Two years ago, I published my first essay. Since then, I’ve published nearly 30. If I can do it, so can you. There is no get-rich-quick formula. But, if I could sum up the process, it would be this:
- Work you’re a$$ off. (I am not glorifying overwork, but publishing is HARD.)
- This is a long game, so keep reading and pitching. Then read more and pitch more.
- Don’t give up. According to Katy Perry, “Baby, you’re a firework.”
Getting into your dream pub takes patience, hard work and tenacity. Here are 9 steps I recommend.
1. Read ferociously.
I cannot emphasize this enough: read. Read publications for years and years. If you want to get into a publication you’re not too familiar with, read at least a dozen pieces, so you can get a feel for the voice and how they write headlines. Then replicate both.
2. Learn about different columns.
This ups your chances of getting published because maybe you can’t get into Modern Love (yet), but your piece might fit the Vows column. Or how about biting off a baby-sized nibble and beginning with a Tiny Love Story, a 100-word delicacy?
3. Join virtual groups.
There are so many wonderful online groups but amongst my favorite are Binder groups for women-identifying individuals on Facebook. Look up the Memoir Binder on Facebook.
4. Subscribe to newsletters.
Without a doubt, sign up for Sonia Weiser’s “Opportunities of the Week Newsletter.” For $4 a month, Sonia will scrub Twitter for you. Your four bucks can’t be better spent.
5. Read everything (or almost everything) your writer friends publish.
Your friends’ publications can become your stretch goals. Don’t be jealous of your friends but bask in their glory and learn from them. This also builds literary citizenship. They are more apt to read your work when you publish. And don’t forget to like and comment on their posts.
6. Take a ton of craft classes.
If there were an award, I’d probably win it for the most writing classes taken. However, if you feel like a contender, I take on the challenge; let’s duel. You need to know how to write to publish in your dream pub. I am a true believer you can never take too many craft classes. Some of my favorite writing classes have been through GrubStreet, Writing Workshops and Gotham Writers Workshop.
7. Become a groupie of brilliant writing teachers.
I have teachers I follow religiously, and when one of their classes pops up, I sign up in a lickety-split. I have so many favorite writing teachers, so I will only name a few, but hopefully, one day, I can write an homage to them all. Some of my favorites from GrubStreet include Ethan Gilsdorf, Shuchi Saraswat, Andrea Meyer, Mark Fogarty, Vanessa Martir, and Theresa Okokon. These teachers will thrill you with their wisdom.
8. Take Publication Classes
In addition to craft classes, take classes focusing on pitching and publication. First, get to know Susan Shapiro, the Byline Bible Goddess. Read her book, the Byline Bible, and take her 5-week Instant Gratification Takes Too Long. I can guarantee by the end you’ll probably have a byline.
I also just completed an amazing month-long class with Diane Zinna, called the February Publishing Circle. Diane invited a guest editor to our class every day, excluding weekends. Some included editors from Smokelong Journal, Craft Literary and The Rumpus Reviews. Topics included choosing pieces to submit, finding the right magazine and organizing your submissions. Diane charged $200 for the month, and the class was worth every penny. I will be joining Diane every February. Won’t you too?
9. Remind yourself publication takes time and patience.
I call this the marathon, not the sprint unless you take one of Sue’s classes. Then, you’ll have instant gratification. But even so, publication is time consuming. I devote at least 20 hours weekly to reading pitch calls, educating myself, and writing pitches. Most pitches aren’t accepted, but that’s okay because I get practice and strengthen my game.
My last words of advice are:
Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Pitch. Pitch. Pitch. Wait. Wait. Wait. Then, repeat.
Good luck pitching and publishing. Reach out to share your successes.
Tamara MC is an applied linguist who has taught English for 25+ years. She’s been full-time faculty at the University of Arizona and worked as a consultant for the Department of State as a teacher trainer. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Thrillist, Salon and Ms. Magazine. She’s received fellowships/residencies from Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Ragdale and VCCA. She’s currently revising her memoir about the Sufi commune in Texas, where she grew up. Follow her on her socials @tamaramcphd. She’s available for writing coaching and consulting. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is fantastic! Thank you!
I love the energy in this piece. Thanks!