Let me say this first: The best way to increase your writing reputation is to get published. Whether it’s publishing a well-received indie or self-pubbed title, or getting published in literary journals or widely-read magazines, getting your work out there, from what I understand, is the way to demonstrate that you are a writer of repute.
But sometimes, the publishing game can become a vicious circle. Publications may rely on name recognition or your past publishing history to determine whether or not to take your work, but how can you build that history if no one will publish you? While some of this advice may feel like putting the cart before the horse (i.e., giving marketing advice without having something to market), I do think that building your writing reputation can help you get off on the right foot when you start gaining traction with your writing.
To start, let’s talk about online relationships and network building.
This semester, I’m taking a course called Teaching of Literature and the Literature Curriculum, and it’s part pedagogy course, part literature criticism and analysis. One of the course requirements is to be somewhat active on Twitter, not just to extend the discussion from the classroom into public, online spaces, but to also connect with other teachers to share ideas, resources, and engage in some digital networking to inform our future teaching careers. We’re required to follow teachers on Twitter, participate in Twitter chats, and share our thoughts on English education using the course hashtag.
It has been really fascinating to use Twitter as part of a class, having used it in a personal and professional capacity. It’s helped reveal to me some of the aspects of social media that I’ve picked up somewhat unconsciously, and I’ve been finding some ways in which my use of Twitter for class can inform the ways I use Twitter for my writing. Engaging in hashtag games, Twitter chats, and more are all relatively easy ways to connect with fellow writers and also reach potential readers. There’s a lot of talk about having an “online presence” and the do’s and don’ts of being online (DO tweet regularly, but DON’T have your account be just purely promoting your book, etc.). But it’s more than just having a place people can go to find out more information about you and your writing. It’s also a place for you to go and find people who are doing interesting things.
All this said, there is still something to building connections offline; it’s a matter of meeting people where they are.
Working in social media, marketing, and communications, the main argument for using social media is that it is “where everyone is.” It’s where conversations and sharing are happening, and we should be meeting people where they are. However, there are still limitations to social media. There’s a minimum requirement for tech (a smartphone or laptop, a reliable internet connection, etc.) that may be difficult for many people to reach. The ethereal algorithm makes it so that it’s not a guarantee that what you share on social media will actually reach everyone you want it to reach. And then there’s the fact that people are in a love-hate relationship with social media right now, and the advice to occasionally disconnect from the online world becomes more and more prevalent.
Which is why I also recommend disconnecting every once in a while and finding in-person events to attend. This past weekend I went to the Twin Cities Book Festival and got to see a lot of different vendors and presses, even chatting occasionally with authors and asking questions about their work. I’ve also taken in-person creative writing classes in New York with Gotham Writers, and have been to events in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop space. Attending these classes and these events have broadened my horizons and also put me in contact with people who have become essential to my writing life (and my life in general), from new writing friends to mentors who believe in my journey as a writer.
Sometimes location can make it difficult to find events to attend. I’ve moved from New York City to Ames, Iowa for grad school, and there has been a dramatic change in the kind of access I have to writing events. However, I’m lucky that my university has a robust lecture and event series that I can take advantage of, and there are nearby cities that have more of the literary events that I’m looking for. Plus, in an area that might be bereft of literary life, it might be an incentive to start a new events series.
Another possible way to build your writing reputation is to volunteer in specific writing capacities.
This past year or so I’ve been volunteering as a reader for Empire and Great Jones Little Press for their three journals, Ember, Spark, and Zetetic. As part of my MFA I’m also reading slush for the journal Flyway, which is run by the program. These can help build my writing reputation because I’m part of these literary publications and am getting experience in this part of the writing/publishing process.
Other ways to volunteer in specifically writing capacities that I can think of: Teaching or running an after school writing program, being a Municipal Liaison for a local NaNoWriMo chapter, creating an in-person meet-up for writers at your local public library. All of these are great ways to build local connections but also demonstrate to others outside of these local contexts that you have experience and have immersed yourself heavily in this world.
All this said, remember to step back and appreciate the time and effort you have put in so far, and recognize your achievements.
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve published, or maybe your social media growth is stagnating for one reason or another. These periods will happen, and it can be a great time to reflect back on all that you have done so far to build up your reputation as a writer. View them from a different light, share the memories with people on social or in person, and use them as a way to focus where you want to go from here.
