April 29, 2013

How to Kickstart Your Writing Career

music-23790_640You want to be a writer–have lusted after this golden ring since … forever. You took writing classes, attended seminars and conferences, read a whole bunch of books. You did NaNoWriMo, NaNoBloMo, entered contests. You finished a novel, sent it out–and nothing. It’s like the Void. No answer. No fireworks. No welcoming arms, lauding your achievement. No excitement over the fulfillment of a decade of work.

No biggy. You know from talking to friends that it’ll be up to you to write, market, sell, and write some more.

But how do you do that?

You build a brand. You create a name so when people see you’ve written a book, they rush out to buy it–or at least, check it out.

How do you do this? By writing. A lot.

I have 110 published non-fiction books. You’d think by shear weight, I’d be famous. Anyone who’s published that much must be. Truth? No one would know me if I didn’t (constantly) work the marketing. Because I do, if you Google ‘tech teacher’, I’m on the first page (often above the fold). If you Google ‘Ask a tech teacher’ even without the quotes, I’m above the fold on the first page. If you Google ‘KidPix’ (a popular drawing software for K-5, one that gets tens of thousands of daily hits), I’m on the first page.

Why? Because I do the following:

  • blog. Constantly. I have 6 blogs and each focuses on one topic. I write 2-5 posts a week on each. I don’t mix posts (except for the rare crossover). I don’t do the ‘journal’ type blog, the one that tells readers everything you did with your day. I don’t believe those are as effective in branding you as addressing a single topic and making yourself the expert on it. And, I avoid politics. That’s incendiary. People get mean.
  • participate in social media like Twitter, G+. A few rules to making your social media presence effective:
    • be positive
    • be supportive
    • be up-beat
    • be helpful
    • be free
    • be focused. Follow people with your interests. Don’t follow others. This means I have 4 Twitter accounts, one for each of my interest areas.
    • don’t be commercial or sales-y. It doesn’t go over well in social media.
  • participate in what’s trending on the internet. I keep an open mind for new socialization methods. Who knew Pinterest would become the go-to place for spreading the word? Today, I get about 15% of my blog hits from this still-new networking approach. And how about Instagram? I never heard of it before my students mentioned it–over and over.
  • network. Join LinkedIn for business, FB and G+ for pleasure (although there’s a lot of crossover with G+. I’m now doing business hang-outs there) Using Utah job recruiters to identify and attract talent, and negotiate terms, can relieve a huge amount of pressure.
  • join book groups like Goodreads, LibraryThing. If you love reading and writing, you need a presence there. I post all of my reviews on Goodreads and–much to my surprise–often hear from the authors. We chat, like normal people. Who knew they were so approachable?
  • link all your online media. When I post a blog, it is cross-posted on Twitter, FB, G+, LinkedIn, and any number of other social media locations of my choice. It makes me look busy, vibrant, alive, active–all good characteristics for a freelancer.
  • tell readers how to reach you and what you can do for them. Me, I created a separate gmail account so I wouldn’t have to share my personal one. I use it often in profiles, bios, and posts.
  • reblog your posts for six+ months ago to your Twitter stream. I use a cool widget that does it automatically for me. Early on, I realized I needed an inventory of articles to make my blog/etc look more robust, so I committed to writing every day for as long as I could stand that. Sure, it was a massive time drain, but eventually, I accomplished my goal of offering sufficient material that I looked experienced and knowledgeable. Currently, I have several thousand posts that my widget can draw on. Every four hours, it reposts one. Because I have many new followers, it’s new to them. I often see them retweeted and Scooped.
  • have Pillar Posts–a collection of your best writing that is easily accessible. Use it any time you are required to provide samples. I showcase twenty-four in the sidebar of my blog. This gives readers a taste of your writing skills. It gives prospective employers an idea of what they’ll get when they engage your journalistic skills.
  • write for free to spread the word. I got into a massive discussion about the wisdom of doing this. After many posts back and forth (and a large group of writers weighing in), even after being forced to delve into my reasons and understand the whys and whats, I remain convinced it is a good decision for me. I carefully select who gets my stuff for free, hoping they will get my name out to audiences who might not meet me otherwise, who I want to see me as knowledgeable in my area of expertise. I will write articles for my selected outlet for 6-12 months and then re-evaluate. Is it accomplishing my goals? Am I getting return hits? Does the splash back offset time requirements? I drop those who fail my test and add new ones.
  • attach a bio to each article you write. Mine includes a rundown on my expertise. I had trouble ‘bragging’ at first, but now I don’t even notice I’m doing it.
  • answer every contact you get. I take them all seriously because I appreciate the interest. I try to put myself in their shoes, consider their perspective as I address their question.
  • visit everyone who comments and/or ‘likes’ your posts. This is time consuming, but the best way to develop a network. I can’t tell until I’ve spent some time with new efriends whether there’s synergy, so I invest the time.
  • share your knowledge–as much as possible–for free. Sure, you can’t share everything because there’d be nothing to sell, but the internet is about building the whole. A rising tide raises all ships should be its motto. If you’re not willing to become part of the community, you won’t make it there.

Because I do these fourteen activities relentlessly, people do notice me. I get requests to write reviews, analyze new products, serve on committees and boards, write columns for other ezines (like Cisco), consult in my area of expertise, mentor.It’s not a fortune, but it’s a living. I know from talking to people on my blogs, social networks, some even in person, that the goal isn’t wealth, rather to make a living doing what we love.

Follow these ideas. You can do it.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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