Tag Archives: publicity

Writing for literary arts and pop culture websites

One way for authors to attract a little extra attention is by writing articles, reviews, or blogposts for any of the established or up-and-coming online magazines devoted to literature and pop culture. Some of the sites have much larger readerships than an individual’s blog typically can attract.

Of course, money is always nice, but if a writer needs exposure as much as or more than payment, then the opportunity for publicity alone might be worth the effort involved in writing a short piece. Most readers won’t know whether the author was compensated for an article, so the quality of the contribution should always match the writer’s reputation or aspirations. At the same time, the author probably should think of the endeavor as volunteer work for a worthy cause, not an avenue to a paying gig.

To capitalize on the exposure each time their work is published, writers learn to compose effective contributor bios including their web addresses. Readers won’t take the time to search for information about an unfamiliar author unless prompted with a URL.

Quite a few literary websites are calling for contributors these days. A few are listed here:

Fringe

The Nervous Breakdown

The Good Men Project

The Millions

The Rumpus

Fairy Tale Magazine

All Those Wasted Hours

Largehearted Boy

TransEnough

> Language > Place blog carnival

Write Hacked (formerly LiveHacked.com)

NewPages

The Flaneur

Smith Journal

The American Mercury

Contents

Passages North

TeleRead

The State

Island

Paper Darts

Pollen

Parenting Express

BiblioBuffet

Elephant

Brittle Paper

Paper Droids

~~~

If you know of any others like these, feel free to leave their URLs in the comments section.

Authors, don’t throw in the towel when it comes to self-promotion

Just about every author is daunted by the prospect of participating in a book publicity campaign. Often the writer’s fear of ridicule or rejection is disguised as disdain for self-promotion. But when one writer points to another and says, “Look at that shameless huckster,” what I hear is, “Someone beneath me should do that dirty work on my behalf.” Really? Is that what writers are taught to think? ‘Cause, as a matter of fact, that sort of arrogance is downright unbecoming—even more so than a bungled publicity campaign.

Who made sour grapes so trendy? There was a day when the fox was recognized as resentful and envious, and the fable was a warning to anyone who thought foolish rationalizations weren’t completely transparent.

While contemplating their misery at being forced to go in search of readers, at least writers can remain sympathetic toward each other. Unfortunately, when too much of the echo chamber of self-pity is exposed, it can look an awful lot like an ivory tower to potential readers and fans who don’t happen to understand the subculture of creatives who spurn homegrown publicity. Grumbling and griping in public are cute and self-effacing up to a point, but what readers really want to hear from authors is something else—for example:

  • “It means a lot that what I wrote affected you that way.”
  • “I’ve learned so much from readers’ interpretations of my work.”
  • (Maybe even) “Thank you.”

Being acutely observant and seeing the bigger picture and cultivating an ability to get outside one’s own head are the hallmarks of a fine writer—as is thinking of the reader.

In a perfect world, an author should be able to hire a publicist to do the grunt work, right? Actually, maybe spending one’s own money isn’t seen as the ideal solution. Perhaps book publishers should invest thousands of dollars in the creation of an author’s shiny public image, the development of which (knowledgeable folks would agree) takes at least several years. Exactly where does anyone get the money to pay those hard-working, under-appreciated publicists and social media coaches, whose services can be justifiably costly? Assuming a publicist is paid $50 an hour, what volume of book sales will it take to defray the expense? And why would anyone assume a bestselling author’s sales ought to subsidize the promotion of a book by a writer who’s less popular yet utterly unwilling to pitch in and help with publicity?

Like it or not, self-promotion is the most inexpensive means for any author to garner attention. It takes time, of course. It takes a writer’s focus away from writing. But in the long run, if done well, it might boost book sales enough to afford an author the luxury of enlisting the services of a publicist, or a little extra time to write.

What’s more, self-promotion-by-hanging-around is not only the easiest method, it’s arguably the most successful. A writer can hang around by participating in a Q&A, contributing a guest blogpost, joining a discussion in an online forum or community, commenting on blogs, mentoring new writers, reading to children at libraries or older people in nursing homes, and simply showing an interest in what other people are doing. Cathy Day offers more examples of what she terms “literary citizenship.” Chris Brogan calls it “being other-focused,” and he blogs about how to do it. Blessed are the folks to whom being other-focused comes naturally. It emanates from true humility and generosity, and it doesn’t call attention to itself. It doesn’t need to.

