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Gigi Will Know: Is there a comprehensive, trustworthy guide for the brand-new author on how to get published?

"I see books and courses advertised online and elsewhere that purport to tell me this, but I do not know whether they have good advice or are just selling books."

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Have a query about craft? Need some clarification on an aspect of the publishing industry? Looking for career advice? Email your queries to [email protected] with the subject line “Advice Column.” We can’t wait to read your questions!

 

Dear Gigi, 

I am a new writer interested in getting my work published for the first time. Is there a comprehensive, trustworthy guide for the brand-new author on how to get published? As a newbie, I have dozens of questions on how to get started. I see books and courses advertised online and elsewhere that purport to tell me this, but I do not know whether they have good advice or are just selling books. I also do not know if the process is different for short fiction. In short, I am looking for clues for the clueless. Could you please point me in the correct direction, if possible?

—Just Hatched

Dear Hatched,

In the Middle Ages in Europe, they used to have these guilds that you had to pay into in order to learn specific crafts. The apprenticeships were long and arduous and you didn’t get paid in much more than room and board. 

But now we have the Internet. And, as you point out, it is overwhelming. So many offerings! You don’t say in your letter to me what kind of writing it is you want to have published (although I have a tiny clue in your line about short fiction). 

What I’m going to do is offer you a lesson in critical vetting of your resources: All of the books and resources you mention are likely to be attached to bylines. That is, you’re able to find out who wrote them, or, if you’re using the Internet, you’ll be able to tell who’s hosting their work. I’d have a quick look on that very same Internet for the name of the person who wrote the article you’re reading: have they published any short stories or freelance work themselves? Is the venue you’re looking at online a reputable one? By vetting your sources, you’ll have a much better chance of learning from the right people. 

In terms of getting short stories published, organizations like Submittable and Duotrope and the Submissions Grinder are good resources for seeing which publications are open for works like yours. The rest, though – figuring out which publications are right for your story – is elbow grease. Have a trip through the publications (a good many of them make a sample available online free) and see which one suits you. 

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In terms of book publishing, I’d start the same way: vetting the folks who are offering the courses and books. But I’d also posit this: It’s not all fun and roses to put together a course on publishing and querying. It’s not an easy money-maker, either. So I wouldn’t jump right to the conclusion that someone’s out to steal your hard-earned cash. 

Your one-stop-shop for publishing apprenticeships,

—Gigi

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