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The Internet is a gold mine for writers. You can find countless resources to improve your writing and advance your writing practise. For instance, on the Internet, you can do the following:
- Find writing prompts that inspire your creativity
- Search for freelance writing jobs
- Create a free blog where you can post your writing and create a writing platform
- Join an online writing community/ writing groups
- Find out how to submit to writing contests or literary publications such as Tin House
- Read and learn how to write poetry, short stories, personal essays, and more
- Enroll in online creative writing courses
- Purchase books on creative writing
- Create a web presence and writing platform with social media
- Learn how to self-publish your fiction or creative nonfiction
- Read poetry, short fiction, personal essays from popular literary journals
In this post, I’ll identify some of the many websites that you can use to find this information.
The purpose of a writing prompt is to provide inspiration and help you explore and practise your writing. You can use a writing prompt to kick start a freewriting session of 10 to 20 minutes, writing about anything that is associated with the prompt. If you searching for writing prompts to inspire you, check out these websites:
- First 50 Words ( http://www.first50.wordpress.com ) The author of this blog, Virginia Debolt, provides you with a daily writing prompt for your writing practise. She suggests that you write ” often, write about anything, everything, what you see, what you learn, what you’re thinking, what you read.”
- Easy Street Prompts (www.easystreetprompts.blogspot.com) On this site you will find video prompts, photograph prompts, and word prompts.
Creating a Free Blog
Would you like to create a blog, where you can post your writing and create a Web presence?
Here are the best free blogging platforms:
- WordPress- http://www.wordpress.com
- Twitter- http://www.twitter.com (micro-blogging)
- Tumblr-www.tumblr.com (micro-blogging)
These blogs are easy to setup and post content to. Creating a blog is an easy way to establish a Web presence, share your writing, and build a writing platform.
Join a Writing Community
The online writing community offers many services to writers. You’ll create a profile and then post your poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and so forth. You can also join a writing group, obtain free reviews, and free advice. And you can join various forums, where you can discuss different aspects of writing with others. Many of these online writing communities offer free online courses and advertise writing contests. Here are a few popular online writing communities that you should consider joining:
Are you searching for a freelance writing job? Here are some good sites to find work:
- Freelance Writing Gigs – http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/
- Freelance Writing Organization–http://www.fwointl.com/ This site has job listings and 5,200 free writing resources and links.
- Media Bistro– http://www.mediabistro.com/
For freelance writing jobs in your area, use Google to search for websites in your area.
Enrolling in Online Creative Writing Courses
If you are interested in taking a course in creative writing, such writing personal essays, poetry, short stories, screen writing—- there are a myriad of universities in Canada and the United States offering online courses and certificates in creative writing. This means that you can study from your own home, instead of having to fight traffic to attend a lecture.
Providing you have an Internet connection and credit card, you can enroll in online education courses from anywhere in the world. For instance, all universities and educations institutions I visited on the Web offer a plethora of creative writing courses, which you can take online. For instance, the University of Toronto’s Continuing Educations program offers online courses in creative writing poetry, fiction, and screenwriting courses.
There are countless educational institutions around the world where you can take creative writing courses online. Here are five places to checkout:
- Continuing Education at the University of Toronto
- University of British Columbia
- Continuing Education at Stanford
- Online Writing Classes from Creative Nonfiction Magazine
- Gotham Writers Workshop
Resources for Writers
One of the best sources of information is the Poetry and Writer website, a print-based magazine that also have a Web presence. All writers should visit this site on a regular basis. Here is what you can learn on this website:
- Find our who is offering writing contents and competitions.
- Find out where to contact a literary agent via the Literary Agents database.
- Obtain details about contact information, submission guidelines, and the types of writing small press publish by accessing the Small Press Database
- Discover where you can attend a writing conference, workshop, or residency
- Search for jobs in the arts, writing, publishing. (Some are Internships, which don’t pay, and most are in the United States.)
- Obtain advice for writers about writing contests, literary agents, publishing your book with the small press or larger publisher, book promotion and publicity, MFA programs, literary organizations that you can join.
Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction Literary Journals
There are many online/print literary journals where you can read fiction, poetry, personal essays. Check out these Literary magazines:
Please note that these are just a few of the popular literary journals that you can read.
If you are interested in reading poetry by the best poets from around the world, obtain how-to advice on how to write poetry, learn poetry terms, techniques, and genre, read articles about poetry, visit the following:
Are you interested in reading creative nonfiction, such as short personal essays of less than 1,000 words? You can read them at the Brevity, an online literary journal.
