Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to Write and Get Published by Magazines and Book Publishers

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I have some news to share that I'm very excited about! Very soon I'm going to release the first in a series of new e-books.

(Update 2/7/2014: This e-book is now available!)

The title of the first e-book in my "Getting Published" series for writers is:

Help to get you started in writing and publishing your work
How to Get Published by
Magazine & Book Publishers E-book

Last month I promised we'd talk about the basics of getting started in publishing whether you want to write for magazines or books. That information is below under the headline "The Basics of How to Get Published in Magazines and Books." It is excerpted from the new e-book. Between here and there is more information about my coming new series of e-books for writers. If you prefer to go straight to the "How do I get published?" information, please feel free to scroll down.

About My New "Getting Published" Series of E-Books

You may have noticed that sometimes in this blog I write on topics where I've learned something new and interesting and I think it will help you in your writing too (such as using social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads to promote our writing). Other times I post on topics that I've been asked over and over again in my twenty-five years in this business, One of the questions I get a lot is from people asking me how they can get started in writing for publication and get published by magazines and/or get their books published.

I always love to help someone else get started and I love to share what I've learned, but I find I'm giving out the same information repeatedly to one person at a time. Wouldn't it be great if I had some way to give people the information they're seeking without me having to go through it again and again? Wouldn't it be nice--and more efficient for me--to have a place to point people to where they would find all the information I have to offer already there waiting for them?

Through the years I've looked for, and have developed, ways to give the information. In 2003 I developed and wrote five pamphlets in my "Help for Writers" series that I printed on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, 8 to 12 pages each, and sold at writer's conferences for $3.95. Hopefully they are inexpensive enough that anyone who needed one could afford it. They have been, and continue to be, very good sellers and I've received many wonderful, positive comment from writers on how these pamphlets have helped them. While I intend to keep them available, I also intend to update and revise where needed since a more than a few things in publishing have changed in the past decade.

Also in 2003, I taught a one-day seminar a couple of times on "Writing for Publication." We recorded that presentation and I've sold that on cassette tapes bundled with the handouts.

I continue to offer the original five pamphlets and the taped seminar (though supplies of the seminar are limited). The titles are:
  • The Basics for Beginners: How to Find Markets, Submit your Manuscripts, and Keep Track of it All (c. 2003, $3.95)
  • Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter: How to Write Query and Cover Letters (c. 2003, $3.95)
  • How to Market Your Reprints (c. 2003, $3.95)
  • How Do I "Show, Don’t Tell"? (c. 2003, $3.95)
  • Should I Become a Writer? How Can I Decide? (c. 2003, $3.95)
  • and the "Writing for Publication: How to Find Markets and Submit Your Work" taped seminar (c. 2003, $24.99) 


Making the New, Revised "Getting Published" Editions More Easily Available!

While these products have been wonderful to take to writer's conferences or wherever I teaching writing seminars, making them available to many more people has been more challenging. I can and do ship them upon request and payment through PayPal, but that process is cumbersome, as is the job of simply letting people know they are available. (I haven't done much of that lately, so you may not have even known about these products.)

There has to be a better way, right? Well there is. I am converting these pamphlets to e-books, and revising and updating them in the process. The first e-book will release very soon--just as soon as I have it and the new cover ready.

I'm very pleased that I'll be releasing not only these five pamphlets and the seminar in e-book form, but I also will make available several more products based on workshops I've taught and other writing I've done. Here's a glimpse of some of those topics:
  • tools for marketing your books
  • strategies for how magazine writers can sell more articles
  • beginning screenwriting, as well as shaping your story to work great as a movie
I hope those topics excite you! Which would you like to see sooner rather than later? Leave me a comment and let me know.

I'm making these new products available as e-books for Amazon's Kindle, because that's the easiest, most cost-effective way for me to do this. Don't have a Kindle? No problem! Your PC, Mac, tablet, or smart phone can read Kindle books (Amazon's e-books) if you simply download a free ap. Please visit the page on this blog called "No Kindle? No Problem" for links to download what you need.

As with the forerunners of these e-books, my series of "Help for Writers" pamphlets, these new e-books will be inexpensive enough that hopefully anyone who needs them can afford them*. I also plan to put them on sale from time to time (as allowed and limited by Amazon), so do watch for that if you need even more of a break on the price. The pamphlet-length e-books will be priced as low as possible--mostly likely $2.99. The workshop-length e-books will be a bit more.