What do you think? What are other ways writers can build their writing reputation (aside from publishing)?
This post was written as part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop organized by the human dynamo, Raimey Gallant. Every month, authors at all stages of their career blog about specific resources/learning opportunities for fellow writers. To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, click here.
Header image from Pixabay.
12 thoughts on “Author Toolbox Blog Hop: Building a reputation (beyond writing and publishing)”
Building a writing platform can be a very daunting task sometimes.
There are so many possibilities to consider.
I think blogging is a great core method, since it is a space in which to publish full writing pieces.
Not to say that Twitter and Instagram don’t have their place, but I think it’s good to have a more robust venue for those that want “more”.
I’ve also found Facebook writing groups can be helpful. Granted, with so many members it’s hard to connect with any one beyond a short correspondence, but I think it’s good practice to offer constructive feedback to other writers from time to time, and it’s a good way to receive feedback from people who are serious about writing, but also are strangers who have no qualms about being honest (perhaps even a little harsh).
I think a physical “on ground” writing group is also a great way to connect, and a great way to find support.
If there isn’t one that suits your taste, start your own.
A few years back I looked in my area, but found that most had strict rules that members had to bring a finished piece to share every 2-3 months, and I felt that might not always be possible. So I started one where members engaged in writing prompts and roundtable discussion, with the option to bring something written ahead, but no one was required to. I found that doing so lowered tension and provided room for people to pose open-ended questions about writing.
I admit, I haven’t been to many formal conventions, nor have I formed any connections with established publishing entities, but at some point I’d like to. There are almost always more things to do than moments to do them.
Thanks for sharing your strategies. It’s always helpful to compare methods and ideas.
My son keeps telling me that reputation is everything. The odds are against him but he doesn’t care. Somehow he carries confidence and strength with him because he knows what kind of person he is.
I guess what I’m saying is, being proud and confident about who you are and sharing yourself with others (online and off) is the best and brightest step forward. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Good post 🙂 Make the most of in-person meetings — even at the salon 😉 You never know who might like you enough to try out your writing — and that might even have a snowball effect (book clubs reading your books, word-of-mouth, etc.). The way people perceive you can make or break your career.
I like this post by Rachel Thompson about branding: The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How to Fix That Right Now
Ronel visiting on Author Toolbox blog hop day: Running Your Author Empire
I love your positivity 🙂 I hope grad school is going well, it sounds like it is. Volunteering is an excellent way to connect with others. Libraries have certainly helped me. I have worked with teens in writing courses at my local library network and it really opened my eyes to their worlds and challenges they face. Happy Hop Day 🙂
Great tips 🙂 I find it interesting your course requires you to be active on Twitter, and I wonder if my course will cover social media and network building in the future too? I need to get better at building connections offline though. I’m sure there must be some events near me I can go too. I think one of the best ways writers can build a reputation is by posting short stories on blogs and Wattpad. It’s not traditional publishing, but it gives readers a taste of your work 🙂
Caroliena, All are good suggestions. I agree that building a brand image and reputation is key to growth as a writer. To achieve this, I try to be consistent in my social media presence. I’m also making an effort to put down my cell phone and laptop to spend more time with readers and other writers, as you suggest.
I do the online stuff but avoid the in-person. You make some great points, though. I wish I’d get out more!
All of the writerly volunteer opportunities you’re involved in, I find that so interesting. It feels to me like the online writing community is so large, I’m still only touching the tinniest piece of it. Great post!
One other way of building your writing reputation that hasn’t been mentioned yet is by entering contests in your genre … especially those judged by agents or editors you might be interested in.
I also judge for several contests, which is a way of giving back to the writing community. Offering to coordinate a contest is another great way to build your writing reputation.
One thing I like to do to connect with other writers is use a video call. it’s not as good as meeting in person, but at least I can see the person, their mannerisms, their smile. This all helps a lot when getting to know someone. Great post with lots to thing about.
In a time of heavy online influence, it’s definitely important to attend networking EVENTS. We can’t forget that we are humans first! Great insight
You are so right about needing a well-rounded approach. In addition to helping us get known, utilizing multiple venues of interaction helps keep us from forming a myopic focus on one type of interaction group. For example, my connections with people on social media take on an entirely different feel than those I’ve made at writer’s conferences. While it seems as if the nuances would be too subtle, they’re actually rathe prominent and vital to exploit when building a robust platform.