Anna Weir has been a publicist at UNP since 2016 and chasing a fickle muse since 2007.
Words are hard.
This is something I’ve said for years—me, an English major, the bookish kid with the scribbled-in notebook, the girl with the script of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal printed on a scarf. I love words, I love language and storytelling and sharing ideas with other people. That doesn’t make it any easier for me to use my words, particularly out loud. I hate public speaking, I stutter when I get nervous, and I get anxious over emails that include lines like “Do you have a few minutes to chat on the phone?”
Recently a friend of mine, who shares my love for the classics and who knows I work in publishing, reached out to say he was officially attempting to write a novel, and did I have any publishing or marketing tips before he got started?
I told him, “For now, just write. The rest comes later.”
Looking back at the conversation, I realize he was hoping for something more profound, or at least concrete. But again, words are hard, so I’d like to take the opportunity here to explain what I meant.
Until something is written, there is nothing to publish or publicize. Many of my writing friends (and many of my personal writing projects) have stagnated when the focus becomes more on being published somewhere than having written. Focusing on the market alone kills creativity. If you, like my friend, are heeding all those reminders that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a pandemic and are attempting to use words to make sense of our turbulent times, the most sincere thing I can tell you is just write it down. Write now while the spark is there and you’re anxious to say what you feel needs to be said. You can polish it up and repackage it later.
However, once you’ve written something and you’re ready to send it out into the world, the question of where to seek publication can be daunting. Between literary journals, magazines, e-zines, boutique presses, and the all-powerful Big Five, the options are overwhelming. But among those publishing options is one that tends to get overlooked: university presses. And though I’ll likely stutter my way through the conversation, I’m always happy to tell other writers what a “sensible and sensitive” home their work can find at a university press.
The University of Nebraska Press is home to many literary authors—not only Nebraskans, not only professors at the University of Nebraska, not only people who write about Nebraska. UNP is home to word lovers across flyover country and across the globe, to sportswriters and historians and poets and memoirists, to writers with bold stories and powerful words they wield in telling them, and we are proud to give them the publishing footing to help them stand their ground while telling those stories. We read, analyze, and edit creative titles with the same care and precision as our scholarly research; we push for sales and coordinate with the media to share your book with the world like any other traditional publisher would; we celebrate with you when your book gets in the hands of that one person who just gets what you were trying to say.
Note the use of trying to say—because we also get that words are hard. It’s such a labor of love to get “a word after a word after a word” to state the message you want the world to hear loud and clear. We want the world to hear it, too.
Whatever you feel inspired to write—be it a short story or poetry collection, a call for social or urban reform, a novel that delves into urgent problems—write it. And after having written it, don’t forget to see what publishing options a university press can offer you.