Today’s article is written by Suzannah Windsor Freeman, founding editor.
Remember that friend-of-a-friend who wrote her first novel and got picked up by a literary agent right away? Or that self-published guy who scored a book deal with one of The Big Six?
Some writers have all the luck, right?
With the ever-increasing number of wannabe authors out there, we can’t be blamed for feeling the odds are against us.
Some say it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Take, for example, author and blogger Jeff Goins. His debut book Wrecked, by Moody Publishers, didn’t come about the traditional way. In his post, Every Writer’s Dream: Never Pitch Your Writing Again, Jeff says:
[…] I didn’t write a book proposal, hire an agent, or do any of the stuff the “experts” tell you to do. I just started this blog. And the publisher came to me. Then, I figured I had better get an agent. Then, we signed a contract.
We could say, “He just got lucky. There are millions of blogs out there.” But aren’t there plenty of ways give luck a hand? Couldn’t we look at writers like Jeff Goins and see what it is they did to increase their odds of being noticed?
Since creating Write It Sideways more than three years ago, I’ve both been approached, and approached others for writing opportunities. The approaching has always been the direct result of both parties being visible, and having something to offer each other.
Tired of waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap? Consider the following three steps:
1. Make yourself as visible as possible.
I often read an excellent piece of fiction online, only to discover said author has no blog, no social media accounts, no nothing. Don’t expect anyone to notice you if there’s nothing to notice.
If you have a blog, what’s on your About page? This is a golden opportunity to show people what you’re all about. In terms of social media, make yourself as visible as possible on a few, well-chosen ones. I mostly use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. My About page and each of of my social media accounts features a professional headshot and short bio.
Here’s a real-life reason to put some serious thought into your social media bio:
I’m in the midst of a very special project—one that requires me to work with a number of other writers. When looking for potential collaborators, I went through my list of Twitter followers and skimmed their bios. How many writers might have missed out on a great opportunity because little thought had been given to those few lines?
Now, just imagine that instead of me, it was a literary agent or the editor of a big magazine. What would you most want that person to know about you? Busy people tend to skim bios, so consider putting your most important information first.
You might need more than one Twitter account. I have one account for my blogging persona (@Writeitsideways), and another for my fiction writing (@suzannahwindsor). Each bio contains a link to the opposite account, so people who find me through my fiction can discover my blog, and people who find me through my blog can discover my fiction.
Guest posting on a lot of popular blogs over a short period of time is another great way to make yourself more visible. Jeff Goins is a prolific guest poster (he even wrote a guest post for Write It Sideways, once). Lisa Cron, whose book Wired for Story I recently reviewed, has also been popping up everyone in the blogosphere, lately. It’s difficult to not notice writers who use this strategy.
If you want to attract attention online, remember that who you are is just as important to people as what you do. Your headshot and bio/byline work together to give people a little glimpse of both—and hopefully leave them wanting to learn more.
2. Showcase your stuff online.
Even if you don’t blog, at least have a landing page with links to samples of your writing.
Print publications are generally more prestigious than online ones, but you’ll probably get more exposure by linking to your online work (a mixture of both print and online publications is a winning combination). A simple online portfolio can give people a sense of how you write, what you write, and why they might want to work with you.
Even if you’ve never been outrightly published, try to get some short pieces featured on other blogs. If you’re struggling for pieces to showcase, make it your goal to accomplish something worth showcasing. Spend some time polishing a short story or article and try to get it published in a place that offers prestige or exposure—ideally both.
I was recently approached to be an interviewee for a popular blog (details to come), and all because the blogger’s interest was piqued by my published fiction. That probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my online portfolio.
3. Network, network, network.
Networking with more experienced writers, editors, and agents has never been easier thanks to social media and blogging. I’ve had the chance to work with some wonderful writers over the past few years.
One networking strategy is to introduce yourself to others via email. Find a common ground, or read their book and tell them how much you enjoyed it. Offer to do a book review or interview them, or pitch a guest post for their blog. Once that door is open, keep the relationship going on social media, or just by saying ‘Hi’ once in a while.
