4 Simple Ways For New Writers To Get Noticed
Between six hundred thousand to one million books are published each year in the United States. For new writers, publishing may feel as tough as winning the lottery. The industry can be intimidating; and with so many moving parts (from types of publishers to the many different people working in various jobs), it's overwhelming to get a good sense of what steps to take and in what order. How do you know, definitely, where to put your energy?
According to Gary Roen, new authors are putting immense energy into the wrong things. Roen has 40 years of experience in the publishing industry and is an author himself. He's also a book critic and publishing consultant. He has even created a series of workshops on things new writers should not be doing. He has seen his fair share of author flubs and fumbles and is outspoken about what it takes to get your book in his hands or any industry person. We met by chance at the Orlando Book Festival back in July; on good faith we exchanged cards, hoping the other would be of some help in the near future. Roen later reached out to me by phone, and after some email correspondence, we agreed on an in-person lunch to talk more about author mishaps.
We realized we have a shared passion in wanting to help new authors get published. After a few hours of talking about our various literary experiences, I was able to compile four tips for new writers get published or get their already published books reviewed and sold. This is not a comprehensive list, but might help you decide where to put your energy (we can discuss how to get an agent or hunt down a publisher in a later post). These steps are to give a general overview of what new authors tend to forget or ignore, missing opportunities right in front of them.
Do Your Homework
The publishing industry is BIG. There are a number of ways to get your work seen and sometimes, it feels like there are too many avenues. Having the basic understanding of writing, editing, print, and advertising will give you a leg up when it comes to showing your work to someone else. You don't have to be a publishing expert but you do need to know what your options are as you progress in the industry. Does the publisher you're considering do decent business? Are you self-publishing? Do you understand the pros and cons of small vs. larger publishers? Do you know what parts of the process are your responsibility vs. the publisher's or your agent/PR person?
Getting your work into the hands of someone else means you understand your role in each step of the publishing process. It will save you headaches later and maybe some regret. You can't assume your book will magically appear in stores if you didn't have a hand in getting it there. Listening to what others have to say about their own process is also a great place to start. Have a sit-down with your friends or family who have published and find out what steps were the easiest or hardest for them. There are also freelance editors and agents that can be of service. Have specific questions before you reach out and most people will be willing to be helpful.
Authenticity will build your audience
It's good to have goals, but I'll never be the next Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, or Nnedi Okorafor. And I shouldn't want to be. The best part about writing is finding your voice and the audience that connects with you. Mr. Roen let me know that he gets lots of inquiries from people claiming to be the next "whomever", and it never works out that way. Authenticity is what makes hard work worth doing, so make sure to bring yours to the table.
In the new age of publishing, a lot of authors have to be their own PR departments. As well as doing your homework, you will be responsible for selling your books and doing a lot of your own marketing. But how can you sell a book you're still trying to get published? Creating a blog or other social media will bring awareness to you and your content. Connect with people who are your target audience and gather anticipation for your work. I love getting requests and telling people about the books I'm reading. Join groups on Facebook or Goodreads so people know what you're up to. Create an Instagram or Twitter handle and post often. Record a book trailer for your new release. Let EVERYONE know that you have a book coming out or has been recently published.
Be Well Read
Was I looking to get a book published, I would need to branch out of my favorite two genres of nonfiction and science-fiction. It's great to know what the industry standard is for your niche, but it's also great to know what the industry standard is period. Authors who neglect to read multiple types of publications don't always have the well-rounded understanding they need to get their work past their own noses. This includes reading newspapers, magazines, books, and articles. Each type of publication is a different avenue from inception to print, and one of the biggest pieces of advice I hear again and again is to read lots of different things. You don't have to read every new book on the New York Time's Bestseller's List, but don't be a Sarah Palin- make sure you can articulate what you're reading. Just think, branching out might just help you write that historical fiction hybrid based in bioengineering you've been kicking around.
There Is No Industry Uniform (or SHAKE ALL THE HANDS)
As my mother would say, "you never know who is in the room." Your assumption of who looks important or who doesn't could lead to a missed opportunity. We don't all wear business casual when we're on the clock, especially those of us who are freelancers. And we're always on the clock, regardless of where we might be. I tend to wear casual clothing and never heals, so I'm a consistent 5'2" no matter where I go. On the two occasions I met Mr. Roen, he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and a wide-brimmed hat. I like to dress comfortably for events or conferences and carry a large bag. The point is you can't write people off (no pun intended) based on looks.
With such a large industry, it's better to have as many positive connections as you can. Attend events of interest and keep every business card you get. Then follow-up. A short phone call can turn into a lifelong friendship, but you have to take those chances. Don't get me wrong, not everyone is going to become your best friend. But you have to build relationships because more often it's "who you know" in publishing that can take you from book draft to window displays.
Gary Roen is a writer and book reviewer for the Orlando Advocate. Journey, a science fiction short story collection, is his most recent book and published with the Orlando-based publishing company, Legacy Book Publishing.
Now tell me your experience and share what's gotten you writing exposure. Did any of these tips resonate with you? Have one or two tips that work better? I'd love to hear your feedback.
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About The Author
Black & Bookish is the brainchild of Antoinette Scully, educator and lover of all things bookish. She is on a quest to guide the authors of tomorrow into the bookstores of today. When she's not hanging out on line, she's living it up as the mother of two rambunctious girls and wife of a local filmmaker.