This blog post is for people who want to get published in some way. If you’re looking to get in print, be warned: it will be hard, it will be more commercial-based than your average undergrad creative writing course, and you will probably have to spend some money.
I got lucky and Lorrie Moore taught my creative writing class last semester, so I shall pass along some of her advice.
Don’t just send your manuscript to random publishing houses. It’s the same principle as sending your own mixtape to a record label—there are people specifically hired to go out and find new writers (or new music), and they are not sifting through pounds of unsolicited novels. If you’re determined to get this specific novel published, start small. Pick a little publisher who is not daily inundated with other peoples’ manuscripts. Send your writing to literary agents, who will in turn talk to publishers.
Send an excerpt to a magazine. Publishing houses don’t solicit books; magazines do solicit short stories. Some have short story contests alongside their regular content, some are devoted to short stories, and some love brilliant excerpts from larger pieces. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The Paris Review are mainstays. Esquire and GQ occasionally run contests. Explore magazines that are more specific to your subject and style: McSweeney’s is known for its humor, Seventeen caters to the “young adult women” genre (and they run a yearly short story contest), Asimov’s Science Fiction is devoted, naturally, to science fiction. If these all feel a little too mainstream, hit up any number of college reviews. Kenyon Review and Five Points are the most acclaimed.
Better yet, write a new short story and submit it. It’s hard to justify an excerpt of a larger work over a completed, within word count restraints, short story. Stretch those writing muscles. Word limits vary from magazine to magazine. Try to keep your story under 3,000. As a warning, submitting for contests and sometimes for general content often involves a submission fee. Don’t back out of an opportunity just because it will cost you, but know that it will cost you.
Publish online. If you’re not into the whole printing press, you do have an entire internet at your disposal: wordpress, tumblr, livejournal, AO3, etc: not just for social media. You can also set up your own page quick and simple using Google Page Creator. But if you’re serious about your writing—serious enough to put it on the internet, which is just a giant audience of Anon—it’s worth putting money on a domain name and a professional design.
Part of the getting published game is just waiting for the right moment, or trusting yourself over the publishers. A nice anecdote about this: a poetry professor once submitted his poem to an anthology; the editors sent it back with an encouraging note and a pageful of edits. He waited a few months, then resubmitted the same poem with a thank you note about the edits. The editors then published it. Trust your instincts. And suck up a little.
Sidebar: But part of the getting published game is about your writing as well. You’re going to become disillusioned with your own accomplishment. You’re young and inexperienced and these things take time. Have some encouragement from Ira Glass:
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me…is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
By Robin Yang
Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.
At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.