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What counts as being published? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Hi Anne,

I’m trying to figure out exactly what people mean when they say they are “published.” Is an article published on the web with no pay a valuable clip? What about a newsletter?  

When can a beginner writer be considered as being published?


Hi Leo,

That’s great question! Until the web, being published more or less meant having an article or story printed in a magazine or newspaper. Or getting a book sold to a trade publisher. Getting an article you wrote published in a newsletter counted too.

Enter the world wide web, which among other things, is just another publishing medium. As I’m sure you know, there are tons of websites out there where the writing is just awful. But there are sites, both well-known and not so well known where the writing is excellent.

The reason editors ask for clips or tear sheets, however, hasn’t changed. Before they give you an assignment, even on spec, they want some assurance that you are likely to be able to complete it in a well-written and timely fashion.

On the whole, clips are clips wherever they are, including the web and they count. Sure, if you’ve got something published in Atlantic Monthly or the New York Times you’ll get a bit more attention. But even those pieces published on the web with no pay can demonstrate you are worthy of hire.

That’s also why you should have your own website – there you can put up or link to samples of your writing as well as list your credits, making it easy for an editor to evaluate your work.

In terms of your view of yourself? You get to decide.

You may want to read:

Write well, and often,

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Nicki Colosimo

    Should i name my brand “nickilynpublishings” as a new writer

    • Sure that can work… although if your name is available I prefer that – that’s how people tend to think of you.

  • Katie

    I am trying to get into an internship program for journalism and they are asking for published clips. I do not have my own website and have not had anything published anywhere that is widely know. I do, however, have 4 blogs that I have published and had comments on. Does that count? Or, will I have to do something else for a published clip?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Katie, I have no way of knowing what the intern program you’re applying for will accept. Nor am I totally clear on your question. If you’ve had articles posted on 4 blogs that are not your own that may qualify… in fact if they are your own blogs or a mixture that may qualify. I’d suggest you either use those or you ask them if those will count. If they say no ask them to get specific about what they want.

    • ron

      Hi Katie, I think you will be at a disadvantage without relevant work samples. Interns are generally considered to be one step below “professional” and only lacking on-the-job experience to be ready for their first real job. Without work samples, you will appear to be merely an amateur writer and a level or two below most interns.

      I would recommend publishing journalistic work on any of the sites that freely allow such. Create articles exactly for that purpose. The great thing about applying for an journalism internship or job is that the application itself can bring you success. Take the time to create a compelling letter of introduction and resume. Don’t limit yourself to the shorter lengths recommended for those documents in other professions. Be passionate. Make your application something the hiring manager wants to read.

      • Ron has a point… another way to do it is to publish great samples on your website – just make sure you aren’t trying to fool them about publication… actually do both is my current suggestion.

  • Lisa Carter

    Hi, maybe someone can help me. I am interested in entering poetry pamphlet competitions, but they want unpublished entrants. Surely by the very process of producing a pamphlet of my poetry (which I have done – although not sold one to anyone, just given them,) I have published it and therefore am not eligible to send it into a poetry pamphlet competition – I am confused. If anyone could clarify any of this I would be very grateful,
    kind regards,

    • jorgekafkazar

      First, make sure that the competition is legit. Are they charging a reading fee? How high? If they charge more than a dollar or two, they’re suspect. The more they charge, the greater the chance are they’re just sucking blood from poets. Google [name of contest] + [scam] and see what comes up.

      Second, find out how long they’ve been doing this. If it’s their “first annual whiz-bang poetry superduper chapbook megacontest,” forget it.

      Third, take a look at previous years’ winners. If their poetry is second rate, are you sure you want to win this year’s competition? If they don’t show previous winners’ work, forget it.

      Fourth, if they are a serious contest, they’ll anticipate your question in their FAQs. In most cases, if your poetry can’t be found on the Internerd or in bookstores, you’re effectively unpublished. I’ve run a couple of contests for a writers’ workshop, and the only reason we ask for ‘unpublished’ poetry is so when we run sample phrases thru an internet search, looking for plagiarism, we don’t FIND your poem. If we DO find it, we’ll be wondering if it is your own work, or something you found on-line. (Remember, the judges are looking at entries that don’t have the author’s name on them.) It’s too much trouble for contest judges to bother with. If their FAQs don’t resolve your question, the competition is maybe too amateurish to bother with.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever said, “I’m a published author,” to anyone. I much prefer “Come here often?” or “What sign were you born under?”
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • admin

    no worries ron… as you said, we all…

  • I also blew the HTML in my previous post — forgot to close the italics after that quote — hope it didn’t confuse anyone. We all make mistakes; I’ve made quite a few in this thread. 🙂

  • sorry wasn’t trying so much to correct your spelling as I was just noting that it wasn’t mine. You spell fine. It’s just a blog; a few errors are allowed. 🙂

    You don’t have to use a symbol to insert an em dash, just type two hyphens. Your site and many others automatically convert that to an em dash, and if not, two hyphens is the other accepted method of representing an em dash.

