Getting Noticed In the Modern Age

A look at promoting yourself amongst the infinite space of the internet without investing in a professional marketing team.

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Writing, like any art, is created as a form of expression. However, like any art, it is wholly reliant on an audience. Once it has been written, writing needs to be read. Writers have always required a platform as once a story has been told, it needs to be sold.

Traditionally, a writer pens a piece of writing—be that a novel, a novella, a screenplay or script, a non-fiction book, a short story, an article, a poem, or a collection of some of all of these—and that writing is somehow published. Whilst historically that would be limited to physical space—the amount of shelf room in a bookstore or the area on the page of a newspaper or magazine, all confined by the frequency of publication and the associated market share—the internet has brought in digital space which is, for all intents and purposes, infinite.

When writing was confined by the lateral nature of physical room there was supposedly better standards and stronger competition. Magazines would be filled with well-written, high quality articles and stories; books would be edited to ensure there were no errors or oversights; poetry would be scrutinised to allow collections to be favourably reviewed and received. When more space is available, more words can fill it. With the lack of boundaries heralded by the internet an endless supply of writing is accessible, and naturally the standards have lowered. For every good article there are a hundred blogs packed with poorly-written, low quality writing; for each outstanding book there are a hundred that are mediocre and rushed; for every brilliant poem there are a hundred bad ones. While the standards of yesterday still exist, the current works that meet them are surrounded and often drowned out by what amounts to amateur writing.

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That is not to say publishers output the best, brightest, and most memorable writing; publishing is a business like any other and so whatever product is stocked must sell, even if it is sometimes of poor merit. Bestseller lists are not a standard of quality, but of marketing. Some writers are fortunate enough to have agents or publishers willing to promote their work for them. Others who already have success, money, or both, pay professional marketers to build and manage a platform from which they can speak. But what of the writers without either of those? How do they, amongst all this white noise, ensure their work floats above the quagmire?

Some would say an online presence will get a writer noticed. It is certainly recommended by most agents and essential for self-publishers, but posting status after status about how great your novel is on Facebook will not draw in the crowds, nor will it cause customers to part with their hard-earned cash to buy a copy of your book. Tweeting endlessly about your interactions and rejections from agents and publishers will not entice anyone to read your work, but more likely turn them away. Blogging about your chapter titles—which may be interesting to you—will never build you a following. If you are going to use social media to market yourself and your work, be smart about it. Just like in writing, marketing should be show, don’t tell. Instead of telling me how amazing your writing is, show me. Put a short story on your website for free, or even better submit it to a magazine site like this one where it has to be selected for publication. You may get rejected a few times, or many times, but eventually somewhere will publish your story. Put out a few. Show me why I should read your book.

Another way of raising your profile and getting noticed is the age-old ploy of the publicity stunt. Are your poems about climate change? Donate a percentage of the profits from your collection to Greenpeace, ask them to Tweet about it, send out press releases to local and national press, tell climate change bloggers what you are doing, and get it in the public eye. Then, come release day, join a protest at the gates of a power station wearing a t-shirt with your book cover printed on it. Get your picture in the news. Momentum will build and sales will roll in. (Obviously I am not condoning criminal acts and you should not get yourself arrested just to sell a few books.)

The third method of getting noticed is celebrity endorsement. Having a famous writer sing your praises will always work in your favour; you just need to get their attention first. Pick a few writers who have a similar style to you but are well-known and send them a copy of your novel. Ask what they think of the first page. If your story is good enough they will keep reading, and if you can hook them, who is to say they will not respond by writing about your book on their website, or even passing your novel to their own agent or publisher? Similarly, celebrities with active social media can do wonders for you if they take a selfie holding your book with the cover visible.

Finally, if you are going to go about promoting yourself, then spread your net as wide as you can. Write guest blog posts for websites, send articles to magazines, submit your stories and poetry to reputable publications, share photographs of your pet, build a network and use it to exploit the infinite space online. The further you reach the more readers you will catch.

Originally from Thanet, J A DuMairier enjoys writing and long walks in the country.

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