Traditional publication opportunities: It’s not a search for the Holy Grail!

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I wanted to touch on a subject that makes writers shrink into a ball, hide in the corner, shiver with fright, and shower the very thought with excuses like a 50 caliber machine gun. That subject is the act of submitting your work for publication. Most writers see this as the proverbial search for the Holy Grail. I can tell you from experience that it’s not a walk in the park, but it’s also way easier than most writers think. Let’s explore this supposed magical realm.

First, let me say that I’m not talking about self-publishing. I’m referring to traditional publications in various formats and genres. I’m not against self-publishing, I’m a huge fan of Indie Publishing and Print On Demand Technology (POD) and what it’s done for the industry, but I want to focus on traditional publishing opportunities.

My first publication of any type was an eBook that sold over 1000 copies. My next publication, again a self-publishing project, was a paperback that sold a couple hundred copies. I published both under a pseudonym. These books might have done better if I had been more patient with the editorial process and worked harder to make sure they were ready for publication. But, like many new authors who have access to POD technology, I published my works in a hurry. So I know the self-publishing industry from experience. That said, your real credibility comes from traditional publications, unless you happen to hit the self-publishing genre jackpot like a select few authors occasionally do, you’ll do better to try a traditional route.

There are examples of self-published authors that make it big. It is these authors, and God bless their achievements, that make other writers think that self-publishing is an easy path to fame and fortune—the odds are not in your favor. Many an author writes frantically, thinking, “If I write it they will come.” Nope. This is just not the case. I’m just being real here.

Now that we’ve talked about self-publishing, let’s take a gander at traditional publishing and the multiple and realistic opportunities that exist. There is a host of magazines (both online and in print) that are looking for articles on any number of topics. That’s a huge market, and it is filled with publication opportunities that often pay pretty decent as well.

I have a friend on LinkedIn that has over 1500 publications to her credit in various magazines, anthologies, and blogs. Once writers are exposed to these “open submission” opportunities, many of which they were unaware of, a cool, rushing waterfall of hope and excitement covers them. A new energy and optimism consume them, and they are on their way to their first traditional publication.

I recently discovered a Facebook page that offers a ton of links to open submissions for various magazines, blogs, newspapers, and writing contests. That FB page is:

If you follow their website link, it will ask you to sign up for their “eMagazine” of writing jobs. I can’t vouch for that, but many of these lists do have legitimate writing jobs or publication opportunities in them. For Christians looking to break out, here is a great list of open submission opportunities in both the Christian and secular market:

Also, if you follow our site, I generally post a “Literary Agent News” post at least once a month. In these posts, you will find new agents that are looking for queries, and other publishing opportunities.

If you like to do academic writing, there are several opportunities for publication in both graduate and undergraduate research journals. In spite of the title “research journals,” many of these journals accept creative writing genres as well. My first traditional publication was a poem that was published in an undergrad research journal. Here is a list of a couple journals for those who are interested:

1)    Papers and Publications at University of North Georgia:

2)    Queen City Writers at University of Cincinnati:

3)    This is a list of undergrad publishing opportunities for college students on a professor’s website:

Obviously, we cannot list every link that’s out there; however, these few links will get you started. The best place to start your search for open submissions for publication is with magazines. These publications are in constant need of new material and will give new authors a chance. However, be warned, when you start a Google search for publication opportunities, you have to be extremely diligent and sift through the mountains of garbage ads thrown at you by scams and adware, bait-n-switch sites.

Once you actually submit to a site, if you get a rejection, which in modern day publication circles is generally silence (no response in the allotted time frame), that doesn’t always mean that your work was not worthy of publication. Editors are human beings and are subjective to some degree. Sometimes rejections are because you didn’t pay attention to the submission guidelines—this is vital. Sometimes it’s because your piece just didn’t catch the eye of the reviewer/editor. This is what I mean when I say “subjective.” Poetry is particularly subjective regarding an editor’s opinions of its worthiness for publication; just read stories about J.K. Rowling and other authors whose works were turned down over and over—subjectivity.

The final point: please trust me, just give it a shot. Set a goal of so many submissions this year—maybe one a month, or one every two months. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll soon get a YES from someone and a traditional publication on your resume as a writer.

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  2. Hi, Scott, thanks for giving our readers, and other writers, a behind-the-scenes look at your experiences and current information about publishing.

    • Thank you. I hope it will help writers overcome their fears. I know several very talented writers that simply WILL NOT submit their work for publication, and take that plunge. Although I haven’t “arrived” yet, in terms of my career, I’ve been published several times, I’ve self-published, I currently have some publications in the works, and I’ve had my fair share of rejections. I hope this will touch someone. 🙂

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