Three years ago I was a total unknown; I wanted to change that completely, but didn’t know how.
‘Marketing’ my friends all said; I had no idea what they were talking about. Besides, I’m not the kind of person to get up in front of a crowd and start spouting my mouth off, nor do I enjoy ‘tooting my own horn’. And anyway, I didn’t have anything to sell; I didn’t have a book published. What was I going to promote?
So I procrastinated, did nothing, just waited for editors to come to me. Ha! As if that would ever happen.
But I wanted to write, I wanted to get published, and wanted editors to call me.
I joined a writers’ egroup and I lurked. I read what they had to say, melded into the background, and learned. I began to see the same names time after time. I started to trust the knowledge of those more active members, and I was learning a lot of new information about writing.
I joined more online groups, and was actively involved in a few forums for writers. Over time, writers began to ask me questions. I was getting private emails from writers on the forums; I was being seen as a mentor, someone to trust. But why?
I didn’t understand it at first, until I analysed what I’d been doing. What I discovered amazed me; just as I had come to trust those more experienced writers in the egroups I’d joined, other writers were connecting with me – because I was ‘visible’.
I was still rather shy about ‘coming out’ – I’d rather write than anything else, and I sure as heck didn’t want to market myself; going to the dentist was more fun.
A little over two years ago, I resolved to really get into this writing thing, but I was still a virtual unknown. My biggest problem was I could barely use the Internet. I couldn’t even conduct an easy search. (How I ever managed forums I’ll never know!) How could I market myself if I couldn’t get around? So, I spent many months learning as much as I possibly could about using the net.
And still, those same names I’d seen a year or so earlier were popping up all over the net.
I was told I needed a website. Boy, was that a challenge! Eventually, I built a website; it was small, very ordinary (extremely hard work!) but functional. Then I added a few freebies for writers to my website. I searched the internet for great links and helpful ebooks. I subscribed to some really good (and really bad) ezines for writers. I was still learning, and growing as a writer. But I still wasn’t happy.
Then, out of the blue, an opportunity arose to have my website reviewed by the editor of a large writer’s ezine. I did something I would never have done before; I grabbed it with both hands.
In less than a week, I had 350 hits on my site. Word got around – I had freebies! Within three months I’d had one thousand hits. I couldn’t believe it.
I was beginning to see the advantages of marketing myself.
One of my short stories was accepted for publication. A link back to my site lifted my profile again. I was beginning to get my work published – bit by bit – and very slowly.
I looked for marketing opportunities. What’s more, I took them! And they were working.
February 2003, I decided to write full-time; many people told me it was impossible – it would never happen. March 2003 I contacted the editor of a website for women; I secured a regular humour column. May 2003 I had secured another regular column, a monthly travel article for a print magazine. I was ecstatic. That same month, I was appointed editor for a local newsletter. I was selling more and more of my writing. Each month I sold at least one or two articles – a lot of those were to websites or ezines for writers.
Cynics said I’d never do it; making money from writing was impossible. But they didn’t have my tenacity, and they weren’t marketing themselves.
An English friend suggested I start an ezine. After all, I was already trying to help other writers with my freebies and links; why not take it one step further? So I did; May 20th 2003 my first issue went out. I started with ten subscribers – mostly people from the egroups I was on. When the next issue went out, there were thirty subscribers, and the number slowly grew with each issue.
I began to get requests for interviews. I was extremely nervous, even though it was all done by email.
My confidence grew, and I actively searched out marketing opportunities. Each day I spent an absolute minimum of one hour on marketing myself. I was writing articles, looking for markets to sell my work, and I was actively pursuing what ever avenues I could find to lift my profile.
August 2003 after constant suggestions from other writers, I decided to set up a website for writers. Not just a tiny little concern, but a large site with a ton of information and resources. Work was started on the site October 2003, after securing a trustworthy host. www.writer2writer.com is constantly under construction, and growing steadily.
November 2003 I had 180 subscribers. I did the occasional ad swap with other ezine owners, and then I decided to run a contest.
I advertised my no-fee contest for writers everywhere I thought writers might congregate; I flooded the Internet with my contest advertisements and ad swaps for my ezine. Almost twelve months after the inaugural issue of “Writer to Writer”, more than 650 writers were subscribed. This number continues to grow - December 2004, over 1000 writers were subscribed to the ezine.
If I see a new website for writers advertised, I write to the editor/owner. If I see an appropriate market for my ebook, I contact the owner. If I see a good home for my free articles, or anything else that will bring me recognition, I contact the editor or owner.
Marketing is an ongoing task, and after a while, it becomes second nature. You can’t afford to let your guard down for even a minute. Unless you have the money to secure a publicist, baby, you’re on your own. Over the last five months I have sold a short story to a major magazine in the US, released a non-fiction book, signed a contract for a novel, and have run a number of short story workshops (including one for a new writers’ website). I also have requests for four short stories from various magazines. A number of editors have contacted me for interviews, and in a two month period, I have been interviewed four times. I was even contacted by a Hollywood film company to submit a writing sample to possibly ghost-write a novel based on an upcoming movie. (That one still leaves me gasping. )
I also continue with my monthly travel column and regularly sell articles to websites and ezines for writers.
(I don’t know about you, but I’m worn out!)
I strongly acknowledge that if I hadn’t marketed myself, none of this would have happened. And what’s more, editors are now contacting me, seeking me out. (Not bad for someone who was a virtual unknown May 2003. )
What I’ve learned over time is that writers are a commodity, and like any other product or service, we have to sell ourselves. Marketing your book is fine, but the most important part of marketing is to sell yourself. Gain the trust of your readers, your followers, let them know you will deliver, and evoke name recognition.
If you can do that, you’re well on your way. ©
Cheryl Wright is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for writers. (http://www.writer2writer.com ) She is also the author of a series of ebooks for writers. Her romantic suspense novel “Saving Emma” was released January 2005 by Whiskey Creek Press. Visit Cheryl's website: http://www.cheryl-wright.com