WHY BOTHER WITH A LIST OF PUBLICATIONS?
Maybe you can. And granted, amassing a list of pubs (LP) is a dull left-brain task. It’s void of creativity and takes away from precious writing time. If you have few or no publications at this point, you may think it’s also silly. But an orderly, precise list has many advantages you may not have thought of.
Here I’ll show you how to set up your LP as painlessly as possible and how it benefits both editors and yourself. Besides, the sooner you start, the less you’ll have to catch up with.
Setting Up Your List
1. Allocate a chunk of time just for this. There’s no getting around it—initially the LP will take time. Probably stints over several days makes the most sense. With the task spread out, you’ll allow your subconscious to dish up small successes—still worthy of mention—that you may have completely forgotten.
2. Gather as many kinds of materials as you can: old resumes, bios you prepared for various purposes, physical clips or publications in which your writing appeared. Look through file drawers and/or computer files to jog your memory. Think about books, excerpts, articles, essay, stories, and poems you’ve published as well as reviews of others’ work, forewords or introductions you’ve been invited to do, columns, ongoing blogs you maintain, guest blogs, and published letters to editors of well-known publications.
Dig out too other writers’ articles in which you’ve been quoted and interviews you’ve given—virtual, in print, and in-voice. If you’re also a promotional writer and/or editor, include reports, brochures, newsletters, articles you’ve done for individuals and companies, whether or not your byline shows.
Call your mother and rummage through scrapbooks and cartons of your stuff in her attic. She’s probably saved everything since your day care days with your name on it.
3. Now, with that great pile in front of you, make a computer file only for your LP.
Title it something like “My List of Publications,” “Credits,” or “(Miraculous) Published Works.”
4. Decide on the order in which to list your pubs. I like reverse chronological, meaning most recent first. At this writing, 2012, I’ve typed the year, centered and in bold, with the publications listed below it. The next centered, bold section is “2011,” and so on.
If you prefer true chronological, that is, your earliest publications first, use that method. One writer divides his credits by genre (“Poems,” “Essays”) and then by true chronology. He says, “I can scan my genre subheads quickly and reference my work for my email signature or choose entries for an editor that matches his interests.”
5. Within each year: Decide on the order in which you will list the credits within each year. Again, your order can be reverse chronological, true chronological, alphabetical by title, or grouped by genre. I do genre and reverse chronological, with the elements within the listing also in a certain sequence. Here’s my entry for a recent publication:
Writing how-to. “Thank the Editor.” 1215 Words. Inkwell Editorial,
November 27, 2012. http://inkwelleditorial.com/sample-thank-the-
6. Within each entry: Decide too on how you will arrange the information within each entry. As my example above shows, for online publications, after the genre I list the title followed by the word count. Then the publication title, date, of appearance, and URL. (Notice the hanging indents; the eye scans them easily.)
For print publications, I list all information available. First genre, then title of my piece, then publication title, volume, issue, month, year, and the inclusive page numbers on which my article appeared:
Essay. “Angel in the Mall.” Transformation Magazine, October 2012,
pp. 38-39. (This magazine does not include volume and issue numbers.)
Writing how-to. Reprint. “Ten More Ways to Break Your Writing Block."
990 Words. Working Writer, vol. 13, no. 3, May/June 2012, pp. 8-9.
All the elements I record, I’ve found, other than satisfying my obsessive-compulsive penchant for details, have helped me one way or another in identifying pieces. I’ve used the information for submitting reprints to appropriate venues, checking word count specifications, and referring other writers and editors to particular works and Internet addresses.
7. Whatever format you choose or devise, stick to it for every entry.
8. Several types of writing should not be included in your LP:
a. Pieces accepted but never published, even if you got paid. (It does happen: I once got paid on acceptance for an article on innovative ways to play with cats. Before it was scheduled, the magazine went out of business.)
b. Published letters to editors, unless they were in The New York Times or major publications in your genre or field. (I resisted including a letter that appeared in a neighborhood newspaper on my brilliant idea: the virtues of garbage collectors’ gloves color-coded by neighborhood.)
c. Family and friend fan letters and appreciations. (I know, they’re some of your biggest, most believing fans. Cherish these paeans and tuck them away in a decorated box.)
