Five tips for getting published
While writing may not always be the most lucrative career, it can do wonders for raising your profile. Rather than using your writing talents to launch a new career as a full-time author, could you see your self publishing a book to boost the one you’re already passionate about?
Getting published can position you as an expert in your field, and who wouldn’t want to hire, retain, or promote an expert? Getting published can even be a marketing tool, a side-hustle that can draw more attention to your day job and help grow your network.
You may already even have the raw material for a best-selling book in the form of academic research, graduate dissertations, and personal experience. So, here’s some expert advice on how to become a better writer, how to refine that raw material, and how to get published.
Expertise matters in nonfiction. Since you’ll be adapting your own research, we can safely assume you’re pretty knowledgeable on the subject. When evaluating a manuscript for the Bellevue Literary Press, publisher and executive editor Erika Goldman always starts by looking at the author’s credentials and publishing track record.
When working on their book, Will Puberty Last My Whole Life, nurse Julie Metzger and pediatrician Robert Lehman drew on their years of experience teaching classes on puberty and growing up for preteens and their families to create a fun and informative book of common questions and answers. Both credit their experience and expertise with getting their feet in the door.
Getting published can position you as an expert in your field, and who wouldn't want to hire, retain, or promote an expert?
You need to know more than your subject, of course. But if you want to learn how to be a better writer, you also need to know your audience. Goldman says nonfiction authors “should be able to articulate who their potential readership is and make a case for the importance of the subject within the broader culture.”
Lehman says authors should keep their imagination open to what their specific audience would want to read, such as the kids and parents they wrote their book for. “And it will be a lot more fun than writing something meant for doctors to read,” he says. “Much larger potential readership too!”
Going beyond needing to know your audience, you need to respect them as well. This means an author should aim for the middle ground between belittling or downplaying their language and talking over the reader’s head. For Metzger, this means writers should use inclusive language that helps readers feel they are included, invited, and safe.
“An author who respects their audience knows not only what the reader wants to hear, but also what they need to hear to build an accurate and complete picture of the topic,” she says.
“You may have a lot to offer a general readership but unless you write well you won’t be able to attract one,” Goldman says. To do that, you’ll need to write clearly, concisely, and creatively.
Chris Roberts, who published an extended version of his political science dissertation as a book titled Foreign Law? through an academic press, says writing for broader audiences requires much more concise language. However, it also demands less attention to “showing your work.”
“In my academic discipline, there is a tendency to discuss lots of the previous research and methodology,” he says. “With broader audiences, editors tend to want just an introduction to the problem you are writing about and the solution, so you are not showing the path you took to your answers.”
Your expertise won’t be enough to capture the imagination of your audience. In addition to writing well, you also need to tell a compelling story.
“Nonfiction authors must be aware of the importance of storytelling and style, as well as substance,” Goldman says.
Metzger feels good writing and quality storytelling are important parts of respecting the audience. An author who respects their audience, “respects their time and their curiosity by being efficient in explanations and grab on to the interests and explorations of the audience.”
How do you learn how to do all this? According to Goldman, it’s simple. Read voraciously.
“Academic writing can be deadly,” Goldman says. “If they are not already, academic writers should become avid readers of the best literature (including fiction) and strive for clarity of expression.”
Roberts says his publication “increased the confidence I have as a writer, and saying I am a published author provides a mark of accomplishment.” Take this advice to heart and you’ll be five big steps closer to adding “published author” to your resume as well.