The #writinglife would be much easier if all a writer had to do was write—but a writer also has to represent, promote, and market themselves, at all stages of their literary career.
One of the benefits of being agented as writer is to have a trusted, experienced professional in the field to advocate on your behalf, freeing up your mental space and time to focus on your writing. However, in order to find the right agency partnership, you’ll initially need to represent yourself in the industry. Here’s where the all-important query letter comes in. But there are other essential routes to getting “seen” as a writer.
One of the foremost ways to effectively engage with publishing professionals is at conferences, workshops, and festivals. Sign yourself up for pitch practice or red-pencil sessions, a master class or mentorship. Even in this pandemic world, getting yourself in front of editors, agents, and industry experts is the best way to make a meaningful connection. And in a relationship economy, connections are essential to your success as a writer.
Industry professionals also often moonlight as instructors in continuing education at colleges and universities. I myself am faculty at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program, where I teach writers about the business of publishing, as well as mentor and consult on student final projects. I highly recommend professional development courses as a venue to meet publishing professionals, a forum to share your work and receive constructive criticism, as well as an opportunity to engage with peers who may ultimately become part of your writer support network.
By getting your face and your work in front of industry professionals, you are increasing your chances of being ‘seen’. It is much harder to get noticed with an unsolicited email, even with a dynamite query letter, and a brilliant manuscript or proposal. And once you’ve gotten yourself in front of an agent or editor, be diligent about following up and maintaining the relationship. Personally, I’m far more likely to recognize and respond to correspondence from a writer I’ve met, either in-person or online, than someone who is “cold” emailing me.
Another space where you can interact with industry professionals, as well as the writing community at large, is online, especially social media. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are the predominant platforms for literary community engagement. The more you participate in the conversation, the more you’ll be recognized by peers, colleagues, and professionals. You never know what common ground you might find that could lead to a referral or request for materials!
Lastly, I encourage you to not only write, and think of yourself as a writer, but to tell everyone who will listen about what you are working on. Putting yourself out there is essential to getting ‘seen’ and your future publishing success.
Sign up for one of our workshops, and get face time with an agent and your writer peers!
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