What makes a piece of writing go viral? How do blog posts become books? When does it make sense to put that essay on Medium, or to start a Substack, or to submit to which digital publications? If your goal is to publish a book, should you even bother publishing online? After working with hundreds of writers on Medium and other online publications, I have a lot of thoughts and a lot of ideas to share.
In this one-day seminar, for nonfiction writers with all levels of experience, we'll talk about what works well online, looking at content, headlines, SEO, and positioning. We'll also look at some short essays that have gone from blog posts to cultural touchpoints. We'll discuss how to pitch essays to editors and when to self-publish. Students will have a chance to develop some of their own writing as well. You'll come away from this session with a much clearer idea of how publishing online can and should fit into your writing life.
Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- We'll demystify the art of publishing online, and writers will come away with helpful organizing principles for their own writing lives
- Inside knowledge on how to pitch and when it's best to go ahead and self-publish (and where)
- Ideas about how to package your online writing, from headline to concept, in a way that's more likely to connect with readers
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Before class begins, you are encouraged to begin working on a 150-200-word pitch for an article, essay, or story you'd like to place in an online publication. It doesn't matter if it's perfect--we'll spend some time in class fine-tuning these. If you have no idea how to write a pitch, just think of this as a quick description of what your piece is going to be about. If you don't have a pitch draft prepared when class begins, though, you will also have the opportunity to draft a brand-new pitch during class time.
- Discussion: What makes something work well online? We’ll look at a couple pieces that worked well online and discuss why they went viral and/or started big conversations.
- Choose Your Own Publishing Adventure: an interactive activity designed to help you get clear on your publishing goals.
- Writing Exercise: Let’s Play Writing Dress-Up: focus on the pitch you brought with you today. What is the perfect publication for it? We’ll brainstorm and discuss.
- Break time (10 min)
- Pitching 101: pitching looks really different if you have a completed essay or just a snappy idea, and if you have any connection with the editor/publication or if it’s a cold pitch. We’ll go over the basics.
- Writing Exercise: Pitch Practice: this will help you fine-tune your pitch to best match your piece and your publication goals.
- Framing is Half the Battle: a couple thoughts on what makes a great headline.
- Writing Exercise: Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Writing and workshopping headlines for your piece that are much better than “Headlines, Headlines, Headlines”
Amy Shearn is the author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here. She has worked as an editor at several publications including JSTOR Daily, Forge, Creators Hub, Human Parts, and Joyland Literary Magazine, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. Amy received a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and has been awarded residencies at SPACE on Ryder Farm, The Unruly Retreat, and The Cabins. Amy has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and currently lives in Brooklyn with her two children. You can find her at amyshearnwrites.com or @amyshearn.
"I was lucky enough to meet Amy while revising my first novel. I had dusted off my manuscript, laid it out on the operating table, and needed a fresh editorial perspective from someone not a blood relative. Working with Amy was awesome. She gave my book a very thoughtful, careful read and came back with insights that really helped me make cuts (killing your darlings isn't easy!) and edits that got the story arc where it needed to go. Amy has a keen editorial eye and great sense of humor (important in this business) and I'd recommend her to any fellow writer."
"I had so much fun working with Amy Shearn on my manuscript, I only wish I had more time/funds/novels to workshop with her. I found her to be a very thoughtful editor who gave incisive yet supportive feedback. She took a great deal of care and was thorough in helping me re-think my book. She also brought some new insights to my story that had not occurred to me. I loved working with her so much that I’m going to risk misspelling the following word: exemplary."
"Working with Amy Shearn took me from aspiring writer all the way to publication. The work we did together was incredibly valuable. In working with me on my manuscript, Amy taught me how fiction works, from character development to narrative arc to believable dialogue. I highly recommend working with her if you have a manuscript that needs to be taken to the next level."
“UNSEEN CITY is a bold take on the way that history binds us and how our stories are woven into and overlap in the very interstices of the city. It is an entrancing story of falling in and out of love and grief with a city, a person, a home.”
“In UNSEEN CITY Amy Shearn has written a sad and funny and profound book. This is a novel about grief and human connection, about today and yesterday. And it is damn hard to put down.”
“Gripping, moving, and vital, UNSEEN CITY asks how human life might defy its lifespan—in the throes of love, the conviction of belief, and each person's mark upon a city that will survive them. For two days, I laughed at Amy Shearn's wry humor and gasped at her gorgeous sentences; I couldn't put this brilliant book down until its perfect final line (and I'm haunted still—which is appropriate, I suppose)!”