For most of us, publishing our work is what we crave most. We probably assume that when we’ve reached this goal, we’re done with a particular piece. Not so. As you may already know, if we want to maximize the benefits of publication, we can do many things after the piece has appeared. Some are obvious (like posting on Facebook and exclaiming on Twitter), some you may already be doing, and a few may be new to you.
After you publish any short piece, consider taking steps in two main categories. I do these myself and think of them, broadly, as “external” and “internal.”
Guest post by Noelle Sterne. Author, editor, dissertation and writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle has published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Fiction Southeast, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, Inspire Me Today, Pen & Prosper, Romance Writers Report, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. She has also published pieces in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul books; has contributed several columns to writing publications; and recently became a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years assisted doctoral candidates to complete their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, her handbook addressing dissertation writers’ overlooked but very important nonacademic difficulties will be published in September 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield Education. The title: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles. In Noelle`s previous book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book can be seen on YouTube. Visit Noelle`s website: trustyourlifenow.com.
Think of this category as anything outside your workspace. Even though your Article may appear in a small (even obscure) publication, off- or online, it’s still an accomplishment and a credit. So . . . .
Write to the Accepting Editor
I think writers often take editors for granted. Editors have a hard job too, and many must plant themselves in sterile cubicles (or lonely home offices) surrounded by piles of submissions and impossible lists of tasks and deadlines. I make a point of Writing the editor shortly after publication, after I’ve gotten the check and complimentary copies and bought another two dozen myself.
In my letter I thank the editor for the fee and issues, and I also praise (a) something about my article (other than the brilliant writing) and (b) something else in the issue. For example, I voice appreciation for the crisp layout of my piece or a photo that captures the essence. For other entries in the issue, I praise an author’s particularly helpful column, a moving poem, or an article that taught me something new.
Sometimes editors reply with gratitude, sometimes they don’t. Either way, I always feel good writing these notes. I believe the editors do feel appreciated and, even subliminally, will hold a special place for me as a considerate author in their hearts and hopefully on their editorial calendars.
[Get your creative juices flowing by trying this 12-Day plan of simple writing exercises.]
We writers may have a hard time self-promoting, especially if our piece appears in a publication no one but four depressed poets has ever heard of. Nevertheless, publication—any publication—is cause for pride (the good kind) and declaration.
Post your news, with a link, if possible, not only on Facebook and Twitter but also on your email signature, website, and any other social media you’re addicted to. Equally important, speak up to everyone you know or bump into. Announcement may take practice. You can be casual but purposive, in person or on the phone. For example:
Your friend: “Hi, how are you!”
You: “Great, thanks [don’t stop], and my latest news is that my essay on how not to let your child get in the way of your writing is published this month in Parenting Away.
Wait for the congratulations or squeal. Then lower your eyes, smile a little, and murmur, “Thank you . . . so much.”
Practice too on neighbors, salespeople, the supermarket grocery manager you’ve known for years. When I told a server in a local restaurant about my book Trust Your Life, to my pleased surprise she declared, “I’m going to buy three copies—for myself, my daughter, and my best friend.”
Create your own variations of your announcement. What to say and how will get easier and more natural, and you’ll be getting excellent practice for when your master tome hits the bookstores and talk shows.
[Do you underline book titles? Underline them? Put book titles in quotes? Find out here.]
This category is, obviously, anything you do inside. Some of my suggestions will sound like grunt-work, but they pay off.
Keep Good Records
We may scoff or groan at what seems like an accountant mentality about keeping records. After all, we’re creative. But, the greatest artists in every field can’t function without lists—of paint, brushes, solvents, notebooks, printer cartridges, pens, marble slabs, chisels, mud, mixing bowls, music paper. Not to mention computer folders and files and somewhat organized places for quick access to supplies in both scheduled creative sessions or ideas that descend with ferocious urgency.
Your system of cascading post-its may have been good enough for the acceptances you got once a year. But now you’re publishing more regularly(!). Please don’t rely on your memory or those scraps that can whirl like a tornado at the first sneeze.
