Ever considered a writing career in the publishing industry?

How often have you picked up a book and thought, ‘This author writes such cr@p and he still gets published by a top tier publishing house. I’m sure I can do a much better job,’ then you’ve got yourself a writing career option for strong consideration. Maybe you should pick up the quill, dip it in ink and take some scented handcrafted paper to start your writing career. If you have access to a computer, your journey might get speeded up a little.

A writing career can take on many forms. One of those is journalism. If there’s a topic that you are deeply interested in – such as politics, entertainment, business, environmental issues, fashion – you could find out where such content gets published and approach them. It may be conventional publications like newspapers (broadsheets), tabloids, cave carvings, magazines or there might be new media forms such as the internet or mobile content.

Within each of these there may be a plethora of offerings to opt for. For instance, in business writing, you might be responsible for the company’s internal publications (newsletters, technical updates and product brochures, annual reports) or content that gets circulated to external stakeholders (press releases, analyst presentations, newspaper advertisements). If you are not on the corporate side of a publishing company, looking after corporate strategy, mergers & acquisitions or any of the other areas where an understanding of a broad range of skills is needed, an advanced business degree (like the MBA) will not really make or break your chances of being successful. It can be damn confusing if you are just getting started. So take your time to carry out some research and then pick a niche that works for you.

Apart from small focused articles as described above, the other area you could explore is in book publishing. Non-fiction and fiction are the broad categories in books. If you’ve got a book in you (as they say in the publishing parlance) waiting to see the light of day and if you are ready to tackle the challenges that come with being an author, this can be a very satisfying career.

The roadblocks and hurdles can be many, especially for a first-time writer. There’s the writer’s block to begin with. You may have a ton of ideas waiting to explode on to the computer screen, but when you actually get down to writing, all those brilliant thoughts just blank out. The others are commitment, perseverance and patience.

–       Commitment, because you’ll have to push yourself to set targets and deadlines for yourself. It can be a lonely job when you have to shut the world out and just focus on getting to that word-count.

–       Perseverance, because you’ll have to face a million doors being slammed in your face before you can get your foot in that first door. If you are not a celebrity or already a known figure within your target readership, do not expect publishers to line up with contracts and big bucks.

–       Patience, because it takes a long time to establish credibility. You might want to chart out a gradual roadmap. For instance, if you want to launch yourself as a non-fiction writer, you could start off by writing smaller articles first, getting them published, building a name for yourself in the industry as a subject matter expert in a particular field and then taking on a book project.

If you have proved yourself as a writer, you could think about moving to the other side of the table – as an editor, or as a literary scout or launch your own publishing house. However for you to get there, you will have to first prove that you can write well and that you understand the nuances of a good article or book, from all angles, be it commercial or aesthetics.

It can be a long arduous road. But if you are passionate about writing, set the ball rolling today, if you haven’t already done so.

If you have got anything (credible, original and interesting) published online, let me know a little bit about yourself and share the link to your work in the comments below. A little additional traffic to your page won’t hurt. Though this blog seems relatively new, I’m hoping the traffic will go up considerably very soon. Reason – my book is getting released by a major publishing house. So get your work linked from here (I reserve the right to delete or approve the entries). You never know who’ll click on it. Maybe that publishing contract is waiting for you just around the corner.

10 Comments

  1. deeju says:

    I am greatly happy to meet someone interested in books and publishing. I am a freelance copywriter, who tried to publish some of my children’s stories, but quit, since I did not have a proper guidance and the publishers asked sky high charges to carry out the publication. PL guide me with your knowledge…regarding publication. Thank you.

  2. R-A-J says:

    Like somebody said, I would have already become a writer had it not been for all the paperwork. 🙂

    Well, I am coming to terms to it. I decided to come up with a book soon and now, I’m working on it (Diligently, I might add :)).

    Great that you have this post here for wanna-be writers. I always been wondering whom to contact or meet to have an idea of the Indian publishing industry – my knowledge of books is akin to my knowledge in Latin – and I don’t know Latin.

