Anyone can start a blog. Anyone can write a guest post. That doesn’t make you a writer, and it doesn’t grant you automatic credibility.
If you want real credibility, credibility that makes people think you know what you’re doing, you need to get published in print.
While many people will argue, there’s “no difference” between dead trees and dead pixels anymore, I disagree. As a newspaper humor columnist and “real, big boy book” author, I can tell you that I don’t get nearly the respect from people when I just tell them I’m a blogger.
That’s because there’s still a bias against electronic publishing, because it’s so easy. There’s something special about being a print author, because of the gatekeeping that goes into getting published. They don’t allow just anyone to do it, you have to have the experience and knowledge to be considered trustworthy. You have to have solid, new ideas that don’t get written about over and over. You have to have a command of the English language and be able to write clearly and succinctly.
You don’t have to do those things to be a blogger, although you have to do them if you want to be a successful blogger. But given the profusion of successful bloggers, you’re going to have a hard time standing out from the masses.
There are professional editors and publishers whose job it is to keep out the rabble from their precious pages, and if you’re good enough to make it past them, that ink-stained anointing gives you a certain cachet among decision makers, hiring managers, and thought leaders.
The best way to get it is get something published in print. If you can get into your local daily, then that’s great. But it’s also very difficult. There are plenty of paid journalists who are fighting to keep their job, and they’re not going to print very many guest editorials, unless you happen to be a high-up muckety-muck.
So here are four possible suggestions for you in the meantime:
- Weekly newspapers: Weekly newspapers are a great place for aspiring columnists and writers to get a start. They’re always looking for new, well-produced content, and are more likely to publish the occasional guest submission. If you can write something that will appeal to a general audience, this is your best bet.
- Your local business newspaper: Some medium- and large-sized cities have independent business newspapers (for example, the Baltimore Business Journal or the Louisville Business Journal). If you’re an up-and-comer in the local business community, you’ve got a good shot at publishing something that’s a little more niche-y than a general purpose piece.
- Trade journals: Years ago, I used to work in the poultry production industry, which had several different trade magazines. As a way to establish our company’s expertise, I wrote a few articles about our products without making them a sales pitch. While I didn’t get a big splashy byline, we were able to use the article at our big trade show a few months later, and I even had a few people who told me they had read it.
- Hobby publications: If you have a hobby that has a magazine or newsletter, write an article about some seldom-covered aspect of that field. It could be a historic piece about how the specialty got started, a feature on one of the field’s thought leaders, or even a how-to piece on a particular facet. While getting published in a hobby publication still requires a high degree of professionalism and writing quality, these outlets sometimes have a hard time getting outside content they can publish.
In some cases, you may even be able to get paid for your work, in others, you’re working for contributor copies. But if it’s your first published work, be happy with what you can get. As you build your portfolio and improve your writing, that’s when you can get all hoity-toity and start asking for money.
In the meantime, just bask in the glory of your words in print. Read and re-read your wonderful words, and figure out how you can drop your published status into every day conversation.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.