Check it Off Your Bucket List: How to Become a Published Author Before You Graduate College

We all have that list of things that we want to accomplish in our lives, and with the rise in Young Adult literature and a newly cultivated respect for poetry, many young people now desire to be published authors. For some this dream is discarded for seemingly more obtainable goals—see the west coast, perfect the art of cooking a four course meal, finally work up the courage to play at an open mic. But what if I told you that securing a publication before you graduate college is easier and more realistic than you might have thought?

With many publishers accepting online submissions and a variety of journals exclusively offering online publications, the world of publishing has evolved and is now more welcoming to budding writers than ever before. Because of an influx of online only journals, the market is rapidly expanding. While this also means that more people are attempting to get published, there are armies of editors willing and ready to read your work. With the follow tips and tricks, plus a bit of hard work, you can cross “get published” off of your bucket list.

But where do you begin?

  1. Select your text and know your genre. It is important when attempting to publish that you know your genre. Figure out what piece of writing you want to send out and understand the constraints of that specific genre. For example, if you are publishing a short free verse poem and you find a submission call for prose poetry, it might not be the best idea for you to submit to that category.
  2. Revise, revise, revise. This is a key step for any aspiring writer. Reach out to past professors, trusted peers, or colleagues who have experience in the genre in which you are writing. The more eyes you have on your piece, the less fear you will have of submitting something for publication that has typos, unclear syntax, or any other easily avoidable mistakes. You might also consider visiting the Marshall University Writing Center where we have specially trained staff in each genre.
  3. Select your prospective journals and set aside a bit of money for submission fees. As a rule of thumb, plan to set aside $3-$5 dollars per journal. While not all journals will require submission fees, many do. In many cases, these fees are necessary in allowing the journals to thrive and cover the costs of readers’ and editors’ time and effort. Because many journals require these fees, this should encourage you to be mindful of where you submit. Read through past issues of journals to decide if your piece is a good fit for their aesthetic.

Dos & Don’ts of Publishing

  • Do draft a professional author’s biography. You can review samples in most online journals.
  • Do follow all of the journal submission guidelines. Failure to follow these rules could cause your piece to be prematurely rejected from the journal. Note: All journals have their own specific guidelines, so be sure to read everything.
  • If the journal asks for you to submit a cover letter, do your research and address the letter to the editor for your genre. This will show them that you are professional and serious about making a good impression.
  • Do check out webpages such as com and for up to date submission calls and rules for many journals who publish in every genre.
  • Do give yourself plenty of time to apply for journals and apply for many at the same time. Note: some journals will not allow for simultaneous submissions—meaning you are only allowed to submit your piece to one journal at a time. This process can be very frustrating to new writers, so you might find that submitting to journals who do allow simultaneous submissions to be the best route when starting out.
  • Don’t get discouraged. If you receive 100 rejection letters and publishing is your dream, don’t let that slow you down. Speaking from experience, I have received many more rejection letters than publications. That is simply the way of the game. However, every time I get a publication, the feeling is so much stronger than when I got rejected.


Get ready to cross “get published” off of your bucket list! Remember to always submit your best work, research the journals and genre, and don’t get too discouraged when you receive your first rejection letter. Rejection is inevitable, but it paves the way to something much stronger—your chance at becoming a published author before you graduate college!


-Lauren T.


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