Book Reviews, Blogging, Contests All Help Your Writing Career

I wrote this post in the forum the other day talking about something that happened to me with a book review I had done for a publisher. The author’s publicist contacted me, I did the review, and then later, when I reviewed the author’s next book, I saw my review blurbed on the front part of the book, with a mention of my blog in the blurb. How cool is that? That same day, I also was given a chance to send a partial of my manuscript, WHAT BROTHERS DO, to that same publisher.

The more I read and see things in the publishing world, the more I realize that sometimes, it really is who you know and the connections you make. If you want to be published, you’re going to have to make connections, somehow. You’ll need an agent. You’ll want to connect with a publisher. You’ll then need to connect with readers and build a platform and a readership that wants to buy your book before it ever comes out. Writing is all about connections – connecting with your characters, connecting with an agent, connecting with a publisher, connecting with readers, connecting…

One of the best ways to connect with all these things is to be active in promoting yourself in the industry.

WRITE REGULARLY, CONSTANTLY

You need to write regularly, consistently, every day.ย  It doesn’t matter what you write, but do it consistently. You need to stay in practice and in the flow to keep the writing coming. You don’t want to put everything you have into one book and then never sell it, or it takes a long time to sell it, and then you get discouraged. Remember, the writing is the most important. Your first book might not sell first. You’ll never know if you don’t keep writing just how far your writing career can go, and you will continue to improve the more you write. Many authors, well published ones even, look back on their writing careers and see how they’ve grown over the years. You will grow too, so keep writing. When you finish your first book, perfect it, edit it, perfect it some more and then polish it until it gleams, while you’re querying your agent, write another book. And then write another. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’ve recently read that some of our most beloved authors of all time weren’t published until they had completed their fourth or fifth novels, and then their first ones were published too.

If you’re writing for money, great, but if there’s no passion or love for writing, this industry will get old fast. Write. Write like you’re a best seller already; write like no one will ever read your work but you; just write.

Then, stay in the loop. The people you meet now will remember you and you never know where you and they will be years from now and how they might just help your career when you least expect it. A friend of mine was a waitress, making 1800 a month on tips and salary, single mom. She’s a best selling author three times over, and all she was doing was writing in a notebook in between customers. I never even knew way back when that she wanted to be a writer. You never know.

There are many ways to keep in the loop, stay active in your writing, all while trying to sell that novel you have finished. Let’s look at a few of them.

Book Reviews:

Doing book reviews gets you noticed. You do enough of them, consistently, you can really make a name for yourself. People in the industry will start to recognize you, and seek you out for your review. You want to put those blurb reviews up on Amazon.com and BN.com and the other major online book retailers, and put the full book review up on your blog too. You can even set a goal to become one of the top reviewers on Amazon.com (see my reviewer status), because the top reviewers get exposure on Amazon.com, so when you have a book on there, it will get more exposure too! With Adsense and other affiliate advertising, you can make money from your blog that way. Become an Amazon Associate, and link to the book you’re reviewing so your readers can buy it and you can make a little bit of money from that if they do. It can add up. Put the review up under the book review category on EzineArticles with your author bio pointing to your site that does book reviews.

But there’s more to it than that. You will, by doing book reviews, stay current on writing and publishing trends. You’ll see what publishers are buying and be able to watch styles and changes in the market so you can keep yourself and your writing marketable too. The more you read, the more you learn and the better writer you will be. You can learn from reading, even lousy novels, by seeing what does and doesn’t work for you and putting those elements into or taking them out of your novel. You can find out more here about something that happened to me from doing book reviews too. You also can learn the market for when you query an agent, so you can tell him/her what your novel is most like compared to the ones already successful now. This is important in personalizing your queries.

Blogging

Blogging is important for many reasons for a writer. I wrote this blog post here about why writers should blog and you really need to read it. The brief is that blogging keeps you actively writing, every day. It gives you a place to be accountable to your readers. It keeps you productive. But more than that, it puts your writing in front of people. You can learn a lot about how to promote yourself, what people want to read, and more by blogging. Sharing your writing with people on your blog can help you build a platform and readership too, which can help you with selling your manuscripts to a publisher in the future, because you’ll have a built-in readership. Plus, it’s fun and interactive to write and respond to readers. You don’t get that when you write fiction alone. When you make it big, and if you keep at it, you will, having a blog will keep you on the pulse of your readers, keep you connected, make them real to you, and you real to them, and while you’re working your way up, it makes you accessible.

Website:

You should have an author website. I don’t care if you’ve never published anything, you need a way for agents and publishers to reach you, to see you, and to know you have a web presence. You want it established before you start querying or even before you start writing. You need your short biographical information, your contact information and email address, and if you are daring, put up an excerpt that is perfectly polished and edited about the work you have in progress. Don’t put every little idea or snippet you’ve ever written and haven’t done anything with or you’ll look scattered and unfocused, but if you have 1-3 books you’re working on, put up a short synopsis of them, a teaser that will make people want to know more or ask questions, without giving away the full plot, twists or ending. Be sure anything you put up on the website is 100% proofread and edited, so if an agent or publisher pops by, they see the finished product in its very best state, not the rough draft or WIP.

Keep it professional. A personal blog or website is fine, but your author website shouldn’t be about you or your kids or husband and wife. This is about you, the writer, and why people should read you, publish you or represent you. Give them only professional, good writing reasons to do those things.

