Deb: Channeling Your Inner Guerilla

For artists, the great
problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.
Once upon a time there was an easy order to the business of
writing: create, pitch, publish, promote. A writer’s creative energy went
mostly into her work, and the rest followed from there.
That everything’s different is old news. Your work no longer
stands only on its own two feet. It requires a platform, or so goes the
twenty-first century wisdom. Agents and editors urge writers to promote early
and often, even if they’re still working on their first viable project.
To get your work noticed in the topsy-turvy world of modern
publishing requires fortitude, courage, and a broad-minded approach. “Schmoozing,
pitching, that’s your job,” says screenwriter Scott Silver. Though he admits
some people are good only at schmoozing, he also points out that it’s juvenile
to think that if your work is good enough, you’ll never have to promote.  Nevertheless, he reiterates, the work matters
“I’ve been a Luddite most of my life,” says author Lynn Schooler. “Then they overthrew the government in Twitter, and I realized I’d
better start paying attention.” These days, Schooler notes, writers have to
schmooze the world, not just a person.
Though he self-describes as a bit of a recluse and until
recently had only dial-up internet service, Schooler has managed to amass over
3000 Facebook friends in less than two years by applying an old principle of
marketing – offering a value-added service by regularly posting scenic Alaska
photos from his professional portfolio.
Author Heather Lende contends that self-promotion boils down
to doing the work and showing genuine interest in the people around you. In the
beginning, you might find yourself working for free, the way Lende did. Though
she initially volunteered to do radio shows in Haines, she looked up a few
people at NPR and mailed tapes of her shows to them.
She got her first paying gig as a writer on Monitor Radio,
thanks to her husband’s Aunt Dottie, who passed on a tape of one of her radio
pieces to the executive producer of Monitor Radio, who went to her church. Once
she started writing a column for the Anchorage Daily News, NPR picked up Lende’s
work. Whenever she called back East, Lende says, “I always asked who I was
speaking to.” Editors come and go, but receptionists stay.
Author Kim Heacox echoes Lende’s advice, recalling an early
meeting with an editor at Discover magazine. When he asked how she’d gotten her
job, he said, “she was like a flower I’d just watered.” The interview turned
into a conversation. A few months later, assignments started flowing in. In the
world of what Heacox calls “You Twit Face,” he reminds writers to promote the
work of others in the writing community. His cautionary note: “Be careful you
don’t turn into a cardboard version of your original self.”
Should you blog? Post about your project on Facebook? Make
book trailers? Schedule tours? Talk up yourself and your project every chance
you get? The answers boil down to time, energy, and balance in your writing
life. You need a viable project, finely crafted, though as Andromeda Romano-Lax
demonstrates, it can be promoted in its development stage. Pay attention to
opportunities to connect, in person and electronically, with people who might
have an interest in your work. Be genuine and sincere in working your connections.
Be courteous but not shy. Avoid arrogance. Get used to rejection. Support and
promote the work of others, not just your own.
Thanks to North WordsWriters Symposium for providing a forum for discussion of this topic, from
which many of the quotes here were drawn.
Try This: Writing’s an
art, but it’s also a business. Do you have a business plan? Think in one,
three, and five year increments. Jot down where you hope to be as a writer:
what you hope to create and sell. Which smaller markets, even non-paying, are
accessible to you? Which communities will help you grow as a writer? Which
conferences, symposiums, and other writing events will help you build a network
of professional connections? Who among you existing friends, colleagues, and
family could be your Aunt Dottie, sharing your well-crafted work with the right
Check This Out: For
the basics of promotion in the traditional, pre-electronic marketplace, check
out Mark Ortman’s A Simple Guide to Marketing Your Book, where you’ll learn to
develop a marketing plan with attention to budget, product, audience,
distribution, promotion, and timing. But don’t stop there. Your writing
community (online, face to face) can help you stay up-to-date on electronic

1 thought on “Deb: Channeling Your Inner Guerilla”

  1. Lynn Lovegreen

    Thanks for the ideas, Deb. I am planning to create a Facebook page, and it was great to see Lynn Schooler's example.

    Hope to see lots of 49 Writers members in Homer this weekend! 🙂

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