There are hundreds of books and articles out there informing writers on what to do to put your best foot forward in the writing world and market yourself to the best of your abilities. These are fantastic in many cases, but they don’t always highlight the mistakes that you can make, even when you’re following the advice by the letter. One misconstrued sentence or badly constructed Tweet could spell disaster for your reputation, and your chances of being published.
Whether you’re looking for an agent, a publisher, marketing yourself or just looking for writing work, there are ways to conduct yourself that should be second nature. But in writing – as in life – there are factors that could change the way you conduct yourself: desperation, over-eagerness, shyness and a general lack of common sense could all land you in hot water, and without a job, contract or contact.
Social Media Etiquette
In these times of trolling, social media faux pas and general stupidity on social media sites, the issue of social media etiquette has become a larger question: Just how do you conduct yourself online? It’s important when using Twitter and Facebook that you come across as a human being and inject some of your personality into your online presence, but it’s important to be careful. Politics, dirty jokes, swearing and talking about delicate or controversial subjects could land you in trouble, either by being bombarded with angry comments or blacklisted and blocked by the industry professionals who could make or break your career.
We all have our beliefs, our interests and our bugbears. But do we really need to air them in public? Some writers can pull off the controversy card, but you can guarantee this: They probably weren’t doing it before the book sales started coming in. Be careful how you conduct yourself online and treat people’s views and beliefs with respect and you can build a solid social media presence. Positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time!
Proof Read EVERYTHING
The number one selling point for any writer should be their ability to write. This may sound like a bizarre statement to make, but you will be surprised how many writers’ websites, business cards and pitching letters are strewn with errors – both in spelling and grammar. It is the ultimate crime in writing and something that simply doing a Spell Check on Microsoft Word will not rectify. You owe it to yourself and to your potential publishers to put the effort in and to proof read your work again and again, until you are 100% certain that there are no errors in your work.
The same goes for any sales copy on your website. Your ‘About Me’ page, blog posts and contact pages should have as much time and effort spent on it than any novel and short story you’ve ever written, because they serve exactly the same purpose: Selling you as a great writer.
Do Your Homework
If you would like to become the butt of a joke at a publisher’s party, why not consider sending your horror novel to a children’s book publisher for consideration? It’s a really good idea and will get you one step ahead of the competition… Of course it won’t!
There are many off-putting and embarrassing examples out there in the publishing world where would-be authors have blindly sent their manuscripts out in a rush of panic and euphoria, only to receive a very kindly worded letter that details how they’ve made a giant error. It may not affect your future career, but it will definitely dent your confidence and make you feel like a massive fool.
Get your hands on the list of publishing agencies in the genre that you have written for and study it well. Take a look at the websites of the agencies and look at their list of clients. Is there anybody on that list who is similar to you or an inspiration to your writing? It never hurts to mention them in your query letter or pitch. It shows that you’ve done your homework and paid an interest, and it will go a long way to showing them that you’re serious about publishing your novel with them.
The cliché of writers sitting in a darkened room, staring at a blank screen for days on end and surviving on cigarettes and coffee may not be completely true, but writing is a solitary sport that can see you disappearing off the face of the earth for days on end while you work on your Magnus opus. It’s so important these days to be able to market yourself both online and offline, and performing your work in public and going to networking events is a great way to get your work heard and let publishers, writers and readers put a face and a personality to the name.
If you are just living up to the writing clichés of the past and not heading to these events, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to find work and improve your profile. It would be a huge mistake to believe that putting your novel out into the world would be enough. It could be the best book since James Joyce’s Ulysses, but if nobody knows about you, who’s going to read it?
You may feel like you’re playing it safe by getting the work done first and then putting your work out, but it’s important to make contacts in the industry and meet kindred spirits who might be working on some great work too. Don’t worry if you’re the shy and retiring type and not a party animal, as long as you’re polite, respectful and aren’t rude, you can make the desired impression at networking and reading events.
Always Follow Up
So you’ve been to a great networking event and you have the business cards for a dozen writers, agents and publishers. The next step should be to fire off some emails saying that you had a great time at the event and that you very much enjoyed meeting them. First of all, it keeps you in contact, and secondly, you should include a link to your social media profiles and website in the signature footer of the email (if you don’t have it there by default already).
People often make the mistake of coming back from an event on cloud nine and then doing absolutely nothing to follow up any of the leads or relationships they created when they were at events. This is crazy! Even if you just follow them on Twitter and say Hi once in a while, it will keep you on their radar and you won’t be just another smiling face at a networking event that was forgotten the next day.