The Secret To Getting Published

You are already published.

The poem you write for your dad’s birthday card.

Every post on social media.

The story that you circulate amongst your writing group, is already published.

At any time, someone can break their honor and plagiarize you. Copying is not the problem. If they keep a copy of your story in the basement bookshelf and occassionally fancy themselves to crack a gander at your story, that’s actually quite flattering.

It’s money. The one thing we loathe is other people monetizing off us. Exploitation. Does it not anger you that Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media sites profit off your work? Or perhaps, you are willing to barter your content for their network?

We need to separate the goals of “being published” from “making money,” because they get conflated together much too often.

Being published does not lead to being rich. Money does not come from making good art. Money does not come from being virtuous and good. In America, we assume the rich are somehow more intelligent and virtuous than the poor. We have a pacifier made of cultural constructs. Otherwise, the natural reaction is jealousy, contempt, and a decrease of brain activity in the empathy centers when we see a wealthy face.

Money comes from trading social currency. People complain that publishing presses and writing groups are cliques where everyone recommends each other. Same with Twitch streamers or Instagram users trying to gain a following, which is often just the same people following each other.

The age old problem of tribalism: if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.

It’s not impossible to follow your dreams, contribute to society, and make a boatload of money, but it’s a situation of “pick two out of three.” Dreams can become nightmares. Society can become unworthy of your attention. Money can rust. It’s why all those people who make YouTube courses and ebooks earn more than actual artists who care about their craft. If we make education free, the teachers don’t get paid. We hope that society recognizes the good that teachers do, and it becomes our reponsibility to patronize them with gifts. I guess that’s why governments are supposed to pay them.

Non-fiction makes more money than fiction, while fiction is typically more personally fulfilling. Imagine a world where fiction was more expensive than non-fiction. What kind of a world would that look like? I’d imagine it would be a world of overwork, where only the rich are allowed to have fun, while the rest have to stick to dry manuals and police reports. Well, I guess it’s pretty similar to the world we have right now.

  • Non-fiction sells for more because more research is supposed to be put into it. However, the best fiction books also have a lot of research poured into them. So, research amount cannot be a reason for why non-fiction sells better.
  • Non-fiction has tangible content which solves problems better than fiction. However, can you distinguish between Lolita and a “real” pedophile’s heartfelt account? Do we need a label of “fiction” so we can face the mask of hard truths?

I think, in the end, there’s no definite reason that we attach a price tag to writing. Cheap fiction is good, and cheap non-fiction is good.

What makes a book high quality? Being copied and read over and over? Is there a single living author on earth who can compete with the Bible?

A poem you write for your father will have 1000 times more meaning than a poem written for strangers. A father who burns their child’s poem will be 1000 times more cruel than a torturer. How much is your writing worth?

All writing is worth being published. All writing is worth attempted monetization. All writing is free to be shared, free to be copied.

What’s so hard about publishing? The 1-star reviews and haters? That’s an easy problem to solve: only publish to people who will love your work.

The secret to getting published? Expose yourself. The secret to making money? Be a mind reader, a fortune teller, or a hypnotist who exposes others.

Header photo by @AlanBarlow_