Five Ways to Promote Yourself
You’ve been honing your craft and doing all the right things: generating solid work, placing your bio strategically in your cover letter, keeping the submissions going out, sending queries, etc. Maybe you’ve even been published numerous times, yet you haven’t achieved the next level. There’s so much competition, and while you know that being the best at what you do is supposed to be the key, it doesn’t always seem to work. Plus, it seems that adding another thing like marketing to your schedule will require an impossible amount of energy. How do you get ahead?
In addition to excelling at and sharing your writing, you must further your name recognition in constructive ways. The only way to do that is to combine your successes with networking and building contacts. Whatever method you choose, it will take time, possibly some resources, and consistency, all in addition to continually building your craft. Here are a few ways to go.
First, write columns and reviews for publications (which use them) in your favored genre, or in any of them. Yes, columns are hard to get, but you can work towards getting one and once you do, refer to it in your bio. You may also send a segment or copy of your column with query and proposal letters. Consider writing reviews for films, books, and periodicals and submitting them (non-simultaneously) far and wide, where appropriate. Keep them short and witty, because editors can often use pieces of under 500 words to fill gaps in an issue. Try to find publications which pay for these, but consider writing off a few pro-bonos as self-generated publicity, as long as you don’t take much time and energy away from your primary writing goals.
Second, go to conventions, book fairs, and other networking events. You can do more by meeting peers and pros in person than you can by only being a name on your submissions. This is a delicate area. Your work must stand by itself, but when a busy editor recognizes you from a positive personal meeting, she’ll be apt to read your manuscript before digging through those by unknown submitters. Events will also widen your perspective regarding your audience, help you become familiar with and to your peers, and provide you with ideas for other self-promotion activities. Finally, you’ll have loads of fun and begin to feel more like a vital part of the writing community.
Third, collaborate your efforts with someone else. Find someone in your genre or area of experience with similar values and style, and who has additional contacts. Together, you can make inroads with each others’ contacts that would otherwise be difficult. Start by communicating checking out writing newsgroups and local workshops, as well as networking at events. Consider setting up your own small writing cooperative or newsgroup where you can each post new resources weekly.
Fourth, check out/join an organization related with your area. Examples include The Mystery Writers of America, The Horror Writer’s Association, SFFWA (for sci-fi/fantasy writers), etc. If you’ve made a few pro sales, and need more networking opportunities, you should consider joining. Otherwise, check out services these and other organizations may have for new and developing writers. For instance, many cities will have a local chapter of the National Writer’s Association. Consider visiting with a peer workshop, and sharing resources.
Fifth, publish/edit/work on a publication of any kind. Yes, this used to be an option for the truly deranged, but now more semi-normal people are giving it a try. Becoming a publisher/editor/team member will give you new insights into the non-writing aspect of publication, will increase your own writing (or artistic) aptitude through viewing submissions. and will allow you to give something back to the industry. You can create a publication on paper, on the web, or combine the two and reach up to thousands. You can choose to be a first reader of submissions, copy-edit, or proofread the publication. You can participate on a team in an academic or trade related publication, or see if writing organizations have need of an editor. For this to work, however, you must be consistent, constructive, and work on a quality product. Also, be sure your writing time and energy doesn’t suffer, or your ability to benefit your writing career will be moot. Finally, promote your efforts on the publication in tandem with your writing talents so your expertise reaches further. However, by successfully involving yourself in the publishing business you can boost your name recognition immensely.
Name recognition from solid self-promotion will never replace fine-honed work and appropriate submission practices, but it will help you get that first reading at tough to reach publications and possibly help you be selected in favor of another writer of equal quality. It can help your work get nominated (or voted) for awards, solicited by publications, and pushed further by those who market products with you in them. Ask yourself how you can supplement your writing accomplishments with additional networking and go for it. Good luck!