Very few of us are fortunate enough to just fall into the grateful hands of an admiring agent, or to land that dream publishing deal, without a bit of self-promotion. In this article I outline two simple things that anyone (even me) can do to improve our chances of these things happening.
Build up your presence
The first is, work on your online presence. Twitter, Instagram, FB and LinkedIn: they have all worked for me. Keep connecting with people and liking their posts and retweeting if they’re on Twitter or reposting on LinkedIn, etc. Not only does this give you a presence and a trail on the web for an interested agent or publisher to follow, it will also make people in the industry well disposed towards you, and that can only help.
When I was seeking agent representation, one question I was frequently asked was how many Twitter followers do you have? This really is worth working on. Agents like to know that you have a bit of a ready-made audience of people who are pre-disposed to be interested in what you write. And, at the risk of teaching your granny to suck eggs (I hope that phrase travels) whatever you post, add a picture/photo/gif to it. Browsers are much more likely to click on a post that features a nice picture. It’s just human nature.
I’m going to give a special plug for LinkedIn. It really has proved invaluable in establishing me as a writer, but so many of my fellow scribblers overlook it. I now have nearly 2,500 connections on LinkedIn including agents, publishers, Hollywood animators and fellow writers. It was through LinkedIn that my Dutch publisher, Uitgeverij Holland, found me and contacted me. I now have a three-book deal with them. And very recently, people seeking speakers are conferences and other events are starting to contact me through LinkedIn as well. Don’t underestimate its power and potential. BUT – and this is important – don’t pester your contacts either. You need to entice them with your interesting and relevant posts, rather than chasing them into a corner and haranguing them. Try to post something intriguing a couple of times a week: a shortlisting in a competition, a nice tweet/message from someone who has enjoyed your work, even excitement over the number of words you’ve managed to write that day can work, if you couch your post in a way that piques the reader’s interest.
OK, let’s get on to my second tip.
The Answer is Yes, Now What’s the Question?
Say YES whenever you can. If someone asks you to write an article for free, say YES. Going back to my Dutch publisher, they read an article I’d written for a review website, liked the sound of my books and took the trouble to find me on LinkedIn. The article was a freebie, but it has certainly paid for itself since.
Whether it’s writing an article, speaking at a literary event or publishing conference or something completely off the wall, say YES if it’s legal and safe and even remotely possible. You never know what will come of it and who will read it. I’ve agreed to things that are way outside my comfort zone and I’ve yet to regret doing so. A recent example of this was a US website that asked me for an article on my views on modern anti-Semitism in the UK. To say that I wasn’t an expert on the subject is something of an understatement, but I said YES and did some research and they were delighted with what I wrote and now it’s out there so show that I can be serious, when I have to.
There are even more advantages to saying YES: you will get a reputation for being helpful and engaged and approachable and dedicated to your art. And at the same time, it will help you to hone your writing skills, too. A win-win situation. Yes? YES!
Further reading on writing for a living and branding:
Writer of the Gangster School series of MG comedy adventures, currently available in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. My historical YA, No Man’s Land, is being published in 2020. Currently working on a new series of Historical Mystery stories. Shortlisted for the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing, the Greenhouse Funny Prize and the Winchester Writers’ Prize for Children’s Funny Fiction. I have a first class degree in English and Creative Writing and a Masters in English Literature. Many years experience as an English Tutor.