Why You Should Always Reach Out to Small Publications | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

Starting small is going to pay off much more than waiting for the Huffington Post to publish your essay.

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Everyone wants to get published in the Huffington Post.

I’m not really sure why. I’m guessing it’s because millions of people read their articles daily. Mostly their essays and blog posts, probably. When I had a goal to publish an article there, it wasn’t just for exposure. I felt I had something important to say, and I wanted that message to reach as many people as possible. I wanted to help someone, to reach out to someone I would never meet, if I could.

No, I never did get a feature there. That’s not to say I never will. A huge mistake many aspiring writers make is thinking they’re going to be one of the lucky ones, one of those random people who gets published  on a website with millions of readers just because they have a message for the universe.

And hey, you may very well be one of the lucky ones, I’m not here to crush your dreams. But I’m telling you right now, you’re going to have much more luck starting small. I don’t care how many times you’ve heard and ignored this advice. It’s coming to you again, and I hope you’ll take it to heart this time.

So. What’s so great about reaching out to publications no one has ever heard of before, anyway?

They will notice you, invite or refer you

Pitching or even just offering your “services” to small publications, you’re much more likely to get a response, and they’ll be much more likely to say, “Hey, yeah, you can totally write some stuff for us.” Big publications get thousands upon thousands of submissions every day. If it’s a small or brand-new publication, you might be the only one they get today – and that stands out.

What if they’re not ready to take you on just yet? This happened to me about a month ago. The editor referred me to someone else instead, because he had the time and courtesy to do that, and I can’t say it didn’t lead to more awesome things thereafter.

You need all the experience and writing samples you can get

Want to be a freelance writer or journalist when you grow up? You’d better be able to show that’s not only what you want, but what you’re fully capable of excelling at. It’s not necessarily all about writing for as many websites/blogs/magazines as possible, but the more work you have to show for your effort, the more places your name appears when someone Google searches you, the more promising of a career you will have. Eventually.

Small publications need material and exposure. You need published work and exposure. It is a partnership like no other, and if you can gather up the courage to reach out instead of waiting for them to notice you first, they will be impressed, grateful and probably willing to take you up on your offer (but do know in advance, you’re not going to get paid in anything but experience, more often than not – never underestimate the value of that, either).

You never know where it will lead

I have been the managing editor of College Lifestyles magazine since July 2015. Ever heard of it? Maybe not, because it’s still a relatively small online magazine. But I didn’t apply for a top staff position and randomly get picked for it. Way back in 2012, I reached out and applied for a writing internship position. After six months doing that, I moved up to an editorial position. Eventually, I became the assistant managing editor, and so on.

These things don’t happen in places like the Huffington Post. It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are or how hard you work. Everyone wants to work there, get published there, be part of that team. Okay, so I’m not working for Seventeen or Cosmo. That doesn’t really matter. I’ve made more connections over the past three years than I probably ever would have as a lonely features intern at a magazine everyone has heard of before. You form professional and personal relationships. That gets you places, whether you believe it or not.

So where do you find these kinds of small publications, anyway? That’s next week’s post. Come back soon for more, and while you’re waiting, check out our other posts in this series. You are always welcome to give suggestions on related topics or ask questions in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Happy writing!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Even Your Unpublishable Stories Are Still Important

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With every worthwhile masterpiece comes a harsh reality: just because you have written the best story yet, doesn’t mean it’s right for the publishing industry.

Pitching a story is the same across all channels, whether you’ve written a book, an article or a totally kick-butt essay. It has to fit into a niche; it has to be written to/for a specific audience. It has to, to some extent, align with current trends, themes and messages.

All that, and it still has to be well-written, with strong, diverse characters, an intriguing plot and usually a few twists nobody, not even your agent, saw coming.

Creativity and business do go hand-in-hand. While we need to focus on our own creative process to write something at all, it’s not over when we make that last revision. If you write just to write, that’s one thing. But if you write so others can enjoy your work, well, you have a long way to go yet.

And even if you put months, even years of your life into revising that story you love so much, sometimes it doesn’t always fit into a publishable category. Sometimes it’s unique, but not unique enough. Well-written, but not as original as you may have thought. Who knows: it might even be too ahead of its time (not such a bad thing really, if you think about it).

Once you write that story, you have to make a shift: from creator to seller. You have to figure out how to persuade an agent to see in your story what you’ve seen in it all along. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right agent for that particular story, and yes, that will take a lot of research and a lot of time. It might pay off. Honestly, though, it might not.

This is why blogs exist. This is why self-publishing exists. If you think your story is worth printing, no one can stop you. But if you can’t sell it, and no one seems interested, and you’re starting to get discouraged, maybe you don’t want to self-publish. Maybe you just want to forget you wrote it at all, and move on.

Moving on is a must. Even if you’re still looking for an agent to give your queries a deeper look, that doesn’t mean you should stop working on other projects. It may turn out that your Best Story Ever just isn’t mean to go on to become the next bestseller. Does that mean the story’s bad? Of course not. Does it mean you’re a bad writer? Absolutely not the case.

It means you just haven’t found the idea + market combination that’s going to turn into a successful product. Every story you write matters, regardless of whether or not anybody else wants to take it to the next level. And here’s why.

Every story you write will teach you something new—about yourself, about your writing style, about your creative process: everything. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking when aspiring writers put their writing on hold when they can’t get published. Writing is your art! Your passion! It does not have to be your career. Claiming writing as your hobby does not make you any less of a writer. Getting published is hard. Especially in the very beginning, when you’ve never had to try selling your idea to someone else before.

Let your discouragement fuel your creativity. That might sound a little bonkers, but think about it: how many people get discouraged and give up? Probably a lot. But you don’t have to be one of them. Turn your disappointment into framework for a new story. Experiment with all the different emotions you’re feeling. Write something you’ve never written before. What do you have to lose?

If you stopped writing now, what are you gaining?

Some writers never get published. Some have to wait years. It’s a matter of how far you’re willing to go to learn how to write something you’re passionate about that will get a publisher’s attention. Practice does not make perfect. But maybe, eventually, practice can make publishable.

In the meantime, don’t you dare toss out that story you’ve worked so hard on all this time. Reflect on how much it has taught you. Keep it forever. Whether you want to believe it or not, it is now a part of your history. There is no going back.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.