Career Development06/05/2015 15:40:45

How Can a Writer Develop Career Opportunities?

The first and hardest step is to get your first piece of work published.

It doesn't matter if you are paid or not. Just being able to show that you have something published can open doors.

From the first item to the next and others after that, will normally be a step by step process. For some writers, all of their published work may be unpaid work for a long tome; while others may be fortunate to acquire some paid work early in their career.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to focus on doing whatever it takes to get work published. It is published writers who get noticed by publishers, and offered work.

To get published, you need to understand what caused a publisher decide on one item rather than another. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand what is motivating their decisions; and try to supply just that.

OPPORTUNITY TO PUBLISH WITH ACS  -Students studying with ACS Distance Education have a unique opportunity to have work published in a high profile online Student magazine (click here to see)


Factors that influence the decision of what to publish

Some of the factors that a publisher might consider when deciding which proposal to act upon or which manuscript to accept are discussed below.

Genre or type of writing

Some questions that publishers ask when deciding what to publish are related to genre: What is the purpose of the publication …to entertain or inform? What is its subject? Is it:

  •  fiction or non fiction?
  •  written for adults or children?
  •  popular or academic writing?


Within these broad categories are more specialised categories of writing or genres and their different sub-categories. For instance, under the genre “novel” are included historical novels, romance novels, westerns, fantasy novels, science fiction (sci-fi) novels etc. Some questions a publisher might need to answer when choosing what to publish are: Is this genre relevant to our organisation? Is it consistent with our image and our overall goals? If it is, does this particular work meet our standards and criteria for that genre? If not, what are the risks and benefits of going outside our usual boundaries, and is this work worth the risks?


Most publishers are involved in several genres, especially as publishing becomes a multimedia industry. This kind of diversification can be quite profitable, as it spread the potential risks over a wider area. Eventually, most publishers will develop a list of publications consistent with their overall image and style. Other publishers will concentrate their resources on one genre, such as romance novels, text books, or news, meeting the needs of a particular niche market. Some may focus on quality publications, others on quantity, producing lots of low-quality, low-cost books, while some very large publishers may produce different kinds and qualities of publications.


Fortunately for the reading public and for many writers, publishers are often on the lookout for titles outside their usual repertoire that might have potential. Because one can never really predict what will succeed, and many best sellers were initially rejected by more conservative publishers, there are always publishers who are willing to take risks, though these may be shared with the author by making him or her bear part of the costs. (See lesson 5 – Risk Management).


Publishers of news magazines or papers recognise different kinds of stories, some of which are understood and accepted as having greater news value than others at any one time. Some widely recognised news stories are:


· murder stories

· weather stories

· fire or disaster stories

· accident stories,

· speeches,

· international relations stories

· government and politics stories


· law and trial stories

· business, industry stories

· sports stories

· investigative or analytical stories

· entertainment and arts stories

· science, education, knowledge stories

· religion, spirituality, philosophy

(Source: Leiter, Harriss & Johnson, The Complete Reporter, Allyn and Bacon)



Reader interest and expectations

There is no single guideline for determining what is desirable content.

However, it can be very useful to examine general guidelines by which news publishers choose what is or is not newsworthy (worth publishing). While the criteria may be different, in many instances, the factors that make for newsworthy items may also help determine what makes a good novel or magazine article.


There is no agreed-upon definition of ‘news’, for what is news is determined by many factors, including:

  •  The people who publish it
  •  Social values and expectations concerning news
  •  The political and economic environment
  •  Information-gathering and reporting technology
  •  Reader interest.


When deciding what is newsworthy, publishers look for articles that will take and hold readers’ interest, and stimulate some kind of dialogue or debate. Reader interest is said to be the main factor determining what news is published. However, there is some debate as to whether the media respond to reader interest, or create it.


News values

Factors that the news industry generally agrees stimulate reader interest are called news values. These include:


· Conflict – riots, wars, violence, assaults etc that upset social order and arouse emotional responses;


· Radical changes – progress, successes, developments, rapid or unexpected gains, or failures, disasters, sudden losses of wellbeing or fortune;


· Consequence – the degree to which events or people affect us or a community, or the perceived importance of the effects;


· Prominence – fame, infamy, popularity, influence, authority attached to a person, event or place;


· Sex – private details of a sexual nature, exposes, romances, deviations etc, especially in regard to prominent people or groups;


· Timeliness – current events are considered more newsworthy that previous or possible future events. For instance, events that provoke great public controversy one week may not be considered newsworthy a week later, though the issues have not been resolved;


· Proximity – our geographical closeness to the events. For example, a strike in our small community might feature on the front page of our local newspaper, and not even get a mention in the nearest large city;


· Novelty – anything that deviates (is different) from the norm: Siamese twins, multiple births, unusual practices etc.;


· Human Interest – these are stories about individuals or communities that may not have any of the above factors, but appeal to our emotions or curiosity (elderly lady forced out of her home because of council fees; hospital for injured wild animals; community support for a burned-out family etc);


· Special interest – any topic that interests or informs readers: animals, fashion, alternative health etc.



Many of these news values are also relevant to creative writing. Stories that feature a strong storyline will be more warmly received by a publisher than those that lack a good story line. Again, there is no general agreement on what makes a good story.

However, it is generally agreed that a basic storyline contains conflict (internal and between individuals or groups) and changes (developments, reversals, growth and resolution) that are seen to have consequence for the main character or characters.


Good non-fiction can also contain a strong storyline, which the writer creates by careful selection and organisation of information. In fact, in many ways, non-fiction writing such as biographies, auto-biographies, histories and news features can be considered as created as fiction writing. Publishers (or editors) select from the many bits of information what is to be included, what overall tone or mood will be developed, even what meanings are to be drawn from that information.


Perceived need

Based on market analysis and simply keeping attuned to what’s happening in publishing and society, publishers can often identify specific needs, such as the need for quality text books relevant to students in their own country, or self-help articles in magazines. Learning the market - what is wanted, what is lacking – is essential to developing special or niche markets in response to need.


Cost and profit-making potential

In the end, most publishing decisions end here. Even the most brilliant and exciting concept and most skilful writing might not be sufficient to outweigh financial considerations. Every innovation, every branch into new areas by a publisher, every exciting project must be weighed against the publisher’s evaluation of the risks involved, the cost, and the continuing financial viability of the enterprise. (More will be said on this in lesson 3.)