If you haven’t read the first part of this series, Best Practices to Become a Writer, we recommend going back to read it, right here.
And if you’re ready for part two by author Diane Tarantini, read on!
Lesson #7: Network (aka Make friends in high places all over the place.)
Eva Steortz and I went to college years ago at West Virginia University. We were both journalism majors. She went on to work at Disney for 20+ years. Then she wrote a business book with a title I adore: From the Outhouse to the Mouse House: Crap You Need to Know for a Dream-Come-True Career.
One of Eva’s superpowers is networking. She’s worked with the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. She’s got a project coming up with Reese Witherspoon. Eva will be the first to tell you, networking has gotten her where she is today.
Chris Fabry networked me to literary agents. Karin Fuller networked me to a lifestyle column. Bob Saunders, my former boss at the newspaper, ran this story about The Brave Knight for me. Having a network of friends is a potential gold mine when the time comes to promote your work.
Lesson #8 Never say never.
“Never say never” is actually one of my life philosophies, but it applies in my writing career, too. Here are a few examples:
- I never thought I’d write a children’s book.
- I never thought it would take this long to transition from writer to published author…
- …And I never thought I’d have to hustle so hard to promote my own work.
- I never thought I’d independently publish.
Lesson #9: Be thankful for the NOs along the way.
There have been so many rejections—written and implied (aka no response at all)—along the way. I am grateful for every one of them. Why? Because my writing was not ready to be seen by the world. Because I myself was not ready for publication. In the case of my memoir, additional life events happened that totally changed the ending of the book.
Rejection is no fun, but I believe it’s for a reason. I hold on to these words from a literary agent: “‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘never’ for your manuscript. It means, ‘not me’ and, ‘not now.’”
Lesson #10: Listen to your gut.
Two things led to the recent publication of my book. Last fall I was at a volunteer event and we were tucking emotional health books into care packages for at-risk youth. In a lightbulb moment I realized in my gut, “My book would be a great fit for this project.”
One week later, my boss at the time asked me in my employment review, “Is there anything I can do to further your writing career?” My gut prompted me to say, “Yes! You can include The Brave Knight in these care packages.” She agreed and we made it happen.
Recently I’ve been asked what my next writing project is. I totally know what it is and yet, my gut tells me I need to devote at least six months, perhaps a year, to promoting The Brave Knight. When I told this to my friend and life/career coach Laura Seybold, of Shine Consulting, she said, “Always listen to your gut!”
Lesson #11 Action gets results.
Once my writing improved enough for public consumption, my mentor Karin Fuller told me to start submitting to various outlets: contests, anthologies, etc.. For sure, there were some rejections, but there were also some acceptances. In time, I began to place in contests. One of my stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!
The same phenomenon is playing out now. I’m telling people about my new book, I’m mailing out comp copies with cover letters, I’m talking about the project on social media. And things are starting to happen. My illustrator, Jessie Haring, and I are getting booked for events. People are buying multiple copies of my book. I’m reading the story at body safety assemblies to hundreds of kids.
Pro-tip: Success will not come to you. You need to work for it.
Lesson #12 Build a platform. Now.
What is a platform? In this article, Jane Friedman defines platform as your “ ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”
Your platform is your sphere of influence: the people who read your writing, who attend your readings and lectures, who share your blog posts, who follow you on social media, who subscribe to your email newsletter. These are your “raving fans.”
These days agents and publishers are looking for writers with impressive platforms. Why? Because authors are now expected to do as much marketing, if not more, as the publisher will. Unless you’re Stephen King, or Jodi Picault.
Why else should you build a large platform? One agent told me only about 10% of your platform will purchase your books. Do the math. Based on the number of people in your platform right now, if you published a book tomorrow, how many copies would you sell?
I hope this article has been helpful! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Also, I’ll be teaching on this topic in depth at the West Virginia Writers Conference in June.
I hope to see you there!
Diane Tarantini is an award-winning writer with a slice-of-life blog and a brand new children’s book titled, The Brave Knight.
Find her online at www.dianetarantini.com to grab her free download, The Kid’s Personal Safety Plan.
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