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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!

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Tips For New Writers

[found on karenkingsbury.com; by Karen Kingsbury]

“4. Read Other Books Similar to Yours

If you want to write a mystery, read mysteries. If you want to write a Christian romance, read Christian romances. If you want to write a Christian general fiction, such as Karen Kingsbury’s works—read Karen Kingsbury’s books. You get the idea. You must be well versed in the type of genre you wish to write. Editors and agents will expect this.

5. Get a Copy of Writer’s Market

This is an informational book that releases new every year and has a list of editors and agents who are acquiring new material.

6. Write a Brief Synopsis for Your Book

Once you’ve finished your book, and you’re happy with it, write a very brief one-sentence or two-sentence synopsis. This will go a long way in helping you convey the story to an editor or agent. Example: Gideon’s Gift is about a sick little girl, an angry homeless man, and the gift that changes both of their lives forever. You need something like this for your book.”

For more tips on writing from Karen Kingsbury, click HERE.

[found on http://www.karenkingsbury.com/about-karen/writing-tips]

Writing Can Not Be Tone Deaf

[found on writersdigest.com]

“If you find yourself having a difficult time sustaining one tone over a long work, try these three tricks.

1. Find a paragraph that sounds exactly the way you want to sound for this work, and tape it to your computer so that it’s always in front of you.

2. Each time you’re about to return to the piece, spend 20 minutes reading the work of an author who writes in the tone you’re after.

We’re natural mimics. You might try taking this a step further by more closely examining the sentence rhythms and word choices and looking for ways to make them your own. John Lukacs once said, “Style begins the way fashion begins: Somebody admires how the other man dresses and adapts it for himself.”

3. Starts and finishes are especially important to tone.

When revising your work, try moving some of your best sentences, the ones with energy and just the right tone, up to the top of your document: “I’m so looking forward to Christmas this year. It will be the only day in December not entirely consumed by children’s theater performances.” Could the piece begin this way? Experiment with moving equally strong sentences to the conclusion of your piece, for a cohesive ending.”

For more tips on writing from Writer’s Digest, click here.

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/3-tips-for-consistent-tone-2]

Notes and Words Dance

[found on dittomusic.com]

Two tips of ten for writing music:

“Tune In To Your Emotions

When writing songs, it’s important to make sure that the lyrics have a powerful emotional impact. One of the best ways to make sure a song has an emotional impact is by writing lyrics with passion. It’s essential to be passionate about something in life. Without passion, everyday life can become dull and uninteresting. This insipid and bland lifestyle can seep into one’s lyrics. When you sell music online, don’t send people to sleep

Do Crazy Stuff

Few people ever hear a truly great song that was written by an accountant or a dentist. While these are good career choices, many musicians lead colorful lives that serve as an inspiration for their lyrics.”

To see more tips from Ditto Music, click here.

[found on http://www.dittomusic.com/blog/how-to-write-a-song-10-tips-on-how-to-boost-your-creative-side-when-writing-songs]

Painting Poetic Pictures

[found on writing.ie; by Maggie Smith Hurt]

“Beginning to write poetry is about beginning to think about moments, stories, memories as their complete selves and then finding the right way to make those things lean, to amp up the right words to convey the tension, ambiguity and softness.

It’s a task a bit like painting a horse on a grain of rice….all the right things in the right place but the space is smaller and so the subject, all the more significant in its purest form, becomes the whole thing, the little nugget of art- the whole picture.”

For more great tips on poetry from Maggie Smith Hurt, click here.

[found on http://www.writing.ie/resources/writing-poetry-where-to-start]

The Art of Conflict

[found on huffingtonpost.com; by Writer’s Relief Staff]

“Learn the art of conflict. Creating a powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a tricky thing to master, and can take years of practice. The catharsis that a reader will experience at the resolution, however, is worth the struggle. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. And your conflict must affect your characters in a way that forces them to act and grow as a result. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression.

Here’s a tip: The best way to learn how to write conflict is by reading it. The next time you’re reading a short story or novel, take note of how the author presents the main conflict and the specific ways in which the characters react to it.”

[found on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/writing-tips-advice-fiction-authors_n_1628537.html]

Authors Speak

[found on timeout.com; by Nadia Chaudhury]

“Mike Burns (@DadBoner)
Power Moves: Livin’ the American Dream, USA Style (It Books, $15.99)
“I believe you should be emotionally bonded to the people you write about, whether they be real or fictional. Feel sad for their hardships and happy for their triumphs. If you aren’t truly attached to your subjects, chances are the reader won’t be either. Music is very important to my writing process. I’m fascinated by the idea of using letters as a way to transform sound into images and colors in another person’s brain like some sort of sensory alchemy. Just like great films, great writing needs a great score, even if it can’t be heard.”