    I agree that Michelle should keep going for it — let me know if I can ever help you, Michelle! — but don’t dream. Understand the reality of this business, and what it takes to be successful. Those Indians are not going away, but it will be awhile before they are able to compete with American writers who write with clarity and can express in words our unique culture. Applying what you learn from reading, especially current events and classic American literature, will help differentiate you from a foreign writer.

    Good Luck, ladies. And thanks for this site, Anne!

  • admin

    Ron, yes, I blew the spelling of Reagan’s name – but you got my point.

    Dashes on the web – a hyphen with a space on either side because it’s too much work to insert a symbol for no good reason.

    Yes, there does seem to be a different attitude about fiction and non, although my dreams of writing weren’t about fiction… just being paid to write – whatever.

    Michelle, keep dreaming and going for it…

  • LOL, Michelle, needless to say, I’ve been told that I am long-winded before. I also understand that I wear out my welcome quickly 🙂 (’bout done here)

    I think Mr. Chartrand is generally correct — diplomas are not necessary to land most freelance writing jobs and one shouldn’t waste their time talking about diplomas. I never do unless it’s relevant — for example, I have a legal education, and if the job is to write on legal topics, I will mention my education. Or, if it is a software related project, I’ll mention my years selling software and my work for software companies, such as the project I did for Microsoft. Otherwise, I just point to any relevant examples from my portfolio, in which I try to keep diverse examples of my work.

    He also says that writing skill is unimportant, and he’s generally right. Of course, I never stated that one needed a diploma to get freelance writing jobs; I was talking about getting a book published by a reputable publisher. There’s a huge difference.

    However, I think his rationale for that reality is only partially right. Yes, attitude and personality are important — I know, I’ve lost business because of mine. But I think there is another important reason: most employers of freelance writers don’t know the difference between good and bad writing. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be hiring a writer; they’d just write it themselves.

    Also, based on what most employers are willing to pay for freelance writing, it is obvious that they do not want or expect great writing — or at least they shouldn’t. Either way, the chances of them getting excellent writing for that low wage is nil anyway.

    It’s very frustrating for a person like myself, who obsesses over his work to make sure every word, sentence, and paragraph are exactly right, to lose a writing job to someone who can’t even write at an 8th grade level. For example, occasionally (rarely) an employer on Elance will not “seal” the project bids, such that bidders can see each others proposals. I am shocked by those bids. The last one I saw had about 20 bids, and besides mine, only one other was grammatically correct — probably because his was only a single sentence. Several had atrocious grammar. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to be included among them, but even more embarrassed when one of those writing frauds’ proposals are selected over mine.

    On the other hand, if you are trying to earn top dollar for your writing (say, $75-85 an hour, or $1 per word), as I am, the employers willing to pay that fee definitely recognize the importance of writing skills.

    As for the second article that discusses self-publishing; Ms. Sandefur’s examples of people who have self-published bestsellers are not realistic for 99% of the wannabe published authors out there. Specifically, this quote from that article is so blatantly untrue that it sounds stupid:

    There’s no doubt, my friends, that this self-published author’s success story proves that word-of-mouth is — and probably always will be — the best way to earn an author the title of bestselling author.

    I’ll wager anyone every dollar I’ll every earn that the best way to become a bestselling author is to have one of the top tier publishing houses market your book. I dare anyone to research every author/book on the NYTimes bestseller list for the last year (ten years, twenty years?) and prove that more of them were self-published.

    Her description of Steven Oliverez’s marketing efforts for his book, The Elder Staves, does sound like something anyone could do; however, whether #1,139,333 on the Amazon sales ranking qualifies it as a bestseller is debatable.

    Her second example, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, at #645 on Amazon’s list is certainly a bestseller. I assume Ms. Sandefur’s claim that it is a self-published book is true, although the book is now published by a division of Simon & Schuster. I don’t know how to tell how many copies she sold when she was self-publishing versus the number sold by S&S. Still, certainly self-publishing led to the later success.

