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Writers' Resources

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Top Six Questions Writers Ask

Courtesy of Poets & Writers Magazine

Browse www.pw.org to activate the links listed below and for more useful information!

How do I publish my work?

Successful writers are also avid readers; reading work by other writers is essential to developing your craft and helping you learn where to submit your work. Your publishing success rests on one axiom: Know your market.

We recommend that you begin by researching literary magazines. This is the market within which most writers start their careers and gain recognition from editors, agents, and other writers. It's important to read the literary magazines in which you'd like to publish so that you can evaluate their editorial viewpoint before you submit your work. Most magazine editors will pay you for the fiction writing they accept, sometimes by giving you a free copy of the issue in which your work appears.

In general, major book publishers do not accept unsolicited poetry manuscripts, and rarely look at unagented or unsolicited fiction. Editors at major houses are more interested in writers who have already published a book or writers whose work has already appeared in large-circulation trade magazines such as The New Yorker or Harper's.

We suggest you begin your search for a book publisher by looking at small presses and university presses, which are often open to the work of unknown authors and do not always require writers to contact them through an agent. Although they do not have the resources of larger corporate publishing houses and offer smaller advances, they are usually more willing to help you develop as an author even if your books aren't immediately profitable, and they are open to a wider range of writing.

Before you submit a manuscript, be sure to request the writers' guidelines, which will explain the required format for your submission, including whether the editors want a full manuscript or a sample of the work, a cover letter, query letter, summary, synopsis, or book proposal.

- - Help from Poets & Writers

Along with essays on the literary life, every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes articles with practical applications for both emerging and established writers.

You may also find A Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers helpful in researching markets for your work. For information on any of the above and links to hundreds of literary journals and small presses, please visit Links to Other Resources.

- - Other Resources

Check with your local librarian or bookseller to help you find books that list markets for writing, including Writer's Market, Poet's Market, and Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, all from Writer's Digest Books, The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses (Dustbooks), Directory of Literary Magazines (Asphodel Press), and Literary Marketplace (Bowker). You can also learn more about the submission process by looking at Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write (Blue Heron Publishing) or Get Your First Book Published (Career Press).

If you are looking for a translator, try the American Literary Translators Association.

If you need a ghostwriter, contact the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Do I need an agent?

The answer is maybe. If you have a book-length work of fiction that you’d like to sell to a commercial publisher, an agent is crucial. Literary representation will increase your chances with editors, who rely on agents to present manuscripts that are polished, marketable, and that match their interests. Literary agents take a 12-15 percent commission from the sale of your book—if an agent asks for a reading fee up front or a fee to edit your work, you should seek representation elsewhere. Check the Association of Authors’ Representatives for listings of literary agents who do not charge fees. Please note that agents rarely represent poets.

If you have individual stories or poems to sell, an agent is unnecessary. Peruse recent issues of several literary magazines to see where work similar to yours is published; when you submit your own work, always be certain to follow the requirements of each journal. For a collection of poetry, keep tabs on chapbook contests and first poetry book award deadlines through Poets & Writers Magazine’s Grants & Awards and Classifieds sections.

Each literary agent has individual tastes and interests, so be sure to research appropriate agencies before submitting your query. The Writers Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents (Prima Publishing) or The Writers Market (Writers Digest Publishing) can help you narrow down your choices.

Where can I find information on grants and awards?

Winning grants or awards can bring you recognition and help prove your worth to publishers. Some larger awards might even give you the financial resources you need to continue your work. Poets & Writers provides information about grants and awards, both in Poets & Writers Magazine and at http://www.pw.org/. Upcoming deadlines – and recent winners – are updated regularly. All of the grants and awards that we list are checked by our staff to ensure that they adhere to the highest standards. Before applying for an award, be sure to check with the sponsoring organization about requirements.

PEN American Center’s annual publication, Grants and Awards Available to American Writers is another helpful resource, as is The Writer’s Chronicle, published by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. You may also want to check with your state or local arts council for grant availability; you can locate your state arts council by visiting http://www.nasaa-arts.org/.

Do I need to copyright my work?

You own the copyright to anything you write, but registration with the U.S. Copyright Office will entitle you to monetary damages in cases of infringement, which rarely occur with literary work. Most times it is safe for you to wait until your book has been contracted for publication; your publisher should then copyright the book in your name.

- - Other Resources

For an excellent explanation of the law and your rights, visit the Web site for the U.S. Copyright Office. These books may also help you: The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook for the Working Writer (Allworth Press) and Electronic Highway Robbery: An Artist's Guide to Copyright in the Digital Era (Peachpit Press). You may also look for information from the Authors Guild, the National Writers Union, or a local chapter of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Where can I find a writing conference or colony?

Writers' conferences and colonies range in size and scope from campuses overflowing with writers, agents, publishers, and publicists to silent retreats where a few authors write in solitude. First, identify your goals: Do you want to network? Do you want to learn about the business of writing? Do you want critiques in a workshop setting or one-on-one? Do you want precious time away from home and work to write uninterrupted? Do you want to travel across the country or just walk across the street? Chances are, no matter what your desires, there's a conference or a retreat for you.

Once you know what you would like to accomplish, it's time to research venues. Every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes information on conferences and colonies; you can subscribe to the magazine today online. Writers' Conferences and Festivals, a division of The Associated Writing Programs, has a comprehensive listing of summer conferences online. The Shaw Guide to Conferences, will also guide you to the programs that might suit your needs.

Finally, be aware that writers conferences can cost a pretty penny. Look for opportunities to apply for scholarships or work-study positions on the individual conferences' sites. But don't despair if the fee is too high for your budget: you can find help with the business of writing online at www.pw.org, and even find other writers to critique your work through the Poets & Writers' Speakeasy. Registration is free.

Your Market

How do I avoid scams?

 

You should never be required to pay money to a publisher to print your book, or to buy a copy of an anthology in which your work appears. These businesses, sometimes called subsidy presses, are also called vanity presses, and publishing with them won't advance your career.

A legitimate contest will charge writers an entry fee, usually a nominal amount of $10 to $20, to cover the costs of running the contest, prize money, and payment to outside judges. If you are asked to pay for anything else – typesetting, printing, design, or an anthology including your work – the organization could be a sham.

- - Other Resources

 

Reliable online resources to help you identify these scams before you fall victim to them include: Wind Publications (windpub.com/literary.scams/endall.htm), The Writer’s Center (http://www.writer.org/), and The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (www.sfwa.org/beware/).

You can find listings of legitimate contests, grants, and awards at Poets & Writers’ own www.pw.org/links_pages/Grants_and_Awards/. Our staff researches each contest listed on our Web site and in the Grants and Awards section of Poets & Writers Magazine to ensure its integrity.


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