Most of the posts on this blog so far have been about building your craft as a writer. There will be more of these to come shortly – if you’d like them – but first I feel it is time to get yourself into the mindset of being a writer, or, if you’re just starting out, of becoming one.
Getting your novel accepted is only the start of the process, not the end of it. When I first started work as a bookseller, large publishers would select ‘lead authors’ for each season’s list and spend substantial amounts of money in promoting the books of these authors in all sorts of ways – by author tours, poster campaigns, sending out many proof copies to booksellers as well as reviewers, etc. Now even the biggest publishers don’t spend money in this way on authors – which in some ways is a good thing, because I often felt that some novels were hyped beyond their merit, whereas so-called ‘mid-list’ authors – i.e., those who hadn’t been chosen for the red carpet treatment – had more or less been damned to oblivion before their books were even published. Nowadays, authors have to work much more proactively to promote themselves and their work. It is best and most effective, of course, if they do this in tandem with their publishers; but the publisher is there to encourage and support, not to do the work for you. The next couple of paragraphs contain some suggestions on how to go about this.
First and foremost, create a blog. Write on it regularly – if not every day, as often as you can manage. Link it into Facebook and Twitter – and other social media networks that you may feel will be of use to you. Use it to develop your own personality and to attract followers with the quality of your writing. Don’t stop here, however. It will be most effective if you also make it into a platform from which you can praise other writers, follow and comment on the blogs of publishers that you admire and engage with the writing community generally. Never use it to attempt a direct sell, or overt promotion of your own work. Be generous to others, help them to recommend and promote their work. Use the blog to engage your readers and to entertain them with your work. Make sure that the quality of the writing on your blog is always of a high standard. Treat it as your “commonplace book” or writer’s diary.
Next, engage with the writing community in as many ways as you can. Attend festivals, speak at events in local bookshops and libraries, accept opportunities to chair sessions for other writers and talk at literary dinners. Consider it a privilege if you are asked to judge a competition, run a workshop, teach a class or give a guest lecture, and understand that the time that you spend on such activities is actually an investment in your own writing. Write guest pieces on other authors’ and publishers’ blogs. Interview authors and publishers for your own blog.
Above all, be generous – of your time, of your praise, of your commitment. What goes around comes around – among the chattering (i.e., the writing and reading) classes even more so.