    However, Ms. Genova confirms my other assertions. She has an excellent education — BA from Bates College and PhD from Harvard University. She is also an expert and frequent lecturer in the field that is the subject of the book — Alzheimer’s disease. Go get a Harvard PhD, and I’ll support your efforts to self-publish.

    Ms. Sandefur’s final example, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, is totally unrealistic for most people — the author and her husband spent more than $50,000 publicizing the book, including hiring a publicist and copy editor. But most importantly, Berry once again confirms my assertion — she studied literature and creative writing at Green Mountain College and the University of New Hampshire and worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood for ten years.

    All-in-all, I think Ms. Sandefur is simply pandering to the same audience as PublishAmerica et al — wannabe authors desperate for readers and frustrated by how hard it is to get published by the top tier firms. Undoubtedly, if you are a gifted writer, such as her three examples, lightning can strike — anything is possible. But, as I’ve shown, it sure helps to have a great education and to pay your dues. Yet, she doesn’t mention any of that because she knows that most of her readers are 1) not gifted writers, and 2) don’t have that education or industry background. As in my allusion above, she’s telling 80-pound weaklings that they can be sumo wrestlers, if only they try hard enough. It’s similar to the false hopes given to thousands of black children over the last generation that led them to focus more on sports than their education, such that they waste valuable college scholarships by pinning their hopes on a professional sports career that they have no realistic chance of attaining. Their four years expire without a degree or decent education to show for it.

    However, don’t get me wrong. If you are truly gifted, or a 7-footer with point guard skills, chase those dreams. If not, dabble on the side if you must, but focus on your education. Or, be satisfied with those low-paying freelance writing jobs, if you don’t mind competing with writers from India that can also write at an 8th grade level, but who will work for $5 a day.

  • I am an emerging freelance writer learning the ropes and will continue to do so as writing is one of my passions along with reading, which I seem to do alot more of. I keep changing little things on my blog and writing website as I learn more.

    No I did not understand the reference to Franz Kafka’
    s work, but have heard of him. Don’t know if we are in fact related though.

    Thanks for the offer of helping Ron. Wow your comments are the longest comments I’ve ever read on any blog.

    What I wanted to point out was these two links

    Want More Work? Don’t Pitch Your Diplomas by James


    Successfully Market Your Fiction Book–Secrets From The Pros! by Misti

    Took me a moment to find them as I have many folders of favs. and normally I don’t go on the computer on the weekends much.

    Both posts are really good and get you thinking.

    And that was my first time debating and taking criticism. Thanks I did learn alot here from Anne and Ron.

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Happy New Year!

  • Thanks, Ann, my offer was real. I like editing, although I’m not perfect. I want to be gentle, but this subject is a pet peeve of mine (http://writerron.com/files/Humility.pdf), and one on which I’ve debated several others.

    In our conversation here, it is obvious that you and Ms. Kafka are not talking about the same thing I am, to wit:

    I’ve never heard a truly successful author described him/her self as a “published author.” S/He wouldn’t need to, it would be obvious. Those I have heard make that claim were all exaggerating their accomplishments. Invariably, the work they based their claim upon was self-published. Why didn’t they just say “self-published author”? Because they wanted those listening/reading to think more of them than they deserved — pure and simple.

    So, when Leo asked what it meant when someone claimed to be “published,” I strongly suspected that he had met one of those blowhards. Your answer, and Ms. Kafka’s response, seem more appropriate if Leo’s acquaintance had used “published” as an adverb, as in, “What does it mean when someone tells me their work is published,” instead of as the adjective he used. That person was using “published” to describe himself, and not just his work. Had he used the adverb, I would have never commented.

    I agree that Helium et al are technically publishing. Yes, I am a published journalist, although I’d never utter those words about myself. If someone said to me, “I’m a writer, I’ve published work on Helium and self-published a novel,” I wouldn’t think they were boasting. It’s an honest, modest statement. But if that same person said, “I am a published author, check out my Helium articles and my PublishAmerica novel,” I’d laugh in their face.

    As for whether one is a writer or not, I think it depends on the quality of their work. Grandma can hack out some words in a notebook, but if it’s unintelligible jibberish, undecipherable by anyone but her, I would not call her a writer. I understand that others might; again, I’ve had these debates with others who, like Ms. Kafka believe it is only the person’s perception of his/her self that matters. By their logic, those thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters who, in a thousand years, produce a great novel are all writers.

