Does it seem like a lot of the advice I have been posting here is about promoting yourself as a writer? Have you noticed that a lot of the authors who have been interviewed talk about web pages and Facebook and conventions and such?
That’s not by coincidence.
For years, I wrote … and sent query letters and wrote … and read books about writing and wrote … and while I did get better at the writing part, I wasn’t getting anywhere professionally.
The sad fact is that talent will only get you so far. You need a certain drive and promotional zeal to take it to the next step. You need to make connections and use every avenue at your disposal. And this applies to even published authors.
One way is to attend conventions, which I blogged about previously. You also need to take advantage of all the social networks available to you, such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Good Reads, and so on. (Note that my web page has links to all of these.) And of course, you need a professional web page of your own.
I’ll discuss those in more detail in a future blog post, but for now, let’s talk about actual writing groups, where you can meet people face to face.
Jonathan Maberry and his friends in the Philly Liar’s Club (including Gregory Frost, Dennis Tafoya, Marie Lamba and others) set up one such group, called the Writer’s Coffeehouse. I first attended about a year ago and have tried my best to never miss one since. I drive over 75 miles one way to go there once a month. It’s invaluable for many reasons.
First, you get to meet professional writers who have experience in the business. They can tell you what has worked for them and what hasn’t. They can help you draft the query letter and maybe even introduce you to agents and editors. They can answer your questions and help steer you away from the rip-offs and traps that plague many starting writers.
Second, other unpublished writers like yourself will have useful connections and relationships. They might know of other groups in your area, for instance. They also want to network just like you. (A quick aside: In case you don’t realize it, you are not in competition with other writers. This is not a zero-sum game. Someone else’s success does not mean your failure.)
Third, you can also learn some writing skills. At the last Writer’s Coffeehouse, there was a nice discussion about voices — how important it is to make sure that each of your characters speaks in a unique way. Ideas were thrown about as to how to best achieve this, with the understanding that what works for one person may not be universal.
Fourth, you can get valuable networking advice. This blog came about because of the Coffeehouse. Jonathan mentioned keeping a public presence and said that interviewing other authors was a fun and fairly easy way to make a weekly post. I decided to gear this blog for aspiring authors and toned my interviews accordingly, starting with Jonathan. It’s been great! I’ve been able to meet many of my favorite authors (albeit mostly through emails), and every time I post another interview, these authors mention it in their Twitter posts and Facebook status updates, and the blog gets visited. Every visitor reads my name over and over again, and quite a few have started following me on Twitter and Facebook as well. It’s a win/win. And it’s an idea I would not have come up with on my own.
Finally, you can promote yourself. It goes without saying that writers are also readers, and maybe they might take an interest in your work, give you valuable comments, and maybe even buy your book once it’s published. Writers I have met at the Coffeehouse have invited me to participate in book signings, interviewed me on their blogs, and otherwise helped expose me to a broader audience.
The Coffeehouse is a great resource, and I am very happy that Jonathan has organized it. He is a tremendously busy writer who has many projects on his agenda. So why does he take the time to meet every month with other writers and writer wannabes?
Haven’t you been paying attention? Networking! Even successful professional writers want to meet others to share ideas, discuss the craft, and see what others may have learned about the trade since the last meeting. Plus they want to promote themselves. I mean, look, I’m writing about Jonathan Maberry, aren’t I? You’re reading it, right? Aha! It worked!
Finally, an obvious disclaimer: All the promotion and networking in the world won’t help you if you are a terrible writer. Work on your craft! You need something to promote, after all.