For the special project I mentioned earlier, I contacted some published writers I’ve connected with in the past, and asked them to pass along some information to any colleagues they thought might be interested. And guess what? The very next day I heard from another published writer who was interested.
Writing conferences are another opportunity to meet writers and get yourself noticed. Living in small-town Australia and having four young children means I’m not presently able to travel to conferences, but it’s something I plan to do in the future. Right now, Anne R. Allen has a great article on the different types of writing conferences.
The more you make yourself visible, the more you grow your portfolio, and the more effort you put into connecting with people in the writing industry, the greater your circle of influence grows.
For me, luck in the writing industry is really just positioning yourself where you can’t help but be seen. All that hard work will pay off one day.
What strategies have worked for you in terms of positioning yourself for a brighter writing destiny?
Join the discussion
Laura Howard says
I interview writers on my blog, and invite them to write guest blog posts for me as well. I think people are honored to be invited for a special feature, and I love being the one who gives them that honor. After six months of doing so, I’ve started seeing that people are taking notice!
Interviews are great for drawing attention, Laura! Glad things are going well for you.
khaula mazhar says
This was a great post Suzannah. I have always felt a little shy asking people to do a post on my blog, but I think I have to push myself to do it.
This post was right on time for me, Suzannah. I recently got really clear about the purpose of my blog–discussing the art and craft of storytelling and I have a defined editorial calendar for my weekly topics. For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking that it would work much better as a group blog, but I’ve been hesitant to approach other writers about it. This was the push I needed. I am putting together a plan to do just that. Thanks!
Changing Write It Sideways from a personal blog to a writer’s community with a team of contributors has been wonderful! It’s still quite a bit of work to coordinate everything, but it’s so worth it. Good luck!
Great article – and good advice! Thanks for posting. Seems that the call to write can be heard even above the chatter of children in the house, haha.
Anne R. Allen says
Thanks so much for the shout out! Writers Conferences are great–but not essential in these days of blogs like this one, where you can get the kind of info that was never available to the new writer before the rise of blogs.
These are great tips, especially about posting links to published works. Building a Web presence is essential, and writers should start as soon as possible. Getting your work featured on other blogs and online zines is a great way to start.
But people should note you’re talking about showcasing your PUBLISHED short fiction, not putting raw excerpts of your WIP on your blog. When you say people came looking for you because they liked your fiction–you’re talking published, vetted fiction, not a rough draft. Too many beginning bloggers have got the erroneous idea that agents will come looking if they post chapters of their WIP online. Nothing is farther from the truth. If you publish bits of your book on your blog, you’ve violated your own copyright and you may never be able to get a traditional contract for that novel.
Love the idea of contacting authors and asking to do interviews. They’re usually going to jump on it. Plus it’s one of the best ways to get your name higher on the Google food chain–by linking it with somebody with a bigger name.
Thanks for making that distinction, Anne! Yes, I only display published fiction in my portfolio. Knowing my portfolio is public makes me even more determined to add pieces to it!
This was a great article. I’ve made some connections with a few authors through Twitter but I feel the need to reach out more and have some guest posts or interviews on my blog. Thanks for the post!
This is such a helpful article! I have always had a little trouble putting myself “out there.” I think a lot of writers do. But you’re absolutely right–if I want my work to be noticed, I have to be visible. Thanks so much!
I’m currently using blogspot.com and posting my work in progress as I go. I try to keep one page open to me doing the actual blogging. All the other pages are devoted to chapters (and acknowledgements) in my book. I’m sure you don’t want this comment to be an advertisement, so anyone interested, just follow the link on my name. But my blog book is only 3 months old and I have over 250 views now. I hope to get more, but I never imagined I’d get this many as it is! I like blogspot.com a lot.
Thank you, everyone, for all your comments so far! I appreciate you all taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us.
Chris Swinney says
Very well written! “The big three” as I call them will make or break 80% of writers. Short and to the point, hopefully folks will take your advice to heart!
Michelle McCartney says
Any tips for how to set up a blog or a website?
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