Purchasing Books on Creative Writing
Do you live some place where you don’t have regular access to creative writing books? You can purchase them online at the following:
In fact, most of the books on how to write poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction that I’ve used were purchased online at Amazon. Here are a few of the books I recommend that you can purchase at Amazon, books you won`t find in your local bookstore:
- Truth of the Matter: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Dinty Moore
- You Can`t Make this Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between by Lee Gutkind
- Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hart
- Creative Nonfiction: A Guide to Form, Content, and Style by Eileen Pollack
- To Tell the Truth: Practise and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction by Connie D. Griffin
Craft of Writing
- Elements of Style by Strunk and White
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Writing Creative Nonfiction)
- The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla. (A great book for learning how to write creative nonfiction, especially the various forms of the personal essay.
- Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway. (Everything you require to write creatively, such as showing and telling, writing with sensory imagery, similes, metaphors….
- Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway (Includes how to instruction, exercises, and anthology of short stories)
- On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey ( Two parts: How to write and an anthology of short stories)
- Poetry Repair Manual by Ted Kooser
- Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen
- The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio (Excellent book to learn how to write poetry)
- The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayers
- Creating Poetry by John Drury
- In the Palm of Your Hands by Steve Kowell
Create a Web Presence with Social Media
Do you want to create a Web presence? Here are a few popular social media platforms where you can create a profile, network with others, and promote your writing skills, expertise, and work
- Google +
Learn How to Publishing an E-Book
Are you interested in self-publishing? A great place to begin is at the Self Publishing Review. At this website, you can obtain advice and find resources on self-publishing. You can join a social network, read their online magazine, and find out how to self-publish. The Self-Publishing Review also provides book cover design and an e-book publishing service. It can design a cover for your book for a fee. It can also convert your book of fiction or nonfiction to an XHTML file, the format of an e-book, for a fee. (For a book of 200 pages, the cost is $200) And then you can upload it to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Nobles Pubit, Kindle, or Kobo-Self-Publishing. To find out more, check out The Self Publishing Review .
Another self-publishing service to look into is Outskirts Press. It offers the following services:
- Copy editing
- Cover Design
- Private Label ISBN
- Publishing packages
- Marketing solutions
To find other useful writing resources, you can carry out a search with Google.
November 26, 2012
by Dave Hood
How do you end a poem, short story, novel, personal essay—or any other type of creative writing? Writing a good ending is as important as writing a compelling opening…You should give as much thought to your ending as your opening.” This is the advice William Zinsser shares in “On Writing Well.
There are many ways to end a piece of creative writing, such as with a relevant quotation, with a recommendation, with a call to action, by referring back to the beginning. Often the genre you are writing and the idea you are writing about will dictate how to end.
The ending should provide a sense of closure to your writing. To write an ending, you should know when to end and how to end a piece of writing. Different genres, such as a short story, personal essay, or poetry, have different suggestions for writing an ending.
In this article, I’ll explain what an ending must accomplish and provide some general suggestions on how to end a narrative or poem.
What Must Your Ending Accomplish
In the “Handbook of Magazine Article Writing,” it is suggested that the ending of an article should do one of the following:
- Leave readers with the idea that they have learned something.
- Leave readers with the idea that they have gained some insight.
- Show reader how the information in the article impacts or relates to their lives
- Encourage readers to conduct research or additional investigation.
In “On Writing Well,” William Zinsser makes a few suggestions about ending a piece of creative nonfiction:
- “When you are ready to stop, stop. In other words, don’t write too much.”
- “The positive reason for ending well is that a good last sentence–or last paragraph, is a joy in itself. It gives the reader a lift, and it lingers when the article is over.”
- “What usually works best is a quotation.”
Zinsser also tells readers not to end by summarizing. For instance: “In summary…or “To conclude…”
Why? A summary is repeating yourself by compressing details that were already shared with the reader. Instead, you ought to make one final point that resonates in the mind of the reader.
When you end, you must have answered all questions posed in the story or article or personal essay. Otherwise, the reader is left wondering, and feels your writing is incomplete. As well, the essay or narrative should be brought to a close. In other words, the reader knows that the narrative is complete. For instance, if you are writing about a journey, the end might be when the character reaches his/her destination. If you are writing a meditative essay, you might leave the reader with some final point to ponder. If you are writing an opinion essay, you might end with a final point. Writer Elizabeth Anderson, in her essay “IF God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?” (The Portable Atheist, selected and introduced by the late Christopher Hitchens), ends her essay with the following judgement: “The moralist argument, far from threatening atheism, is a critical wedge that should open morally sensitive theists to the evidence against the existence of God.”
