Getting Published: 5 Truths No One Will Tell You
We Live to Write
If you're a blogger like me, you live to write. Everyday experiences offer endless topics for blogging. And then there's some of us who dream of one day getting paid to write in the form of a book or magazine article. So we scour the internet and bookstores, looking for tips and tricks to further this dream. The advice we get is always positive, giving us that glimmer of hope to keep us going.
I'm not a pessimist but a realist who has been trying for YEARS to get published in both magazines and a book that I've written. The following truths are things that I have seen and learned throughout the years of struggle. Don't go through this publishing process with a false sense of hope. You need to go into it with your eyes wide open so you won't get taken.
Truth 1: Publishing is a Business
Just like any company, publishing houses whether they be turning out magazines or books are in the business to make money. There's nothing wrong with that. We all go to jobs to make money to survive. Knowing this fact makes the hobby of reading magazines more frustrating to me as an author.
Magazines are ad driven, not content driven. Therefore, the articles, in the eyes of the editor, are not the main attraction. The articles are the teaser to get you to look at the publication's ads! Some magazines hide this fact better than others. In Style, one of my favorite magazines, at least puts in a greater number of features than most to make me feel like I'm getting my money's worth. I often chuckle that the table of contents is often found on page 30!
My blood boils when I can flip through a magazine in less than 30 minutes because the articles are so poor or uninteresting. Some of the worst culprits to me are Lucky, Redbook, and Southern Living. I'm sure you have your own list. There's a few who have kept their content high (for now). They include Reader's Digest and People and sometimes Health and Real Simple magazines surprise me with their content.
Truth 2: Publishing is a Shady Profession
If you've ever tried to get a book published, then you've learned this first hand. Unfortunately, publishing houses often are too good to be true when it comes to offering you a contract.
I recently met a woman whose husband is a published author and she confirmed this truth. She told me that her husband actually had to change publishers because his changed from being above board to shady. Weird.
Here's some things to look for:
- Immediate contracts. I got one from Tate Publishing that offered to pay for everything. All I had to do was pay for a publicist. A mere $3000! Then just today I got another email saying they lowered their rate to $2000.
- Promises that you could be picked up by the bigger publishing houses. Westbow is famous for that one.
- That you will get rich.
- Other hidden fees.
- You'll be in bookstores.
Do your own research. Know full well what you are getting into before you sign.
Truth 3:First Time Authors Don't Stand a Chance
Just like a stack of resumes, a publisher typically has a stack of queries that never seem to go down. They are looking for a reason to keep your query. It's much easier to send out that rejection email.
You've heard about it in the news how people pad their resumes to get jobs so you know it happens in the publishing world as well. But if you're like me, an honest person, you don't stand a chance! Staying true to my craft and my integrity means more to me than selling my reputation for fame.
The truth is that because publishers are looking to make money, they're less willing to take a chance on new talent with an unknown name.
So, how do first time authors stand out? I just read some of E. L. James' bio. It appears she posted her famous 50 Shades of Grey book on a site called FanFiction, a place for free book downloads. Join a literary group and swap books with fellow authors. The bottom line is that you'll probably have to give your work away, or at least sell it cheaply--like $1. I remember listening to talk show host and consumer advocate Clark Howard one day talking about a guy who made it big by selling his e-book for $.99! Who isn't willing to take a chance for $.99?
Truth 4: It's All About Who You Know
It never fails, I can't contain my frustration when I see someone young and non-famous on TV promoting their book. Sometimes, the book is on a decent topic, while other times it seems really lame. How did this person get published and I can't? They obviously know someone.
Magazines are some of the worst culprits of this fourth truth. Most of their articles are either "written" by celebrities or people who have already been published. Do I really want to get parenting advice from someone like Tori Spelling or Bethany Frankel? The best advice I got was from the moms who had a house full of well-adjusted kids, not a new mom!
The fact is that people want to read what celebrities have to say, even if it's ghost written by someone else. You might have super advice and be an excellent writer but no editor or publisher will EVER let you get one word of print on their page.
Truth 5: Anyone Can Get Published
Again I'm going back to all of those optimistic articles showing you how to get your work published. Good writing doesn't sell unfortunately. If it did, then 50 Shades of Grey would still be living in internet obscurity! Never was there a more poorly written book. But apparently the S&M made up for it. Then there's the book the Help. Here's an example where the movie made the book more enjoyable. As I read that story and got to the part about the poop in the chocolate pie I was shocked by the fact that it wasn't funny at all in the book! The story itself was decent but a bit flat.
Anyone can get published...for a price. The going rate for what is called vanity publishing starts around $1000 and can go up to $10,000. For this reason, and my dry bank account, I am still unpublished.
Beating "the System"
We live in the age of the Internet, that wonderful medium that has given us instant celebrities like Justin Bieber and a new lead singer for the '80s group, Journey. Lots of people are enjoying a nice fan base without the help of any large publishing house or media company. Did you know that the Pioneer Woman TV show (on Food Network) began as a blog site?
While you might not ever "make it", you still get to do what you love and hopefully develop a small fan base and maybe a little extra cash if you monetize your site.
How to do it?
- Develop your niche. Mine is my One Body Strong website. I blog on it. It will eventually have the link to my small group study for download. While mine is still in the infant stage I hope to see it grow in followers. One of my mentors is Dawn who has an incredible blog site for crafters called the Feathered Nest. She has been at it for over 6 years and has quite a following!
- Think outside the box. You like to write, but what about other means of bringing people in? One really great way is YouTube (it's free). A young man named Froggy Fresh (formerly Krispy Kreme) who never made it big in the traditional music industry is now eating up cyberspace with his rapping. The guy has over 11 million views on YouTube! He's personally not my type of artist but my 14 year-old loves him!
- Believe in yourself. There are a lot of naysayers out there! Stay focused on what you have to tell the world. Keep at it. Don't give up.
- Promote yourself. Look for places to promote your writing. Start with a website and blog about what you do. I mentioned FanFest earlier for books but there's lots of other places to do what I call cross pollinate. I like Stumble Upon, Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter. And let's not forget everyone's favorite sites like Facebook. My latest obsession is the bloggers community on Google+.
I want so desperately to be an author and speaker. Well, this young woman has inspired me! She has a YouTube channel under the name lacigreen and it's called Sex Plus. While the topic is a bit racy, she is speaking on topics people want to hear about. With over a million hits total, this young woman is creating a fan base. On top of that, she is padding her bank account because many of her videos are monetized! She is not alone in successfully marketing herself and getting her voice heard.