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Strategies for Marketing the Writer

I've written for magazines with "strategic" in the title and I always view it as a meaningful word. A strategy is the way in which a good portion of your resources will be deployed. Whether you are talking about a writing career or building a power plant, it's about making decisions; crucial decisions that will either bring you success or stall you on your path.

One element of this is the gathering of resource. Another is the psychological strategy of anticipating rejection, as well as learning the arts of negotiating.

As I write this I'm staring at the big, blue 2004 Writer's Market book that is in my little inner circle of writing resource books up on my desk. Yellow post-it notes are sticking out of it. It gives me a sense of security in a way but do I use it right? I am only using it right if I make preparation to use the information I find in the book.

I like to make charts and print them out. These charts can be simple line drawings that are able to hold pieces of information such as the name of a magazine, its current editor, ideas to approach the editor with, queries sent, answers back and so on.

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I recommend separating out the functions of marketing and writing. They are completely different activities; they are oil and water and mixed with bad results. The best thing to do is to experiment a bit and try out different schemes and go with the one that works for you.

Will you split the day up into these functions? The week? The month? A lot depends on how you are approaching the writing career. If it is a full-time, bread-winning career then it's likely you'll be marketing much of the time.

If you are working on a novel and not dependent on it as a source of income, then the marketing can come at gentler intervals.

One thing is certain: you need to market consistently and incorporate the marketing idea into every public display of your work, whether it is a website, a blog, a portfolio, a pamphlet, or a business card. Marketing is not only advertising and getting the word out, it is presenting the type of persona you want the public to grasp and remember about you. If you have an assistant you need to teach them that they are part of marketing and to represent you well.

The Marketing Writer

One thing a writer is never prepared for is the depth of specialization that makes up the market. Most writers come from a humanities background where the "holistic" is more valuable than the "fragmented."

But, there's no way around it. The fact that there are a dozen different woodworking magazines tells you all you need to know. The market is sliced and diced to increase the visibility of advertisers and make more profits for publishers.

You can approach this fact by developing two or three areas of interest and then moving those interests through a plethora of ideas and slants. One subject, such as horticulture, can be divided into a multiple number of writing ideas that cross dozens of platforms and markets.

Go to any publication and assign it a one or two-sentence description. That should take into consideration the theme of the magazine and its audience. Then you freewheel a series of thoughts about how the subject, horticulture, can be slanted into the publication. It doesn't work for every market but it works more than you'd think. The slant for a garden publication would be different than from a retirement publication.

Types of publication

It's very useful to know the differences between writing for a consumer magazine and writing for a trade magazine. In the consumer field the writer has to continually search for markets. The consumer magazine editor is besieged with queries and stories. The writer has to develop a decent strategy to churn ideas and get those ideas into the hands of editors who can turn them into assignments.

The writer for a trade magazine is in a different sort of universe. The editor will usually assign the article to writers she trusts or has worked with before. So, the strategy in writing for trades is to find a few publications that you can write many articles for. Each has their good and bad points.

And you can work it both ways. The market is there to use! If, for instance, your expertise is on horticulture you can turn to trade magazines and develop ideas about how climate change is impacting the industry. Since the trade publication is read by people in the business you could develop an interesting article with expert opinion woven into the text. You could take that same theme and use one part of the article in a piece for a consumer publication. For instance, a celebrity loves her garden and you write something about her engagement with it and her concern that climate change will severely impact the industry.

It's been told to me from one who knows that the best way to develop a marketing strategy is to go to a writer's conference and connect with a published writer. Try to corner a writer whose career path is like the one you want to travel on. Even a few tips will be invaluable. You want to find out how he or she approached the market when first starting out. Different writers will have different tales.

Digital Marketing

Of course, the digital world can reverse the relation between market and writer. Editors use social communities like Linked-In to find freelance writers. They also go to writer blogs or websites and check up on the talent.

I will offer one tip I've learned from Sunoasis.com. Buy keywords from Google or Overture and drive traffic to a page that has your writings or resume/clips on it. Make sure those keywords are going to attract the people you want seeing your work.

If you have a book use Google Print. I haven't tried it but I have used their AdWords with some success.

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Marketing is the most demanding thing a writer is expected to do. It's even difficult to write about. No matter how much one studies it or tries it he is flattened by a steel wall. "I don't want my energy going there!" This is the cry of the writer reeling back from the impact. After all, if the writing is good and helpful shouldn't it simply be sucked up into the vast bowels of the publishing world? With, of course, a nice check mailed to you or wired into your account?

Every writer I know wants to simply hand the writing in like an assignment and have others do it up. And do it up just right so it gains fame and prestige.

If you are hired on the staff of a magazine you have already marketed yourself to the editor and he's bought your talents. But those talents belong to the magazine. If you want to own your talents then you need to learn to market.

You could almost say that you own your talents the moment you learn to take responsibility for them.

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Marketing is a hard nut to crack but crack it once and it begins to make sense. Whenever I get a question from someone in college asking about writing careers I always tell them, spend your precious time learning about the marketplace and how to manuever in it.

A Few Tips On Book Marketing:

One of the best things you can do is compile lists of publications, on or off-line, that review books. Alice Orr suggests making "faux galleys" of your book, since the real galley's are too expensive to use. "Make your own by setting up two reduced manuscript pages on long, legal-sized paper." She also recommends sending an SASE with the faux galley and be persistent.

Another excellent idea is to write for those publications always hungry for easy copy, such as weekly newspapers. Write an article on the subject of your book with a few salient tips and send it off.

Find catalogs that sell books or products fit to your subject matter and get their submission guidelines.

Much of what is known as POD publishing can be looked at as marketing. The internet is quite good at finding an audience or ascertaining if an audience exists at all. And have a good deal of patience while looking for an audience. A cheaply produced print-on-demand book can be used to show publishers your talents. It can be used to get speaking engagements.

An old journalism professor of mine wrote a book and was featured on a talk radio program. He was told by the host to mention the book by name rather than as "the book," or "my book." Radio audiences tune-in and tune-out at intervals.

He had a poor impression of talk radio. "A lot of nuts call in."

But then, even the nuts will buy books.

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Written by David Eide, Sunoasis.com

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David Eide
Copyright 2000-2006


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David Eide
copyright 2000-2006