A great ending, in my view, leaves the reader with something to ponder or meditate about after he puts down the piece of writing. Sometimes the writer shares an epiphany or a lesson learned or words of wisdom.
There are no rules on how to end a piece of creative writing, only suggestions. It is up to the writer to decide how to begin and how best to end a piece of writing. Your end should make some important final point. A good final point is like a knockout punch.
How to Write An Ending
There are several ways to end. It all depends on the genre. A personal-narrative essay usually ends when the story ends, often with some epiphany. In a poem, the last line often makes some emphatic final point, some idea the writer can take away and ponder. In a short story or novel, the ending can be closed or open. In a closed ending, the story ends, and nothing else happens. In an open ending, the reader is left to imagine what might happen in the future. Trilogies end with an open ending. A popular technique for ending a story is to use a “cliff hanger.” Sometimes the writer ends a short story or novel ends with dialogue from the protagonist. Some writer’s end articles or personal essays or meditative essays by referring back to the beginning. Other writers begin with a question, explore the question, then you can end with one final answer. Many writer’s end with a final quotation.
Check out most literary journalism essays in the New Yorker, and you’ll discover that most writers end their writing with a final quotation from someone they’ve interviewed. In the essay, “Slackers” (July 30th, 2012), writer, Malcolm Gladwell, ends with the following quote: “None of the doctors who treated me, and none of the experts I’ve consulted since the day I collapsed, have ever heard of anybody being gone for than long and coming back to full health,” he writes.” He was back on the track nine days later.” Clearly, there are many methods you can use to end a piece of creative writing. The decision is yours to make. It is a creative choice of the writer.
David Remnick, author of “We Are Alive”, ends with the following quote: Springsteen glanced at the step and stepped into the spotlight. “Hola, Barcelona!” he cried out to a sea of forty-five thousand people. “Hola, Catalunya!”
You often read true and fictional stories about a calamity or disaster. The writer opens the story by describing a setting of normalcy. And then, the bomb is dropped, or the hurricane destroys the quiet life of the living, or the earthquake obliterates a town. The writer describes the cause and effects, and the struggles to survive and cleanup. In this sort of narrative, writers often end by “returning to the state of normalcy.”
Some writers end with a telling anecdote, or by pointing to what will happen next in the story, or tell readers where to find additional information. Other writers end with an epilogue, which tells what happens to the characters later and how their stories continue.
Other ways to end a piece of creative writing include:
- With a judgement
- With recommendation
- With a prediction
- With an insight
- With a hope or wish
There are no rules for ending a piece of writing, only suggestions. And every form of writing–whether a personal essay, poem, short story, article—has its own suggestions for ending. The final decision about how to end a piece of writing is the writer’s. It is one of the creative decisions of writing. Often the writer relies on a “gut feeling” or “intuition” or “sixth sense.” The worst thing a writer can do is overwrite or write a double ending. The best way to end is to leave your reader satisfied while giving the reader a sense of closure. William Zinsser writes, “The perfect ending should take your readers slightly by surprise and seem exactly right.”
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- The Story Within: New Insights and Inspirations for Writers by Laura Oliver
- The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction by Francis Flaherty
- Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, edited by Michelle Ruberg and Ben Yagoda
- The New Yorker, “Slackers: Alberto Salazar and the Art of Exhaustion” by Malcolm Gladwell (July 30, 2012)
by Dave Hood
Most great writer’s have a routine. That is what I’ve learned by reading Margaret Atwood’s “Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing,” Steven King’s “On Writing: A Memoir on Craft,” and Elizabeth Berg’s “Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True.”
Writer Elizabeth Berg suggests that your writing routine should be “as personal and as varied” as your routines for anything else.
If your lifestyle changes, so will your writing routine. If you are a student at university, taking courses in creative writing, you’ll probably have lots of time to read and write. But, if you are working full-time, and attempting to write a novel, or short story, you’ll have to do it in your leisure time, perhaps at night or on the weekend.
Berg suggests that you begin your writing day by reading the writing you completed yesterday, and then edit it before writing something new. Why? The break from writing will provide you with fresh insight and a new perspective, perhaps even some new material.
Other writers suggest that you complete the first draft before beginning any sort of editing. Why? Editing can slow down the process of putting words from your mind on the page. Editing can also stifle the creative spirit. I always write the first draft before editing. And I always take a break for a few days before revising my work. The break allows me to discover new material and see my work from a fresh perspective.
Berg also suggests that when you are completing a writing project, continue to read unrelated material, such as other books, magazines, poetry, newspapers, to help you continually fill your creative spirit with new ideas.
