PUBLISHED JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018
by Kelly Abbott, CEO, Great Jones Street —
When it comes to writing, it’s not enough to be good. Often, what differentiates a good writer from a great one is the hustle, or relentless pursuit and promotion of one’s craft.
1. Social Media
From LinkedIn to Facebook to Snapchat, leveraging social media is a necessity for writers wanting to engage with readers, fans, and people in the industry. From follows on Twitter, to exchanging witty banter on Facebook, social can also be a good way to gain the attention of readers and established writers you admire. However, there is one major drawback: it doesn’t give you a direct relationship with consumers or other writers. While social media has been, and will continue to be, an important part of the marketing mix, going direct needs to be a priority for self-publishers today to gain even more opportunities to interact with and inspire audiences.
Hugh Howie, best known for his sci-fi series Silo, which he published independently through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing in its early days, is an example of how writers can leverage the “big boy” to gain awareness and grow audiences. Amazon reaches millions of readers worldwide, and writers who leverage it can keep control of their work with the platform. But today, it’s hard for most authors to make a living from it. With 1-2 million writers on Amazon, it’s a noisy space. Economics often don’t favor the writer, with estimates of the average author making $100-200 per month. To get noticed, you have to put time and money into promoting your work there. And even then, there’s no guarantee.
3. Kickstarter and Patreon
To date, tens of thousands of creative projects have come to life with the support of Kickstarter and people opting to contribute financially to projects they believe in. And the “Kickstarter” of the self-publishing industry is Patreon, an online platform that allows writers and other creatives to run a membership business for fans. With the possibility to get a decent chunk of change to develop your craft, it can behoove aspiring writers to start experimenting there. For instance, if you can get 50 people to give you $5, or $250/month, in releasing your first, second, and third drafts to them on the inside track, you could potentially fund a craft that might eventually turn into book deal.
You can also promote your craft yourself with your website and leveraging your social channels. You can then capture interested readers/leads as they enter your site with email submission forms using simple tools like Tiny Letter from MailChimp. Once you gain this information, you can start creating a way to go direct to your fan base, in addition to friends and family, with newsletter updates and other promotions to build engagement, and even sales of your works. You can also use paid advertising on Facebook and Twitter to start cultivating a list.
5. Co-Promotion Through Emerging Technology/Apps
The accessibility of writers right now is unprecedented. Before, to interact with mid-list writers, you had to move to New York to go to workshops, and attend readings to interact with them. Now you can hustle from your living room or the break room at work to get to know writers further along in their careers.
Platforms like Medium and Great Jones Street (GJS) do the work for you by curating the works of top writers and giving you the ability to make social connections, interact with them, and study the industry to learn what’s happening in specific genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.). With direct links to their works, bios, and social channels, you can find someone who inspires you. Study their social feeds, buy their books, read their stories, and even connect. With your self-published works as your “audition tape” of sorts, you can start to have a conversation with established writers with your resume in hand.
As a writer, you can also aspire to be on GJS, today the the largest buyer of short fiction. The app features and promotes writers, gives them an opportunity to take over the brand’s Twitter feed, and offers them space in newsletters and free stuff to give away at readings. To be considered, writers must be recommended by an author already on the platform. Again, this is where the networking and hustle comes in. Unlike self-publishing marketplaces like Medium and Amazon, GJS is invitation only, for writers. But avid readers there include many aspiring writers honing their craft and their awareness of the market, peer by published peer.
Today, self-published authors have many paths to promote their works. The scrappiest among them will use a combination of the above strategies, in addition to looking at awards, such as Bram Stoker, Hugo, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, and Nebula Awards. But perhaps the most precious thing you can do as a writer is spread your seeds. Leave no stone unturned. Respond to every opportunity. If someone praises your work, say thank you. If they invite you to a workshop, go. Many of the best writers are hustling and constantly aware that any attention is good in the media business.
Kelly Abbott is CEO of Great Jones Street, a literary entertainment app and the largest annual purchaser of short fiction that collaborates with publishers to offer their readers a more engaging experience. He formerly launched Livefyre (a real-time content marketing system, acquired by Adobe), and is also a writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.