If you're not familiar with Amazon's Kindle pricing structure, the best opportunities for authors are when their e-books are priced between $2.99 - $9.99, so that is why most Kindle books fall within those prices. It is possible, though, to price e-books outside of those price points ($ .99 minimum), and so you'll see that for various reasons--even when the book is not on sale. Amazon also allows Kindle e-books to be put on sale or made available for free for a limited number of days per annual quarter.

When the e-books become available, if you get one it would help me immensely if you would consider leaving an honest review. Reviews let others know if the product is truly helpful, valuable, and worth their investment. Reviews can be short--even a couple of sentences will do. I thank you for that in advance.

(*If you need one of my e-books or printed pamphlets but cannot afford it, please contact me privately and we'll see what we can do.)

The Basics of How to Get Published in Magazines and Books

Last month I promised we would talk about the basics of getting started in publishing whether you want to write for magazines or books. Maybe you're far from a beginner. Then you probably get asked for help from beginners like I do. The next time you meet someone who wants to get started in publishing, now you can send them to this blog post for help in doing just that.

The following is excerpted and condensed from the first e-book I'll be releasing soon. For this first e-book, I revised and updated my "Help for Writers" pamphlet titled "The Basics for Beginners: How to Find Markets, Submit your Manuscripts, and Keep Track of it All." Besides updating it, I added information to that pamphlet by combining it with my taped seminar,"Writing for Publication: How to Find Markets and Submit Your Work."

How Do I Find Magazine, Book, and Online Publishers that Want My Work?

The main way professional writers find online outlets, magazine editors, and book publishers who want their stories, articles, novels and nonfiction books, is through a "market guide." In publishing, a "market" is a place where you can sell your writing, in other words a publisher that buys work from writers like you.

Two well-known market guides are:
  • the Writer's Market, published annually by Writer's Digest. This book mostly contains publishers in the general market, although it contains some markets that want Christian material
  • The Christian Writer's Market Guide which contains markets that want Christian material.

These guides are like phone books containing all sorts of information for hundreds of publishers, such as all their contact information, editor's names, mailing and e-mailing addresses, and web sites. They also list important and valuable information about what the market publishes, who their audience is, whether they pay and if yes, how much.

You can buy a market guide or borrow one from your library. My advice is that your first task should be to find and read the "how to use this book" section these guides usually include. Otherwise much of the entries will be like trying to read code.

How to Know What Magazines and Book Publishers Want You to Send

After you find markets to submit your articles, stories, or books to, the next thing you will want to do is either visit the publisher's web site or contact them, if necessary, to obtain or request their "writer's guidelines." You can often find these online today.

Writer's guidelines are the instructions the publisher wants you to follow when you submit to them. If you want to get published, you need to get these before you send them anything, and then carefully follow their instructions. This is a step many writers skip, and then they wonder why their submissions are rejected. If you submit without reviewing and following the guidelines, you're probably not going to make any friends at the other end. This could brand you as amateur and cause you problems right off the bat. Professional writers do it the smart way: they get the guidelines first...and follow them.

You will also want to obtain "sample copies" for magazines and periodicals (regularly published papers) or "book catalogs" (now online) from book publishers. You'll want to study these materials carefully to determine if your material will fit the publisher. If your material currently doesn't fit, you can either tweak it to fit the publisher or find a different publisher. Never try to get a publisher to bend to fit what you're doing--that simply doesn't work. Send them only what they'll be interested in.

"Theme Lists" are editorial topics that will be covered in future issues of a magazine. When publications use a theme list, you should see if your piece of writing will fit a future theme and then let the editor know. This increases your chances of placing your writing in that publication. Another way to use theme lists is to see what themes they'll be covering and write something especially for that theme. While it doesn't guarantee the editor will purchase it, you've increases your chances and the editor will appreciate it!

Included in the e-book is more detailed information on theses topics as well as how to send for these materials whether by postal mail or e-mail, a sample request letter, tips to organize these materials, and more.

Here's a hint: As you obtain writer's guidelines, record the date on them. Occasionally editors changes these and you'll eventually end up with more than one copy in your file. You'll need to know which is the most recent.

