Don’t Be Shy! Strut Your Stuff!

by Darlene Cah

Shy author hiding while signing books.

I’ve met writers who are true introverts, and at the other end of the spectrum, those who know how to work an audience like a seasoned comic. I suspect most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We can handle ourselves respectably in social situations. We may even enjoy putting ourselves and our work out in public. Marketing is a necessary evil. I know it well. It’s what I do for a living.

As a flash fiction and short story writer, without a collection to hawk, I have little to promote. If one of my stories is accepted or published, I let people know through facebook, but it’s unlikely you’ll see a winding line of adoring fans at Barnes & Noble waiting for me to sign their copy of my 20-page manuscript. But still, I think writers need to keep their names, if not top of mind, at least in the public eye.

You are the Brand
Yes, I just called you a bar of soap. Think about who you are as a writer. What is the image you want to portray? Who is your audience? Who do you want to attract to your work? How do you want your readers to feel about you and your work? Live up to that image. Be that person, that writer.

Join the Party
Get involved in your writing community in the real world and online. Like the facebook pages of writers, literary magazines, publishing companies, as well as pages and groups about the craft of writing. Create your own author or writing-related page, and keep it professional. Even if you have no work of your own to promote, at the moment, be present and consistent on social media. Offer support to fellow writers. Share tips, insights and useful articles about writing.

She'll come home someday.

She’ll come home someday.

Get out of the House
Network in person, too. Brush up those social skills and interact with actual humans! Eventually, your cats will get used to your absences. Hint: Bribery with Party Mix works great. Take a workshop. Join a writing-related organization. Attend readings and…gulp…read your work. Yes, in front of an audience. Get into a good critique group and be honest and giving with your fellow writers, as you hope they’ll be with you.

Share your Knowledge
If you’re inclined, teach a class at your local community college, library or place of worship. Many teachers I’ve spoken to say they learn as much from the experience as their students. I’ve dabbled a bit as an instructor and the quality of work even novice writers produce always amazes me. Everybody has a story and they’re all so different. It’s quite rewarding to see a student connect the dots and create a fine piece of writing.

Write Stuff
Okay, that’s a given, but how about other stuff? Write articles for your neighborhood or town newspaper. Or contact local companies and non-profits and offer your skills writing annual reports, public relations stories and press releases. You’ll get your name out to additional readers and you might make a few bucks in the process. Write a blog. It doesn’t have to be about writing. Do you like to cook? Play guitar? Are you a history buff? Do you have a quirky dog? Write about anything you enjoy.

Toot your own Horn
Did one of your stories win a prize? Did you get a book deal or self-publish? Are you teaching a seminar? Tell the world. The internet is the world, right? Post it on your newly-created facebook author page, your timeline and all those writing groups you joined. Tweet about it. Upload a picture of yourself and your certificate, book, course catalog to Instagram. Pin it on your Pinterest board.

If your book has been released, plan a launch party or a book signing at a neighborhood independent book store. Write a press release about your accomplishment and any associated events, and get it into to area newspapers. Send an update to your alumni publications. In fact, your alma mater may want to do a story about your success. Nobody is going to promote you like you. Be proud of your work and your achievements. This writing stuff is not for the faint of heart! The marketing, however, is not nearly as terrifying as it may seem. It might even be fun.

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