Career Impact of Formal Publishing
The impact of formal publishing on your career can be dramatic. Having an article published increases your credibility—it elevates you from professional to recognized expert. It can dramatically increase your visibility and make potential employers take notice.
This is not a step-by-step approach to writing an article or getting published. There are numerous books covering those topics. The following section simply provides some tips for getting started.
Start with What You Know
This is critical. Although an accomplished writer can and will undertake subjects that require significant research, the best way to get published is to write about a subject you know well. You are probably already an expert in some aspect of your job. Even if it is a narrow specialty, this is where you start. The reasons are simple.
First, this is where you will have more knowledge than a significant portion of the population, which is what expertise actually is. You do not have to know more than everyone to be called an expert—just more than the majority of people.
Second, this is where your career will naturally grow. Unless you pursue writing as a career, your published articles are not about the dollars you earn by publishing them (thank goodness), but about the credibility gained and the opportunities and salary they can enhance. Writing to your area of expertise is important because that is the area in which employers and opportunity will meet you. In effect, your publishing efforts showcase why a company should talk to you.
Know Your Audience
You cannot write for everyone. Is your audience the IT manager, the business executive, the IT professional, or some other reader? Understanding who you are writing to is critical for identifying the tone of the article and a prospective publication.
For instance, most small newspapers are not interested in highly technical articles. Their audience is broader, so your writing has to be correspondingly broad to be published there. On the other hand, a highly technical article on a specific programming language or technique would make a nice fit in a programming journal or an online technology site.
Knowing your audience helps your writing have more impact and greatly increases your chance of getting published.
Read Similar Articles to Identify Tone and Focus
One key to getting published is to understand a given publication’s tone and focus. Whether online or in print, publications have guidelines for article length and how deeply a given topic is covered. It is important that you recognize this if you want to be published.
Almost all publications have guidelines on their websites or have an editor you can contact to get their guidelines. Some publications even have an editorial calendar that identifies the topics they will be publishing in the coming months.
Reading similar articles and understanding editorial needs go a long way toward helping you get published.
Three Main Points
A good starting point for your first publishing attempt is to focus on three primary ideas. Similar to the framework for case studies, narrowing the ideas to three provides a framework for focusing your article. Otherwise, your article might lack impact.
This focus is particularly important for technology-related articles. If you are covering a specific product, for instance, you probably don’t need to write about each and every feature. It is better that you identify three broad features and merely allude to more detailed features.
Ask For (and Accept) Editorial Feedback
Editors are experts who know their audience. Accept their feedback, which might be difficult if you are too emotionally tied to your ideas. I often joke with my editors that they are "killing my baby" when they request changes. However, their insight will make you a better writer, greatly improving your chances for publishing success.
As you continue to work with an editor or publication, you will find that future articles come back with fewer edits. I attribute this to both improved writing and to an editor becoming more comfortable with your style.
It is unlikely that you will publish the first article you write, but a simple way to increase your chances is to identify smaller publications. Editors need content. Local publications often struggle to find writers, and they often have less-formal submission guidelines (often allowing you to speak directly with the editor). This type of feedback can help you better focus your article, greatly increasing the chances for publication.
Once you have published a few articles for smaller local publishers, you can use those articles to approach larger publications (they like to know they are working with an experienced writer).