Edwidge Danticat (facebook.com/edwidgedanticat)
Claire of the Sea Light (Knopf, $25.95)
“It might sound corny but listen to your heart. Let that inner voice guide you, the one closest to your truest self. The story you are most afraid to tell might be your truest one, your deepest one. Don’t let neither success nor failure deter you. Remember the excitement of those first days, those first words, those first sentences—and keep going.”

Ben Dolnick (bendolnick.com)
At the Bottom of Everything (Pantheon, $24.95)
“Get a kitchen timer. Writers are ingenious at redefining what qualifies as doing work (‘If I just spend this morning cleaning my desk…’). A kitchen timer tolerates no such nonsense. Set yourself a daily writing quota (as little as a half hour is fine at first), set the clock and get to work.”

Stephen Elliott (@S___Elliottstephenelliott.com)
The Adderall Diaries (Graywolf Press, $14); founding editor, The Rumpus (therumpus.net)
“You still have to make something really, really good. That’s the nut of it all. And the more time you spend ‘cultivating relationships,’ the less time you spend creating meaningful art. One of those things will do more for you than the other.””

To read more from successful authors shared from TimeOut, click HERE.

[found on http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/fifteen-successful-authors-share-their-best-writing-tips]

Hundreds of Writing Tips? Yes, please.

Here are a few…

[found on writetodone.com; by ]
    1. “Be open, curious, present, and engaged.
    2. Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.
    3. Live with passion.
    4. Say to everyone: “I’m a writer.”
    5. Recognize your fear and overcome it.
    6. Rethink what is ‘normal’.
    7. Check if your assumptions are right.
    8. Accept no excuses.
    9. Break out of your comfort zone.
    10. Approach writing with gratitude, not just with a ‘must do this’ attitude.
    11. Take risks – don’t be afraid to shock. You are not who you think you are.
    12. Always think of your readers.
    13. Learn to LOVE writing and reading.
    14. Write like you’re on your first date.
    15. Simply let things be what they are.
    16. Expose yourself to as many new experiences in a short amount of time as possible.
    17. Love your tools. As St. Bumpersticker says, “My fountain pen can write better than your honor student!”
    18. Embrace your shadow. Discover what traits and characteristics you don’t want to express.
    19. Write to agitate the mind and the nerves.”

To read the rest of these 201 great writing tips, click HERE.

[found on http://writetodone.com/how-to-be-a-writer]

Want Your eBook to Sell? Read On.

[found on inboundpro.net; by ]

“14 Invaluable Tips For Writing Ebooks That Sell

1. Lisa from Niche Website Success says:

“Take the time to survey your core audience to ensure your book meets their needs.  We often assume we know what people want, but you never really know unless you ask.

Prior to writing my eBook, I used my email list to survey my subscribers.  The feedback was invaluable and inspired much of the content in the book. Not to mention, it’s a great way to win over your readers.  They ask.  You deliver.”

2. Steve from Steve Aitchison says:

“Ask your audience what type of ebook they would like before writing one word of your ebook.  I have made the mistake of writing an ebook, thinking, this is a great idea my readers will love this, only to find that they didn’t love it.  The ONLY way to find out what type of ebook your readers will like is to ask them.  You can do this in a blog post, an email to your subscribers, or use social media  better yet ask them using all three.

Another thing is, make your ebook look fantastic.  Presentation is everything and you want to give a professional looking ebook with a great cover.  A lot of ebook creators write their book in a word document and turn it into a pdf without much thought for presentation.  In this day and age of information overload, you need a great cover to catch the readers eye, a great title to capture their imagination, and a great presentation on the inside.  It’s well worth spending a few hundred dollars to get a professional to design your ebook once you’ve written it.

One last thing, get someone to proof read your ebook.  Again, I’ve made this mistake of not getting an ebook proof read only to find I get lots of emails pointing out errors in my book.  If you don’t get it proof read it shows you’re not willing to invest that little extra to make it look and read great, and this will come across to the reader.””

To see more excellent advice from InBoundPro.net, click HERE

[found on http://www.inboundpro.net/how-to-write-ebooks-that-sell]