It all began two years ago, while sharing a glass of wine with my friend, Karen. She pressed me to begin pursuing my dream of writing and I admitted that I was scared. Scared of failure, scared of exposing myself, scared of putting it all out there (I sounded like a nervous flasher). ‘I want to be a writer‘ seemed like a ridiculously pretentious line out of a Woody Allen film. Who did I think I was?
Karen was relentless: “How dare you not try?”
Why couldn’t she just leave me alone with my glass of wine?
But she pressed on: “Would you accept ‘I just can’t’ from one of your kids?”
Ugh. She was pushing all my buttons, but she was so right.
I couldn’t get her words out of my head and two months later, after working on content, I launched my blog and website. With my very own piece of Internet real estate to call home, I was satisfied for about two minutes before I realized that I wanted more. To reach a wider audience, I had to learn how to pitch editors and build a social media platform. It was, and still is, time-consuming but well worth the effort.
Here are five easy to follow tips for new bloggers trying to get published:
1. Establish a presence on social media.
My friends and family commented and shared my first few articles. While I was grateful, I was left wondering if, objectively, my work was good enough. Would thousands of Twitter followers retweet my stories? Although your mom may be your greatest cheerleader, an impartial audience is crucial. And let’s face it, your mom won’t get you published. Share your work on social media sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google. Don’t be afraid to annoy people by scheduling tweets and making lots of noise all day long. Chances are your followers will only see it once. Read articles on growing your followers to increase exposure and don’t be shy about promoting yourself! Getting the words onto the page is only the first step. Get the word out!
2. Write about what you know.
Writing is not a choice for me. It’s how I think, process, celebrate, grieve and work out the stuff in my head. Unless I’m answering a writing prompt for a paid assignment, I write about what’s already taken residence in my heart and soul. When I start to conduct an internal dialog with myself, I realize that a story is brewing (and no, I don’t hear voices in my head in case you’re worried). Write about what you know and what you feel to keep it real and non-preachy. It’s your experience – unique to you – and if you make it relatable, chances are others will identify with it.
3. Join a writing group.
The camaraderie and shared experience of other writers is invaluable, and if you’re able to physically rather than virtually join a writing circle, go for it. Join writing groups on Facebook and make friends with other writers. Asking questions and receiving feedback not only helps your writing evolve, but also provides priceless support through the inevitable failures. Hook up with a writing partner so you can share drafts, exchange ideas and proofread for one another. And when things go south, only a fellow writer will viscerally feel the pain you suffer from a negative comment, whether from an Internet troll, or a credible commenter. Our work is a part of us and attacks on it, even when constructive, can feel very personal. Build your village. Most days you’ll need it.
4. Read everything but don’t read the comments.
Read books, articles, newspapers, magazines and other blogs. It’s hard to be a good writer if you’re not an avid reader. This is especially important when pitching to a particular site. Study the content and style and learn what the editor is looking for. I only pitch to sites that fit my personal groove and genre. While I’d love to be published by The Wall street Journal or The Economist (because wouldn’t that be cool?) parenting, lifestyle and relationship sites are more up my alley. I live this stuff. And while you should read everything, you should never read the comments. On a recent discussion thread for one of my writing groups, bloggers unanimously advised that reading comments should be reserved only for readers with the thickest skin ever. Know that someone will always take something out of context, make assumptions and rip you to shreds simply because you’ve put yourself out there. As a fellow writer so aptly said when I was raked over the coals for what I thought was an innocuous article: “I don’t see the trolls being published, yet they comment from behind the safety of their screens. Get over it and never read the comments!”
5. Don’t annoy the editors.
Each site has its own guidelines and requirements. Read them carefully and strictly adhere to exactly what the editor requests. The last thing you want is to be annoying before they even read your work. A three-line pitch is different from a full draft; a link to a word document is different from pasting to the body of an email… Same goes for your profile picture, bio and any other specs particular to the site. If you get rejected, at least you won’t be blackballed for lack of professionalism! And for heaven’s sake, proofread your work and ask someone you trust to proof it a second and third time. The typos I fail to catch on my own never cease to amaze me!Tip #5: Don't annoy the editors. Click To Tweet
So don’t hesitate – get started! Take chances, write from the heart and, most of all, have fun. I’m by no means an expert, but this has worked for me in a relatively short period of time. I’m proud but scared every day to be living this far out of my comfort zone. Someone once told me that if it doesn’t scare you, it’s probably not worth doing.