Ever wonder what your life will be like as a full-fledged writer? When you’re out in the world and someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” And up till this point you’ve replied apologetically or timidly, “I’m working on a novel.” or “I write fiction.” or fill in the blank.
The day will come when, faced with the same question, you will boldly state, “I’m a writer.” Head held high because others are reading your work, not just family, or a critique group. You are published!
Until then, beware: there’s a sour saying in our community, one that reeks with division: What’s the difference between a writer and an author? Uh huh, you’ve heard it…an author has been published.
Well, I dare to differ, but we freelancers and ghosters are WRITERS, not authors. We may be members of societies with words like author in them, but most of those are for writers. Take The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for example. Okay, I’ve drilled in my point.
Back on point, let’s fast-forward…you are now a published writer. Gone are your meek responses. Instead, there’s a bar, serendipitously placed for you to surpass with your next goal. What does all this have to do with give and take?
Don’t snooze on me just yet, it’s coming. Your next goal will be dependent upon your last one. Circular? Definitely. So, we’re having this talk now, before you reach that place where you look back and say, hmmm, I remember when…
For this reason it is vitally important to market your first work in a strategic location. You’ll know just where that darn bar is, and how you can jump over it, meeting your next goal.
“Nonsense,” some of you are muttering. “It doesn’t matter where I first published, as long as I am. I can choose where I go from here.”
I beg to differ. Hear me out. Give and take, like spices, should be used to flavor your approach. You should give thought and plan to your publication approach. And take into consideration that wherever you jump in, that’s the market that you will be associated with for a looong time.
The internet doesn’t forget. Your friends won’t, and neither will editors. They peg writers into cute little holes for life. “This one only writes children’s works, though this piece is nonfiction, we don’t want to waste our time reading a spec from this writer.” And, “I don’t see how someone who writes fantasy can possibly know anything about memoirs.”
Am I sharing too much about my personal rejections? Hehehe…I’ve heard it all. So I keep a low profile. My give and take has evolved into two things. I give a pen name and take many opportunities to stay quiet about what I’ve done, letting my résumé speak for itself.
How do you strategically market yourself? By building up your clips.
What sage advice do I have to offer?
Let’s say you need to establish yourself as a writer and begin making money while you find your first success. What I did was cut my teeth on everything I could and negotiated my way. You can too. Whatever you would like to write, begin with your circle of friends and acquaintances. Put the word out that you are in the market to write. Then position yourself around people who are positive thinkers and willing to help. Those folks will be your greatest cheerleaders and advocates.
Here are some examples of how you can season your opportunities:
1) Do you belong to a group? Do they currently, or would they consider, a newsletter to keep people informed about the prior and upcoming activities? Be the self-starter and volunteer to create one. If they already have a newsletter, cozy up to the editor and ask if you could write about a specific topic relevant to your group’s interests.
2) Are there businesses around your area that you really like? Approach them and suggest that they try you out as a stringer. Give them a few ideas about how you’d enhance their business traffic by writing testimonials, flyers, etc. If you’re a fan of their services, you’ll at least get your foot in the door. You might even suggest you’d do a endorsement column to run in their future advertisements.
3) If you like to read, make your name by writing a blog reviewing books. As your confidence grows, ask writers (authors for you non-converts) to ‘appear’ on your blog, discussing their works, giving away one of their books, or as in my blog: guesting in a spotlight section.
4) Really like kids? Ask a teacher you know who you should contact at their school so you can go in and read to the children in a classroom. Once you’re in the door as a reader, you can share that you also write, and wouldn’t mind reading some of your work to the children. (Make sure it’s age-appropriate and teacher approved). Then, it’s time to approach the administration about a workshop or hands-on classroom event as a guest writer. Volunteer to teach the kids about a writing topic and be ready to share your work as examples.
5) Not confident enough to go to a school or they ‘don’t allow that at my school’? Find Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other organizations to appear as a reader or special guest. Be patient, word takes time to get around that you’re reliable and interesting enough to the kids to merit time. But it can happen.
6) Live in a small town with a small newspaper? Study the paper and see who spends money on advertising. Then begin your own paper using ‘specialty’ topics. Those relatable to your target advertisers. A salon might like reading material in their waiting area that deals with beauty topics. Market your work to suit their style, it doesn’t have to be pages and pages, but a newsletter-sized handout that looks professional.
7) Don’t forget nonprofits. They can often use researchers who have good communication skills. Slide your toe in that door and you may end up writing all of their materials, from newsletters to instruction manuals. But you need to begin by asking.
8) Visit the public library and inquire if a writer’s group meets there. If they don’t, ask what their policy is to support one. Some libraries open their doors to nonprofit groups and will even advertise that the meetings are held there. Why a writer’s group? Networking. Once you are in with like-minded folks, you’ll want to enrich your skills. You’ll tell two friends, they’ll tell two friends, and pretty soon you’ll be organizing a workshop for the public on writing.
9) Do you already have a special skill that’s marketable? Ever written a grant proposal? Worked as a school teacher writing curriculum? Are you in a business that requires professional correspondence on a regular basis? Any of these plus others too numerous to mention are marketable skillsets, you just need to network to find out who needs those services.
10) Are you fluent in another language? Ever thought about translating for others? Written translations are in demand, just know where to look. Large companies are one place, but what about the small-town shops, restaurants, and local establishments? Often these local haunts need written material: menus, brochures, flyers, etc.
Check every nook and cranny to see who may need your skills. That’s how I started many years ago. Building layer upon layer, until my reputation permitted me to pick and choose my projects. Try it, you’ll see a difference in your confidence level and your work load.
Don’t panic if you don’t already know your way around the computer, take a class. This will increase your proficiency for these projects. Most are doable with Word or Mac using templates.
Lastly, blog. I think in today’s world it’s a necessity. Begin one. Read like-minded sites to see what you want. Get busy creating yours. Write what you want to read, then make it the best, most attractive one, and have fun.
Don’t despair, many of these ideas may seem for the not-so-shy-at-heart. However, if you want to be a writer, you’ll be able build your daring muscles, reaching for things you never thought you could. The field is wide-open, catch that next job opportunity by creating it yourself!
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