How long should you write for? Berg writes for three or four hours in the morning, and then stops. Other writer’s do the same. Most writers don’t write for long stretches of time, such as 9,10,11 hours. Why? Their mind gets tired, they are unable to think clearly, they are unable to dust off authentic and original ideas from memory or their imagination. They are unable to write at their best with specific details, fresh similes, surprising metaphors.
As part of the routine, you should also write in a quiet and inspirational place, some location that allows you to think. Some writers set up a writing room. In their writing room, there is a desk, chair, bookcase of favorite books, a dictionary, thesaurus, perhaps some quiet music on the stereo, art on the walls, and photographs perched on the desk. Other writes craft a piece of writing in their bedroom, lying in bed. Many writers carve out something in a quiet cafe, where there’s the hustle and bustle of people, and soothing music.
Part of your routine also requires that you choose the “writing tools” that inspire you and allow you to quickly express your thoughts on the page, including a pen or coloured pens. A notebook. A writing Journal. A computer, such as tablet or laptop. Most creative writing instructors tell you to keep a writing journal, and write in it each day with a pen or a set of coloured pens. Most writers will also tell you to carry a notebook, so that when an interesting idea pops into your mind, you can capture it.
To write a poem, short story, novel, article, anything well, you require discipline. To be disciplined, you need a routine. Some writers like to write in the morning, other writers like to write at night when it’s dark. Many writers are only able to write in their leisure time, such as on the weekend, when they don’t have to work at their 9 to 5 day job.
If you truly want to become a good writer and publish, you must have discipline. Discipline requires that you make writing a high priority. And so, if you are a person who writes a “To-do-list” each day, you should make writing your number 1 priority, or very close to the top of your list of things to do. As well, instead of writing when you feel like it, you must establish a schedule and write at specific time of day. This helps to establish a routine. If you do not have time to write, you must find time. For instance, you could write for 15 minutes on your lunch, write for 15 minutes on your coffee break, writer while you ride the bus home from work… Discipline as a writer requires that you organize your life around your writing.
The act of writing makes you a writer. Writing requires that you do it regularly. Establishing a routine is the best way to write each day or on some schedule. Establishing a routine enables you to learn to write, to experiment with your writing, to become a writer, to write creatively like Hemingway, Alice Munro, Stephen King. Establishing a writing routine allows you to complete projects and to publish your writing dreams, rather than leave your writing aspirations to chance.
If you’d like to learn more about the writing life, I recommend that you read:
- Margaret Atwood’s “Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing”
- Steven King’s “On Writing: A Memoir on Craft”
- Elizabeth Berg’s “Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True.”
Each of these books is an entertaining read and provides insight into the writing life, as well as great advice on the art and craft of writing.
If you want to get your poetry published, you first need to write interesting poetry. You also want to be able to write poetry that evokes an emotional response and reveals a truth about the human condition or a life experience. And since almost all modern and contemporary poetry is written in free verse, you want to be able to learn this form. Essentially, there are no rules. However, if you want to improve the odds of getting published, you must learn how the “Great” modern and contemporary poets have constructed free verse poems that have been published.
The following are 12 suggestions on how you can improve the odds of getting your poetry published:
- Read poetry of published poets. A good place to begin is by reading the poems of the great poets, such as Robert Frost, Charles Simic, and Billy Collins. A very good place to start reading great poetry is at the Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfounation.org ) or at the Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org).
- Write a poem on a regular basis. Ideally, you want to write a poem each day. On the other hand, if you don’t have time, try to write a poem every week. In a single year, you will have written 52 poems.
- Learn how to use the various poetic devices, such as simile, metaphor, alliteration, symbolism, line break, stanza, personification, rhyme and rhythm, and more.
- Analyze published poetry. Learn how it was composed. The stanza? Line break? Poetic devices?
- Read books on how to write poetry. Two excellent short text books are “Writing the Life Poetic” and “In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poets Portable Workshop.”
- Write about what interests you. You can write about anything, from death, to divorce, to suicide, to war.
- Write about what you are passionate about.
- Write about what you observe or experience in your daily life. For instance, I wrote a poem about aging. It was based my experience of people who are growing old. I focused on using line break, simile, metaphor, and irony. Here is the poem I wrote in a couple of hours:
The Golden Years
by Dave Hood
You phone your elderly mother
who shares her aches and pains,
She tells you about
the memories of a marriage gone sour,
and lonely days alone
in her three bedroom mausoleum,
like someone who has lost the zest for living.
You visit your aged, bed-ridden father
in a nursing home that smells
like an unflushed toilet.
