Have you ever thought about trying to get published? I can hear the hollow laughter coming back at me, no - I don't mean the big one, your novel and a lovely fat contract, I'm talking about stepping stones.
I read the unsolicited pile for a variety of agents, and one of the markers that gets a submission pulled from the rest, and given a little more attention, is previous publishing experience. My clients are looking for anyone who has had a short story published, who writes for a newspaper, or has written books in a previous context - even in a different genre.
There are two reasons for this, one is that the author has already got experience of 'how' to be published, they have an idea of the editing process, of the demands on an author and an editor's time. The second, and more important reason is that the author has already been quality controlled. Another professional has judged the author's work to be publishable.
If you feel that getting published in a magazine or local newspaper is beneath your ambitions, think again. This list is of the top ten authors who were published in Playboy magazine, for those who really did buy it for the articles!