Social Networking:

Your readership is likely NOT writers, and yet, most writers only socialize with other writers. While it’s true that a lot of avid readers are writers, your real readership are the millions of people who aren’t. Those are the people you need to reach to pimp your writing to, in a non salesy and non spammy sort of way. Find people who share your interests that are in the books and things you write and connect with them on social networks. Talk about your writing to them, the research that you do. Ask them questions. People love to help and they love to feel their opinions are valuable.

When I was writing WHAT BROTHERS DO, the story has twin grown brothers in it, so I frequently referred to the grown twin boys in my life and asked them questions. But sometimes, I’d also Tweet questions on Twitter or on FaceBook where I asked, “If a grown man were in a bar and he was fighting back tears, what would he do?–research for my book!” You’d be amazed at the responses people sent. It’s a good lesson on human behavior, both for you and them, but what’s so neat about it is, when the book finally is in print, you can promote it to these people by saying, “Remember that book I asked you guys to help me with? Well, see how I did by buying it here: link linky”. Let your readership feel a part of what you’re doing, and they’ll keep you motivated, encouraged and supported, while you’re also building a minor platform that might just be lucrative and important to publishers and agents when trying to decide between your book and another writer who hasn’t built that platform.

Enter Contests:

Entering and winning minor contests won’t do too much to help your career, but they can help you get confident and familiar with the submission/query/writing/winning/losing aspect of entering contests and submitting so you will be more comfortable and familiar with the process when you do enter the big money/career-making contests. Entering scam or vanity contests or entering contests with exorbitant entry fees where the fee is only so the host of the ‘contest’ makes money, or entering contests where you don’t get published and/or win a prize of any significant value–those things will all hurt your career more than help them.

Take the time to research contests. Read the forum here or read the Preditors & Editors website for known scams, and Google for Writing Contest Scams before you ever enter one. You never know which ones might hurt your career permanently. Vanity scams like Poetry.com and all their spin offs are not something of which to be proud on your writing resume and mark you as an amateur in a very professional business that is highly competitive.

All that said, having some solid awards behind you are great for your query and your bio when you are submitting. It shows the agent/editor/publisher that you are practiced and polished enough to get published and that you are professional enough to know how to submit and win contests.

Write and Publish Short Stories:

Get published so you can get published. Write and submit short stories to big markets. Again, like the contests, small markets won’t help you too much except they’ll give you experience and vanity/scam/unknown markets can hurt you. But if you can get a few short stories in some trade published anthologies with distribution, some major fiction magazines, or in national publications (The New Yorker is a shoe-in for good publicity and for getting the attention of an agent or publisher that matters!) Asimov’s for science fiction and other speculative fiction has long been known to publish aspiring authors who go on to be greats and win awards of value. Find these big name publications and submit to them. Get as many of them behind you as you can so that when you’re pitching your novel to agents and publishers, you can pitch yourself and your writing and name too. It’s an ‘easier’ way to break into the market.

DOES IT MATTER?

Does any of this really matter? Yes and no. I mean, there are people who have never been published, never written a thing, never researched and never read a word about writing who then wrote a novel with nothing to fuel it but passion and then they sell it for 5 or 6 figures and become best selling authors. It DOES happen, but though we hear a whole lot about it, it really is the exception to the rule, an that’s why we hear so much about it. Check out Amazon.com and see just how many millions of books there are on that site. When you compare the total number of books published to the total number of books that got 6-figure advances, and then consider how many books have been written that have never been published at all, you realize the very few who break into the market that way are anomalies.

That doesn’t mean it CAN’T happen for you. It does, however, mean that if you are serious about doing this for a living, if it’s your passion and your dream too, you do want to give yourself the best possible advantage, and sitting around hoping to win the book publishing lottery is not the best advantage.

So while you can quote the success stories, I can probably give you 100 failure stories to go along with every one success, and then some. It’s not discouraging, if you really have the passion for it, but it should make you stay focused on learning how best to present yourself and your writing. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Just take it one little step at a time.

WISH ME LUCK!

I’m in the process of submitting my first novel to literary agents for representation. The novel, as I’ve mentioned before, is called WHAT BROTHERS DO, and you can read a brief synopsis of it here on my website. You might enjoy my short bio on the home page too, which should make you chuckle. It made me laugh to write it. The next novel I’m working on is called RELUCTANTLY HUMAN, and I’m about halfway through the first draft on it. I like it even better than Brothers, and the pacing is much faster and more intense. I’ve got a few other things I’m working on, but the primary focus right now is getting an agent for Brothers. I’ve just started submitting queries, so send me all your good juju and positive energy in that direction!

To you: Good luck and keep writing!

BOOK GIVEAWAY:

Now, it’s time for our second book giveaway on the blog. This time, it’s a fiction book. I received this one from a publicist for best selling author Lisa Jackson, and the book is called LEFT TO DIE. You can find it on Amazon.com and B&N and in stock at your favorite local bookstore. If you’d like the used review copy I have, I’m giving it away! All you have to do is Tweet the post here or put it up on Facebook or link to this post in your blog, then leave me a comment here on the blog saying you did it along with something meaningful about your writing, about this post, or some insight that might be helpful or interesting to the readers of my blog and then you’ll be entered into the drawing. The winner will be selected on Friday, April 2nd and will be announced right here on the blog that afternoon.

Love and stuff,
Michy