Publishing is the step beyond writing, but at some point you will feel like the rest of the world needs to see your stories, non-fiction, novel or play. Concise answers and realistic experience is what a writer wants who’s new to publishing.
Poets & Writers magazine has a good set of Web pages to explain how their editors believe the system works. Anything is possible, of course; how else to explain how 27-year-old Jonathan Franzen published The Corrections, his searing novel about a wacky, dysfunctional family?
But nearly all of us are not as talented and lucky as Jonathan. The P&W Top 10 Questions Writers Ask has little to do with the craft of writing, aside from an entry or two on writer’s colonies (a tough place to get a space) and the need for MFA degrees from universities (an even tougher place). But check it out; the advice covers all but the exceptions:
Major publishing houses do not accept unsolicited poetry manuscripts and rarely look at unagented or unsolicited fiction or creative nonfiction. Editors at major houses are more interested in writers who have already published a book or those whose work has already appeared in large-circulation trade magazines such as the New Yorker or Harper’s.
We suggest you begin your search for a book publisher by looking at small presses and university presses, which are often open to the work of unknown authors and do not always require writers to contact them through an agent. Although they do not have the resources of larger publishing houses and offer smaller advances, they are usually more willing to help you develop as an author even if your books aren’t immediately profitable, and they are open to a wider range of writing.
The P&W Web pages also have this to say about groups like The Writer’s Workshop, or the Iowa Summer Writing Festival:
Workshops provide writers with an opportunity to receive critical feedback from peers and from an instructor. They also give writers a chance to learn what other writers are working on. Many universities and community colleges offer writing workshops that do not require enrollment in a degree program. Some well-known workshops operate annually for a concentrated period of time, a week or two, in order to provide intensive instruction and dialogue about work in progress.