How to Get Publishing Credits Before Publishing Your Debut Novel

For two years, you pounded on your keyboard, breathing life into a story only you could tell. But even as you typed every author’s favorite phrase, The End, you knew it was far from over. You rolled up your sleeves—edited and revised and revised and edited. Then you charged into Facebook writing groups and rallied BETA readers and critique partners. After their copious feedback, you ripped the damn sleeves off and again edited and revised and revised and edited. You were finally ready to hit the proverbial query trenches.

You crafted a succinct 250-word query that checked all the boxes. Genre—check. Word count— check. Comp titles—check. Introduced a compelling main character—check. Stated a clear conflict and high stakes—check. You were on a roll!

That is until you got to the dreaded bio paragraph. Your mind blanked. This is where you should mention previous publishing credits. But you didn’t have any. You panicked.

How do you get publishing credits before your book is published? I can help! Keep reading to find ways to get your work published and earn some street cred to put in that bio!

Write Non-Fiction Articles in Your Genius Zone and Submit Them to Magazines and Online Publications

Everyone has a genius zone—including YOU! What topic is everyone always asking you for your help? That is your genius zone!

After an extensive career as an educator and raising four humans, one of whom is autistic, I realized parents kept coming to me for parenting advice. Although I hardly considered myself an expert in parenting, to others, I was who they turned to. I submitted my first article to a local parenting magazine, Playground, in 2015. To my surprise, they published it, and they paid me!

Since then, I’ve had my work featured in Scary Mommy, Love What Matters, The Mighty, Exceptional Needs Today. and more. Once, when a local magazine called for Truck of the Month submissions, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I interviewed my Toyota Tundra-obsessed eldest son, and now I can add Truck of the Month to my list of publishing wins.

Most recently, I even scored a monthly paid gig to write for The Autism Helper.

What are you an expert in? Decorating, parenting, trucks, sound systems, organizing, verbs? Write that and send it into the world! Like spaghetti, it’ll eventually stick to something!

Write Non-Fiction Books in Your Genius Zone and Submit them to Small Publishers That Publish in That Space

So you’ve already written a fiction story you love. Now write non-fiction book about something you love.

For me, my first non-fiction book I co-authored with a colleague. When we first started teaching TV production, we searched for curriculum support and found only one publisher with obsolete resources. So, we submitted a proposal for an updated TV production curriculum, and they accepted! It’s still available today Teaching Television Production: Beyond the Morning Newscast, Only now ours is the obsolete version! Younger blood can come behind us.

My second non-fiction title emerged after my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System For Your Exceptional Needs Family, is a step-by-step guide to helping families build a support system. I saw a need and worked to create a resource to fill it. I submitted this directly to a publisher that only published books on autism.

The point is, you are an expert on something. Maybe it’s your career. Maybe it’s your hobby. But whatever it is, you have knowledge and insight that could help other people in that area. Write the book and tell them. And get that publishing credit!

Write Short Stories in Your Genre (or experiment) and Submit them to Anthologies or Contests

After many of my writing partners beefed up their query bios with short story publications, I decided to give it a go.

A creepy story based on a creative writing prompt I’d given my middle school students had occupied a not often tapped into space in my head since I’d left teaching. I drafted the story, edited and revised it, pulled in the BETA’s and critique partners, and off she went to an anthology submission. That one didn’t get chosen. But I learned a lot! You can read it here, Little Bear.

But my next one did! It was a piece for an anthology for the Writer’s Workout called Our Pandemic. Who doesn’t have a story about their experiences during the pandemic?

Google your genre and short story contests or anthology submissions, and you’ll likely find several.

Start a Blog

Even though blogging isn’t a publishing credit, it’s a place for agents to witness your ability with words. And your blog can be about anything. My first one, Big Abilities, is about all things autism.

This one, even though I”m a writing noob, is my hope that me sharing some of my small publishing wins will help you think of ways you can achieve yours.

Then that bio in your query will be heavy with all the street cred you need to get an agent’s attention, a full request, and ultimately an agent as passionate about your novel and your author brand as you are!

Success in life comes when you simply refuse to give up, with goals so strong that obstacles, failure, and loss only act as motivation.

-AUTHOR UNKNOWN

Published by Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.

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