    The first differentiator of a “writer” from someone who just writes is respect for their readers. A writer writes for the reader, not for him/her self. Their work is clear, logical, and easy to read. You can tell that they’ve made an effort to use correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling, although even the best writers make the occasional error.

    For instance, and I guess I’m not being gentle again (although I don’t mean to offend), several of those errors in Ms. Kafka’s web site introduction would have been picked up by any Spell/Grammar check tool, yet she did not even make that effort. It’s one thing to hack out a comment on someone’s blog, but those were the main words on her web site, which is why I chose them.

    In my opinion, Ms. Kafka is not a writer, she is learning to write — and I sincerely applaud her efforts and want to encourage her to continue. I love writing, and I want others to find the joy in it that I do, especially our younger generation who are being badly influenced by texting, IM, etc. Compare it to someone who claims to be a “golfer,” yet they shoot a 120 on the course. They play golf, but they are not a golfer.

    So that my position is clear: I understand that writing is a learned art and accept that most people have not bothered to learn it — otherwise, I could not earn a living. I don’t criticize anyone trying to learn, and if I have time, I love to help them. But don’t claim to be something you’re not. Humility REALLY is a wonderful character trait, despite Hollywood pounding it into everyone’s head that fame and recognition are all that matter. Don’t be ashamed that you’re just learning, or that you were never able to master this craft — everyone’s good at something, maybe writing isn’t your forte.

    As for the off-topic comments…

    What did you mean by, “The distinction between en and em dashes is false on the web”? I will agree that their proper use is open to debate. I prefer the NYTimes Style Guide (space, em dash, space); the Chicago Manual of Style omits the spaces. According to Wikipedia, Ms. Kafka’s usage (space, en dash, space) is standard in German and French typography and is the house style for several US publishers, but most US usage prefer the em dash in this situation.

    You say, “smacks of Regan conservatism” (your spelling) as if that’s a bad thing, LOL. While I am absolutely a moderate, as are about 80% of Americans I would guess, he was the most popular President in our history, after Washington.

    But, no, my words were not conservative rhetoric, they come my experience sitting in public school classrooms (I volunteered when I kids were in public schools) and hearing the insanity first hand. If you’re interested, research (don’t have time right now to provide links) the difference in average cost per student in
    public schools versus private schools. It’s not even close — public schools spend a lot more. Then research the difference in performance — again, not even close. Public schools are a disgrace, thanks in large part to the selfish goals of the NEA, and the only solutions the administrators (overwhelmingly liberal, BTW) can offer is to spend even more money. Needless to say, I could go on about THAT subject – I pay $10,000 a year in school taxes, and my money is being wasted.

    As for getting published without the educational background or relevant dues-paying that I maintain is almost requisite, the two works you cite fit my description, Strunk & White were college professors, if I recall correctly, and the authors of The Joy of Cooking had paid their dues in that profession. Also, you’re talking about a different era (both are more than 60 years old).

    But, actually, I refer more to works of fiction – and most wannabe published authors are trying to get fiction published. Certainly, if you are a leading expert in a field, and a publisher thinks a book on that subject will earn a profit, you can be selected to write it. But good luck trying to get your romance or mystery novel published, by a reputable publisher, without the background I recommend. I would guess that 90+% of the fiction novels published by those companies were written by someone that fits my description. Most of the rest will be some ghostwritten book by a celebrity (for example, Jamie Lee Curtis writing children’s books). That’s not to say that there aren’t third tier publishers that are more willing to take a chance, and I don’t mean to imply that they are not honest etc. when I say “reputable,” but you don’t automatically get shelf space at Barnes & Noble with those.

    Finally, I agreed with you about periods after links a few years ago, when the web was new and people didn’t know how to cut-and-paste — or how to recognize that they’d made a mistake doing so. Today, almost everyone knows not to include the period — unless idiots are your target audience. I prefer to punctuate correctly.

    And if I’m not so gentle, that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Tough love is a good thing.

  • admin

    oh boy… or is the pc term oh people? Michele, as I read your post I realized my personal definition of published is something along the lines of in print and available for purchase or on the web so the grandmother and the kid with notebooks aren’t, by my definition published, but both are writers because they are writing. So my definition of writer is broader than published, which, I suspect, is as it should be.

