Friday, May 21, 2010

How to Break Into Print

(Originally published on Triond)

Despite the Internet, getting into print is still the way most writers get paid for their work.

Getting into print also means the chance to achieve fame. You may hope for fame in your community; "Hey. I saw your article in the paper", or hope a reviewer in The New York Times one day writes: "(Insert your name) is the next Stephen King."

Breaking into print isn't easy. The first steps to breaking into print probably don't involve money. You probably won't get paid, or if you do, it will be a pittance. A few printed articles can go a long way though, in getting editors at paying publications to give a closer look to your submissions.

Editors at larger newspapers and magazines get thousands of submissions. If your cover letter indicates that you're already published, your submission gets a fighting chance.

So how do you get a few clips to send along when you submit an article to a paying magazine or newspaper?

General tips

Only submit your best work. No spelling or grammatical errors-if you have errors, your submission will go straight from the editor’s desk to the garbage can. Ernest Hemingway often revised a single page up to 20 times-that’s a bit much, but revising your writing is a big part of writing well.

Follow the rules. If a newspaper says it accepts columns between 500 and 750 words, don’t submit a column of 950 words.

Submit your work to the right person. A phone call can usually clarify which editor you should send your work to at a newspaper or magazine. Submissions reading: “To whom it may concern”, usually get tossed into the garbage can.

Submit by email or online if possible, it’s just quicker and means your article won’t have to be re-typed or scanned. A few papers and magazines still prefer submissions by hard copy.

Be ready to be edited. Until you have some publishing credits under your belt, try to learn from changes to your work. Once you are an established writer, then you can debate with an editor.


The local newspaper offers good opportunities for getting into print, unless your local paper is The New York Times or The Chicago Tribune or the Times of India. Even big cities, though, often have community newspapers that offer opportunities for unpublished writers.

Are you an expert? Are you a counselor, a crafter, a fishing enthusiast? You might ask about a weekly or monthly column. More and more papers are looking to stringers (non-staff writers) and local columnists to fill their pages. It may pay little or nothing, but it gets you into print and working with an editor. One local paper I worked for had a “Counselor’s Corner” column by a local mental health counselor.

Many newspapers publish local opinion columns-write on local subjects, not the subjects already tackled by well-known national columnists.

Many newspapers also need stringers to cover events their regular reporters can’t make it to-this is a great way to get a few published pieces. You might cover a high school football game, a cricket match or a town council meeting.

Literary magazines

Literary magazines offer another opportunity for writers. Most literary magazines accept personal essays, poetry and short stories.

Many are affiliated with a college or university and are open to submissions to the public. Here is a list of some of the top literary magazines, a larger list is here.

Check around at your local colleges and universities to see if they publish a magazine and whether they take submissions from the public.

Clips from a literary magazine work wonders when the time comes to submit to big paying magazines.

Finally, write for yourself and your readers enjoy the writing. If you are serious about improving, you can and will get into print. It may take time though; editors receive thousands of submissions a year, so luck does have something to do with getting into print.

Believe in yourself and your writing and keep plugging along. If you really work at it, you can break into print.

No comments:

Post a Comment