What's the Secret to your publishing Success?
Secret of My Success
It's a vicious circle. Whether you're seeking publication with magazine articles or long stories, everyone wants to see your "clips", instances of previous publication. Yet to get clips, you have to get published. As Michael J. Fox complained in the 1987 movie "Secret of My Success", no one will give you experience because you don't have experience.
What, then, is the solution? Fox's character gets hired as a mailboy, then masquerades as an executive (with a mail boy paycheck). Perhaps we should take a page from his book – not that we should don disguises, but that we should think outside the box.
As aspiring writers, we all have visions of collecting our royalty checks and using them to celebrate big time (or to pay off the credit cards - though, granted, I envision both). I know when I started the submission process, I turned up my nose at the thought of writing for free, or even dirt cheap. After all, as a frequent 4-5 star Writing.com member, I was sure I was "worth more" than that.
The more research I do into the writing market, however, the more I realize that, while I may be worth more, a query letter without credits won't necessarily prove it. So my encouragement this month is to make the most of those free-writing clips.
At the same time, don't give up on the big dreams. If you have something that fits in a low, middle, and high paying market, send it to all three! If you're seeking to publish fiction, make sure you note you are simultaneously submitting, or, if you are patient, send them out one at a time, starting with the highest. If you don't make it there, send it a notch down, and so forth. If, on the other hand, you are sending out nonfiction article queries (my personal goal for now), see about slanting each article slightly different and send away! So far this month, I've queried at magazines ranging from Health to Boys' Life to Beyond Centauri (the last costs $6 for a sample issue and pays $1 for an article). I've queried the same article to my local paper, a regional magazine, and a national. On the days when I am feeling confident, I think, wouldn't it be great if all three were accepted?! Realistically, I just hope to nab one.
If you are looking towards nonfiction, joining a club may be your best bet. In addition to majoring in Creative Writing, I also graduated with an Astrophysics degree. While in college (and free from real life), I was a member of the Atlanta Astronomy Club, which puts out a monthly newsletter. The newsletter editor was fairly desperate for pieces, and if you've looked at the writing skills of most – not all, but most – science majors, you'll understand why. In a newsletter that takes anything, good writing is a premium, even if it's free. I wish now that I had maintained my membership (as I obviously enjoy astronomy) and continued writing for the newsletter. As either writer or editor, I would have a great blip for my resume!
Don't discount the internet, either. For instance, I plan to keep trying to submit to a certain Writing.com newsletter. In the "resume" section of my query letters – especially any written for articles on writing – I will be sure to note "occasional contributor to Going Pro! E-newsletter, which reaches over 100 writers". Nor should you overlook the contacts you make at Writing.com. Not long after I joined, I was invited to work as an editor at an off-site children's ezine. I decided I had too many other commitments to work for free. I was asked again last year, and chose to accept; however, the ezine folded about a week later. Imagine how much more of a foot in the door I would have now, as I submit various nonfiction items to children's magazines, if I could put that I had "written and edited for" a children's ezine? They wouldn't know if it paid, but they would see I was familiar with the market.
In the movie, Brantley Foster (Fox) became successful because he kept the future in mind. Although he wasn't being paid for his executive position, he knew that he was building contacts and generating leads to get him "out of the box". One day we may call that the secret to our success.