    Like you, I’m willing to include Helium and self-publishing although I recognize either is likely to contain tons of dreck. But there is dreck published by trade publishers and magazines, although probably not as much.

    Ron’s question about successful self-publishing let me to do a google search for best selling self-published books which led me to
    Books Originally Self-Published
    which included Elements of Style, Joy of Cooking, and more, proving imo that self-published certainly can = published.

    Ron’s anti-tone re Publish America caustically echoes my cautions against many of the better known author services companies.

    My own lack of a degree and lack of concern about same leads me to figure writing and getting published is one of the last true trades in the sense of not needing a license or a degree, just skill.

    I also categorically reject his categorization of the education system as a liberal plot to avoid making distinctions – smacks of Regan conservatism for me and I find it puzzling since he seems to glory education. Maybe he and I would agree more on that subject than I think, although I tend to blame heavy administration costs, but that’ clearly another subject.

    Interesting that I would consider Ron published as a journalist even though he apparently has written or published any books.

    As for his editing of your site… sigh. The distinction between en and em dashes is false on the web; sentence fragments can work although certainly not “correct” in the grammarian’s sense. I avoid periods after web addresses and email addresses unless there’s a live link because they won’t work if included in either.

    I get criticism of my writing here all the time… my creative spelling, and some of my grammar. Some is deserved, some helpful, some not.

    Ron, I suspect your offer to help is real. I would urge gentleness.

  • From Ms. Kafka: “You may or may not have a point but do you always view things from the closet?”

    I haven’t a clue what that means.

    Skipping, for the moment your off-topic comments, I respectfully disagree with your comments about the 21st century. I can’t believe anyone shares your opinion that sitting at home writing in a notebook makes one a published author. I wouldn’t even call that self-published, or them writers. To do so would make every person who has ever signed their name or typed in a password a published author.

    Honestly, I can’t understand why you seem to want to eliminate any distinction between professional writers and any idiot with a keyboard or pen. One could surmise an answer by noting the many grammatical errors in your post, but I don’t think you even recognize those. No, I still think it’s, again, a result of the disgusting trend foisted on us by the liberal education system to not pass judgment on anyone, for anything. Sorry, I don’t believe in that philosophy. One learns from criticism, not flattery — especially undeserved flattery.

    I’d be interested to learn the names of these self-published authors you cite as having “made it big.” I expect that your definition of that subjective term is different than mine.

    Funny that you dismiss the importance of education and paying one’s dues to being “properly published” (I expect that we disagree on the definition of that term as well). Because you admire research so much, I looked up the top 5 authors on the current NYTimes Best Seller list (W.B.Griffith, Patricia Cornwell, Stephanie Meyers, James Patterson, and Julie Garwood). All would qualify by my standards. I expect you could research further down the list and get the same results. If you know of any currently published authors (my definition, i.e. reputable publishing house) that did not attend college or pay their dues in the industry for many years, I’d be interested to hear how they became successful.

    Glanced around FWJ and didn’t spot Chartrand’s post. If he suggests that aspiring writers should not list educational achievements on their resume, I would, again, respectfully disagree. However, my assertion was not that one need “push” their diplomas to get published. I’m saying that if you don’t have the education background and contacts from years of paying dues, your chances of ever getting the opportunity to even pitch your writing are slim. Whether you mention your education when you do get that opportunity is irrelevant.

    I’d post any links to sources that could help you get published if I knew of any. I’ve never tried to get published. I don’t write books. However, my guess is that most of the sites purporting to assist writers get published are actually for-profit enterprises whose primary goal is to get your money. Just like the “modeling agencies” that promise to help aspiring actors land roles, and the loan brokers that charge upfront fees. Like PA, they prey on the dreams of would-be writers.

    Hmm, I did describe the difference between published and self-published in my previous post. As for the difference between those and “actually published,” there is none.

    As for your off-topic comments …

    I didn’t “knock” Helium writers; I only stated that posting articles to such sites did not qualify one as a published author. And, no, I won’t try it — I don’t have time for speculative writing — but I don’t blame those who do have free time from doing it.

    How did I start out? I was a successful software salesperson for twenty years and segued to marketing after becoming too old to put up with the BS. Another five years, and I worked my way up to a position as Director of Corporate Marketing & Communications for a Fortune 500 company supporting the CEO. When he got fired in the option back-dating scandals of a couple of years ago, I lost my job as well and started freelancing. So, I guess to answer your question, I, like my buddy the published author, paid my dues and made many contacts over many years. I make nowhere near the money I used to, but I don’t need much money any more. Life is good.

