Before a writer sits down to conduct research, that person must decide where they would like to see the work in print. There are four types of media that a beginning writer looks for publication: magazine, journal, book, or internet.
Magazine: In most cases, magazines are the first place that an author sees his or her name in print. Part of this is due to the enormous number of magazines in the marketplace. Just a brief stroll through the local bookstore will display every type of magazine from the history of Barbie dolls to yoga for beginners. When you add the tremendous number of local interest magazines, you have a wide variety of potential marketplaces for your work. Journal articles can range from a few hundred to several thousand words. A magazine article is written in laypersons terms, although indeed specialized journals (National Geographic, Scientific America) may require more “meat” to the article. Many magazines accept freelance work. However, most major national publications have a staff of writers.
Journal: Very similar to magazines, journals require some form of professional credentials or membership into a certain organization (Journal of American Medicine, The American Law Review, etc.). Journals will often require more extensive knowledge and research than magazine articles and can be considerably more intimidating for the beginning writer. If you have some specialized knowledge, go for it!
Book: Publishers for books come in all shapes and sizes, from small tour guide publishers to large corporations. Many book publishers are quite specialized. The company that I work for specializes strictly in coffee-table local history books filled with pictures. On the average, the manuscript lengths that we select are around 40,000-60,000 words with 200-300 photographs (which are the responsibility of the author to obtain, although some companies may hire stock photographers to supply “filler” photos). Before you start writing a book, contact the publisher and ask them if they would be interested in publishing your idea. Don’t be too specific, however. Although most publishers are reputable, there are horror stories of people who have had their ideas taken and written by the publisher after they receive a rejection letter. If your idea is rejected by a publisher with a statement like “We are not publishing this type of work at this time,” don’t despair! Query them again when you have finished your manuscript. You may find that your work has taken a different turn from what you originally pitched to them . . . A turn which they might find refreshing and desirable.
Internet: This is the most recent addition to the publication scene. Every day new companies are popping up willing to publish the works of unknown and first-time authors. Some companies will readily publish articles, while other companies will publish e-books. The greatest contribution of the internet for the beginning writer is that almost anyone can get published. The worst detractions from the internet are very few companies pay royalties, and once your work is on the web, you can pretty much kiss your rights goodbye. Although copyright laws in theory still apply, enforcing those laws is near to impossible. Still, if you want to test the waters for your writing skill, put some small pieces out on the net. If you are working with a company, check their credentials before you agree. If you are looking to make money, be careful of companies that promise you a percentage of their profits (and even more cautious if they don’t give you a definite percentage). If you are expecting to make a lot of money, you may be in for a major letdown. The volatile nature of the internet means that a company can make a small fortune or fold within a matter of days. Even professional business analysts cant accurately predict the outcomes of many internet businesses.
So which form of media should you approach? If you have a book idea, by all means, approach a book publisher. Write a list of the top ten national publishers that you would like to see your book published by and write for their submission requirements. By starting with your dream publishers and working your way down to small book publishers, you won’t sell your book short. If you get rejected by a major book publisher, your ego shouldn’t take that much of a bruising. Who knows, you might get lucky, too! With magazines, journals, or internet publishers use the same approach. With a little research, luck, and hard work youll be well on your way towards seeing your work in print.
Next time the work begins….RESEARCH!