Monday, April 27, 2020

Promoting Before Publishing

I recently started a dialogue with an up-and-coming writer/poet, and we began talking about the publishing process. The main part of this conversation was self-publishing versus working through a publisher. I will be addressing the pros and cons of those choices in the next few posts. This time around, I want to discuss what they both have in common and what every writer who wants to publish should be aware about: self-promotion.

To a lot of people, the idea of self-promotion doesn't fit very well. A lot of people aren't used to selling their work as a product, and it's even more uncomfortable when they are just starting out as a writer and have to sell others on something they are still developing. I had a great time flaunting my economics credentials when I was in that business because I had a track record of accomplishments to back up those claims. Once I became a writer, well, none of the economics mattered. I was just another person wanting to be published. That, to me, became a very difficult sell because my confidence didn't transfer over.

So how do we build up that confidence to promote ourselves? The first and easiest step to take is to say, "I'm a writer." If you join a writing workshop or writing club, don't introduce yourself as, "I'm trying to see if I can start to write something that might..." Just walk right into it. "I'm a writer working on..." It might feel weird, and that's fine. Just remember, once you commit to writing, you're a writer. Whether you're the best or not doesn't matter. You just need to remind yourself of this fact, and reinforce it when talking to others. It gets more comfortable the more you do it.

Next stop is to engage with people and groups who are going along the same route. Networking is not only a way to pick up ideas and tricks of the trade, but it is the best way to know that you are not alone with this journey. Find out about how others promote themselves, describe themselves, learn about the craft, and so forth. The more you walk among the writers, the more you feel like a writer.

A promotional discussion in the 21st century isn't complete without a social media side. Having a writing page in addition to your Facebook or Instagram account is brilliantly cheap and gives you an outlet to be a writer first and foremost. My Facebook page, Writing and "the Process" was a launching point for my blog, but now people often chime in wanting to talk to a writer about their journey. The followers grow, the interest rises, the promotion continues. And having a blog about writing helps too...

Whether you want to self-publish or go through more conventional routes, your success in the public arena will come from how much you believe that you are exactly what you are supposed to be. It's truly empowering to take it as your own personal mission, and there is a feeling that hits you once you have accepted it.

When I would be writing on the train during my work commute, people sitting across from me would often ask if I was working on something. I would say, "Oh, this is just some writing. I'm an economist, but..." It was safe and harmless, and did nothing to help me feel like the person I wanted to be. Then one day I mustered up the courage to answer, "I'm a writer. This is my manuscript."

The feeling is something I will never forget.

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