Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Selling Yourself Before You Hit the Streets from Matthew Bryant

[Mugshot.jpg]Reading up on all of the agents and editors slated to be attending the DFW Writer's Conference this May, I stumbled across La Vie en Prose, a blog maintained by Meredith Barnes, an associate agent at Lowenstein Associates Inc in New York. It didn't take much clicking through for me to realize that I honestly wish there were more agents out there like her. You'd be doing yourself a disservice to not go by and browse through her archives, or attend a Thursday afternoon session of Ask Agent where she holds a personal Q & A with commenters.
One of the most invaluable bits of information I picked up on her site was the concept of marketing yourself. Whether you've been holding onto a finished manuscript for the past couple of years or you're just now getting the synopsis started, you need to begin considering marketing yourself.
Meredith mentions and several corporate colleagues confirmed that, whether intentional or not, you're probably already marketing yourself. Thanks to a social media age of technology, it doesn't take a private investigator to dig up dirt. Something as harmless as a Facebook post by one of your friends about craziness at happy hour and some incriminating photos bearing your tag are enough to paint a picture of irresponsibility in the eyes of a prospective employer, agent or reader. Like it or not, first impressions are rarely made face-to-face anymore.
But wait! Before you go unplugging your computer from the wall and cowering in some fetal position, rocking back and forth and chanting the Jabberwocky, heed my advice:
Why would you wait to acquire a following until after your book's been published? Who's going to read something that nobody knows about written by a person they've never heard of? Sure your mom'll pick up a copy, maybe even Bob from the office, but if you step into your local bookstore and let it all soak in, are you there to browse the genres? Or do you have something/somebody specific in mind?
Before you go looking up prices for billboard rentals (and don't be ashamed, I've been there too) Consider starting a blog. It's the most natural thing in the world. You're already a writer, you have something to say, otherwise you wouldn't be toiling for hours at a time to hit the end of that next chapter. So get started.
I took this advice recently and was struck with a new thought. Who the heck is gonna find/read this thing? Sure an agent will when I query them, but as Meredith points out, that one lonely comment from my mom isn't going to be especially flattering. This is where other social medias come into play.
Once you've got some decent content on your site(and I mean good reading material, not your personal feelings about cute puppies or road-rage in traffic... unless that's your audience), I started with four posts revolving around writing techniques, a couple short stories from my genre (I know, Mer... it's a no-no) and some scribbles, it's time to hook them in. Invite your Facebook friends, reference a post in a tweet, get some eyes on it and hopefully a few followers and word of mouth.
Next you're going to need a gimmick. Remember how popular poorly animated hamsters dancing to lame looped music were back in the day? Let's dig a little deeper. Contests, give-aways, audience participation – be creative. I personally intend to start up an online comic that is directed by comments from viewers – give some power to my readers and give me a challenge with my other hobby.
Now start making your name known in the blogging community. Comment on other people's posts, get to know a few people, write a guest blog for another site. Be tactful about it, but attracting people to your site won't steal readers, just share them.
Keep up with it. A couple blogs a week, few tweets a day, it should be considered part of the grunt-work of being a professional writer. By the time your book hits the shelves, people will be heading to the stores with your name in mind. Not only that, but they'll feel that they have a connection to you as they read it, creating a more personal experience.
Call us what you will, but writers are entertainers. Without a fan-base, we're just crazy folks who talk to themselves and live half our lives in a fantasy-dreamland.
So here's your challenge. With nearly one week until the next GFWW meeting (Feb 12th), I'd like each of you to complete a meaningful blog, preferably one related to your field of interest. (Ruby, you're off the hook ;) ) If you're not into that, you should at least peruse Meredith Barnes' blog, find a post that really strikes you, and share it on Facebook or twitter. Consider it a 'Thank You' for all the information she's shared with the writing community by way of a little free publicity.
That's it. I'm done. Go infest cyber space.
Matthew Bryant is an English and Art teacher. He is also a member of Greater Fort Worth Writers and is an active member of the GFW Writers critique group. Members of the group will tell you he can pick out redundant words at forty feet and is quite willing to show what paragraphs or sentences are not compelling. He is a husband and father of three beautiful girls, enjoys writing science fiction/ urban fantasy/ horror, sketching, or playing video games in his free time.

Have a question or comment? Let Matthew know by clicking on comments and leaving your question or comments. Also, visit his blog at matthewbryant.blogspot.com

5 comments:

George said...

This is the best darned chunk of advice I've read on writers utilizing current technology. Thank you, Bryan.

SusieSheehey said...

Thanks a bunch! Links are great too

J.A. Bennett said...

So helpful as always :) Thank you MB!

Caroline Clemmons said...

I always wonder about authors who make politcal comments on social media. Anytime an author does that, half the readers are offended. When we as authors take part in social media, we have to remember to be professional in everything we say.

lenders for bad credit said...

Life sometimes is mystifying. I will take it as an good advice from you.

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