How to Get Published in College, Offlineposted by Peter on September 12th, 2008
If you’re a blossoming writer in the midst of your college career, or even just an opinionated or knowledgeable college student who knows how to pick up a pen, you might be yearning for ways to get your work out there.
Fortunately, most colleges and universities are hives of activity when it comes to publishing, broadcasting and information dissemination. It’s the one place where people in every professional field are crammed into the same 10 square blocks, reading and listening to the same media. It’s the perfect opportunity to launch your publishing career, or at least vent your proto-philosophical musings. Here are seven ways (other than the Internet) to distribute your enlightened penmanship:
The student newspaper – You’re lucky, because most student newspapers aren’t too stingy with what they choose to publish – unlike the real world, where people have the bottom line to consider. If you were to stroll into your student paper’s office with a smile, a handshake and, say, a brief discourse on the residual effects of ‘60s counterculture on modern TV sitcoms, there’s a good chance it would see the light of day in the commentary section. It might have to wait for some vaguely relevant news to come along, and you may have to poke them a little when it does, but this is a good place to start. Just ignore the bad copy editing.
On-campus magazines – every university has them, and they sometimes take some hunting to find, but your school’s English department can likely point you toward at least a few student literary publications hungry for inspired content. Timing isn’t too important here, because they aren’t usually too organized. But they’re read by literary minds, faculty, and people who can appreciate good prose. Just make sure that’s what you’re giving them, because they tend to take themselves seriously.
Essay contests – Swallow your “cool” and talk to an English professor about this option, because while essay contests have a dork stigma, the winners end up in student manuals and lit guides for other students to read and learn from. Does your writing carry a point? Are your arguments well thought out? Are you observing the basic rules of grammar and syntax? Then you might have a shot. Just don’t act embarrassed about it among your peers, or your life will be ruined.
Local publications – Along with college campuses comes college towns, and their publications can be as inviting as the student ones. They’re often marketed to include the college demographic, and they’re probably also covering the floors of your school’s halls, indicating readership. Their standards are a little higher, and you may have to be professional to show you’re not wasting their time, but it’s worth it to give them a call to find out how to pitch a commentary. A word of warning: These publications are technically part of the “real world,” so make sure your essay is credible and well thought out, or the real world will write nasty, critical letters.
Student radio – Many colleges have their own radio stations, and college radio is notorious for pioneering new, inventive ideas and formats that would never fly with “bottom line” people. Getting in contact with your student station could potentially lead to an on-the-air reading of at least a passage or two. It’s also smart to use the station to promote your work when it appears in other media outlets.
Guerilla – Since college is all about activism and grassroots, one way of spreading your educated ramblings is good old campus pamphleting. If you design a flashy cover for your essay, print up a few hundred copies, and place them in prime spots around campus (next to newspaper racks, outside of the English department, or around whatever department most closely relates to your subject matter), interested people will grab copies. It might cost a little to print, especially if you are long winded and eat up page space, but if your topic is good you may stir up some campus buzz.
Start your own pub – A long-term version of the above path, starting your own publication is entirely possible in college, though it’s a horrendous amount of work. The multinational pop-culture magazine Wonka Vision was started in 1997 by then-college student Justin Luczejko in his Philadelphia bedroom with no outside funding; national independent magazine Synthesis began in 1994 in the Chico, CA apartment of then-college student Bill Fishkin using a dot-matrix printer and a credit card. Even though the current economy isn’t what it was then, if you want to create a magazine around whatever topic interests you, it’s at least worth a try. The Magazine Publishers of America have some advice for anyone interested in this, and something may even eventually appear on this site. Go for it, Plato.