Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Published as a Teen Part 2

This question has been covered here before (click here to see the original post), but I received an e-mail last week from a writer saying that it's her number 1 dream to be published as a teenager, and she wanted to know if I had advice.

Last time I talked about the realities of being published and reasons why being published as a teen might not be so great. This time I'll focus on what you can do to make this dream come true.

Because even though I stand by everything I said in my original post, I get where you're coming from. My goal was to be published as a teen too. And then when I opted out of college, my goal was to be published by age 22 so when my friends were all getting their diplomas, I could point to book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and say, "See? I accomplished something too."

I didn't achieve either of these goals. Partly because they're hard things to achieve, but also because I wasn't good enough to be published at that age. The stuff I wrote then makes me cringe. So a better goal would have been to be good enough to be published.

I don't believe in setting goals that depend on somebody else. Goals need to be something that you have the power to achieve. So you can have the dream of being published as a teen, but to achieve this dream for yourself, set goals that you can accomplish.

Here are the ones I would suggest:

1. Read a lot/Write a lot

This is why publication is something that often takes a long time. Because it takes a lot of writing to get good at it. If you're serious about getting published, start here.

2. Carve time out of your schedule for writing, and protect it fiercely.

Achieving a dream like being published as a teenager will require sacrifices. Same as being in the school play or on a soccer team means sacrificing time with friends/time for vegging, your writing will have to as well.

3. Go to a conference

I went to my first writer's conference when I was in high school. I took a Friday off from school, and my dad (who's not a writer, just supportive) went with me. I was the youngest one there by about 20 years. I was too shut off to make friends with any of the other writers, but I talked to all my teachers and even an editor from Simon and Schuster. I didn't realize it at the time, but I'm pretty sure they all thought it was "adorable" that I was there. And I think the same thing when I'm at conferences now and see high school students there. (Though I don't find it quite as adorable when their guardian thinks I'm also in high school. That woman got the shock of a life when I stood up from the dinner table, revealing my big 8-month-pregnant belly.)

At conferences you'll meet other writers, you'll attend classes, and you'll have appointments with editors and agents who will talk to you honestly about the industry and your chances. They're expensive, but they're valuable.

If you can't go to conference, then consider

4. Entering a contest

I entered the first three chapters of Me, Just Different in the ACFW contest for unpubbed writers. I had a big enough ego to think it was a shoe-in. Not only did I not final, my judges ripped it apart.


Turns out the opinions of my husband, parents, and close friends are quite different than those of writing professionals. And while that hurt, the advice I received from those judges is what led me to changing my story, and those changes are what snagged me my agent and publishing house.

Ultimately, you don't get to decide if you'll be published as a teenager. That's up to a pub board somewhere. But if you want to do everything you can to keep them from rejecting your manuscript, the above 4 goals will help.

Have a writing question? E-mail me.


  1. Solid advice, Stephanie. I'd completed two manuscripts and several partials by the time I graduated high school, another four MSS by the time I left teen-dom . . . and none of them were good enough to be published, though I didn't know it at the time.

    A biggie is getting over your pride and realizing that natural writing ability does NOT equal publishable. A great first step is joining an organization that will help you learn rules and expectations for modern writers. (Many of which Stephanie has covered here.) If you're serious about publishing (ever, not just as a teen), you have to realize not only what you need to change.

  2. I still think you're adorable! Some day you won't mind so much being thought younger than your age. :)

    Solid advice here, and not just for teen writers. Everybody has to sacrifice, write, read, put their work out there, etc.

  3. Hey Steph,
    I don't know what I'd do without you and your blog! My dream is to get published as an author, too. I'm going to do what you said, and set aside a time to write everyday. And in this time, I won't go online. I'll even disconnect my laptop from it;)

    Ooh, a question! I always seem to put waaay too many comma's in when I'm writing (Well, according to my English teacher anyway, aka my uncle.) Are there any rules for comma's?

  4. This was really good advice.
    I'm trying to write, so far i've only wrote short story's but that's a good start right?
    I DEFINITELY read enough!! Its mostly all Christian Fiction though.
    Should i read other stuff too?

  5. Emii, let me talk to my grammar girl about doing a guest post for us.

    Leah, that's a great start! Short stories are HARD. Diversifying your reading habits won't hurt anything. It's good to be well versed in whatever market you're targeting, but if you're writing Christian fiction it's still good to know what's going on in the general market. Since I write YA fiction, I try to alternate between YA titles and regular titles, and also Christian and secular.

  6. thanks for posting this Stephanie! this helped me so much. :D
    Is it really that difficult to be a published author? Do you have to pay for printing and such?
    What does being a published author entail exactly, and what sort of stuff do you have to do besides write what your agent wants or whatever?

  7. Thank you, Roseanna :)

    Excellent questions, jazzdivagirl. To be answered on Tuesday...

  8. Dear Stephanie,
    I've seen your books lying around the shelf in the local Barns'n'Noble but I never had the time (or money) to even pick them up and flip it to the first page. I now know that it was a bad decision. I was looking up teens getting published, because I just wanted to see if it was possible for me to actually pursue my dream early, when I stumbled upon this site. I'm very glad that I did because you have showed that writing takes time and also a lot of self confidence. But I was just wondering, what are the key points that publishers are looking for? :) Oh and by the way, Thanks for the great support and tips!

  9. I'll write a blog post detailing this further, but in short publishers are looking for:

    1. A great manuscript, which includes having a good sales hook (like Twilight would be "love and vampires")

    2. Ideally a writer who is in a position to sell his/her books. Someone who has a recognizeable name or a following of some sort.

    I've put this on the schedule to talk about in more detail. Thanks for your question!