I think you have to have some talent as a writer, but the world is full of people with unrealized potential. What sets the published apart from the unpublished, in many cases, is determination. Years ago, when I was working on a magazine story, a friend told me, “You’re like a dog with a bone. You don’t let go!” I think that’s had more to do with any success I’ve had than my ability to turn a phrase. What sets the published apart from the unpublished is often their stubborn refusal to give up. They keep working and they keep submitting. I’m not particularly good at darts, but if I threw darts at a dart board for a long enough time, one of them might eventually hit the bull’s eye or somewhere close to it. I might even hit that bull’s eye more often than someone who is a better darts player but who rarely plays. Just the law of averages.

Now, this is not to say that you should send out a bunch of garbage and hope to get lucky. Quite the contrary. If you send out junk, eventually, editors and agents will remember your name. “She’s the one who sends the junk,” they’ll say to themselves when they see your letter or email. And to the round file you’ll go. So please don’t take this advice about submitting as my urging you to send out work that isn’t ready. Keep studying, keep working on your craft, and send out only things you can feel proud of…but put in the work regularly.

A recent item in the Authors Guild Fall 2015 Bulletin backs me up on this. Norman Mailer is quoted as having said, “In writing, as in so many pursuits, it’s not the most gifted but the most determined who succeed. John Berryman thought talent was no more than twenty percent of a poet’s makeup. This is probably true for any type of writer. Those we hear about are more blessed with luck and persistence than ability and skill.”

Also in the Bulletin this month is a good piece on finding an agent, which is the first step towards book publication. If you’re not getting the Bulletin, you can apply for membership in the Guild here.

 

 

 

 

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