He opens his sad eyes
as you arrive in the room,
shares his regrets of lifetime,
and tells you he wants to die.
You go to bed wondering why
your parents have lost the taste for life.
You fall asleep contemplating the “Golden Years.”
9. Revise your work. After you have written the poem, put it away for a few days. And then reread your poetry again. After each reading, revise your poem for a different poetic device. For instance, on the first reading, revise for alliteration. On the next reading, revise for line break. On the next reading, revise for simile….
10. Share your work with friends and family. Your goal is to get feedback, which you can use to revise your work.
11. Setup and maintain a blog of your poetry. It is a great way to keep track, revise your work from anywhere, and share your poetry with the world. A good place to start is by setting up a blog at www.wordpress.com .
12. Submit your poetry to both print-based publications and Online publications. http First, you need to find a publication. Start by picking up a copy of the Poets Market ( www.poetsmarket.com ). Next, check out the list of online publishers (www.pw.org ) that accept poetry submission.
You have written your manuscript for your novel or short story collection. You have also edited and revised and proofread your work. Now you want to see if you can publish it. What is the next step? You need to write a query letter to a prospective agent/editor, one that makes a strong first impression. Here is how to write a query letter for a fiction manuscript:
Choose an Editor or Agent
The best way to get your book published is by using an agent. Most large publishing houses only accept manuscripts from an agent. So, the first step you need to complete is to select several agents or editors. You can conduct a Google search. You can also visit the Poetry & Writer’s website at www.pw.org to find a list of literary agents. Next, make a list of agents and editors you want to contact Then read the submission guidelines for each agent and editor. You will often be able to determine the types of writers the agent/editors have represented and the works they have helped publish by visiting the website of the agent or editor.
Writing the Query Letter
Your goals are to write a query letter that captures the attention of the editor or agent and is only a single page long. Your query letter requires the following elements:
In the opening, identify the name of the editor or agent you are writing to. Example: Dear Mr. Smith. As well, tell the contact person that you are seeking someone to represent you and your manuscript. And give a reason why you have selected the particular person to represent you. For instance, you might state “ I notice that you have represented writers of short story collections.”
In the body, you are going to write about your novel. Start with a hook that captures the reader’s attention. A good way to write a hook is to tell the agent/editor what makes your story unique and interesting. As well, tell the agent or editor why people will want to read your fictional story.
After you write the hook, write a synopsis of your novel or short story collection. You can briefly identify the central character or protagonist. Also, include the main plot, central conflict, turning point, and resolution of the story. Your goal is to outline the story in the form of a narrative arc.
At end, list your qualifications and credentials, such as published work, teaching experience, and education. As well, you can include elements of your writer’s platform. Your goal is to convince the agent or editor that you are qualified and a subject matter expert in writing and what you are writing about.
Be sure to tell the agent/editor what you have included for him/her to read. (Example: I have included the first short story in my collection. I would be glad to send you the other short stories in my collection. If interested, please let me know. Thank you for your time and consideration…”
After you have written the query letter, reread the submission guidelines and then send your manuscript and query letter to the agent or editor. Remember, your query letter needs an introduction that includes a hook, a body that describes your novel, and ending that identifies your credentials and expertise as a writer.
Your query letter should also be only a single page. By following these suggestions, you will improve your chances of finding an agent or editor who can help you publish your manuscript.
Do you want to publish a novel, memoir, or collection of poetry? Perhaps your work has been rejected by a large publishing house. Perhaps you are a new writer. Perhaps you don’t have an agent. Perhaps you have a limited writing platform. Whatever your circumstances, you should consider using the small-press to publish your work.
In the United States, the small press, also known as the independent press, accounts for $30 billion in annual book sales. (The Writer’s Guide to Getting Published” by Writer Mag.)
In 2010, Canadian writer Johanna Skibsrud was named the winner of the Scotia bank Giller Prize for her novel “The Sentimentalists” , the largest annual literary award given to a Canadian author for the best novel or short story collection. Her novel was published by Gaspereau Press, a Canadian small-press publisher in Nova Scotia.
The small press can provide you with the opportunity and benefits that the large publishing houses will not/cannot.
In this post, I cover the following topics on the small press:
- Definition of the small press or independent press
- Advantages of publishing with the small press
- Disadvantages of publishing with the small press
- Resources for finding small-press publishers
- Tips for submitting to your work to the small press
What is the small press? The publisher typically sells poetry collections, genre fiction, speciality magazines, or limited-edition books to bookstores. According to Wikipedia, the small press in the United States is any publisher who has annual sales of less than $50 million.
