The Benefits of Writing for Small Publications

Ryan Fan
Publications are kind of like businesses. You have big businesses, and small mom and pop businesses that you frequent. The big businesses can get you your goods with convenience and a low price. However, small businesses offer a more meaningful experience and often better service.

In the publishing world, publications function a lot like businesses based on their readership and size. Big publications can take weeks, if not months to return your pitches. Sometimes, they won’t respond at all. But if you can get into a big publication, the reach helps your presence significantly.

Lately, however, I have found a lot of benefits to submitting to smaller publications. No, they don’t have the same statistical reach and readership, but it often ends up being a more personable experience where editors have more attention and feedback to give to my work. Not only that, but smaller publications will also take more effort to promote my writing.

There’s nothing wrong with big publications. In fact, I help run a big publication at Invisible Illness, which has over 50,000 followers. I have seen far too many people decry the callousness of big publications for not responding to pitches within a day and being too selective. However, most people do not understand the pressure that comes with seeing 50 different submissions that need attention on a given day. There’s only so much you can give.

It’s a lot of work, and most big publications don’t have the manpower to give substantial attention and feedback to everyone. Once a smaller publication becomes big, the workload quickly exceeds the manpower to handle the workload, often without the compensation to bring on another person to help.

This is not a knock on big publications. They just have less to give on a personal level because they’re handling a lot.

Smaller publications might give you more personable feedback and reach out to you more to ask for work. I work with several small publications that I have terrific experiences with. For writing-related pieces, I work a lot with Ash Jurberg and Kelly Eden at Inspired Writer. For faith-related pieces, I have worked a lot with Janis Cox and Kimberley Payne and the Koinonia team. I have worked with Susan Brearley at MuddyUm for satire and humor related pieces. Recently, for pop culture related pieces, I have worked a lot with Akos Peterbencze at Vulnerable Man.

These publications don’t have the same reach as a lot of bigger publications, but they are a better experience in terms of relationship building with the publication’s following and editors.

Publications are also like schools. Some of us graduated with 1,500 kids in our schools, while other of us may have had 50 kids in our graduating class. In the school with 1,500 people in its graduating class, teachers and principals will not know everyone’s name and give attention to every person. It’s just impossible. However, you can rest assured that the school with 50 kids will be close-knit and everyone will know each other.

It’s the same with publications that you write for. Smaller publications give you more feedback, engagement, and overall service. I wish I was more active with the smaller publications I work with, but I know my role at Invisible Illness. The experience when writing for smaller publications just tends to be more meaningful. Sure, you’ll have your fair share of publications that are super hands-off, and I go to those hands-off publications when I’m in the mood to just publish as soon as possible. Or I’ll self-publish.

But smaller publications give you the service that small businesses can, that just don’t tend to be in the capacity of bigger publications. Big publications deal with boatloads of pitches. They’re only run by humans and can only do so much with the workload they receive.

For the more human experience, a smaller publication can provide you with not only great feedback but authentic engagement. If you’re an up and coming writer, whose main priority is building your craft rather than trying to reach the biggest audience possible, target smaller publications who have the time to get back to you and deeply engage.

I’m still growing as a writer. Sure, I have pieces that I love and other pieces that get greater engagement, but you never stop learning and never stop growing. Smaller publications provide you with the biggest opportunity to grow. When I first started blogging, Koinonia hosted a lot of my work about faith. I feel like I owe a lot to the publication based on how they helped me grow my craft and my audience, and in a lot of ways, that experience is and always will be significantly more meaningful than most submission experiences.

Photo by Good Good Good on Unsplash

Originally published on August 19, 2020 on Better Marketing

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Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of "The Wire," God's gift to the Earth. Support me:

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