By: Melanie Jones
Oyez Review Editor
Since graduating I’ve been attuned to the marketing world, which is fast-paced and in some ways unforgiving. Currently I work as an independent marketing contractor and have worked as head of marketing from restaurants to nonprofits. Below I’m offering my best advice to burgeoning writers with best practices to get your material circulated and more importantly, get social media fans. The suggestions below are purely based on my own observations.
As the reach of mixed media grows, so too does your potential for self-promotion. Many literary agencies want more than just a writer that creates interesting work. They want a writer that already has a following. Imagine an agent is looking at two writers with similar styles. One has 10,000 twitter followers, and one has 200. Guess which one they’ll choose to represent.
Even though writing is an art, at the end of the day publishing and selling books is a business. An agency sees a writer with facebook and twitter fans and sees they are ahead of the curve. This writer already has a built-in fan base and makes an agency’s job easier.
So where do you start?
The first piece you need to consider is what kind of writer you are. This isn’t to pigeonhole yourself and represent yourself as only a horror writer, or a romance novelist, or a poet, but more so what you’re interested in writing, and the backstory you want the public to know. Think of how you would pitch yourself to a group of people who have the attention span of a kitten. Know your personal narrative and how that influences your writing.
Once you’ve established a clear understanding of how you’d like to be perceived you can build out from there. If you can’t afford a top-notch website, then don’t do it. Having a business or public figure facebook or twitter page allows you to market yourself with small sums of money. Crazy right? If you don’t want to pester your friends with asking them to like your facebook page or follow you, for a small fee you can extend your normal reach and create an audience through ads. Facebook offers more options where you can promote your page, a website if you have one, or just boost a post.
For those who are not particularly skilled in graphic design, the easiest way to advertise would be boosting a post. You don’t want to boost just any post though. Let’s say you have a blog post you’d like to get out there. It’s your best one. Has a great title. Is timely. Has a great hook. THAT’S something you should boost. It will get people interested and raise interaction which in turn furthers the reach of your boosted post.
Another element is to consider how “shareable” your content is. If you’re a very niche writer the likelihood that someone will share a post about the mating habits of opossums in the winter is small. While you are attempting to build your audience I would suggest posting about topics that many people are already interested in, but that you’ve put your own unique spin on. If you wrote a flash-fiction piece about your first time attending a baseball game, and what it meant to you, then boost it the night before a really big game, that will receive more engagement and chances are people will share it. Once you’re comfortable with the size of your followers then you can begin writing about your particular interests and fans will interact with it because they like you instead of the topic. To piggyback off of this, make sure your twitter page and/or facebook page is either an image of you or a logo you’ve copyrighted and plan to use for a long period of time. This is so important as you’re trying to create yourself as a brand.
I would also suggest having about a month’s worth of content up before you start boosting posts so a potential fan has even more to engage with in case your one boosted post isn’t enough for them. If they are on your page you don’t want to lose them due to lack of content. Here’s the catch, you also need to curate what you’re willing to put out there. You can’t release all your content via a free avenue if you don’t have enough within you to also produce a larger work to sell. Once something is on a blog or out on the web, it can’t appear in a literary journal or be sold as a book because it’s no longer sellable. This is a fine line.
Phew. I’m sure I’ve just offered you a lot to think about when it comes to self-promotion. Many may feel uncomfortable with the idea of it, but remember if you aren’t willing to represent yourself, then why would anyone else?