The small press can also be referred to as the “independent press”, because publishers are not multinational publishing companies who dominate the book publishing industry.
The small press often fills niche book publishing markets, which larger publishers ignore. Since profit margins are narrow, the small-press publisher often has other motives for publishing, such as “promoting poetry” or “literature” or certain types of “genres.”
The small-press publisher does not charge the author for services. Instead they sell the books to the booksellers, and then pay the author.
The small-press publisher also makes much smaller print runs for a book or poetry collection than the big publishers. The print run for a small publisher can be in the hundreds or print on demand.
An example of the Canadian small press in Canada is Coach House Books
(http://www.chbooks.com/about_us ), which publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and limited-edition books. Another example of a small press publisher in Canada is Mercury Press ( http://www.themercurypress.ca ), which publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction written by Canadian authors.
Often, the small press will take a chance and publisher work that the large publisher will not, such as poetry or fiction by new writers.
Usually the small-press publisher will allow the writer to participate in all aspects of the publishing process, including layout and cover design, marketing and promotion.
The writer is able to develop a personal relationship with the editor and publisher.
Often, the writer receives more attention, such as editing advice.
The writer is usually able to maintain his/her vision of how the book is to be published.
Another big advantage is the small press publisher will accept books by writer’s who don’t have an agent.
The main drawback is that most small press publishers have narrow profit margins, which results in small budgets for marketing and promotion of new books.
Another major drawback is that the writer will have difficulty getting a book widely distributed.
Because profits are small and budgets are tight, the writer should also not expect an advance on his book sales.
Where to Publish
How do you find the right small press publisher for your work? First, conduct research on the Internet to find what the publisher does, the mission statement, and a list of recent books that have been published. You can do this by reviewing the publisher’s website.
For the United States, you can use the Small Press database at the Poetry & Writers website (http://www.pw.org/small_presses ) to research publishers, editorial style preference, types of genre published, submission guidelines, and contact information.
In Canada, you can use the website for The Association of Canadian Publishers (http://www.publishers.ca ) to find small-press publishers.
In addition, writer’s conventions and writer’s conferences provide can provide you with the opportunity to connect with editors and publishers.
Tips for Submitting Your Work to the Small Press
Here are a few essential tips for submitting your work for publication to the small press:
- Read the submission guidelines, and then follow them. Each small press publisher has its own guidelines for submitting a manuscript.
- Find the small press that publishes the genre fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction that you have written.
- Use standard formatting guidelines. For more information, see The Chicago Manual of Style.
- Make sure your book is original and captures the attention of the readers.
- Make sure you have a writer’s platform, including a website, published articles, blog, public speaking engagements, teaching assignments completed, writing portfolio, books or poetry published.
- Revise, edit, and proofread your work before submitting it. There must be no errors or typos in your manuscript.
If you are a first-time writer, you have a far better chance of getting published by a small-press publishing house. Often, you don’t need an agent. Frequently, a small-press publisher will publish the work of first-time writers. Before you submit your manuscript, be sure to research the publisher and read and follow the submission guidelines.
The goal of every writer is to write a novel or nonfiction book that is a bestseller. But a good idea and great writing skills will not guarantee a bestseller. Nor will landing an agent or finding a publisher to market and promote your book. There is a certain amount of “luck” in becoming a bestselling writer.
In this post, I will discuss the idea of “writing a bestseller.” The following topics will be covered:
- Difficulties in publishing a bestseller
- Characteristics of a bestseller
- Finding an agent
- Responding to rejection
- Responding to poor book sales
Difficulties in Publishing a Bestseller
Writing a bestseller is exceedingly difficult. Often first-time writers cannot find an editor or publisher. Why? Selling a book that is written by a well-established writer is much easier than publishing a book by an unknown writer.
Fewer and fewer people are reading. Instead they are spending their leisure time on the Web, playing video games, going to movies, or attending sporting events. Thus the demand for books has decreased for many types of genres.
Many books that have won the Pulitzer Prize were not bestsellers. Book sellers are reluctant to buy books that might not sell. Many novels that are now considered “classics” were not bestsellers.
Many writers who have exceptional writing skills and great ideas have not been able to write bestsellers.
The publisher cannot guarantee that your book will become a bestseller, no matter how much the publisher promotes or markets the book.
Essentially, there is no formula for writing a bestseller. Often, luck or chance is involved.
Characteristics of Writing a Bestseller
There is no formula for writing a bestselling novel or memoir. However, there are certain characteristics of a bestselling book. Here are a few:
- Writing is exceptional or literary. The novel or memoir is not poorly written. There is no use of clichés, hackneyed expressions, or a stilted style.
