The journey to becoming a published author can be a long one. It can also be frustrating – understandably you want your writing to be read and enjoyed by people, and if you’re struggling to get to the next stage in finding an agent, or waiting for editors to get back to you, it's tough.
The good news is that, in between, there are lots of ways to get your writing noticed (which often helps to get it more squarely on the radar of agents and editors too). From awards and competitions to literary journals and your social media profile, here are some ways to get your work into the hands of readers.
Awards, competitions and programmes
We’ve put together an extensive list of awards, competitions and programmes for both new and established writers that you may find useful. They vary across genre and format, and some have certain requirements, so see what feels like a good fit and start working on your entry – it could be using something you’ve already started writing, or a new challenge.
Entering competitions is a great way to get more eyes on your work for opportunities and feedback. Some competitions or programmes even offer mentorships with established people in the publishing industry, or signing with an agency. The more people see your name and identify your style, the more likely you are to be recognised for your talent in future.
A programme we run at Penguin Random House for unpublished writers is WriteNow – an editorial programme which aims to find, nurture and publish new writers from communities under-represented on the nation's bookshelves. Taking place every other year, WriteNow partners 10-15 new authors with editors across publishing houses to be mentored through the publishing process. 13 writers have been published or acquired by Penguin Random House imprints through the programme.
Sign up for updates, writing tips and inspiration from WriteNow
Being published in literary magazines
Entering your work into literary journals or creative writing magazines is a great way for you to get your work out there both digitally and in print, and also make connections across a network of other writers. Jannat Ahmed runs Lucent Dreaming, an independent magazine published biannually for ‘beautiful and surreal fiction, poetry and art for new and emerging authors/artists’. Based in Cardiff, she launched it to establish a base in Wales where creatives could celebrate one other and get noticed.
“I’d always been interested in publishing but been too scared to publish my own work, and I wanted to appeal to people who were like me in the sense that I’d written a lot, but it was very daunting to submit something. Getting rejections and not knowing why is so difficult, so we made a point right at the beginning to give feedback on all the submissions we receive. I want to decrease that fear and show people that they have a talent; they’ve worked at something, and to also recognise the strength it takes to submit.”
Not only is it great exposure, submitting to a literary magazine also gives you experience of the publishing process. “Magazines make sure you put out your best work”, says Jannat, “It’s not just you publishing alone, we have editors to help improve that piece of writing. The more people you have on your team offering you critique when you need it, the better your work is going to be.”
Tips for submitting to a literary journal are very similar to that of sending a manuscript to an agent – do your research. “Always familiarise yourself fully with the publication to make sure you’re a good fit, and also follow the submission guidelines – it sounds simple but it makes it easier for editors to read, collaborate and edit your work.”
Because literary magazines can publish a whole array of different genres and types of writing, you can really find your niche. “I just know how important and nice it is to be recognised for your work, and how rarely that can happen.”
Promoting yourself on social media
Some writers – in particular, poets, have been offered publishing deals as a result of their success and following of their writing through social media.
Similarly to that of a literary magazine, following and interacting with other writers helps to widen your network. Jannat explains how that can help your opportunities to grow, “I think having people on your side; you’ll have this community around you supporting you who will share, review and buy your work. And I think there is nothing that can replace that, since writing is often about human connection.”
Whether you’re posting extracts on Instagram, recording your writing journey or posting chapters on a blog, creating a following of people who are invested in your work will only benefit you when it comes to trying to find an agent.
Find out more about publicising yourself when your book is finished, with tips from our marketing and publicity teams.
Seize as many opportunities as possible
Through your network of writing groups or fellow writers online, you may find yourself being offered opportunities that may not have immediately sprung to mind.
Jannat found herself collaborating with musician Oli Richards: "Lucent Dreaming worked with Goodparley on creating a six-part ambient music version of some poems we'd published. You get a whole different feel from a poem being read out loud alongside music.
"Digital publishing is such an interesting and wonderful landscape, it can be pushed in so many different directions, so explore all of them!"
So start a podcast, join a poetry performance night, or attend a talk at a bookshop – it can all help in getting more eyes on your work.