In this the Information Age, with user-generated Web 2.0, a supposedly-dying publishing industry, and arts funding cuts left and right, becoming a successful writer seems basically impossible. Somehow, among the thousands upon thousands of people who write things — stories, books, plays, poems, blogs, films, TV, songs, articles, columns, reviews — you need to get people to read what you have to say, get people to care what you have to say, get people to tell their friends about what you have to say.
You can send things to the movers and shakers — publishers, agents, production companies, etc. — and hope that your writing gets noticed among the hundreds of other things they’re looking at. Even having it get seen at all is a bonus. But sometimes you can’t even do that.
Taking writing for film — basically, if you want to write a feature film, to even get looked at, you need to have an award-winning short film. So first you need to write a short film, find someone to produce your short film, get your short film into film festivals, have your short film win awards, and then talk to people about movies, pitch a movie to the right person, get funding for your movie, write your movie. And to even produce that first short film — well, you need to convince people to produce it. Basically, this boils down to whether or not you Know People.
I was in a class today where we talked about the same process for stageplays. Your best chance at getting your plays produced is to form a theatre company to produce them. And that means putting in all the work of creating a theatre company, Knowing People to create it with you, etc. etc.
And increasingly, these days, with the Internet and blogs and self-publishing and the weak publishing industry and everything, you can even say similar things about fiction writing. Unless you’re good enough to stand out in the slush piles of magazines and publishers and agents, you need to bring something else to the table. And one way to do that is to have a ready-made audience.
A tumblr blogger named meaghano (who I know of because she used to work for Jonathan Coulton) used this to her advantage. She and a coworker came up with the idea to make a book of a bunch of different writers writing very honestly about sex. She couldn’t get an agent on board for the idea. But she has a pretty sizable internet audience, and used an internet service called Kickstarter to basically guarantee a certain number of book sales, fund the project, pay the contributors, and come out with a profit. Now she’ll self-publish and make some money and have an audience and demand and everything.
I would imagine that even if you weren’t planning on self-publishing, having a ready-made audience would be a major boon. If a publisher knows there’s a market for something, they may be more likely to make the investment.
There’s also a lot to be said for Knowing People. The whole idea of Networking is extremely important — if you know someone who has the ear of a publisher or an agent or the like, you have a better chance of getting published, plain and simple. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how it is.
And this is something I’ve been resistant to. I’d love to be able to just sit at home and write and send things out and get it done and get paid. But at the same time, I can be a fairly outgoing, personable, friendly and charming person at times (I hear you laughing, stop that), so why should I be afraid of making those connections?
At the same time though, I hate trying to sell myself. It just seems like I’m trying to take advantage of people, like I’m only friends with them because I want to use their connections.
But, that’s what networking is. They have something I can use, and hopefully, ideally, I have something they can use.
So part of this whole battle is making that network, knowing those people, and using the connections you have. Another part is finding your audience, and that’s one of the reasons I started this blog — but I still haven’t found that audience, because I haven’t been directly proactive about it. I just write and hope people will stumble across it.
So I need to make connections, and I need to find an audience. Any suggestions?