- Economic use of language. The writing is clear and concise. The writer uses the fewest words possible to write the story.
- Development of vivid and plausible characters. The reader can visualize the characters and identify with them.
- Suspension of disbelief. In a work of fiction, the reader is convinced by the writer that the story is plausible.
- Strong voice. There is a belief in the mind of the reader that the narrator can talk the way the story has been told.
- Good opening. The story captures the reader’s attention and compels him/her to continue to read.
- Exceptional storytelling or narration. The story has a protagonist, inciting incident, conflict, obstacles in the protagonist must overcome, climax, and resolution to the story.
- The narrative is original and engaging.
Finding an Agent
Most publishing companies only accept submissions from an agent. For this reason, it is important that you try to land an agent who will represent you. Your goal is to find a person who will work hard for you and who is well-connected in the publishing industry. The function of the agent is to sell your literary work to a publisher. It is strictly a business arrangement.
How do you contact an agent? It depends. Each agent has different submission guidelines. Your objective is to send a query letter, which requests that the agent will represent you. If the agent wants only a query, you send a query letter. If the agent requests an email query, then that is what you must send. You must following the agents submission guidelines.
You should choose an agent who is a member of the Association of Authors Representatives. A good resource for finding an agent is www.writersmarket.com .
An agent finds writers to represent through a number of methods. The obvious method is through direct contact with the writer. Another method is from a referral from a publisher or editor. Agents also get referrals from their other clients.
Often agents will reject the request to represent the writer. A weak query letter will not land you an agent. You need to write an engaging query letter.
Sending a query letter to an agent who does not represent your genre is a waste of time and energy.
If your writing is poor, you will not land an agent.
Knowing who is going to buy your book and why readers should buy it is helpful in landing an agent. You need to be able to sell yourself and your work. Don’t assume that the agent is going to recognize the target market and the benefits of reading your book.
Responding to Rejection
A good book will always find readers. If your manuscript is rejected, you might need to change your style, genre, content, plot, characters, and so on. You might need to revise the opening or ending. The important thing is to keep trying, even if editors continue to reject your manuscript. But at some point, you will need to be honest with yourself. If you cannot find an editor or agent, you will need to revise your manuscript to get it published. You might even need to start over.
Responding to Poor Book Sales
What if your book is published but sales are poor? Don’t give up. Instead, learn from your mistakes, and then write a second book. While you are writing, build a writing platform. Here is how:
- Find a good editor.
- Become a subject matter expert, and write articles in magazines or newspapers to gain public awareness.
- Create a blog and start blogging about your upcoming book.
- Get others to blog about your book.
- Build a website to promote and sell your book.
- Schedule a speaking tour to promote your book and build an audience.
- Go on a book tour, such as a book fair or book festival.
- Teach a course on creative writing.
Writing a bestseller is difficult. But a good book will always find readers. If your manuscript continues to be rejected, you will need to strengthen it. There is no formula for writing a bestseller. There is a certain amount of luck.
You can improve your odds with great writing, excellent storytelling, and a book that is original and captures the reader’s attention.
In this post, I discuss self-publishing. There are two methods of self-publishing. First, you can use your own money to publish a manuscript for a book. Secondly, you can create a website or blog and publish your work on the Web. A blog is good for publishing shorter works of creative writing, such as your poetry, flash fiction, short fiction, personal essays, literary journalistic essays, book reviews.
Self-Publishing a Manuscript
Most new writers will have a difficult time publishing their manuscripts. There are several reasons why. First, the editor might not want to publish your book because he/she doesn’t like it.
Or, the editor might not want to publish your book because he/she believes there is insufficient interest in the genre you are writing about.
The editor will also be reluctant to publish your book because you don’t have a platform (website, blog, published work, teaching credentials, education, and writing portfolio). Essentially, you are an unknown commodity.
Sometimes the editor will enjoy your book but won’t publish the book because it won’t sell in the current book market. What does the aspiring writer do? You could do what Charles Dickens did with the Christmas Carol: Publish the book yourself.
Whatever the case, first time writers are going to have difficult time publishing their work.
If you really want to publish your work, you have a few options.
When to Consider Self-Publishing a Manuscript
When might you consider self-publishing? If you have the money to pay for the costs of publishing, you can consider self-publishing. If you just want to publish for the pleasure of it, you can consider self-publishing. If your book is written for a small audience, you might consider self-publishing. If you believe there is a larger market for you book, you might consider self-publishing. If you want to build your writing platform, you can consider self-publishing.
