A Professional Writer’s Five Top Tips to Getting Published

Guest Blog by Julie Gorges

The question all aspiring writers are desperate to know: How can I get published?

When I first dreamed of becoming a published writer decades ago, that’s the first question I always asked at author lectures. No one had any magical answers for me, so I foraged my own path.

As a result, I’ve been working as a professional writer for more than 20 years. During that time, I’ve had a non-fiction book I co-wrote published by one of the big-time publishers, McGraw Hill, started my own publishing company with a partner, published two young adult novels, and lived out my dream of having book signings at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

In addition, I’ve had thousands of articles published in magazines, newspapers, and websites. This past year, I’ve added blogger to my list of achievements and am working on my fourth book.

So what’s the secret to getting published? I don’t have a college degree and I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business to help get me started. So, don’t give up, there’s hope for all of you out there like me.

To help you out, here are my top five tips. However, be forewarned, there’s no magic involved.

Learn Your Craft

Before you begin sending manuscripts out, take the time to learn the craft of writing if you haven’t already done so. I’m always surprised how many people don’t take this essential step. No, you don’t need an English degree at a fancy college to become a writer. But you do have to learn the basics – whether that means taking writing classes at a local college, reading every book on writing you can get your hands on at the library, taking advantage of all the information on the Internet, or attending writer’s conferences. This is a simple tip, but a crucial one – be sure and learn basic grammar, spelling, and writing techniques before submitting your work for publication.

Start Small and Earn Writing Credits

Many aspiring writers want to start out by tackling the great American novel their first time out to bat. Why not start small and work your way up instead? Believe me; you’ll learn invaluable lessons along the way and become a better writer. In addition, rejections for short stories and articles are much easier to take than rejections for a book that you’ve spent months or years pouring your heart and soul into writing.

How did I break into the publishing world? Six long years after I took my first writing class at a local college and after countless submissions, my first short story was finally accepted for publication in a small literary magazine. Later that year, I sold an article I had written for one my college classes to a regional parenting magazine. These days, earning writing credits is much easier than it was 20 years ago with all the freelance writing sites like oDesk, Elance, Freelancer, along with dozens of others. You’ll have to work dirt cheap at first, but you can earn some writing credits. Hey, my first check for my short story was $22 and I was ecstatic. Just don’t give up your day job too soon.

Find an Agent

An agent is required for many of the larger publishing companies (but not all, as you can see in the section below, “Find a Publisher”) so it pays to try and find an agent to represent your work. If you take my advice in the previous section and earn some writing credits, you’ll be one step ahead in the game and have an easier time finding an agent.

How did I find an agent for my first novel? Like I said before, I didn’t know anyone in the business, so I bought a copy of Writer’s Market, made a list of agents that specialized in young adult fiction, and sent out query letters. I learned how to write a good book proposal and when a few agents expressed interest, I sent them exactly what they asked for, which varied slightly.

If you want to find an agent, edit and re-edit you manuscript, and make sure your query letter, book proposal, and/or sample chapters are free from any grammar or spelling errors. Don’t give up easily. Do your homework and make sure the agents you’re querying accept the kind of book you’re writing. And finally, don’t pay reading fees – generally it’s a rip off.

One more tip: This is a good time to develop a thick skin. Pay attention when an editor or an agent takes time to point out flaws instead of sending a standard rejection letter. Editors aren’t always right, but don’t automatically assume they’re wrong either, especially if more than one notes a particular weakness.

Be Unique

If you’re trying to get published, I don’t have to tell you, there’s SO much competition out there, so you MUST find your own unique voice and perspective. Just about every subject under the sun has already been covered, so it’s really important to find a different angle.

For example, when I approached publishers regarding a book on building steel-frame homes, there were already quite a few books on the subject. But I couldn’t find any that focused on building energy efficient steel-framed homes. When it came time to find a publisher, having a distinct angle is what made my proposal stand out from the rest.

Find a Publisher

Of course, this is easier said than done, but not impossible. By the way, I found a well-known publisher for my non-fiction book without an agent. My Writer’s Market was gold once again, and I simply sent out query letters and followed up with my book proposal if publishers were interested.

My tip: Be sure and have a detailed marketing plan in place before you begin this process. This book was co-written with my father, a civil engineer, and our plans included seminars, speaking events, as well as other promotional efforts. Remember that even the big time publishers expect you to get out there and promote your book like crazy. Of course, now publishers also want you to have a social media presence and build an author’s platform. The latest Writer’s Market suggests you need about 5,000 followers to get a decent advance. So, now that I have an idea for a fourth book, guess what I’ve been busy doing?

So there you go, my top five tips I have used to become a published, professional writer. While it’s true that the publishing world is constantly evolving, one thing hasn’t changed over the years – and it’s my most important tip of all if you want to be a successful writer – don’t give up! You’ll definitely need the three P’s of writing: patience, persistence, and perseverance.

As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

In the meantime, try and enjoy the journey. Writing is certainly a roller-coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs, but it’s also an adventure.


Meet our Guest Blogger, Julie Gorges:



Julie Gorges is the author of three books, has had hundreds of articles and short stories published in national and regional magazines, and won three journalism awards while working as a newspaper reporter.


Follow her for amazing posts, and check out her blog, books, and social media!

 |  Facebook | Blog | Twitter | Email |
| Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |


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Reading or Writing? READING.

“Reading is more important than writing.”

— Roberto Bolaño


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Punctuate That Title

[found on thepunctuationguide.com]

“Titles of works

The titles of certain works are indicated with quotation marks, others with italics, and yet others with regular type.

The style presented here is consistent with The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.), and is appropriate for most academic and professional writing. Newspapers tend to favor quotation marks in place of italics for most titles.”