    Yes, my aggressive style does offend at times — mostly those with low self-esteem, I’ve found. Some people, it seems, cannot handle criticism, no matter how accurate it is. My problem is that I believe too strongly in the Golden Rule — do unto others, blah, blah. Since I truly want and seek out criticism of my work, I treat others that same way. I am always surprised when someone does take offense, since I NEVER intend any. For instance, my comment about being bugged and you undergoing a “metamorphosis” was a play on your name and the famous story by Franz Kafka about a man going through a transformation into an insect. If it offended, I apologize.

    I guess I can see your offense at the “puke” comment. Again, my apologies are extended. I was focused on those hack writers that claim to be published authors when I wrote it and wasn’t really thinking that it implied criticism of you.

    As atonement, I’d like to be helpful and supportive of fellow writers, as you suggest. Towards that end, here are some corrections of the grammar in the introductory content on your blog. If you like these, I’ll even help you with its clarity:

    Welcome to Island Whispers Blog
    Discover this freelance writer’s voice here. This particular blog features some of my thoughts but mainly writing tips, advice, links, how-to’s, writing jobs, etc. General articles of interest will be featured also. Poetry will appear from time to time. You will be able to view web site reviews too. So chillax in a hammock with a cool iced tea or lemonade and join me on this writing adventure. Please look for posts every Tuesday/Friday. A big healthy, hearty THANK YOU to all friends and readers of Island Whispers Blog – Bless You. Take Care. Please scroll waaaay down to check everything here. May take a minute to load. Thanks. If you have any questions or inquiries please contact me at MichelleKafka@gmail.com Thanks!

    1. Second sentence: insert comma after “thoughts.”
    2. Fifth sentence: insert comma after “reviews.”
    3. Replace the slash between Tuesday and Friday with the appropriate conjunction.
    4. Thank You should be in quotations.
    5. Change the en dash after “Island Whispers Blog” to an em dash.
    6. I’ll give you a pass on capitalizing “Bless You” and “Care,” but “Take Care” is a sentence fragment.
    7. As is “May take a minute to load,” and the single word, “Thanks.” (twice)
    8. Insert a comma after “inquiries” in the last complete sentence.
    9. Add a period after your email address.

    Good Luck! Let me know if I can help you in any way. But, for Anne’s readers’ sake, let’s take this offline.


  • You may or may not have a point but do you always view things from the closet?

    I am a freelance writer. I have posted articles to Helium. And one can actually be picked up by publishers there in the Marketplace if you write well, etc. And mine aren’t “Private Label Rights” articles. “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” How exactly pray tell did you start out? You had to get your name out there somewhere, somehow right? Go read James Chartrands post on FWJ about not pushing your diplomas etc. And what are good traits of a freelance writer for starters to refresh.

    And debate with taste and care because you may hurt someone’s feelings. You don’t need to attack like some hungry Bull-shark, i.e. earlier. We’re all different yes, but we’re all here to help eachother not knock down eachother. We all need to boost eachother’s confidence, and be there to support eachother. So in good taste, I forgive you.

    It’s the 21st century. Being published means many different things to many different people. The little child who put their words on paper in a spiral-bound homemade book is a published author. The little granny who wrote down her precioius memoirs in a notebook to keep is a published author. Maybe self-published but published nonetheless. That’s more or less what I meant.

    And many people who have been rejected by actual publishing houses for whatever reason have gone on to self-publish and actually made it big- made a name for themselves. And that’s where research skills come in too. Stay away from the vanity publishers. Go look into Preditors and Editors, and other places where you can get help to get published properly and you can do it without the diplomas and certificates behind you! Even you Ron can post some links here on where and how to get published. Maybe mention the difference of self-published as opposed to actually published, or professionally published, etc.

    Most writing info. I have learned about writing has come from blogs. Blogs such as this one, Men with Pens, Misti Sandefur’s Life of A Writer, Deb Ng’s Freelance Writing Jobs, The WOW blog, and many others. The links on blogs are always a big bonus. I have also learned through school, through books I own, through experience, etc.

    “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Happy New Year!

  • First, if you understand that people want to call themselves “published authors” for that title’s cachet and status, then the definition must relate, in a historical context, to the basis for that title having status and cachet.