The best publicity strategy of all is to be among the first to try something new. After everyone begins promoting books in the same way, whatever that way is becomes much less interesting. Once a method of attracting attention is widely used, people are less tolerant of and less amused by anyone who falters and steps on it. In the early days of any new media adventure, everyone’s willing to help each other out and show the way. It’s a good time to get involved. Being an innovator takes courage, but it’s easier than being a latecomer.

I hate to see authors throw in the towel when it comes to the marketing aspects of their writing careers. Over the years, I’ve posted and linked to all kinds of publicity tips for book authors. On Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Dinty Moore has listed “a few guidelines for the sharing of literary success.” Writers who want people to read their books shouldn’t turn up their noses at any opportunities to promote their work—until the day they’re so wealthy and sought after that they need to hire spokespeople to tell everyone, politely, that they just want to be left alone.

Get the definition of platform

I posted the following as a customer review on Amazon.

—Robin

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzConstructing an author’s platform—that metaphorical performance stage that raises a writer’s head above the crowd—can take more time than building a house, according to Christina Katz, author of Get Known Before the Book Deal. I consider Katz a friend, and she was kind enough to quote me in one of the book’s epigraphs. Now that I’ve confessed my bias, I suggest writers heed her advice and get busy building their brands a full year before they expect to rely on the results of their labor. Even an individual who has already written an unpublished book should stop, go back, and work on a platform in order to show prospective publishers a large potential readership.

Platform is a word most people, including writers to whom words are currency, consider as imprecise as system or process. Conversely, editors, agents, and successful authors who use the word platform as shorthand for a writer’s marketability are sure of what the jargon means and what is expected from book authors, especially those who write nonfiction.

Katz’s book is no glib response to a hopeful writer’s inquiry. With enthusiasm and clarity, she teaches the readers of her book how to establish a professional reputation as a writer, gradually and systematically. She covers miles of territory with unflagging optimism and common sense. Among her wide-ranging recommendations are two that will come as no surprise to anyone who has learned the hard way:

  1. Hire a professional photographer to capture a series of flattering portraits, so you’ll have a high-quality headshot available in multiple formats on demand. You’ll need it.
  2. Ditch the bad attitude. As Katz puts it, “You are 100 percent responsible for the success of your writing career.” Whining is a waste of energy, she insists, and it makes other people uncomfortable.

With Get Known Before the Book Deal, Katz, who is otherwise known as the Writer Mama, has demonstrated her expertise in platform development. She doesn’t doubt for a single moment that other writers can also take charge of becoming known as authorities on their topics. Nonfiction writers and novelists (as well as their agents, editors, and publicists) can be grateful that Katz has shared the sum of her experience.

Get your voice heard through Associated Content

After seeing the COS Productions book video trailer for Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel, a novel by Mark Stuart Ellison and Eli Ellison, I purchased the book and have found it engaging and educational. I wasn’t the first person to suggest it could be adapted as a screenplay. Stuart Ellison has been actively marketing his novel, and he agreed to share his experience using Associated Content to raise his profile as a writer.

—Robin

Guest blogger:
Mark Stuart Ellison

Mark Stuart EllisonYou have solid writing skills and are building a portfolio of articles. Perhaps you’re writing that first book or have already published one. While quality work product is a must for any serious writer, effectively marketing yourself is equally important. Associated Content can help.

Most blogging sites charge a monthly fee for their hosting services. Associated Content, which I use, is different. It is an online community with hundreds of thousands of members. Associated Content is more than a blogging site. Content producers inform readers on various topics in addition to editorializing and discussing their personal experiences. Membership is open to anyone over age 13.

