My college alma mater, Judson University, asked me to share in their senior seminar class about what it takes to get published and to give a little insight into the publishing world. These seniors are all writing ministry philosophy papers with a specialty area, and they were such thoughtful and exciting topics!! They are writing their papers on topics like how to do short-term missions well, working with foster kids, working with kids whose parent(s) are incarcerated, incorporating kids with special needs into your ministry, urban ministry and the arts, working with third culture kids, and more. Such exciting work!! I'd love to see these young leaders have a space to share their research and topics with the world.
Though I have been consistently published over the last 10+ years in a variety of forms, I wouldn't consider myself a publishing expert. However, I have learned a handful of things about what's necessary and important to be published. Here are 6 guiding thoughts no matter what medium you seek to be published...
CHARACTER: Your reputation precedes you and follows you.
The world is VERY small. We are all just a couple degrees of separation away from one another. And the publishing world talks. So, it doesn’t take a lot for someone to find out you’re a jerk, flaky, unteachable, fill in the blank. Who you are matters more than what you write and people will discover that through working with you in the writing process. Be smart and kind and respectful in all things. What other people think about you really does matter...to a degree.
CURATE: If you want to write, write!
No one is stopping you from writing what you want to write. That's the great thing about the First Amendment. Maybe you need to start by launching your personal website and writing on your own blog. You don't have to wait to use someone else's platform; start your own. If you like to journal, journal! The discipline of capturing and articulating your thoughts is critical to the writing process. So consistently curate content on whatever medium you can. Don't be afraid to put your stuff out there and write for anyone who's willing to share your work. Sure, you'll get rejection, but that's part of the process. Learn the "why's" from the rejection and move on.
Finally, I'm a huge believer that the best writers are the most ferocious readers. Read more than you write. Your writing will reflect the depth, breadth, and diversity of what you read. Read within your field, but also read on divergent topics and perspectives. If you want to be a better writer, read more. Writers are readers.
I have a stack of books by my bed and in my office that's consistently this tall...or taller.
CONNECTIONS: It’s all about relationships.
It's more likely to be published when you know someone who's connected to that publishing site/company. As a rule, cold contacts aren’t super effective. People's inboxes are full of proposals of authors they have no connection to. If you don't know someone who's at the publication you want to write for, ask someone to make an introduction for you. If your character and competency are there, those introductions are a pleasure to make on your behalf. Be mindful and intentional about developing relationships with people in your field because it always goes back to relationships.
COMPELLING: Write what you know and are most impassioned by.
For the young authors in my alma mater's class, I encouraged them - "Find your voice in your 20s!" Figure out what makes you passionate and compels you to want to do the arduous task of translating ideas into words and sentences. Do the hard work of figuring out how you want to use your unique voice in this information overdrive world. Discipline yourself to become an expert in the things that make your heart beat fastest. Becoming an expert and disciplining your voice takes time, but it takes less time if you spend the time to intentionally develop your voice.
A part of what makes your writing compelling are the stories you tell. Stories rule. You can make your point very quickly when you tell a story that illustrates your point. Practice storytelling in all forms of communication. It will make you a better writer.
Finally, have something to say before you ask someone to say it (publish it). It's always better to have something to say rather than forcing something that doesn't align to who you are or what you're about.
CREATIVE: Submit to the creative process or you won’t be published very many times.
Submitting your piece to a publisher is just one small part of the process, albeit an important part. It's critical if you want your reputation to precede you in positive ways that you need to submit to the entire process, not just submitting your writing. Become best friends with your editor(s). Editing is always more difficult for me that the initial writing content. I had three different editors throughout writing my book and I learned SO much. But while it can be a brutal process, editors make you sound better and smarter and make you look way better than your original manuscript. Learn from what they tell you. Don't fight with them. :)
Also, deadlines aren’t suggested. They are there for a reason. Publishing is a domino effect, involving many others in the process. So, if you are consistently late for your deadlines, folks will stop asking you to write for them. You'll find yourself on an unseen blacklist because working with you will make everyone else's job so much harder. And that's not worth it to them. They'll just find a new author.
CURRENCY: Getting published doesn’t make you rich (unless you’re JK Rowling), so write because you have something to say.
Do it for the love of writing and because you have something to say. Write because you want to add value to your field. Write because there's something you can uniquely contribute to the world. Do not write because you want to make a truck load of money and retire.
The vast majority of authors don't make a livable wage on what they publish. Your motivation needs to lie in another place. Yes, writing can open doors for other financial opportunities, but writing won't inherently make you rich. If that's your motivation, just close your computer and go back to watching your favorite new Netflix show.
Those are a few things I've learned along the way working with different publication companies and mediums. What about you? What have you learned as you seek to spread your ideas?
Write away, friends. Have fun!