How to become a Published Author

An article by Kody Boye
It's a question that every aspiring writer asks at one point or another. It's on the tip of their tongue, the back of their mind, or in the palm of their hand, a constant source of 'how' always beckoning to be answered. That question is no more complicated than this: How do I get published? It might seem complicating and difficult when you think about it, but, really, what all are you thinking about? Are you thinking about getting your work into print, the work it takes to get your work to a publisher, or about the work it takes into getting an agent? All are questions that can be answered one way or another, though finding an answer simple enough to understand without pulling your brains out can be a bit of a challenge. So... the question is, once again: How do I get published? Before we can go into that detail, let's take a look at a few more questions you should be asking yourself before you even begin to consider trying to get your work published. - Is my work good enough to be published? - Am I willing to wait weeks, possibly months for a publisher to get back to me? - Do I have a thick enough skin to take 'No' as one person's opinion and not think said person is out to get me? If you have answered 'Yes' to all three of these questions, or if you've even managed a 'maybe' on the first one, let's continue on. If you managed to answer 'No' to any one of these questions, you might want to step back and prioritize just what you want to do with your talent. You don't want hurt feelings when you face the untimely and highly possible rejection. Without further ado, let's continue, though keep in mind that every experience is different, and not everyone gets published on their first or even twelfth try. Step 1: Make sure your work is well edited. A good writer knows what it takes to make their story shine in an editor's eyes. It takes story, characters, emotion, plot—but, you might be asking, what else are they looking for? That answer is wellwritten stories. If your work is littered with spelling mistakes, typos, and inconsistencies, you are likely to get rejected within the first paragraph, if not before that. The first and essential step to getting your work published is being a good writer, but also knowing to edit your work. Read through your story before you send it off. If you’re not sure about something, ask a friend to read it for you and give their opinion. A polished story glows in its own way, especially to an editor who receives more than his/her fair share of bad writing. Step 2: Make sure your manuscript is properly formatted. You might be thinking, 'Formatting? What's that?' To answer simply, formatting is the way a story is laid out for someone to read. Do you add spaces between your paragraphs? Do you italicize or

How to Become a Published Author/Boye/2 underline thoughts? Do you use dialogue tags when your characters are talking, and do you place the necessary dividing marks between each scene to signify a break in the rhythm? The best and easiest way to ensure that your manuscript is properly formatted is to read a publisher’s submission guidelines, but also to know Proper Manuscript Format. A simple search on Google will most likely lead you to William Shunn’s website and his very helpful article on how to properly format your work. In a nutshell though, proper manuscript format is usually best followed like this: 1. Your real name (not your pen name,) address, email address and phone number should be displayed in the upper left-hand corner. 2. Your total wordcount should be right aligned in the upper right-hand corner. This is usually accomplished by tabbing your wordcount so it appears flushed to the right. Your wordcount should be rounded down or up, depending on whether or not the last two digits or your wordcount is above or below fifty. 3. A space or so below your information should be the title of your story—centered, with the name you want to be credited as below that. 4. Your story should appear at least one or two spaces below your pen name. 5. Your story should be typed in Pt. 12 Times New Roman or Courier Font, contain a number stamp (#) between scenes to signify scene breaks, and should contain proper paragraphs, as you would see in a regular book. 6. Your story should also have headers on every page but the first. Your last name, the shortened title of your story, and a page number (inserted by using your word processor’s ‘insert page number function’) flushed right. It should look something like this: Story/Boye/Pg.#. Look to the header in the upper right-hand corner for an example. Following the Proper Manuscript Format will ensure that your work is well received by editors. It will look clean, professional, and most of all, proper, giving your work just another nudge up the publication ladder. Step 3: Finding a publisher. Finding a publisher is usually the hardest part, and finding one that won’t scam you is another challenge entirely. In a nutshell, you should look for a few specifics things when you’re looking for a publisher. 1. The publisher has a domain name that doesn’t resemble An early sign of a publisher having a lack of funds, the lack of a domain name is a tipoff to writers to be careful when submitting. If they don’t have enough money to establish a professional web presence, where does that leave you? 2. NEVER submit or agree to any kind of contract that involves paying to be published. There’s a difference between paying for services from a freelancer and having the publisher take your money to pay for these services. Cover art, editing, printing and

