It’s easy to label yourself a writer. Jot down a poem and call yourself a scribe. But building a reputation for yourself as a writer is the evidence others need to label you a writer. Whether good or bad, writers’ reputations follow them wherever they go, either paving the way for success or putting up roadblocks in the path to getting published or developing a readership. It’s essential that creative writers take into consideration the way their peers, literary agents, editors, and readers view not only the quality of their writing, but their credentials and career path as well. It’s far easier to create a solid, professional reputation than to undo the damage of a spotty record and poor public persona.
Creative writers can brand themselves in any number of ways, and successful writers use more than one self-marketing method.
1. Take advantage of social-networking sites. Competition in the writing world is fierce, and when a creative writer wants to generate interest in a novel, it takes more than word of mouth. Attending writers’ conferences and writers’ groups have always been good ways to connect with others in the industry, and now writers can also take advantage of online social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to create a buzz about their work by shaping connections nationwide—even worldwide—quickly and efficiently.
Facebook, for example, offers the opportunity to create both a personal profile and a “fan page”—a space where artists and writers can highlight their work. (Check out the Writer’s Relief Facebook page!) Writers can connect with readers by sharing news, writing samples, photos, and links. MySpace also allows users to create extensive profiles, while Twitter is a simplified version of the two (check out our tweets about writing and publishing). Social networking online helps writers engage others in their work and melds well with more traditional marketing efforts like book reviews, book signings, and tours.
2. Join an association. If you are published, investigate joining a professional writing association, such as the Mystery Writers of America or the Horror Writers Association. It’s another opportunity to network, and belonging to an association of like-minded writers offers other benefits to your craft such as industry news, useful links, and discussion groups.
3. Create a Web presence. It’s important that someone doing an online search of your name is able to find a profile page that showcases you and your work. Many authors have websites in addition to user pages on social networking sites to maximize their exposure. A profile page should feature your name, photo, and a brief biography. You can post your writing credentials, excerpts from your novel, poems and/or short stories, and favorable reviews. If you are a published author, your profile should link to a site where your books can be purchased. Be sure to use links to your profile at every opportunity—in email and forum signatures, on Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites, and on business cards and stationery.
4. Blog. It seems that everyone has a blog these days, but it is especially useful for writers to take advantage of this marketing strategy. Your entries are firsthand examples of your writing—so make them good and edit well—and this can generate interest in your other work. Update frequently and be creative in your blog; include helpful links, insights, even humor to keep readers interested. If you are published, make sure it’s easy for a reader to purchase your work with a handy link to Amazon.com, for example, and include links to any site that features your writing or reviews of your writing.
Another useful feature of blogging is that it is interactive and personal—readers can leave comments or suggestions, and you can respond to them directly. You can keep them informed of any book signings or works in progress and answer any questions. It’s best to update your blog as often as possible to keep it fresh and interesting. Be sure to use keywords in each post (title and text) to optimize search engine results. The Internet is an amazing tool for writers looking for exposure, so be sure to use it to its full potential.
5. Explore different genres. Working outside your usual genre can expand your writing palette and even improve your writing. If you’re working on a full-length novel, for example, you might also consider pitching some article ideas (about something you’re proficient in) to magazines. Not only will you be boosting your publication credits and exhibiting flexibility in your talents, but the things you learn in one genre can nourish your skills in another.
6. Exude personal professionalism. Whether you’re submitting query letters or have already secured an agent, it’s crucial that you handle yourself professionally and put forth your best efforts. Wrinkled, stained, misspelled query letters give a bad impression to a potential agent. For those who have agents, return their phone calls promptly, follow their instructions or requests conscientiously, and deliver materials on time. Develop a professional reputation with agents and editors, and remember that you’ll be judged for every piece of writing—this means not firing off a quick e-mail riddled with errors and Internet lingo.
7. Finally, stay current. Keep up with publishing trends and market preferences by reading industry magazines, newsletters, and articles. Take courses and seminars whenever possible to brush up on your writing skills, and practice the actual craft of writing at every opportunity.
Want help building your reputation as a writer? Writer’s Relief can help you make more submissions! Our clients are widely published and regularly nominated for significant awards. Learn more!
QUESTION: Do you feel that reputation matters when it comes to publishing? How much does it matter?