Five mistakes I made whilst trying to get published

Adam Marek shares the biggest errors he made while trying to succeed as a writer - so you can avoid them.

Adam Marek

Of course, I've made a lot more than five mistakes (like the time I stepped in dog poo on my way into a Royal Society of Literature party at the house of Michael Holroyd and Margaret Drabble), but these are the ones that I learned from and might be useful to you...

Mistake 1: Waiting at the letterbox

I spent years waiting for the postman to deliver an acceptance letter, hunched on the doormat, desperate, eating silverfish for sustenance. I got at least 50 rejections before my first success. All the time I spent actively waiting could have been spent writing.


Don't dwell on your submissions. Send them off and forget about them. You should push them from your mind so strongly that when you get accepted, you can barely remember submitting them in the first place.

Mistake 2: Worrying about reading to an audience

At school, I was so terrified of standing up in front of the class to speak that I regularly pulled sickies to get out of it. It was so much easier to stick my fingers down my throat and puke on my bedroom floor than to talk to an audience.

When I started writing, a part of me was scared of achieving any kind of success because I knew I'd have to speak in public. Being afraid of success is no way to achieve it.

When I got my first opportunity to read my work at an event (at the Poetry Café in London, when I was shortlisted for's Douglas Coupland Award), I was so terrified that I couldn't eat all day. But on the second reading I did, I managed breakfast. On the third, I had lunch. Now I LOVE giving readings, and my ritual meal before events in London is a cheeseburger and malted chocolate shake at Ed's Diner.


If you want to be successful, you're going to have to read your work in public. Learn to love it. Accept every invitation. Seek them out. Do as many as you can, not just to boost your confidence, but because doing readings makes you a better writer: there is a huge difference in the story you're happy to email to a magazine or competition from the comfort of your home, to the story you've got to present in person to a roomful of people who want to be entertained.

Mistake 3: Underestimating social networking

For ages I resisted Facebook and Twitter. My wife was spending two hours a day exchanging glasses of virtual Rioja with sculptors in Cuba, and I was scared of getting similarly hooked on anything that would take time away from writing. But then I started to feel hermitic not having an online social life, so I signed up. Within two days of joining Twitter, I had a commission from Matter magazine.


Do social networking. Now, there are so many more opportunities for publication than you can find in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook alone. Befriend publishers, small presses, other writers – that way you'll hear about every opportunity.

Mistake 4: Putting off building a website

My sister and brother-in-law bought me a domain name for my birthday- I loved the idea of having a website, but didn't have a clue where to begin, so I put off doing anything about it for a year. During the building of my website, the verbal abuse my PC took made its speakers bleed. But I got it done eventually, and many opportunities have come through it since.


Your website is your shop window. If you don't have a shop window, no-one can see what you've got to offer. Eighty-five quid and a few frustrating days on WordPress and suddenly you're in the marketplace.

Mistake 5: Procrastinating about buying an iPhone

Everyone needs an excuse to buy an iPhone if they don't have one yet, so here it is, my gift to you.


Writing and getting published is a business. To do it successfully you must maintain your profile through your website, blog and microblogs, set and meet achievable goals, manage your time, be aware of what's going on in publishing and find your way to events in strange cities. With an iPhone in your pocket and a set of well-selected apps, you can do all of these things at any time of day, anywhere in the world. It's the thing to spend your next publication cheque on...