Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →
Sometimes being a new writer feels as awkward as a new kid walking into the high school cafeteria for the first time. But here’s a secret: Unlike adolescent cliques, the bookworms in the publishing industry LOVE welcoming talented new writers to the table.
In fact, the submission strategists here at Writer’s Relief have compiled a list of publishers and literary agents who are on the hunt for fresh new voices—even pre-published ones. So if you’re a new writer, you’ll know where to target your submissions and boost the odds of getting your first publication credit.
Plus, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to get published for the first time.
You only get to be a new writer once: Make the most of it!
We’re here to help.
10 Literary Magazines That Publish New And Unpublished Writers
8 Literary Agents Who Accept Query Letters From Unpublished Writers
Natalie Grazian at Martin Literary Management
Lindsay Davis Auld at Writers House
Jordan Hamessley at New Leaf Literary
Eva Scalzo at Spellburg LIterary Agency
Erin McFadden at Fletcher & Company
Alex Field at the Bindery Agency
Whitney Ross at IGLA
William Callahan at InkWell Management
5 Publishing Myths That New Writers Believe (And Veteran Writers Scoff At)
The publishing industry is a labyrinth of myth and legend—and not everything you read is true. And the disheartening information that circulates among new writers can be as frightening as the Hound of Hades at the gates to the Underworld.
Here are the most commonly repeated publishing industry myths that new writers must ignore!
Myth #5: The publishing industry shuts down in the summer.
Why the myth persists: Some publishing houses do close early on Fridays during the summer. And there are some university-affiliated lit mags that don’t read during the summer months.
But most people in publishing have full-time jobs and don’t get the summer off. They’re at their desks, searching for new writers to publish and loving their writer-friendly jobs.
Read More: 5 Advantages of Summer Submissions
Myth #4: All you need is one book published to be an overnight success.
Why the myth persists: Once in a while, a new writer breaks out big with a first book. But for the most part, professional authors find it’s a long, slow climb toward publishing success.
Here’s what a few published authors have to say about the journey toward literary notoriety.
- One press account said I was an overnight success. I thought that was the longest night I’ve ever spent.—Sandra Cisneros
- I was forty years old before I became an overnight success, and I’d been publishing for twenty years.—Mary Karr
- Some say I’m an overnight success. Well, that was a very long night that lasted about ten years.—Kate Morton
Writers who rocket to the top with a single book are like fireworks bursting in the night sky; it’s hard not to look up and admire them. Next thing you know, every book reviewer and news blog is posting front-page stories about the latest writer to take publishing by storm—while the authors who have been slowly trudging along the same road are mentioned on page fifteen. But who knows: Someday, one of those hardworking writers might also be called the “hottest new thing in books.”
Myth #3: If I get a traditional publisher, I won’t have to worry about marketing.
Why the myth persists: First, we writers are wishful thinkers. Do we want publishers to bear the burden of promotion and advertising? Heck yes.
Second, back in the olden days (when phones flipped open and new cars still came with CD players), publishers put out fewer books and therefore were able to vigorously promote the titles they published. Now, publishers tend to put out waaaay more books—to see what sticks. But that means fewer resources to focus on individual titles.
So major publishers don’t fork over advertising dollars to the new kids on the shelf. Publishers put their advertising bucks behind the top 20 percent of books that they know will sell. Only if a new writer’s book begins to take off will publishers begin to back it with big advertising.
Read more: You can boost your future word-of-mouth sales by developing a strong author Web presence.
Myth #2: You have to know somebody to get published for the first time.
Why the myth persists: While you don’t have to “know somebody” to pull up a chair in the publishing biz, it certainly doesn’t hurt to make friends. Mingling with industry movers and shakers isn’t hard—if you’re willing to do a little legwork and join a writing group like one of these. But many writers continue to forge fruitful connections the traditional way: by making submissions.
Heck, you can get published even if you’re a recluse who lives in a cavern on a remote mountain and still uses a typewriter. Some agents and editors don’t actually want to know anything about a manuscript’s writer until after forming an opinion about the content. Ultimately, the writing is what matters most.
Myth #1: You have to be published to get published.
Why the myth persists: Of all the myths that new writers believe, this one might be the most damaging. Sure, having an author bio with an impressive list of publishing credits can help encourage interest from literary agents and editors (here’s why). But if every writer sat around waiting to be discovered without ever sending out submissions—no one would be published at all.
It’s hard to get your first publication credits, and many writers quit before they succeed. That’s why it’s been said, in many ways, that…
A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.—Richard Bach
Every writer you’ve ever read—every single one—was a new, unpublished writer at some point.
