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Starting Small: Thinking Outside of Traditional and Self Publishing

Looking around as I attempt to establish myself as an author, I see a lot of people caught up in the dichotomy of, “To traditionally publish or not? That is the question.” Every corner of the literary internet has an opinion on whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is better, or who it is better for. So caught up in this controversial professional issue, I think a lot of people start thinking about the choice as a purely binary one.

Since I decided to start trying to publish my books two years ago, I’ve found that there are a multitude of avenues to take when you decide you want to publish. The first thing I realized was a common-sense rule that should be obvious to anyone who’s familiar with the querying process: The shorter it is, the easier it is to get someone to read it.

I’ve queried a lot of short stories and poetry and gotten it published with tiny literary magazines. Are these impressive names I can drop? Not at all. Did it pay? Hardly. Am I published? Yes.

One of the golden rules for being “discovered as an artist” that I once heard was that to be discovered, you have to put your art where people will see it. I think the key to gaining that following everyone wants you to already have is to building it in slow steps. Make sure that whenever you tell someone “I’m a writer,” you can also tell them where they can go online to find something you’ve written. When my exclusivity contracts for short stories come due, I always put them up on my blog or website, if they aren’t already online for free. Make it easy for people to see what you are about.

Like everyone, I’d rather be signing book deals, publishing novels, and paying the rent while readers and fan mail pour in, but I’m resigned to starting slow and going up from here. So far, I’m in a lot better place than my peers who have been querying this whole time or trying to self-publish when they’re artists not marketers.

It’s not very glamorous, but I’ve met a lot of people and built a very neat network of other independent editors, publishers, and writers over the past few years. I can honestly claim that I’m published, and when people—potential readers or other professionals—ask me about my work, I can tell them where to find it. Pretty good for a silly little girl who doesn’t even have her BA in English yet.

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