The matter of publishing a first novel has changed a lot over the last ten years. We writers must concern ourselves not only with writing stellar prose, but in promoting ourselves and our work long before we receive that dreamed for acceptance call or e-mail. In fact, to even hope to receive that call, we need to make our presence known somewhere out here in cyberspace. That seems to come easily to my Cyber Generation university students, but can present a real challenge for some of us, especially if we are “of a certain age.” But I’m here to tell you, the cyber age offers exciting benefits that we cannot afford to miss even if we’ve left our university days behind.
The social networking opportunities available to us as writers are truly mind-boggling. We can find like-minded writers, potential agents and publishers, and future readers with the click of a mouse button. Joining social networking cites such as Facebook (facebook.com) and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/)is one good way to network. If you want to flex your writing muscles a little more, a blog (yes, not unlike this one) is an excellent writing space to make for yourself. If you create your blog with fellow writers, it doesn’t have to be too much of a time drain . . . and it’s fun! Just ask any of my Birth of a Novel compatriots. And you don’t need technical expertise. Just check out wordpress.com or blogspot.com and get started.
I routinely suggest that serious students in my Writing for Children class form critique groups after our semester ends. One talented group I taught a few years ago did just that and eventually expanded their meetings into a very impressive group blog. Kudos to Frankie Mallis, Donna Gambale, Janine Leaver, and Sara Kankowski. Called The First Novels Club (http://firstnovelsclub.blogspot.com/), their blog focuses on writing the young adult novel. Their fun blog, including author interviews, book reviews, and contests, have caught them some real buzz. Publisher’s Weekly picked their blog up after they provided terrific coverage of a star-studded YA book signing in NYC. And their recaps/parodies of Vampire Diaries were passed along to Kevin Williamson, the show’s creator/writer/producer. He tweeted that he loved the recaps and suddenly traffic to their blog skyrocketed.
Frankie Mallis says: “I think the key here is we’re reaching our intended audience well. We’re all young adults (more or less) who love young adult literature and write young adult novels and we write our posts in a way that is fun, catchy and informative. Plus we post the things they want to hear. . . . We think outside the box as much as we can, and we’ve been steadily gaining followers.”
Another blogger I know has transitioned from her own blog on running and motherhood to a paying blogging gig, all the while expanding her network of readers who are no doubt eager to read the nonfiction book she’s writing on the same topic. If you’re not quite ready to make the leap into full time blogging this year, at least become active on other writers’ blogs. Following a few blogs regularly and offering comments is a good way to get your feet wet and learn what works and what doesn’t in the blogging world.
Of course, using the Internet to search for potential agents and publishers is invaluable too. My fellow bloggers regularly read up-to-the-minute info on the publishing market via http://publishersmarketplace.com. Agent and publisher searches are so much simpler now! So is understanding what’s going on in publishing without actually being part of the publishing scene in New York City.
I also recommend JacketFlap (http://www.jacketflap.com/index.asp) as a terrific resource for children’s writers. You can network with thousands of authors, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers. Best of all, they claim to have the world’s largest database of information on children’s book publishers and it’s all easily searchable… and free.
The Birth of a Novel blog has already published some fabulous advice on making writer-ly resolutions for the new year/new decade. Let me add one more to that list: make this the year you truly embrace the cyber-possibilities of being a writer in 2010!