    “Published author” confers status because it was historically only conferred on writers who had a book published by a reputable publisher — essentially, the only way one could get a book printed at that time. This being, obviously, before the Internet and technology spawned a glut of vanity press and self-publishing companies. In those days, to have a publisher select your manuscript, from the thousands that may have been submitted, was a commendable feat that was rarely accomplished. Thus, the title “published author” conferred status.

    Also, authors were differentiated from journalists. Authors wrote books; journalists wrote newspaper and magazine articles.

    Today, you have writers whose works have not been subjected to any editorial review, much less the competitive selection process of reputable publishing houses, claiming that they are published authors. The least qualified of these may have only posted on a blog or open invitiation web site. Others throw up PLR articles on Helium et al and think that makes them published authors. But, by far, the worst are the egotistical idiots that self-publish and then claim the title.

    Bottom line: if you paid to have your book published (vanity press) or used a self-publishing service, such as PublishAmerica, you are not a published author, you are a “self-published author.” If you’ve only posted articles or blogs, you are not a published author, you are a journalist, and if you’re not on salary, you are a freelance journalist. Sadly, attaining a Library of Congress number for your book does not, in itself, make you a published author — the vanity and self-publishing companies will assign a LOC number to your work.

    I’ve mentioned PublishAmerica several times, and there are also other similar companies that will “publish” anything. I read of a sting perpetrated on PublishAmerica that is telling. It seems someone submitted a purported manuscript to the PA “editors” for review and, hopefully, selection. Of course, he received a laudatory response offering to publish his fine book. In actuality, his manuscript consisted of nothing but some small number of pages repeated over and over. The PA editors did not catch the fraud, because they don’t exist.

    FYI, because PA et al never actually print a single copy until someone buys it, they will accept anything — it costs them virtually nothing to store the digital file on their server and assign it an LOC number. PA’s scam preys on desperate writers (sic) — they agree to “publish” your book for no charge (actually, for legal reasons, and I suspect, to surreptitiously support their victims’ claims of being published authors, they pay you $1) knowing that you will buy a number of copies yourself — at their inflated prices.

    Understand, I know that there are valid reasons for someone to use PA et al, but those reasons don’t entitle writers to call themselves published authors.

    And, I am not trying to pass judgment on any of these writers’ works. There are, obviously, many great writers who are not published authors. While, surely, there are some writers claiming published status innocently, and others claiming it ignorantly, it is those writers who inaccurately claim the title egotistically that grate me.

    For the record, I am not a published author; I am a freelance writer and journalist. I have a good friend who is, and he gained that status about the only way one can these days (unless celebrity motivates a publisher to select you): he attended one of the best journalism schools in the country, graduated at the head of his class, interned in NYC, and then wrote a column in a leading business journal for several years to pay his dues.

    Certainly, I understand Suzy Homemaker or John-in-the-mailroom’s desire to have their work published, and their frustrations, since the chances of achieving their dream are virtually nil because, sadly, today’s publishing industry cannot afford to take risks on unproven authors. Still, there are no shortcuts, and there is no other way to become a published author.

    • Mr. Lewis , is a contributing writer considered a “published author” if the work is submitted and selected to be used in a compilation . I.E. a teacher holds a national contest for a group of students to submit a story on a specific matter or subject the chosen work is then published with the teacher being the “editor” and compilation author under the copyright protection ?.

      • Brian, there is no firm definition of ‘being a published author.’ You certainly can claim being a contributing writer to that piece and ‘contributing writer’ is probably as good as ‘published author,’ or darn close.

        • Hi Brian,

          I agree with Anne, there is no specific definition.

          However, I personally can’t imagine calling myself a “published author.” Because that title has historically implied recognition and status, using it to describe yourself seems boastful to me. Also, the term has almost always been used by others to describe an author, not by an author to describe him or her self.

          As to the scenario you describe, the traditional usage of “published author” would not include a student’s contribution to a story collection because the student is not actively pursuing a writing career – you’re not an author, you’re a student.

          But, as this thread reveals, the Internet and the growth of publishing-on-demand technology and vanity publishers has cheapened the meaning of published author. I prefer the older usage that conferred status and honor on the author. Now that any idiot with a keyboard can be a published author, the phrase means nothing and anyone trying to claim it for themselves is probably attention-starved.

          My recommendation is to do as Anne says. Don’t boast, be humble. Just say you contributed to the collection. If someone else chooses to call you a published author, just let them.


  • admin

    Ron, how do you define being published?

