Breaking into Publishing: Old School vs You School

When I moved back to NY state from CA, I ran into a high school friend who asked me what I had been up to “out there.” I told her I had been a freelance editor and writer. She was curious, “How did you get into that?” I had to stop and think because my career in publishing started old school style. I volunteered to transcribe lectures for a small philosophy press publishing a series of books. I became friends with my editor, and we decided to swap transcripts for proofreading. It was a short step from there to copy editing. I didn’t get paid, but I got a lot of valuable experience which led to freelance work in NY and CA. Yet, even though I was a competent writer and took many writing classes, it was still a challenge to get my writing published. My story is typical of so many people trying to get into publishing. At some point, you have to forget old school and go to “you school.”

What is you school? It is taking the steps to educate yourself on this fascinating career without necessarily spending years of your life working without getting paid just to break in. If you went and got a degree in journalism, creative writing, communications or English, you are ahead of the game. These degrees are still in demand in publishing. If you did not get a degree of this type, do not despair. There are certificate programs that can teach you some of the skills you will need. While not every publisher gives these programs credence, the skills you learn are legit. Legit skills, a keen eye and writing talent can help you get a publishing job even if you do not have the “right degree.” Certificate programs include the USDA graduate school’s Certificate in Editorial Practices evening program. Another certificate program is sponsored by Mediabistro.com. Find info about this program here.

Of course, many writers debate the merits of the MFA in writing. Whether you go this route or sign on to a content farm to get your writing published, there is no substitute for practice. A content farm, though a rather unsavory term, publishes authors’ articles while earning money by placing ads on the articles’ pages. Writing on a regular basis hones your writing skills, and a content farm will pay you for publishable work. Some examples include: Demand Media Studios, Ask.com and  wisegeek.com. For a list of content farms, click here.

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