I planned to finish revising my book by the end of August.
Then we bought a new house.
The day I signed the contract my muse said, “Are you kidding me???” then promptly skipped town.
I’ve been writing long enough to know that sometimes now is not the time to write. When that happens, the best thing you can do is keep the faith and work on writing adjacent tasks like reading, journaling, and giving others feedback.
HippoCamp reignited some of my creative fire.
Then I started reading a colleague’s manuscript.
And low and behold, my muse returned.
So, while preparing to move, I’m also writing again.
For many of us, working on our projects is our greatest joy.
But writing can also be a great way to build your author platform.
While social media can help you increase your reach, bylines, blogs, and newsletters can help you build a fanbase that might promote your work.
Bylines include articles, essays, reviews, short stories, and flash pieces you publish in literary journals and news outlets. To maximize your reach, think New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and Huffington Post as well as glossy magazines like The Sun, Creative Nonfiction, Ms. Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s.
These publications signal to agents and editors that your writing has been vetted. If you write literary fiction or nonfiction, publishing in acclaimed literary journals might be a great way to build your platform. But, if you write other forms of creative nonfiction or trade fiction, publishing in outlets with a large digital footprint might be a more effective way to showcase your work.
As you write, think about the beats or topics you can mine for material. Most writers should have three. For example, I write about the writing process, mental health (which includes grief), and resilience.
Corie Adjmi, author of the short-story collection Life and Other Shortcomings (2020) and The Marriage Box (2022) publishes on women’s issues and the Jewish experience.
Laura Cathcart Robbins, host of the podcast The Only One in the Room, writes about addiction, Black lives, and biracial relationships.
Katie Rose Guest Pryal, author of the Hollywood Lights Series, writes about mental health, disability, and higher education.
So what kind of bylines should you aim for? Obviously, publishing within your genre is essential. But, if you’re ready to branch out, op-eds and short essays are great options.
Many writers have successfully used Susan Shapiro’s book The Byline Bible to build their list of publications. Marion Roach Smith, Creative Nonfiction, and many others teach courses on opinion pieces and personal essays.
And guess what? This is something I do too.
If you’re interested in building a byline portfolio, my Last Dash to the Finish Line coaching group might be an excellent way to meet that 2021 goal. Send me an email so we can schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
Writers regularly ask me if they should start a blog. Some hope blogging their books will lead to a publishing contract or perhaps a platform that rivals popular bloggers like The Bloggess.
But friends, it ain’t that simple.
While blogs are still a viable way to reach your audience, they’re a lot of work. You need to have something valuable to say, and you need to say it one or more times per week. In the beginning, much of that work is thankless.
I asked Jane Friedman for her opinion on blogging while preparing this week’s newsletter. Here’s what she had to say.
“Blogging that grows your platform can’t be focused on you and your personal stories. It has to be focused on others and market aware: aware of the community you want to be known in, aware of that community’s problems and obsessions, and aware of your unique position—or voice—in all of that. While blogging can be a wonderful creative outlet and it can be part of a daily writing practice, today’s professional blog is measured by how much you inform or inspire others, not how well you express yourself.”
If you have a burning desire to blog, take Jane’s upcoming workshop Blogging Strategies that Work in 2021 before you get started. This will help you develop something that matches your efforts with your ability to scale your work.
You can also guest blog for established platforms like Brevity, HippoCampus Literary Magazine, or other writing blogs that accept guest posts. But don’t limit yourself to blogs about writing. Think about who needs to hear your unique message. For example, if you write about motherhood, guest blog for ScaryMommy or another parenting blog. Same goes for any topic you write about, be it business, mental health, or sports.
While starting a blog might be a gamble, a successful email newsletter is considered the platform golden goose. When done well, an email newsletter can turn followers into super fans who will champion your work.
Many authors use newsletters to advertise book launches and upcoming events, but the best newsletters help their audience solve problems and explore their obsessions.
Jane Friedman has a great post on email newsletter basics. She also wrote an article on whether to blog or develop an email newsletter and another on what you should know about email newsletters.
If you want to learn about voice-driven writing with a purpose, subscribe to Marie Forleo’s newsletter.
My mission is to help all writers create stories that transform the world. That means ensuring everyone has access to the right tools and the inspiration that turns ideas into finished products.
My newsletter is a labor of love that helps me fulfill that mission, but let me be clear, it takes a lot of hard work. I spend three to four hours per week writing, revising, and preparing each post.
If you like what you see, there are a few ways you can pay this forward.
Tell your friends about my newsletter so they can help me fulfill my mission. Share it on your favorite social media channels. Let followers know I offer giveaways a few times per year and scholarships for my classes.
While coming up with your questions and thinking about your reader’s problems and obsessions, don’t forget to write, write, write. And if your muse is on a vacay, keep listening for its return. It will come back to you. Pinky promise.
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