  • “You can be considered published if your name appears on a written piece of material online or off. ”

    Sadly, Ms. Kafka’s (any relation to Franz?) opinion reflects the attitude of many people these days. I suspect it is a tragic result of our modern school system’s focus on building self-esteem.

    “Yes, Johnny and Susie, you can be anything you set your mind to. Sure, you’ll never weigh more than 80 pounds, but you can be a Sumo wrestler. Yes, you flunked English and Spelling, but dang it, if you want to be a writer then “poof,” you’re a writer.

    By Ms. Kafka’s logic, I am a doctor because I put a band-aid on my son’s ouchie. And I am a firefighter because I blew out a match. And building that tree house when I was a child made me an architect and engineer. Race car driver? Yep, that’s me — I drove 56 MPH yesterday!

    I am sooo talented, a regular Renaissance Man. I am a banker, accountant, lawyer, professional athlete (a kid gave me $5 to jump off a bridge), ENT surgeon (ever hear of Q-tips?), massage therapist, carpenter, plumber, electrician, computer technician, software engineer, motorcycle daredevil (had to give it up though), graphic designer, mountain climber, horse whisperer, clairvoyant (I told everyone Obama would win), female impersonator (my farts smell like lilacs!), porn star (call for details), thief, murderer (damn flies) … dang, the list is too long.

    Doesn’t matter that all the people who are considered qualified for those titles would deny me — according to Ms. Kafka, it only matters “how the person perceives his/her self.” I wanna puke. Oh wait, that makes me Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I’m gonna need a new wardrobe.

    Before the writing profession was invaded by every idiot with a keyboard, it used to mean something to be a “published author.” Writers could not adopt that title simply by “perceiving” themselves to be one; it had to be bestowed on you by others — namely, the editors at publishing companies. And, obviously, they do not do that unless you have superior writing skills.

    Of course, Ms. Jumbe is correct in that there are many excellent writers who have never been selected for publication. Many have never even submitted work to a publisher. But, unfortunately, that is the primary criteria for a published author — you have to have been published by a publishing company. As well as one may write, self-publishing or web posting does not qualify you as a published author.

    Gotta run. I am a gourmet French chef, and I need to go whip up some mayonnaise sandwiches. I hope Ms. Kafka doesn’t have a metamorphosis, I’m bugged enough already.

  • A writer is a writer whether bad or good writing exists – published or not. It is how the person perceives his/her self and what they want to accomplish. It is also the need to be heard. You can be considered published if your name appears on a written piece of material online or off.

    Even fictional clips – things you just made up help, i.e. a product description for a new product, invent a company and write some ads for it or a company history, a fictional biography, etc. This helps to show the writing employer you are creative and can demonstrate the ability to write effectively.

    Some other clips to include in your portfolio include:

    * Virtual volunteering /real-life volunteering, as long as it has to do with the writing or publishing aspect

    * Creating an e-zine

    * Personal journal entries

    * Observations on the world around you – nature, people, etc

    * Contest entries and whether you were a semi-finalist or finalist.

    * Your own writing website, (as Anne did mention,) these are really fun to create

    These are things I learned on my writing adventure.
    Hope some of these ideas help you and someone, somewhere.
    Good luck!

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Happy New Year!

  • Oh, I don’t know…I think if you’ve had a byline, in print or online, you’re published. Not everyone gets to have op-ed pieces in Newsweek – doesn’t mean that they aren’t up to much. I’ve read stunningly brilliant prose on virtually unknown blogs and, at the same time, marveled at the mediocrity of the copy in some of the most renowned broadsheets in the world. It’s very subjective. The caliber of the writer is not always mirrored by that of the publication or vice versa).

  • Leo doesn’t say why he asks, and Anne is probably correct in assuming he wants to add that honorific to his resume, however, I’ve had a number of chat room champions claim to be “published authors” in a boastful way. Technically, Anne and the blowhards are correct – having blather appear under your name on meidiot.com meets the minimum standards; however, it sure cheapens our profession.

    I recall one lady who made that claim. In any of her posts, there were a hundred or more grammar or spelling errors. Following the link to her book, I was not surprised to find it was published by PublishAmerica, the most bogus of all the bogus vanity publishers. I had to laugh when I saw the cover artwork – the title was misspelled.

    Sadly, it seems that one can claim ‘published author’ status these days just as anyone who uploads video stupidity to YouTube can claim to be a movie producer/director/actor.


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