Let’s start things out by asking ourselves a question: “How many people know that I am a writer?” Hopefully the answer will reflect your ultimate ambitions for your writing.
For example, if all you want out of your writing is a private pleasure, solely for your own enjoyment, it’s perfectly fine that the only one who knows you write is the sock puppet that decorates your bedpost. But would that be enough if you plan to make a career out of your writing?
“But Mike”, you say, “who would I tell and how? I don’t know anyone in the publishing industry who might care.”
To you I can only respond, “Fear not, young Jedi. It’s not as daunting a prospect as you might think.”
Let’s start simple. Who do you know today who is a friend or fan of yours? Maybe your mother, father, sister, brother (I would add dog, but since most can’t speak, they aren’t much help in this situation).
Who do you know who is always talking about you to their friends (preferably in a positive light)? Those people are your path of least resistance, so begin with them. Even if they never tell anyone, you will begin to get comfortable with the idea of talking about your work.
Now let’s graduate to the next step. Your other friends/co-workers and acquaintances. Be subtle; don’t barge into a conversation and start “informing” them of your passion. Use your story-telling abilities to get them interested and asking questions about your work (and they will more often than not, trust me).
And, this is the important part, keep track of who you have told. Names, telephone numbers, email addresses.
Huh? Why do that?
Obviously, so you can tell them when and where your published story is finally available. It would only be polite, after all. You get them all interested in your writing and then don’t bother to give them the chance to actually buy/enjoy the story? That’s called teasing and you don’t want to do that. It’s also nice to be able to tell your brand-new publisher that you already have an audience for the first 50 or 100 copies of your book when they are printed.
Is that enough? Heck no! Talk to authors, publishers and agents. Anyone with ties to the industry. One of those contacts could be the person to help you get your big (or first) break. I know of a couple publishers that get so many submissions that they now only accept one’s recommended by their current published authors.
But, Holy Cow, these are professional writers! A hack like me isn’t worthy of their attention. Am I? Of course you are. Let me illustrate.
I had the privilege to meet Dave Duncan at a book signing a few years ago. Naturally, I told him how much I enjoyed his books (and why… feedback is important)… and I dropped in the conversation that I’m an aspiring writer (I’m sure that never happens, right?). We chatted for several minutes and I left.
End of the story? Not quite. I followed up that night with an email to Mr. Duncan thanking him for his time. I also made a comment: “I’ve started to avoid the bookstores because the number of new books is so daunting. How can I possibly break into the industry.
His response was one that I will never forget. It was simply this: “Just remember, every professional author today was once an amateur like yourself.” Whenever the going gets tough, I remember what he said. But I digress (I have a funny habit of doing that).
An added benefit is now people will start to ask you how your writing is going. If you have been hitting a bad stretch and need motivation, that will certainly provide it. It can also give you the chance to celebrate your successes when you’ve been especially productive. You can bounce ideas off these people if you need a sounding board.
The whole idea of talking about your work is pretty scary. Trust me, I know. It starts setting expectations and forces you to actually produce something.
But having people interested in your work can be a powerful, positive force too. You just need to decide what you hope to achieve. Then decide how much of it you are willing/able to do.
That’s the easy part. Now the hard one. Get out there and start spreading the news.
Oh yeah… and make sure you keep writing.