If you’re a new writer, you’re in a good place. Whether you’re seventy or twenty-seven, the publishing industry wants to hear from you. Discovering new writers is a HUGE badge of honor for literary agents and editors of all stripes.
In fact, there are so many “best new writers” lists, we could make a whole list of them! Here are just a few of the most celebrated new writer lists:
New writers are getting published every day. They’re getting published in online literary journals, in well-known literary magazines, and yes, they’re even getting offers of representation from literary agencies and book deals from publishers.
At Writer’s Relief, we see new writers getting published regularly. It’s happening. And it makes our staff of hardworking submission strategists dance with joy every time an unpublished writer becomes published.
Want help preparing, researching, and polishing your submissions to literary agents and/or literary journals? Contact Writer’s Relief!
But Do You Have To Be Young To Be Published As A “New” Writer?
Heck no! Don’t let a few white hairs slow down your dream of getting published! Many writers are over fifty years old when first published (some of them are our clients!). Nab the best parking spot in the lot, take advantage of that senior citizen discount on your cappuccino, and check out these six authors who prove that it’s never too late to get published for the first time!
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Known for her Little House series, Wilder didn’t publish her first book until she was sixty-five years old!
Bram Stoker: It may surprise you to learn that Stoker didn’t publish his novel Dracula until he was fifty years old. Dracula is still one of the most popular vampire novels to date.
Raymond Chandler: Published when he was fifty-one years old, Chandler’s mystery The Big Sleep is considered one of the best detective novels of the genre.
Richard Adams: His now classic novel Watership Down was published when he was fifty-two years old. Adams was working in civil service when his daughters’ request for a story sparked the idea for this well-known yet deeply unsettling tale.
Frank McCourt: This author found his voice after retirement. His debut memoir, Angela’s Ashes, was published when he was sixty years old.
Lorna Page: Page’s first novel, A Dangerous Weakness, was published when she was ninety-three years old. She used the money she earned from the book to buy a bigger house for herself and a few of her friends so they could enjoy their sunset years.
With the right tools, time, and passion, new writers can get published for the first time at any age! If that doesn’t inspire you, we just don’t know what will!
6 Common Mistakes New Writers Make—And How To Avoid Them
One of the best things about being a writer is that there isn’t just one path that leads toward success. Every new writer gets to make his or her own way.
But there are a few mistakes common to new writers that you’ll want to avoid on your journey to getting published for the first time.
An “I don’t need to do research about the industry” attitude. Writers who don’t care to use standard submissions etiquette, who don’t learn about query letter writing techniques, or who don’t spend the time necessary to research the best literary markets for their submissions—are usually the writers destined for rejection letters. New writers must take the time to learn how the publishing industry actually works.
An “anyone can be a writer” approach to craftsmanship. Some new writers never progress beyond “amateur” because they do not seriously study the craft of writing. To succeed as a writer, approach your work with professionalism and dedication.
Too much—or too little—confidence. Too much confidence can lead to arrogance, presumption, and etiquette foibles. A paucity of confidence can cause a writer to falter and possibly fail. The key to longevity in the publishing industry is a balanced, practical self-image as a writer. Learn more in our book The Happy Writer.
A helter-skelter approach to making submissions. Some writers submit their writing for a few weeks, then quit. Others submit once in a while, then waver, then attempt to start again without much fervor. Not having a reliable, habitual submission strategy is like signing up for a marathon race with no preparation. At Writer’s Relief, we help our clients turn their unpredictable submission strategies into a steady force for positive change.
Getting stuck in a book series. Some new writers commit themselves to writing a series when they don’t yet know the ropes of the book business. They become so wrapped up in one idea (which may or may not actually work well) that they can’t see past it or challenge themselves to grow and try new things.
Falling victim to dishonest flatterers and empty promises. Writers have big dreams and big hearts—and that makes them targets for con artists. From self-publishing companies that make dangerous promises to literary agents who guarantee a book deal only if the writer will pay upfront fees, there’s no end to the publishing industry scams and dangers. Sadly, some writers are never able to fully extract themselves from contracts they entered into when they were still too new to know better.
6 Tips For Getting Your First Acceptance Letter From A Literary Editor Or Literary Agent
Write well. When a literary agent or magazine editor is reviewing your writing, they’ll weigh several elements of your submission. But far and away, the deciding factor will be the strength of your writing. Here are many articles that can help you learn to be a better writer.
Edit more. Before you even think about making submissions, go over your book, story, essay, or poem with a fine-tooth comb. Formatting your work to publishing industry standards is vital—and so is eradicating any typos. Ask a friend who’s a grammar geek to look over your submissions, or hire a professional to review them for you.
