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How to get published?

In order to get an edge when looking for jobs, I was thinking of writing some articles and publish them on the web. After doing some further thinking, I decided to try to get them published in magazines instead. Yeah, it's a longshot, but it would look real good on my resume. I wouldn't do it to make money but rather for the publicity and the credibility it would provide.

Of course, one way of getting published is to do like Joel. Make a name for yourself and wait for the offers to come rolling in. =) However, that takes a lot of time and effort, and I don't have that much time.

So how do I go about it? Do I write an article and send it to a magazine hoping for the best? How do I make sure they don't refuse me and publish it anyway (is it paranoid to think someone would do that?)? Or should I contact a magazine first and ask them what kind of articles they are looking for?

If you have been published, what did you do to make that happen?

I admit I haven't actually written anything yet, and what I write may not turn out that good, but I've read magazines with some pretty basic stuff in them and I sure could write something like that. Or at least, I think I could. =) If I write something and it turns out bad, I'm certainly not gonna try and get it published. I don't have any illusions that this will be easy, but I still think it would be worth a try. I can always fall back on "publishing" stuff on my webpage.

No matter how realistic this idea is, I still think it will make for an interesting discussion.

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

> I admit I haven't actually written anything yet, and what > I write may not turn out that good.

So practice! Just post some stuff up on the web. Or, if you're not that confident, just bash them out on your PC. The act of doing that regularly, even if nobody else reads it, will give you experience in writing and improve your belief in what you can do. And you'll be surprised how much mileage a well written piece on the web gives you - I wonder through how many different routes people found this website? (In my case, a former manager emailed the link to me).

Even replying to discussions on here and following feedback from them can give you good pointers as to how people react to what you say.

I don't think sending articles randomly off to magazines will do much, unless it's as a reader's letter, which typically isn't anywhere near the size and scope of your average article. And also, I tend to remember well written articles without actually remembering who wrote them, until I've read several of them.


Better than being unemployed...
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

You might check out alt.writing on Usenet.  They'll probably have good suggestions (make sure you check the Google archives first).

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The first time I got published, the opportunity sort of fell into my lap because a co-worker's friend was looking for people to contribute chapters to his book. Another co-worker and I educated ourselves on the topic and put something together. It took about a month.

The next time I got published, it was because I had been doing volunteer copy-editing for The Perl Review ( ) and the editor got an idea for an article he wanted me to write after I commented on something in another article.

While I enjoy writing, I find it much easier to get started when I know that I've already got a publisher lined up. Having a deadline helps too. My advice, especially if you're just starting out, is to look for online magazines that don't pay for articles. Read the magazine to get an idea of what might appeal to its readers and editors. Then write an outline and pitch the idea to the editors. If you get a positive response, you can start discussing when they might like to see a full article.

Beth Linker
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Most magazines have guidlines for submitting articles that you can usually find on their web site or by contacting them directly.

Create a outline for the topic you wish to write on and submit this first along with a good summary of yourself and why they should choose you. They will give you feedback on the topic and if they like it you will usually be asked to sign a contract stating that you will transfer ownership of the material, the financial details, and when you intend to deliver. Some publishers, especially online, have more relaxed agreements, and some even have none.

Here's some fun general writing guidelines used by Fawcette publishing:

1. Avoid alliteration.
2. Prepositions dangle awkwardly if you use them to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichés and colloquialisms like the plague, or you will seem old hat.
4. Employ the vernacular, while eschewing arcane and obfuscatory verbiage.
5. Avoid ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Take it easy with parenthetical remarks (however relevant), to avoid chopping up sentences (unnecessarily (we might add)).
7. To ever, however artfully, split an infinitive, marks you as grammatically challenged.
8. Skip the foreign words and phrases you know, n’est-ce pas?
9. Never generalize.
10. “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
11. Comparisons can clog up writing as badly as alliterations and cliches.
12. Avoid redundancy and verbosity, or readers will think you are repeating yourself and using too many words as well besides.
13. We really get @*&%$**)!! when you use vulgarities.
14. Clear, specific writing beats vagueness, we suppose. Whatever.
15. Overstatement totally destroys any credibility you ever had forever.
16. Understatement can, at times, perhaps shade a point to the point of its fading away.
17. One word sentences? Eliminate.
18. Analogies work about as well as fur on a flounder.
19. “Is” just sits there. Pick verbs that do something.
20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, you should derail it.
21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
22. Its distrakting too punctuat, an spel rong.

