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Is it easier to get your own book published or to become a journalist for a newspaper/magazine?

I'm really conflicted about what I want to do in regards to my career. Like, the broad idea is pursue an occupation in the writing field, but I just wanted some advice over which one is considered easier. #journalism #writing #english #literature #english-literature

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Kendall’s Answer

Hi Evan,

That's great that you want to be a writer! I don't think one of these careers is necessarily easier than the other - they can both be very challenging to break into. But also very rewarding.

A question to ask yourself is about the kind of lifestyle you want: being an author is a mostly solitary pursuit. It's a lot of time spent alone, figuring out what you want to write about, then writing it, then revising it, then going about the work of figuring out how to get it published. For a lot of people, this is the dream scenario: being your own boss, not having to work with other people, etc. It can also mean pursuing a single idea for a very long time.

Journalism is a more collaborative profession. You work with a team of other writers, editors, etc. You interact with people who are your sources or subjects for whatever piece you're writing. The subject matter changes more frequently, because articles are shorter than books and you'll be expected to produce several articles a week or a month as the case may be. You may end up traveling more, because you have to go where the work is, or where the story is.

There are many journalists who find a subject through their reporting that they choose to turn into a book. They become authors, and they already have valuable experience researching, talking to experts, interviewing witnesses, etc. Having a steady job as a reporter might also allow you to make money while you work on your own book idea on the side.

In school, you should take some literature classes, some journalism classes, and some creative writing classes. It will help you decide what you really enjoy spending your time doing.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you!

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Alex’s Answer

I don't know if the level of easiness is what you really need to be thinking about. Rather, it should be which path might be a better way to find success. I think if you're going to write books (I assume you mean novels), you need to learn shorter forms of storytelling first. You could pursue that goal in an academic setting, if you can afford it, but the best way to become a better writer of short-form storytelling is to become a newspaper journalist. (BTW: Very few magazines these days have staff writers; they mostly use freelancers.) Work your way up from the basic news story to enterprise features and learn how to pull together a lot of information into a cohesive story. You'll advance in your career and, because you are young (I assume), you'll have plenty of energy to write your books on the side. Your first book might not be great, your second only slightly better but if you keep trying, you'll keep getting better. Find a mentor if you can, then find an agent. Good luck!

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Brian’s Answer

I agree with everything Alex Miller said, especially the part about becoming a newspaper journalist.

Not only because you will learn (with the help of experienced editors) how to research and organize and write stories of varying lengths, but also because being a journalist will provide tons of fodder for your own writing. When I was a reporter and editor, I often would work on an article and think, "That has the elements of a great fiction story."

Also, journalism requires interacting with many people whom you would otherwise never meet. It takes you to places outside of your everyday experience and provides a useful, real-world education in how and why people think and act they way they do, including their motivations and passions, successes and failures, hopes and delusions, and all the other things that contribute to great writing.

As for getting your book published, that can take a long time and involve many rejections before finally achieving a level of success. It's a better idea to take a position that allows you to write a book on the side, at least until you are established. The Kerouac model of bumming around as a struggling writer until you land a book contract is idyllic but more likely to end up in frustration. At least if you are working as a journalist, whether for a newspaper, magazine or website, you can pay the bills while working on your book.

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Susan E.’s Answer

I think both jobs are equally as difficult if you do not work hard at it. It is possible to do both, and a lot of famous media people do that. However, being a journalist will help you pay the bills more and writing the book is just a nice second addition to it.