How to get published when you aren’t famous (yet)

By Lori

Wondering how to get published so you can be known? And do you really have to be almost famous first?

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I’ve been getting fantastic questions from new A-Listers, which makes me sooo happy. Today’s is pure gold, because so many of us who want to be famous in our field wrestle with this chicken-and-egg syndrome.

Denise says:

I am trying to get my works published and I keep being told that I need to become known first. Others tell me that before I can be known, I need to be published. Which is more important?

I hear you, Denise. The hardest part about publishing usually isn’t the actual writing, it’s getting our work onto the sites and publications we covet.

(And book publishing? It’s h-a-r-d to get a traditional publisher to sign a new author. Typically, publishers look for well known names, celebrities, CEOs and people who’ve built a platform. Numbers vary, but I’ve heard book “coaches” suggest that 20,000 combined followers from social media and email subscribers is the minimum a traditional publisher will consider.

Plus, you’ll do the marketing, not the publisher, so don’t think of a publisher as a fairy god mother who’s magic wand will wave all your marketing woes away. Buzz kill over.)

Here are three ways to get published before you become known:

1. Start small

Publish locally or in a niche, like a trade magazine. Trade magazines (industry-focused publications) and local newspapers both struggle to produce content with limited resources, and often welcome help from experts like you.

2. Be your own publisher.

Write for your own blog.

Guest blog for other websites.

Why? Because editors need to see examples of your ideas and your writing. It reduces their risk by showing that you’re credible and a good communicator.

Plus, it lets you hone your ideas and material. You know your topic even better once you’ve explained it to someone else, in writing.

3. Get onto the big sites through the “back door.” 

Have you dreamed of seeing your name as an author on big name websites like Huffington Post or

It can boost your fame factor like nothing else:

A study from Nielsen, shows that expert content—credible, third-party articles (earned media)—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. (Source: Chad Pollitt, via LinkedIn)

To put it plainly, people trust what they read when it’s on a reputable website or in a magazine. 

The best part is, it can be easier than you think to get your name next to the business celebrities on Forbes, CNN, LifeHacker and Business Insider.

A number of the most popular sites on the web are also what are called aggregator sites. This means that they post articles from contributing websites on their site. (That’s what’s called syndication, in the media biz.)

Here’s what that looks like, in the wild of the interwebs:


Notice what’s circled? This article was contributed from another site, YEC Women. If you click on YEC Women, you’ll see this bio:

YEC Women contributor bio for Forbes

YEC Women syndicates articles to the website. And this is good news for you, because it’s often easier to get published on a contributing site.

Now, let’s reverse engineer this, baby!

On the website, you can cruise the various articles, or use the search function to find articles in your area of expertise.

Searching “Small business”, I found articles contributed by:

  • Next Avenue
  • NewTek, the Small Business Authority
  • My Say
  • Quora
  • HBS Working Knowledge
  • Capital Flows

Then, I headed over to the Next Avenue website to do a little digging. It turns out that is a website focused on active and engaged seniors. The site’s tagline is, “Where grownups keep growing.”

In the Contact area of the website, there’s a form to send a story idea, article or resource. Boom! Slow clap, fist bump, etc.

Your fame boosting assignment:

Pick one of the three approaches – local/trade magazine, your own website or going through the back door – and spend the next 10 minutes making it happen. Now you’re on your way to turning that signature into an autograph!

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