Keeping Your List
1. As you compile your LP, you’ll refine the methods of entry that serve you best. Once the list is complete, it’s easy to keep adding entries.
2. You can search your list document for titles you could submit as reprints when you come upon various publications. When you get a new idea, you can check your LP for similar ideas you’ve already written about and even adapt some of the materials.
3. I suggest you set up your list even if you have few to no credits so far. It’s a virtual-tangible positive affirmation and expectation.
4. Keep visualizing your successful writing future like this: Add a heading with something like “To Come,” “Accepted but Not Scheduled,” or, if you’re academically inclined, “Forthcoming.” Mine is titled deliciously “To Be Published.” This heading will keep you thinking, submitting, and visualizing ahead. Later, when the dreams materialize, you can transfer the entries to the appropriate year.
What Your List Tells an Editor
If you need more motivation to get your LP together, I’ve discovered some that can help you publish and be invited to publish. Most editors don’t ask for your complete list of publications but sometimes want clips of comparable pieces or links. So from your master list you can extract an abbreviated list of pubs (ALP). Here are some of the ways it can impress editors:
1. The ALP shows that you’re a professional; you take your work seriously.
2. The list’s organization, neatness, and consistency show your (admirable) attention to details. The editor naturally assumes you will apply these same qualities to assignments.
3. The list provides evidence of your credits the editor can verify.
4. If you have reprints to list, they show your seriousness and marketing savvy and ingenuity.
Jenna Glatzer in Chapter 6 of her Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer (Nomad Press, 2004) points out some excellent reasons for including an ALP in your query or bio. With anecdotes that are funny and sometimes embarrassing to writers, she also cautions about judicious choices for your ALP and overly “creative” (read: fabricated) lists.
5. Your ALP in more than one subject or genre shows your wide interests and flexibility. The editor may then consider you for other types of assignments.
When I sent an article about journal-writing and an ALP to a magazine editor, she rejected the article but, noting my children’s publication credits, invited me to send a piece on my experience with children’s writing. (This article was later published, although not in this magazine. Ah, a writer’s life.)
Another example: I sent a query and substantiating information to an agent for a spiritual self-help book. She refused this book but suggested, based on the academic experience in my bio, that I do a book on helping doctoral candidates through the dissertation. I’m deep into this book now.
In addition to these benefits to prospective editors, the LP tells you a few things about yourself you probably need to be reminded of.
What Your List Does for You
Think of your list as your writing resume—and more:
1. It reminds you, probably, of publications you’ve forgotten.
2. It shows you, probably, how you’ve undersold yourself.
3. It prompts you to recall genres you’ve written in and would like to explore more.
4. It gives you a quick and convenient source from which to choose credits for your queries and bios.
5. It lets you count up the entries and announce casually in your bio that you’ve published “3,562” articles. They build up more quickly than you imagine.
6. On dark days, it shows you the line of your progress.
7. On darker days, it motivates you to write more, finish more pieces, and send out more.
8. On darkest days, it prompts you to relive your successes.
9. Once set up, your LP is easy to keep adding to. It’s an ongoing declaration of your publication success, and a great confidence booster.
Now, pen in a date to start creating your list of publications. It’s a gift to yourself disguised as grunt work. Remember all its benefits, and keep it current. Your LP will continue to reward and motivate you to keep adding to it as you quietly crow over your latest publications.
Author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle studies her list of publications almost daily. It has told her she’s published over 250 fiction and nonfiction pieces in print and online venues. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has guided doctoral candidates to completion of their dissertations. Based on this work, her latest project-in-progress is a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook, Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation—Finally—and Ease the Trip for Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live With You. In her current book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at http://www.trustyourlifenow.com/