Click image:

1)   To see entire list

2)   To read more important tools from



Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 3.39.18 PM


[found on http://www.thepunctuationguide.com/titles-of-works.html]


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Role of a Writer

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

— Anaïs Nin


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Fight-Scene Mechanics

[found on fantasy-faction.com]


Learn to master suspense, and you’ll have your readers literally squirming to turn the page.  This is particularly true with fight scenes.  The build up is the perfect place to lay down what is truly at stake for your characters, to make clear the price of failure.

Don’t underestimate the value of this phase.  A good build up will often last longer than the fight itself, and rightly so.  Take Gandalf’s confrontation with the Balrog in the mines of Moria, for example.  The actual fight didn’t last long.  It was the build up to that moment which made it great – the lore, the menace and the darkness, the chase through the mines, all of it culminating with the breaking of the bridge.

Sometimes there’s not even any action in this phase, because you don’t need it; everything is implied.  That nasty, serrated hatchet the goblin is shaking at your character speaks for itself.  You can just imagine the damage its rusty edge would do to unprotected flesh, and oh no, your heroine isn’t wearing any armor either.  Small details can help differentiate the impending conflict from a run-of-the-mill battle by increasing tension and upping the stakes.  It can also be a great opportunity for horror.”

To read all fight-scene tips from Fantasy-Faction.com, click the image, or click HERE.


Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 5.42.27 PM

[found on http://fantasy-faction.com/2011/writing-fight-scenes]


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Follow Your Obsessions

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

— Franz Kafka



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Write Your Wicked

[found on hsquiresnovels.com; by H. Squires]


“So how do you write wicked characters?

…I usually run down a list of good villains in my head—extracting their “not-so-nice” qualities. One specific sinister trait I enjoy is an intelligent character that teeters on trustworthiness. Another attribute is the unsuspecting or unlikely evil.

Your villain, however, doesn’t always have to be a person. Objects can be most useful. Even items—normally not scary, can become frightful if given the right antidote [sic] of suspense and evil attributes.

Answer questions about your villain(s):

          -First, identify the enemy.
          -If you were the main character, what’s so scary about the bad guy?
          -What sinister qualities does your antagonist have?
         -All characters have a weakness, what’s your villain’s “Achilles Heal”?
          -Does he/she act alone or do they have a group?
          -If the villain isn’t a person, what abilities does the object(s) exhibit?


In the beginning, I wouldn’t resolve the conflict between your main character(s) vs. the bad guy. For now, focus on developing the evil personality—demonstrate several situations that make them “bad”.”

[found on http://hsquiresnovels.com/2014/04/16/where-im-at-wednesday-april-16-2014/]


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Relate to Reality No Longer

“Life is painful and disappointing. It is useless, therefore, to write new realistic novels. We generally know where we stand in relation to reality and don’t care to know any more.”

— Michel Houellebecq


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Promote & Market Your Book

[found on jdscottnovels.wordpress.com; by J.D. Scott]


“How to make the most of social media marketing, where do you start? You need detailed, accessible and practical advice on what to do and how to do it. Planning and research are often forgotten in the rush of getting a book published. Drawing up a marketing plan and carefully thought out campaign are the only ways to ensure the success of your book and to meet the readers’ requirements. Initiate these concepts and you will see the benefits immediately!”




“Who is it For?

Any author who wants to create and launch a successful book, or people who chose publishing as a career.

What Will it Help You Do?

This guide walks you through the development of author’s brand and improving sales.

What is Included?

…valuable resources lists, such as book bloggers, publishers, literary agents, newspapers and magazines, independent booksellers, Facebook groups, sites to promote a book, and radio shows for authors.”

How Can You Buy This Book?

Barnes & Noble


[found on http://jdscottnovels.wordpress.com/the-writer/featured-article-tips-from-a-publisher-with-the-heart-of-a-writer/]


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Featured Writing Addict: Philip Cook

Philip Cook

Philip Cook was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where he currently resides with his wife, Cristina, mother-in-law, Martha, and their four dogs.

He graduated from Western International University with a Master’s degree in business administration, and is now a full-time real estate broker, dedicated husband, writer, and Sunday-school teacher.

Always interested in history and mythology, Phil embraced his heritage after traveling to Ireland, which gave him a deeper insight into not only its people and its land, but also its legends.

He was influenced by many famous writers, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and C. S. Lewis. The author’s journey led to the creation of the magical world of Erden, where both truth and fantasy merge to become a story of faith, friendship, and the eternal battle between good and evil.

What’s Philip Cook’s Genre?

 Christian Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

What’s  Philip’s Passion In Writing?

“My passion is for fantasy and science-fiction literature. I also have a strong desire to share my Christian faith, and decided to start a journey as a Christian-fantasy novelist. Throughout the story of Erden: Flame of The Creator, there are nuggets of Christian truths.”

What are Philip Cook’s books about?

Erden: Flame of the Creator

“After his nine-year-old niece, Lilly, follows a huge wolf into a shimmering pool of light, Peter and his new friend, Karina, jump in to save her. They enter the world of Erden where they encounter great, wicked, and dreadful creatures like the demonic Tzygula. Along the way, Peter and Karina are befriended and mentored by two human warriors—the beautiful Brittini, a highly magical and skilled Elvin swordswoman, and Riley, a powerful, yet smart-aleck leprechaun. Peter and Karina are amazed at the Creator’s power, and the strange, wondrous, and perilous world where they are trying to find and rescue Lilly.”

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Overstock | FamilyChristian | WestbowPress |
ErdenChronicles.com | Facebook | Goodreads | Email LinkedIn |


Erden: Flame of the Creator PROMO VIDEO



Saturday, August 9th
From 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Barnes and Noble Metro Center
10235 N Metro Parkway East Phoenix, AZ 85051
[more info...]





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