    Once I decided I to come up with a book, I also parallely started a blog – http://fu-ck-lo-ve.blogspot.com/ (trust me, besides the title, the content is actually tame :)). Also, I write reviews now and then (some of my reviews at zomato.com : http://www.zomato.com/users/ranjith-raj-19408). Do drop by to my blog or check out my reviews if you get the time, Sameer.

    It’ll be nice we could connect so that we could fly thoughts at each other. My inbox shall always be open to you. 🙂

    And great work on this blog!! Very structured, orderly and knowledgeable. And on this initiative for being a guiding light for all us budding writers.

    All the best to you, to me and to you&me!

    🙂

  3. Sameer says:

    @deeju: I’m guessing you approached vanity publishers. Their model is very different from the regular mainstream publishers. A lot of first-time authors feel the temptation to approach vanity publishers thinking it is a short-cut to getting published. However there are aspects (that go beyond just cost) that you need to be aware of before signing up with one of them. I’ll write about vanity publishing in one of the future posts.

    @R-A-J: I checked out your blog. Your writing is interesting, entertaining and unique. I’m glad you are taking this up seriously. Good luck with your book.

  4. The Fool says:

    Even I dream of being a writer. Not started on my book yet. I want to put up sort stories, poems, articles etc. on my blog for a few days till I am confident people are loving my writing. Then I will venture into book writing. Till then I want to keep improving my skills.

    My writings can be found here
    http://luciferhouseinc.blogspot.com/

  5. tys says:

    hey…am i glad i dropped in here…i thought ur site was abt a career in publishing…looks like i was wrong…

    currently iam writing articles for a site called http://www.the-nri.com , apart from the stray posts in my blog…ideally i wanted to do a compilation of random articles..kind of my perspective on things…sounds vain doesnt it?

    how do i go about that? Iam getting a lot of mileage through my post in the nri site…not all of them very positive but hey, theres no such thing as bad publicity…

    i wud really appreciate if you could tell me what the next step should be..

    btw, my stories were selected by a publishing firm for publication through a contest run by some site ( i forget)…but they felt i needed to have more to make it into a book…somehow i lack the patience to see through more than the length of what i have written..

    anyhow..

    will be coming here often for input

  6. Sameer says:

    Hey Tys,

    Thanks for reaching out, buddy. I read your post ‘Mallukutti Days‘ on The-NRI.com. Hilarious! I don’t think you are being vain in getting your work published.

    A few tips that you could consider.

    1. Personal Branding: Writing is the (relatively) easy part, specially when a bigger site is getting the eyeballs for you. At some point of time, you’ll have to start building your own ‘brand’. So start taking your own blog as seriously as the guest articles.

    2. Short articles vs Full length manuscripts: The Rules of the game are different depending on what you are writing about. The audience is different. The patience levels are different. So now that you’ve got a taste of the 100m dash, start preparing for the marathon.

    3. Re-using content: I’ve heard of publishers reaching out to popular bloggers for getting their blog content published. But I’d guess these are exceptions to the rule. A better approach would be to plan for a full-book from scratch. Within the bigger gameplan, if you can use you blog material, that’s excellent. But take it up as a new project.

  7. tys says:

    thanks for the inputs…

    question:

    – who are the best people to approach with an idea of a compilation of existing articles on my site?

    – i think i will take up your idea about starting work on independent articles for a book….maybe I can use my blog as a bait..

    – where do i find a great agent?

    thanks

  8. Sameer says:

    Tys,

    – You could approach publishers who specialize in your genre.

    – Check out the literary agent databases available online and then use the same logic of filtering on genres.

    Here’s a list of literary agents in India to get you started. Explore this blog and you’ll find other posts on literary agents, query letters.

    Add your email ID to the subscription field. I’ll continue to write more on related topics.

  9. JJ says:

    I wrote one long fictional story and sent it to 2 publishing houses. All I got was vague promises that it has been selected for publishing in near future. That’s all that came of it :))

  10. Sameer says:

    JJ,

    It’s unusual that any reputed traditional publisher would make promises like that.

    Was it a self-publishing or POD (Print on Demand) publisher? For that operating model, it would be a revenue loss for them not to get you signed-up. So again it’s unusual that any serious player would promise you and then back off.

    Maybe you could try the conventional query letter approach to reach out to a few more established publishers and literary agents.

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