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Writer’s bane: 9 Suggestions for marketing and public relations

Many of us writers cringe at the marketing and public relations steps needed to publicize our books and writings. (“I want to use my time for writing!”) But as we know, PR is an ever-increasing necessity for sales, speaking engagements, presentations, promotions, and notches on our vitae. The following suggestions, hopefully not too onerous, may be ones you’ve thought of, are enacting now, or would like to incorporate into your writing and writing-PR activities.

1) Cultivate the Editors. Grow your relationships with the editors who publish your work. After acceptance or publication, thank the editors and ask what topics they would next like to see. The editors may ask what you’re working on now or ask you to write on certain topics you hadn’t considered. Send your pitches or complete manuscripts. And—important, as my example below illustrates—include your previous publishing credits.

When I submitted a personal essay to a writer’s magazine, the editor gently rejected it but noticed my credit of my published children’s book of dinosaur riddles. She asked me to write a piece about writing nonfiction for young people. I did, but by the time I submitted the piece, editors had changed, and the new one rejected the article. Later, though, this piece was published in another magazine and then republished in a second one. In fact, sweetest of the sweet, years later, after another change of editorial staff, that first magazine accepted and published it.

A variation: If you read an article that you admire and is somewhat related to what you are working on, write to the editor. Compliment the article, give a summary of your own piece, and ask for interest. When you are ready to send the completed piece or pitch, you will already have a relationship with the editor.

2) What Am I Interested In? Ask yourself what subjects you really want to write about other than those you are committed to for your research or have an aptitude for, scholarly and otherwise. I started with writers’ craft pieces and, as my interest in spirituality grew, began to write pieces in this mode. As I completed my book for dissertation writers, I discovered that I enjoyed writing about the coaching and editorial advice I give to clients. More articles, another market, another audience.

A friend who is a children’s nonfiction writer is also a serious runner and belongs to a marathon training group. When a member suggested she write about the group, how to form one, and tips for success, she followed through. My friend discovered several new audiences and markets—in running, athletics, fitness, social groups.

3) Alert Google. Sign up for mention of your name and articles on Google Alerts (type Google Alert into your search box and follow the prompts). As notices fill your email box, you may find that bloggers and columnists have mentioned your work. Write directly to them, thank them, and offer to write a guest blog or answer questions.

4) Write Back. Respond with letters to editors about other writers’ articles and columns in the journals and magazines you read and publish in. Under your name, add your recent publication credits. Readers who missed your article may look it up.

A corollary: Write a critique of another scholar’s article or review of a book. You don’t have to be incendiary, only thoughtful and cogent. Your critique may well get published (a credit), and your name gains more recognition. Or the author may contact you directly, mount a defense, start a dialogue, or offer to coauthor the next project.

Case in point: An academic friend wrote a rather pointed review of a book on college admissions counselors, pointing out several misguided stereotypes. The author wrote to him, gave her rationales, and asked if he’d like to contribute a chapter to the next edition.

5) Read Blogs. Read blogs that interest you (not all morning). And comment. Or write to the blogger directly, point out what you especially like, give a mini-commercial for yourself, and offer to write a guest blog or be interviewed. I’ve published a number of guest blogs this way and made some wonderful online friends. We continue to exchange writing “favors” (endorsements, guest appearances, publishing leads). Audience enlarged.

6) Start and Keep Current Your Website. Put your web address on your business card and email signature. Add it to every bio you ever submit. On the site, include samples of your work, academic and other. Mount your pieces in pdf form—if you supply a URL link to the original publication, it may not stay. On your site, offer friendly advice and a few semipersonal goodies. Invite readers to contact you. Describe your services and invite inquiries on presentations.

7) Keep in Touch. Other than personal emails or texts, a newsletter of your own is a great way to keep in touch with readers and enlarge your reach. Several writers I know send out newsletters, but they do more than hawk their works or services. The best combination is to include something helpful to readers—inspirational quotes, leads on new markets, a great research blog, calls for conference abstracts, tips on taking breaks. Then trumpet yourself, your books, your ebooks, your youtubes, your signings, your services, your special discounted offer of writers’ t-shirts emblazoned with a catchy slogan (“Writers do it in drafts”).

8) Ask for Help. Readers love to contribute. A novelist I know (met him through a blog) holds contests among readers for the next title of his book in a multivolume series. He sends out periodic emails about the contest entries, voting progress, top choices, narrowed five, final winner, and prizes. Another writer asks readers for experiences or case studies for her current project.

9) Request Sharing. In any communication with your regular readers, invite them to share your mailings with other colleagues. We all have friends in our fields, and the more helpful you find a communication, the more likely you’ll want to share it with friends and colleagues, and you’ll be increasing your own readership and circle.

And of course, social media are great ways to share your work and comments and build readership. I am personally socialmedia-phobic (and tiptoeing closer), but I certainly see the benefits for increasing your reach.

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These nine suggestions are certainly not the only ones to increase your publicity, but they’re tips that colleagues and I have found not only helpful but palatable. They don’t require large outlays of funds (as in hiring a publicist) and can be completed in small increments of time. Choose one a day or a week and you’ll find yourself less resistant. It does get easier, and soon you won’t think of marketing and PR as the writer’s bane.

© 2020 Noelle Sterne

Noelle SterneDissertation coach, nurturer, bolsterer, handholder, and editor; scholarly and mainstream writing consultant; author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles; and spiritual and motivational counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 600 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, GradShare, InnerSelf, Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. See the PowerPoint teaser here. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings. Following one of her own, she is currently working on her second novel. Visit Noelle at