Create a solid cover letter or query letter. There’s much to be said about the importance of writing a good query letter to a literary agent, or an appropriate, professional cover letter to the editor of a literary magazine. That’s why we’ve written helpful articles that address these tasks.
Research the right markets. The best writing in the world won’t ever be accepted if it’s sent to the wrong publisher or agent. It can take many hours to find the literary editors most likely to be interested in your work—but precision research is essential to getting your first publication.
If researching the right literary journals or literary agents is too time-consuming and complicated, let Writer’s Relief help!
Submit your work to many different—but appropriate—markets. Instead of submitting your work to a handful of the top-tier literary journals or the most well-known literary agencies, keep your options open to increase your possibility of success. Send your submission to a mix of literary markets.
And, finally, after you’ve sent out your submissions…
Prepare yourself for rejection. Whether you’re a brand-new writer or a published author, rejection is a fact of a writer’s professional life. Remember, getting your first acceptance can be a numbers game. We tell our clients to expect to submit a piece 100 times before giving up on it. But remember: Each rejection brings you one step closer to an acceptance letter!
5 Acts Of Courage That Can Help New Writers Get Published For The First Time
It’s tempting to fall back on those old publishing myths we discussed—you know, the ones that say you have to be published to get published, or that you have to know someone to get anywhere in the publishing industry. It might even be tempting to just give up.
But if you quit now, you’ll never know if your next submission might be the one that finally helps you get published. So here’s what you should do instead:
Accept your feelings and submit your writing anyway. Your first big break as a writer might come when you stop focusing on the outcome and focus instead on the submission process itself. Instead of counting rejection letters, count the number of submissions you actually make—and celebrate them, because it’s not easy to get your writing out the door! Rather than focusing on responses, key in on what you can control: how regularly and professionally you submit.
Become an underdog. Say to yourself: Sure, the odds are against me and the work is grueling, but I’m in it to win it. Then surprise everyone—even yourself! Learn more: Underdog Writers: How To Come Back In The Second Half And Win The Game.
Ask for support. We authors tend to feel a little bit exposed and vulnerable about our writing, so asking for support from family and friends can be daunting. But a writer’s career is not easy, and you’re going to need encouragement from people who have your back. If your friends and family will not support your writing efforts, find a local writing group and connect with people who will.
Stop comparing. You are one of a kind—no other writer is like you. So comparing yourself to any other writer is like comparing apples to oranges. If you feel the temptation to compare, remember this:
Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or your predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. ―William Faulkner
Do something for others. Stay grounded by giving back. Volunteer at the library. Donate books. Become an ESL tutor or creative writing mentor. Raise funds for great causes. Feeling positive about your place in the world will inspire you to be bold and confident as a new writer.
Remember: Good writers get better with experience.
One of the most encouraging benefits about being an author is that you can’t age out of the creative writing profession. Maturity and wisdom are advantages for writers, not liabilities. So don’t pressure yourself to accomplish your dreams yesterday. Instead, cultivate patience. Focus on the journey, not the outcome. You’ll be a happier person—and a better writer too!
The Number One Mind-set Hack That Helps New Writers Get Published
If you’re a new writer who wants to get published for the first time, we have one more tip for you to ponder before you launch your newly improved submission efforts.
Write like it’s your day job. Even if it’s not.
Start thinking of yourself as a professional writer.
Here are some ideas to get you started in your new (unofficial) creative writing career!
Act like you’re working for someone else. You know how being late to the office can make you break out in hives—because who wants to get on the boss’s bad side? But when it’s time for you to write, it’s easy to say, “What difference will fifteen minutes make?”
If you pretend you’re working for someone else—someone who you’re professionally obligated to—you might summon a little more resolve.
Don’t call it an office; call it a playroom, studio, or imaginarium. We’ve all read about successful people who say things like, “I’ve never worked a day in my life.” Now, most of us realize that’s rubbish (wasn’t it Edison who said genius is more perspiration than inspiration?). But a mind-set of creative experimentation will fuel your passion in the long term.
Pay yourself. Even if you’re low on cash, create a system to “pay” yourself for your work as a writer. Maybe you’re paid per word with an extra twenty minutes of Netflix for every five hundred words you write. Or perhaps you write by the hour and pay yourself one chocolate chip cookie per hour.
Professionalism from the get-go may shorten your journey from new writer to published writer!
Question: What is the most important thing a new writer must know before trying to get published? Was it something you read in this article? Or something else entirely? Share your thoughts with our readers.