Here are some suggestions that have long worked for me to keep good records.
Track Your Pieces
As you send out your work, keep track of the titles, where you send, dates you send, and the responses. Various types of software are available for tracking. Free systems include SAMM (sandbaggers.8m.com/samm.htm) and Writing World’s fine, simple tracker (writing-world.com/store/year/index.shtml).
Fee-paid systems can be found at Duotrope (duotrope.com/index.aspx? bp=subtracker ) and WritersMarket.com. See also Robin Mizell’s helpful roundup of tracking software sites (robinmizell.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/submission-tracking-for-freelance-writers/).
Study what the different software programs offer and determine for yourself whether they’re too simple, complex, or totally unfathomable. Browse the Internet also for other programs; use keywords such as “writers’ tracking tools,” “writing query tracker,” “submission trackers,” “writing submission trackers.”
After studying several types of tracking software, you may choose to create your own system. Many writers use Microsoft Excel, but I’m allergic to it. I finally mastered the table feature in Microsoft Word and designed my own tables. I make one for each year, with columns that make sense to me (important consideration), and type the entries in reverse chronological order. A sample:
Keep a List of Credits
Kindly curb the whimpers. A list of credits can be invaluable, and the sooner you start the less you’ll have to catch up with. Think of this list as your writing resume. As you publish more, you can add to it (a great confidence booster).
I’ve arranged mine again in reverse chronological order and by year and month. Each entry lists the name of the piece, the publication, volume, issue, date, and, if the piece was published on the Web, the URL. If you prefer, order your list by genre—poems, essays, articles.
I also added a delicious section labeled “To Be Published.” Even if you have no entries right now, when you add this heading at the top of your list you’re affirming what will take place.
Make and Keep Good Clips
In the table above, notice the comment in the 2/11 entry in “Comments.” At the magazine’s request, I whipped off two sample clips of previous work. They were in my “Sample Clips” folder. Like your list of credits, your collection of clips has many uses (but that’s another article).
B.C. (Before Computers), I laboriously made hard copies of my articles at the nearest copy shop and tucked them into folders in one of my file cabinets. Today, electronics trump xerox.
The Miracle of the pdf. The portable document format is an unsung software miracle! You can convert anything to a pdf—meaning that a “picture” is taken of your work and cannot be altered.
The most well-known pdf software suite is Adobe Acrobat. You can get various packages with different levels of sophistication for a range of prices. Adobe is excellent, always upgrading, and with many tools for manipulating your pdfs.
Other pdf converters, called writers, are available and they are fine too—and free. I’ve used Nitro PDF Reader and Creator (http://www.nitroreader.com/) and CutePDFWriter (http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp). Whatever software you download, play around with it and you’ll get to know how to use it.
Scan Scan Scan. Again, you have choices on scanning. My printer and scanner are HP, so I use HP “Solution Center,” which directs you to scan or perform other tasks. Microsoft also has scanning software.
[How to go from proposal to book contract in less than a week]
So, for your clips, if your article has been published in a hard copy-only publication, fold the issue carefully and scan the article into your computer (labeled properly, of course). Most of the time, the “scan document” choice works well, even with some graphics and an illustration. Otherwise, you can use “scan picture.” Aim for the sharpest image of the article.
I also scan in the issue cover and table of contents, showing my article title and name, of course. For your online publications in a magazine, journal, or blog, you can print and/or scan right from the site, again with the pdf choice.
Label each pdf of your published article by your name, title, publication title, number of words, and date of publication. Now save them all in your growing “Sample Clips” folder.
To Conclude, For Now
All of these steps and suggestions may seem like a lot of work. If you’re doing some of them already, congratulations! Once you recognize the importance of both the external and internal après-pub steps, you’ll be more willing to give them the necessary time to set up your procedures.
As you master your systems, it will get easier, I promise, especially if you log, scan, and file as you go. Then faster than a document converter and more elating than an editor’s “Yes!” you’ll be doing all the right things right after you publish and publish and publish.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.
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