Drawbacks to Self-Publishing
The big drawback of self-publishing is that many in the book publishing industry see it as a form of self-promotion and shoddy way of getting published. Often you won’t be taken seriously as a writer.
The other major drawback is marketing. You need to be able to get the word out—to make the public aware of the fantastic book you have written. You need money to market your book. Most writers don’t have the money to pay the marketing costs. You also need a place to sell your book. Most retail book chains or independent stores will refuse to sell your work. So, you will be forced to sell your book at the Farmer’s Market, flea market, or book fair.
Tips for Self-Publishing a Manuscript
- Only consider self-publishing if you have the money.
- Only consider self-publishing if you have the time to market and sell your book.
- Before you print your book, be sure you have edited and proofread every page.
- Research the market to be sure that people will be interested in your book. Your book needs to be unique.
- Use a reputable publisher to print your manuscript.
- Be sure to find out the costs of publishing the book.
- As an option, check out e-publishing.
Self-Publishing on the Web
Many writers are now using the Web to market and promote their work. Established writers usually have websites that include a summary of the book, book reviews, and additional information related to the book.
More and more writers are also turning to the Web to blog or write about their passions on a Website. For instance, creating a blog is a very good way for the aspiring writer to self-publish poetry or short stories or personal essays or literary journalistic essays. The writer can do the same with a website.
Here are a few suggestions for self-publishing on the Web:
- Use free software to create your blog or website. The ideal tool for creating a blog is www.wordpress.com . Just follow the instructions, choose a theme, add your features, and start blogging.
- Learn how to write for the Web. Unlike the printed page, people scan or skim Web pages, looking for useful information. They don’t read for every word. That means you need to chunk your information in small paragraphs, use headings and subheadings, use bulleted lists, and link the reader to related content. (For more information, see my article on “Writing for the Web.”
- Post useful content. Don’t write about yourself, unless it will entertain or interest your audience. You can include your poetry, flash fiction, short stories, personal essays, and literary journalistic articles.
- Edit and proofread your work before posting it.
- Your website or blog should have a specific theme. Only post content that is related to the theme. For instance, this website is about creative writing. Only poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, digital media, and how-to information are posted to this blog. Nothing else.
- Provide links to related information. If there is a useful website, provide a link on your blog.
- Add content to your blog or website on a regular basis. If readers are aware that you are adding information to your blog on a regular basis, they are more likely to revisit.
At the very least, self-publishing is a way to build your writing platform and writing portfolio. But, there are drawbacks. Before you consider self-publishing, you must weigh the pros and cons.
Many writers still believe that the only option for publishing their poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction is in a magazine, literary journal, or book. Yet, there is another option: a web-based publication or online literary journal.
There are numerous literary journals that publish only on the Web. In other words, they don’t publish content in a magazine or print-based journal. According to Writer’s Magazine, there are more than 300 Web-based literary journals. And, with the trend toward Web-based publishing and the increasing popularity of various types of digital media, more and more publications will be moving to the Web.
Online publishing has exploded for several reasons. First, it is much less expensive to publish a literary journal on the Web than to print and distribute it.
Secondly, the Web-based publication has global reach. It can attract readership from all over the world. Anyone who has Web access can read the publication.
Finally, digital media, like the iPhone, Kindle, and iPad are making it easier for people to access and read information on the Web.
The Web is the future of publishing, whether it is a magazine, newspaper, or literary journal.
Benefits of Publishing on the Web
The Web offers several benefits to the aspiring writer who wants to publish his/her work.
First, it is easier for you to publish on the Web than trying to publish in The New Yorker, for example. Often, these online publications are looking for fresh material from new writers.
Secondly, many of the online literary journals publish avant-garde or experimental creative writing.
Thirdly, by publishing on the Web, you have a potential of reaching readers from all over the world.
The following are examples of some of the best web-based literary journals:
- The Adirondack Review ( www.theadirondackreview.com )This Web-based literary journal publishes poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews.
- Allegory ( www.allegoryezine.com) This online literary journal publishes fiction and nonfiction.
- Anderbo (www.anderbo.com )This literary journal publishes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction.
- The Barcelona Review ( www.barcelonareview.com )This online literary journal publishes contemporary fiction.
- The Big Ugly Review (www.biguglyreview.com )This literary journal publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
- Contrary Magazine (www.contrarymagazine.com) It publishes poetry, fiction, and reviews.
- Drunken Boat (www.drunkenboat.com) It is an online journal that publishes art and literature.
For a complete list of online literary journals, go to Poetry and Writers online at www.pw.org