How to Become a Published Author/Boye/3 distribution are in the publisher’s hands—you should NEVER pay for them. Publishers that charge to publish your work are referred to as ‘Vanity Presses,’ and should be avoided at all costs. 3. Make sure you receive and sign a contract. Having your story published is great, but if you’re getting paid for it and they’re asking for certain rights, you should own a legal contract which states that the publisher only get specific rights for a certain amount of time. NEVER sign away your rights for an indefinite period of time. Printing rights is one thing, exclusive rights are another. If you’re not sure about the contract, ask someone. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 4. If you’re unsure about the market, type the publisher’s company name or the editor’s name into Google, or visit the Preditors and Editors website. Designed to keep you in mind, Preditors and Editors watches markets and receives feedback from those who have had dealings with them. If they’re good, they’ll say so—if they’re not, they’ll let you know. With this in mind, finding a publisher isn’t the easiest thing in the world. When I myself am submitting my stories, I use one of two websites: or These websites are one of many that list markets actively looking for submissions. They’ll allow you to narrow your search to specific parameters (whether you want to get paid, how much you want to get paid, what genre your work is in, whether you want to submit electronically or by post,) which will save you and the editor of the webzine trouble. Step 4: Submitting Submitting is the easy part. After following the given submission guidelines, type the editor’s email into a new message, follow what they specifically ask for in the subject line (this usually involves something along the lines of, ‘Submission: This Amazing Story by The Amazing Amazoness of the Amazon.’ ) Once that is finished, write a submission letter. They usually look like this: Hello, My name is Kody Boye, and I’m ‘STORY’ for your consideration. submitting my story entitled

Thank you for your time and consideration, ~ Kody Boye Below your name should be the contact info you specified in your manuscript—your real name, address, email address and your phone number. A submission letter should be short, to the point, and contain only the information asked for. Don’t mention any unnecessary details (age, race, marital status, etc.) A bio might be requested, but take note in including what you’d like people to know about you in your bio, nothing more than that. Step 5: Waiting

How to Become a Published Author/Boye/4 There’s really nothing you can do for this step. Whether a publisher will get back to you within a week or a month depends on several factors—the number of submissions they receive, the length of the stories, the holidays, and personal matters. Editors have lives too—many don’t live exclusively on their work. If you haven’t received word on your story, query, but don’t send too many—the editor looking at your work might have personal matters or something worse that might be keeping them from getting back to you. Step 6: Acceptance or Rejection Having your work accepted will mostly entail a repeat of the above. An editor will ask you to sign a contract, they’ll ask you to edit your work to their specifications and, if necessary, edit your work themselves, and they’ll pay you depending on what kind of submission you sold. Rejection, however, is tricky. As noted above, don’t take a rejection personally or as a personal attack against you. Ten editors might not like your story, but there’ll be another who will. There’s no need to respond to a rejection unless there’s feedback involved. Deleting it and wiping it from your view is the easiest way to avoid possible confrontation, which can get you blacklisted (as in, permanently banned) from said publications. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Don’t feel the need to defend yourself if they say something snotty. It’s them with the problem, not you. When rejected, simply repeat the steps outlined above and resubmit the story. It’ll get picked up eventually if it’s good. Step X: Tips Here are a few added pointers to get the best out of your submission process. 1. If a market doesn’t respond to you a month after they say they will, query them—but only once. A query a month is polite and tactful. Anymore will leave you open to speculation and might get you rejected. 2. If for some reason your queries are going unanswered even after you’ve sent multiple messages, simply write an email introducing yourself, the story you submitted, and say you are pulling the story from consideration. It’s easier to submit one story to one market at a time so issues with simultaneous submissions don’t arise. 3. If an editor responds to you in a way you feel uncomfortable with, simply respond by saying that you’d like your submission taken from consideration. You have to consider your professional reputation early on. You don’t want people not reading your work because of the people you associate with. 4. It’s highly recommended that you get a P.O Box and a cell phone before you start dealing with people you don’t know. Horror stories arise in all shapes and forms from writers who have given unstable individuals their physical address and home phone numbers. From stalking, to calling you in the middle of the night, to harassing you for no reason at all, the writing field isn’t immune to its share of crazies. A P.O Box can be rented for fairly cheap, and a Trac or pay-as-you-go phone only costs how much you use it. It’s a highly effective way to ensure that you’re safe when dealing with someone you’ve never met before. This way, if the person on the other end of the line DOES in fact have some problem, you can simply throw your Trac phone away without too much money lost. With a retail price for around thirty dollars (some of which include minutes,) it’s a safe investment to partake in.

How to Become a Published Author/Boye/5

Remember, fellow writers—honest and truthful publication relies on talent and a publisher’s ability to work with the author. Though this isn’t to say that bad work will never get picked up, a writer with a shred of talent will usually ALWAYS be recognized sooner or later. Like anything, you only get as much out of it as you get in, so don’t give up submitting, and definitely don’t give your talent up just because you’re rejected. It takes years upon years of practice to become a good writer, and even then, you’re always learning.

About the Author
Kody Boye is a dark genre writer and life blogger currently residing in Southeastern Idaho. He is the author of the out of print zombie novel Sunrise and the short story collection An Amorous Thing, which is now currently out of print. His short fiction has appeared in over thirty-one anthologies, magazines, webzines and podcasts. You can visit him online at

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful