For many years I didn’t write for publication.
I wrote in lots of other contexts and produced training programmes, assessment frameworks, guides, handbooks, advertising copy . . . and so on.
I hesitated about publication because I had heard so much about the rejections that writers receive. The accepted wisdom seems to be that writers get rejected, and that rejection is just part of a writer’s life.
Some of the tales that writers tell about their struggles to get published are horror stories. They tell of years and years of trying to get published, plus rejection after rejection. Writers make approaches to agents, which are turned down. Publishers say no. It all sounds very depressing.
I chose not to put myself in this sort of situation because I really didn’t want those experiences.
However, when I finally decided to broaden my writing activities to include publication, I didn’t find myself facing rejection.
My first book proposal was accepted. The contract was with me three weeks after I had submitted my proposal.
My second book proposal was also accepted.
The first feature articles I submitted were published in magazines that can be found on news stands.
Yes, I have had a book proposal turned down. I have also been in a situation where an editor did not respond to my query.
However, the vast majority of proposals I have made to editors have been accepted. The material has been published and paid for.
So why is my experience different from that of many writers?
I’m convinced that my success in getting published – which must stand at over 90% of my proposals – is the result of my being a businessperson who writes rather than a writer.
I write for real audiences. I make sure I understand who the readers of a publication are before I think about what I might want to say to them. I find out what their issues and concerns are. I think about them as real people. I follow themes and trends in their magazines. I do all of this before I consider what, if anything, I might want to write.
When I contact the relevant editor the conversation is about the readership of the publication and its interests. I only offer what I think will be of interest to the readership once I am sure, as a result of speaking to the editor, I have judged the mood of the readership correctly.
I probably have at least half a dozen themes and treatments I could offer before the telephone conversation begins. I refine what I will offer as a result of the first part of the conversation with the editor.
What I’m doing here is what successful businesspeople do. I’m segmenting the market before I take action. I’m getting to understand my prospects. I’m doing my best to qualify the audience in terms of their characteristics, interests and concerns.
I’m also sounding out the editor of the relevant publication and discussing possibilities.
What I’m not doing is trying to find a market for an idea that I already have. I’m not trying to sell a commodity – an article or a feature that is already fully formed in my mind. I’m discussing what will be of interest to a readership. Then I make a proposal.
As a result, when I make an approach to an editor, I tend not to be rejected.