The “Why You?” Question in Publishing: Your Education

Authors who are selling their work to publishers will need to convince an editor that they have the qualifications to publish. While work and personal experiences may prove valuable in selling a book to a publisher, an authors education may also help answer the question, “Why are you the person to write this book?”

Attending an MFA program in writing is one of the most discussed ways that you can improve your chances at publishing.

There is a lot of spirited debate online and offline about the merits of an MFA program. On one hand, critics say that an MFA is a terminal degree that may not help your writing as much as you’d expect if the majority of your critique comes from fellow writers. However, if your goal is to simply write more often, then an MFA is just what you need. In fact, one advocate of MFA programs shared that these programs may simply enable more writers to take themselves and their craft more seriously.

It’s also important to remember that every program is a little different. There are different levels of interaction with professors depending on the school and the type of program—such as a low-residency program that may provide more direct contact with a professor. A lot of questions may be answered by taking a course or two to see if it’s what you need.

In my own case, I attended a graduate school to study theology in order to gain more experience and knowledge in my field. While an MFA program may be helpful for nonfiction writers, there is a lot of value in immersing yourself into your particular field through graduate study.

There are published authors with and without degrees, so there isn’t one correct answer. Rather, you need to figure out what will help you become a better writer and what will give you the best chance of becoming published. The appropriate education will give you the confidence you need and hopefully additional sway with editors that you are the correct person to write your book.

In addition, there are some other ways you can accomplish both of these goals without an MFA program. That’s what we’ll discuss next.