Getting published to get published?

Prairie Fire   CNQ  Brick

Getting published to get published?


You remember that horrible thing that happened when you started looking for a job? When your potential employer asked you “what kind of experience do you have?” Because, you know, you need the experience of the job in order to get the job? Well, I’m here to tell you that, unfortunately, the same thing happens when it comes to publishing.  (And I say publishing specifically because writing and publishing are not the same thing and do not always go together. Writing does not have the same stipulations. You can write all you want; every day, all day, if you are so inclined. But now, if you want to publish that writing, that’s where this experience thing comes into play.)


Quite simply, you need to have publishing credits in order to be published. You need to be low risk in order for people to take a chance on you or to even have your writing taken seriously. It’s the same in the journalism world as it is in the literary world. Sadly, both are at the same place in time- maybe the journalism world has a leg up here, but its not much of one- where there is no room for chance and barely room for cutting edge.  With the state of the industry, what they need are sales, and for that to happen, they need tried and tested, marketable work.


So what does this mean for the writers, particularly the ones whose work does not involve teenage vampires or billionaire sado -masochists? It means your work- whatever it may be- needs to be the best. You need to draft and re-draft, get readers to critique it, and then draft again. Make sure your beginning hooks the reader. Make sure there is a satisfying character to love/hate. And, please, make sure you do a spell check.


And then when you’ve gotten your work to the best place you can take it, what then? You still need publishing credits. This is where all those amazing literary periodicals come into play. Thankfully, we have a diverse group of scrappy, bare-bones, in the trenches literary worker bees who crank out arts-funded periodicals on a regular(ish) basis. These publications are not easy to get into; again, they are looking are looking for the best of the best and they also need sales. But they are more willing to take a chance and more drawn to the cutting-edge and gutsy work that publishers may be skeptical about. (And for the love of god, when you do submit, be sure to follow the submission guidelines to the letter.)


My publishing credentials started with a community newsletter, as did many of the people I worked with in the editorial room at Chatelaine magazine, some half a million years ago. From newsletters and online content, to journalism and then back to the literary world through periodicals, by the time my first manuscript was drafted and re-drafted to the best place I could take it, I was able to send it in with a list of credits and references that told the Managing Editor I was worth the risk, that I could sell books and that someone out there might actually read them.


For a great list of Canadian literary magazines, including links for websites and submission guidelines, check out the blog for the National Magazine Awards Foundation:


Arc Poetry Magazine         Prism