I like to write articles for web sites because sometimes I want to share a simple technique and writing for free allows me to work without pressure. Since I am giving them my material pro bono, I can do so at my own pace without a deadline.

Ian Stallings
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

If you're going to submit to magazines, pick up a copy of the Writer's Market.  It's an essential tool of the working writer.

Tony Dismukes
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

"7. To ever, however artfully, split an infinitive, marks you as grammatically challenged."

Yea, but the rule applies to Latin, not English, and you would have to cut the infinitivve in two to split it anyway.

"2. Prepositions dangle awkwardly if you use them to end sentences with."

Just the kind of vice away with wihch no self-respecting pedant would ever let you get!

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

And I forgot rule 23.

"Never post to a website that doesn't have a spell-checker or preview pane" :)

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

I did freelance writing for several years, and I was also an editor for a year, so here's my advice --

Develop a reputation for being dependable.

You would not believe how many people think they would like to write for publication, and go to the effort to seek out a magazine and charm the editor into giving them an assignment -- and then the editor never hears from them again.

It's unbelievable how common this is.  I think many people really like the IDEA of publishing articles -- and they like it so much that they go to a lot of effort to get an assignment -- but when it's time to sit down and write the piece, they just don't have it in them.  They flake out.

After getting burned a few times, my attitude became, "I will believe it when I actually have your article in my hands."

I believe this helped my career as a freelancer.  I wasn't the best book reviewer in the world -- in fact, I think some of my reviews sucked -- but I always produced them, like clockwork.

That dependability was what kept the assignments coming.  I just assembled all my freelance pieces, and the collection of them was 180 pages long.

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

programmer:  As Woody Allen allegedly said, "90% of success is just showing up."

(To which someone added, "And the other 10% is paying attention.")

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Start with a weblog. Post freuqnetly. You will get feedback and hone your skills.

fool for python
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Write to the magazines you're interested in and ask for their writers guidelines. Many now post them on their web sites, which makes it even easier for writers. Once you find out whether they accept submissions, what their needs are, and what topics are coming up in their editorial calendar, you can write an article targetted to what they're looking for. That should give you a good shot at getting it published.

Darren Collins
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Try your local newspaper. Pitch the business editor or lifestyles editor with an idea for a column. You will earn very little, but you will learn a lot about writing for publication. You will also begin building a portfolio and publishing credits that will earn you attention from magazine publishers when you send queries.

As a magazine editor, nothing irritated me more than to receive queries or unsolicited articles from people who clearly did not read the publication. Study the magazines in which you hope to publish; review several month's worth of back issues to prevent wasting time pitching an idea on which an article was recently published. The suggestion to use Writer's Market is a good one; the listings give information on the types of articles accepted from freelance writers as well as information on word counts and range of payment.

A. Mullig
Thursday, January 9, 2003

Thanks, guys! I'm always impressed by the quality of the answers I get here.

Thanks for the writing guidelines. I'm Swedish and I'm probably looking at publishing in Swedish first. It is easier to write well in one's native tongue. I probably could write articles in English, but it takes longer because I have to check grammar, vocabulary and spelling more carefully (of course, a good spellchecker helps a lot). That said, I'll get a weblog up and running soon and it'll probably be in English to make the potential reader base larger.

What does it take to become a volunteer copy-editor?

I'd like to think I'm the kind of guy that delivers on my commitments, I guess I'm gonna have to proove it too if I get assigned an article. =)

Thursday, January 9, 2003

For the experience, you might also try submitting articles to a local free computer periodical, e.g.,

Sam Gray
Thursday, January 9, 2003

If possible, get a knowledgable friend to proof-read your work. Quality writing generally comes from quality editing.

David Fischer
Thursday, January 9, 2003

> "Never post to a website that doesn't have a spell-checker or preview pane" :)

Better stop posting here then. :-)

James (who is aware that the above sentence breaks at least one rule (and this one at least another two)).

James Shields
Friday, January 10, 2003

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