How to Submit Your Manuscript

What you do next depends on how the publisher wants you to submit your manuscript. Some magazines allow you to submit your manuscript to them directly and at any time. Some magazine and other periodical publishers want you to send a “query letter” first.

A query letter is a one-page sales letter “selling” the editor on your article or book idea and asking for permission to submit the full article manuscript or book proposal. How to write a query letter, what to include, etc., is a detailed topic of its own. I have a helpful pamphlet on this topic with several example query letters. I'll be creating an e-book from that pamphlet in the future. Contact me for the printed pamphlet if you need that sooner.

If you are submitting your writing to a magazine or periodical publisher who works in print, here are some basic guidelines for formatting your manuscript:
  • Name, address, phone, e-mail in the upper left corner. (Don't include your SSN. Keep that secure. If they need it, they'll officially request it.)
  • Rights* offered and number of words in the upper right
  • Title, by, and name centered, each on their own line, about a half way down the first page
  • About two thirds of the way down the page begin your article
  • Indent paragraphs using the ruler at the top of your word processor (not the tab key and never, ever spaces)
  • Double-space your submission from the title down. (This means set your line spacing to "2." Do not hit the enter key to skip a line.)
  • If submitting a hard copy via postal mail, print on one side of white paper using black ink.
  • When you open your word processor (such as Word), most likely you should just leave the margins, font, etc. alone. They are already set as they should be.
  • On page 2 and beyond use a header to include the title of your article (or partial), your last name, and the page number. This way if your printed pages get separated someone can put it back together.
The e-book gives tips on if you need to mail a hard copy of your manuscript, which is rarely done anymore, but sometimes that's what a publisher or literary agent wants.

If you're submitting to an online publication, basic differences from the above are:
  • Rights* offered and word count also go on the left side under your contact info. (Nothing in the upper right.)
  • Title, byline, and all text are left justified (nothing centered).
  • No indents for paragraphs. Use "block style" and insert an extra line between paragraphs instead of indenting.


You can find additional helpful  information in my April 2013 blog post 8 Tips for Formatting Your Manuscripts So Editors Will Love (Not Hate) You

If you want to submit a book manuscript to a book publisher or literary agent, you will most likely need to produce a "book proposal" first. A book proposals tells the publisher or agent all about your proposed book and allows them to decide if they want to see the whole manuscript. How to write a book proposal is a huge topic of it's own. My e-book gives the basic information for what to include in book proposals. For in-depth information, there are many other resources, both books on the topic and online, to teach you how to write a quality book proposal.

Which Rights to Sell When

*A layman's discussion of the Rights you sell to your magazine or periodical articles and stories, and when to sell which rights, is included as a Bonus Article in the e-book. Here's some basic information:
  • First rights means selling your piece to be printed for the first time
  • Second or Reprint Right is selling a piece of writing that has been published at least once before
  • One-time Rights means just that, selling your piece for one-time use. This could be your First rights or Second/Reprint rights.
  • Simultaneous Rights means selling your article to more than one publication at the same time.
Know which rights you are selling and when to sell each type. In the e-book I go into when and how to use each of these types of rights to your best advantage as a writer.

Tracking Your Submissions

Once you start submitting your articles, stories, and even book proposals or manuscripts, it won't be long before you can't remember what you sent where and when. It's very important that you keep good records so you don't end up sending the same manuscript to the same editor, which really makes you look bad. So you need a good tracking system.

I use a double-entry system on index cards. For every manuscript that goes out, gets rejected, or gets accepted, I record that action in two places:
  • on an index card for that manuscript
  • on an index card for that market
This double entry system keeps everything I need to see what I've sent where at my fingertips. In the e-book you can see some sample mock-ups of my cards with details of how I use this system.

If you're looking to get started on your writing journey to getting published by magazine and book publishers, I hope this basic information in this blog post helps you get that solid start you're looking for. If you would like more details on each of these topics and much more, please check out my e-book, "How to Get Published by Magazines & Book Publishers: Find Markets, Submit Your Manuscripts, and More". (Now available on! Published February 7, 2014.)


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From April 2013: 8 Tips for Formatting Your Manuscripts So Editors Will Love (Not Hate) You