Friday, May 15, 2009

The Strategizing Writer

The current economic crisis has hit the publishing world hard. There are even murmurs about publishing companies hesitating to take on new writers until the economy improves. And for those lucky enough to find an agent and publisher in this uncertain milieu, there’s the unlucky prospect of smaller advances.

So, what’s a writer to do? Simply waiting for the economic crisis to blow over isn’t an option, but there are a few things that may be worth trying. First and foremost, you have to put yourself out there – be proactive at every step. By this I mean several different things.

  • Enroll in writing workshops and conferences (to the extent that you can afford them). If there are special events for writers where you live, attend them whenever possible. Volunteer to help the organizers. Print business cards for the occasion and hand them out when appropriate. And don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to strangers. When you’re competing with thousands of others in the same situation as you, you need to stand out. These are some of the easier ways to get people in the publishing industry to know who you are and – more importantly – give you a chance to win them over with your writing.
  • Expand your writing platform, venturing into genres such as travel and food writing, poetry, and even journalism. While it’s true that having loads of fiction publications will help you land an agent for your new novel, agents and publishers are keen to see whatever spells success. Clips from newspapers and magazines, for example, are proof not only that you can write, but also that you can identify a specific audience/demographic and write something they want to buy. It’s my opinion that too many fiction writers do too little genre crossing.
  • Network with as many serious writers as you can. Put yourself in a position to meet other people who are doing the same thing as you. Perhaps they’re struggling, or perhaps they’re basking in success. If they’re of the former group, which is exponentially larger than the latter group, there’s something comforting about knowing you’re not the only one struggling to get recognized. If they’re of the latter group, it’s likely that you’ll find something inspirational about their success, and perhaps receive a useful piece of advice – or, even better, a nod in the direction of their agent.
  • Volunteer with local publications. If you’re a fiction writer, then try to find a fiction journal to intern with. Even if all they’re willing to let you do at first is affix stamps to envelopes, do it. It’s a way in. After proving yourself to them, you may get a shot at something more interesting. And with that you may begin to develop relationships that prove valuable to your writing career.
  • Blog. That’s right, blogging can get you noticed. While I’m working to develop a writing blog of my own right now, I already have my own travel and food blog. I’ve actually met a number of talented, ambitious writers this way, and I’ve recently had a national magazine contact me about my writing. Your job as a blogger is to make sure your writing is good enough to attract visitors and then keep them coming back. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So is the phenomenon of linking. And guess what else? Many successful writers have blogs. If they have a comment feature, don’t be afraid to leave the occasional positive (not fawning) remark. They may drop by your blog as a result of your comment, and any agent who happens to be lurking may spend some time on your site, too, poking around your writing – a one-on-one meeting in cyberspace between an agent and your fiction. Another bonus about blogging: you can start a blog for free.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies to get ahead with your writing. With this in mind, I welcome readers’ thoughts on this challenge that many of us are facing in the current economic climate. If you have different suggestions, or wish to add to what I’ve said, feel free to share here. I think it could prove helpful to both new and seasoned writers.


A. E. Santi said...

Great advice. I was told by an agent to just keep on writing--just because the market is funky don't let that stop you from your work. And don't stop submitting to agents--ever--they're still reading!

Sapuche said...

Absolutely. I guess I was remiss not mentioning the importance of continuing to write and submit! As you suggest, perseverance is still as critical to success as ever. That's one thing that will never change.