Write it down! Tell the world. Accomplished authors, whether known worldwide or only in smaller professional circles, are able to reach every dream faster… and then some. Want to grow your business – write. Be offered the next promotion – write. Get a job, or a new job – write. People look up to the successful among us. They affiliate themselves with the accomplished. They hire, promote, or buy from the expert who has demonstrated they are a mover and shaker in their field. Are you?
What to Write
You are an expert. There is something, maybe many things, which you do exceptionally well or know much about. Putting your wisdom to the page provides credibility to your work, helps your fellow man in an area with which they want to learn or improve, and gives you a strong sense of self-satisfaction when your work is published.
Focus less on becoming the next multi-million dollar author of Harry Potter and more on being you. If you are not a storyteller, fiction may not be your area. Plus, unless you want to change careers to become a full time author, it will do little to help your current career. Write non-fiction; that is, how-to, why-it-works, knowledge, and educational pieces that will help others know what you know. Don’t worry about writing yourself out of a job, thinking if you write it down they won’t need you anymore. On the contrary, you will become THE source for your clients and co-workers alike.
How to Get Published
“You should write a book” is a common phrase in American lexicon that we hear, or say, often. Maybe a book is in your future. But, if you are not a writer now, and have never been published before, it is probably not the best place to start. Consider magazine, journal, newspaper, newsletter, or electronic authorship.
There are two common ways to proceed.
The first, and most common, is to find a need and fill it. Talk to the editor of the publication for which you wish to write to find out what content they need. A little known fact is that most magazines and journals theme each issue and often make available their Editorial Calendars, outlining the themes for the upcoming issues. If your expertise corresponds with an upcoming theme, contact the editor to see if they will allow you to try your hand at a piece for consideration.
The second, less common approach is to just write. Find a topic to which you bring passion, expertise, and experience and write an outstanding article. Work it and rework it. You are on your own time – you have no deadline. Revisit it in subsequent days or weeks to lay “fresh eyes” on it. When you have it almost where you want it, share it with a trusted advisor for their input and feedback. Rework it some more. Only after it is perfect – shop it around. Send it to editors of journals, magazines, newspapers, and newsletters to see if they will accept it. Don’t just send it to any editor of any publication. Research them first and make an honest judgment call on if your article would fit well in their publication.
I have personally had much more success with the latter method; though, fellow authors tell me it is the path less travelled and much more difficult to find success. With over a dozen articles published in national publications and dozens more in state and local print, I have not found this, however, to be the case.
Publications differ. In broadly speaking terms, there are three different article lengths – think of them as small, medium, and large. The common measuring tool is in number of words, as opposed to characters, found with some social media (such as Twitter); or, column inches, found predominantly in the newspaper world.
A small article, then, is 600 to 800 words. Anything smaller is not really an article at all; but rather, an interesting fact, very short story, or report on an event. After being laid out on the page, adding graphics, advertisements, or sidebars, a 600 to 800 word article fills less than a full printed page.
Medium-sized articles are the bread and butter of most publications, ranging from 800 to 1,200 words with a median length of 1,000 words. They either fill the printed page or extend to a second page when laid out and enhanced in production. It is possible that they will extend to a third page, though this is rare. I recommend you focus your early attempts in targeting this size. This is the perfect sized article to get an editor’s attention.
As articles approach 1,200 words in length and exceed it, they become feature articles. Most magazines and journal have three or less feature article in each issue. Newspapers have one per section. And, newsletters have one per issue. Every author wants a cover story. You have to earn it. History is full of ‘naturals.’ Maybe you are one of them and can hit it out of the park on your first time at bat. Most of us thrive at on-the-job training. We make our mistakes along the way. Learn. And, improve.
All Authors Hate Editing
You should have enough to say. In fact, you should have too much to say. It is much easier to ramble on long-winded than it is to be succinct. If you find yourself on the other side of the equation – searching for what to write – you have picked the wrong topic. As an example, after writing, re-writing, reviewing and tweaking this article, it was 1,557 words (I cut 367 words).
Editing it down to size is always the hardest part of writing a piece, large or small. It separates the adults from children.
Never send out into the world any piece unless you are convinced it is your latest masterpiece that far outshines all previous work. Should an article not rise to that level, keep it to yourself until you make it so.
Professional vs. Amateur
Pros get paid. Amateurs do not. Again, unless you are interested in changing careers to become a writer, use it as a supplement to your current career. Focus your efforts in writing the best piece possible and getting it to print rather than the few hundred dollars a paid author may receive. Success begets success. The more you are published, the easier it becomes to get published. If you are good, editors will want you. Whether writing is your passion or you write about your passion, my advice is the same: get a few dozen publication successes under your belt before you ever consider doing so for payment. Stay an amateur writer as long as you can. When you go pro, go fast and make a splash.
Dream big. Choose the most glorious publication in your field and work your way up to becoming a regular author in it. Your peers, contemporaries, clients, and boss will all appreciate your accomplishments and will reward you with greater success in your career of choice.
Become an author. Grow your career. Improve your life.