In contrast to sites like suite101.com and About.com, where you have to produce a minimum number of articles in a given period, you can write for Associated Content as often or as little as you wish. Unlike the typical blogging site, Associated Content is free and it pays members to produce. However, you must be over 18 in order to receive money.

There are two ways to get paid. The first is to submit an article for “up-front payment review” by the Associated Content staff. If your article is approved, you are paid anywhere from $3 to $20. If it is not approved, you can still post your article for “performance payments only”—assuming that it is not defamatory or obscene. A performance payment is a monthly bonus based upon the number of page views of all your published content. Funds are typically deposited into a PayPal or other online account you specify for this purpose.

Review is supposed to occur within five business days, but I’ve found that it sometimes takes up to two weeks. For new members, articles submitted for “performance payments only” will appear online within two business days. After you have published three articles, material submitted for “performance payments only” goes online immediately after you submit it. This is particularly helpful if you are publishing time-sensitive material, such as commentary on breaking news.

There is a word processing program in which you can edit text. You do not have to create content in one sitting. All material can be saved indefinitely in draft form until it is ready to be submitted.

Associated Content works best with the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. You can view content and navigate the site with Netscape Navigator or Mozilla Firefox, but you’ll need Internet Explorer to create and submit content, check your messages, and network with other Associated Content members.

If you want a lot of fancy graphics and special effects, Associated Content is not for you. That said, you can upload multiple images to enhance your entries and are encouraged to do so because they help draw traffic.

You can also publish standalone collections of images, audio, and video. However, there is no payment for these submissions.

Make sure your content is original and not infringing upon anyone’s copyright. Be aware that it is possible to infringe upon a publisher’s rights to your own work. If you have published an article somewhere else and wish to put it on Associated Content, get written permission from the original publisher. Be particularly careful with images. Associated Content has banned members who publish images without the permission of the copyright holders. As a general rule, images from government websites are in the public domain. When in doubt, get permission or leave it out.

Once you publish an article, you should promote it for maximum exposure. One way is to build a network of subscribers. This is done by reading the content of other Associated Content members, contacting those authors, and adding them to your subscribers list. You can also make non-members subscribers by entering their email addresses in the “My Subscribers” area of your account. Readers of your work can also add themselves to your list. All subscribers are automatically emailed a link to your latest article when it is published.

Another way of getting yourself noticed is by entering a synopsis of your content on social bookmarking sites. You will need to register on each site on which you want to promote your articles. There are buttons on Associated Content with links to about a dozen of these entities. My personal favorites are del.icio.us, Furl, BlinkList, Netscape, and Digg. I also have an account on Gather, where for each of my submissions on Associated Content, I post the lead with a link to the entire article. For efficiency, I save the leads of each of my Associated Content articles and related keywords in a Microsoft Word document, then copy and paste them into each bookmarking site.

Write with an eye to keywords and employ them often without sacrificing style. Many sites have a limit on the number of keywords you can enter, so choose wisely.

One caveat: don’t expect to get rich off Associated Content. Some members have reported performance bonuses of $600 per submission. That is exceptional. Over the past 21 months, I have published 42 entries on Associated Content that have produced aggregate income in the mid-three figures. On the other hand, my exposure from Associated Content has been significant. For example, my article on the NAFTA Superhighway has received over 8,000 hits. My article on illegal immigration has snared about 5,500 views.

To join Associated Content, go to the New User Signup page. There, you will find many helpful articles, tutorials, and other community resources to help you get started.

Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel, by Mark Stuart Ellison and Eli Ellison
Mark Stuart Ellison has worked as an attorney, reporter, and freelance writer. He is an author of the award-winning novel Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel: World War II through the Eyes of a Radio Man and can be contacted through his website at www.MomDadandEthel.com.