Tag Archives: publishers

It’s Not You, It’s Me: A Truth About Rejection Letters

Introduction

If you’ve ever received a rejection letter from a publisher or literary agent, then you know just how much it sucks.

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But there is some good news.

Really, it’s them, it’s not you.

The Biggest Reason Why Your Writing Gets Rejected

I have a close friend who has an almost ungodly amount of perseverance. Usually, that’s an amazing thing to behold. Usually.

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A friend of hers is a poet. I’m the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. Hey, wouldn’t it be great to feature her poetry in your magazine, Alfonso?

Nope.

While my friend’s friend’s poetry is strong, and she’s quite accomplished, this woman’s work was completely outside of the parameters of the writing we publish at Beautiful Losers Magazine.

Does the fact that this woman’s writing was rejected for our magazine mean she was a bad poet? Absolutely not.

The truth is that every agent, publisher, and literary magazine has VERY specific requirements of what they’re looking for. If you aren’t an exact match for those parameters, your writing will probably be rejected.

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And it doesn’t mean you suck as a writer.

And it doesn’t mean that particular piece sucked.

It just means that you need to find a better home for your writing.

If you’ve received tons of rejections, you’d better spend a little bit more time finding an appropriate place for your writing.

Now if you’ve been doing this legwork and still are receiving tons of rejections, you may want to consider having your work edited by a professional editor.

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Conclusion

Treat agents and publishers like members of your preferred sex. You wouldn’t marry just anyone, would you?

Don’t send your writing to agents and publishers without screening.

Unless you like being left at the altar, you masochist you.

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Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

How To Find A Literary Agent For Your Manuscript (Part One)

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If you’re anything like me, then the thought of having to land a literary agent can provoke any number of responses. These include, but are not limited to:

Sobbing uncontrollably while cursing the gods for being born a writer.

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Checking Facebook. Then Twitter. Then your email. Then your texts. Then Facebook again.

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Considering whether magic or the law of attraction can be used to get you an agent without any bit of effort on your part.

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Hopefully, you’ll eventually come to your senses and scrap these less-than-useful approaches. But what then?

It Starts With A Book

$9.90 and Internet access. That’s all it takes to move your literary career forward and begin querying agents…

Of course, we’re writers, so having $9.90 and Internet access isn’t a guarantee.

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Oh yeah, one other thing, you’ll need a completed manuscript (if you’re a fiction writer) or a pitch for a workable idea (if you’re a nonfiction writer).

Not too much to ask, right?

For $9.90, you can purchase the E-book version of the Writer’s Market 2018 from Google Play. This book contains a comprehensive list of literary agencies that work with authors of all types, from middle grade fantasy authors to romance novelists and anything in-between.

And the best part is the Writer’s Market tells you exactly what types of books these agencies are looking for, eliminating any guesswork on your part.

Follow Those Submission Guidelines

Once you find an agency that works within your form and genre, all you have to do is visit their website.

Well, that’s not ALL you have to do. But it’s still pretty easy—trust me!

Different agencies, and agents within the agencies, will have different submission guidelines. Please please please follow those guidelines. Agents, like editors and publishers, will curse you and the next ten generations of your family if you don’t follow submission guidelines to a T.

How do I know that they’ll curse you and the next ten generations of your family? Well, after all, I am the co-founder and an editor at Beautiful Losers, a super cool literary magazine which you should totally check out. (Yes, this is a shameless plug!)

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Oh wait. About the cursing thing. That’s probably just me. I should get some help for that.

But seriously, follow those guidelines. You want to be seen as a professional, don’t you?

Many Agencies Have Multiple Agents

So it’s on you to find the agent that’s the best match for your manuscript.

Yes, it’s on you. No pressure…

Okay. Deep breaths. Try some more. Back with me?

The good news is that almost every agency has summaries of the literary interests of their agents. Find the agent that’s the closest match for the genre, style, and age target of your manuscript. If you’ve written a darkly comic picture book, don’t query an agent that specializes in upmarket women’s fiction.

That is, unless you like wasting people’s time. If that’s the case, you’re most likely a horrible person that would be awfully fun to hit the bars and make some poor life decisions with.

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But you’re used to making poor life decisions already, right? After all, you chose to become a writer.

Don’t hate me! I jest because I’m from Brooklyn. The sarcasm is love. Really!

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But Wait, There’s More

Query letters.

Author bios.

Synopses.

Market analyses.

Chapter outlines.

And more. Much more!

And I promise I’ll tell you all about how to navigate through it soon.

But first I need some sleep.

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Yes, you horrible person who likes to waste agents’ time, you may be fun to hit the bars with, but it’s only a little after 10 pm and I’m calling it a night.

I may or may not be a horrible person, but clearly it’s safe to assume I’m not much fun to hit the bars with.

Blah Blah Blah

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading (you may want to get your mental health checked!)

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you may have noticed this post is very different from what you’re used to seeing here. I still want to provide helpful advice for aspiring and emerging writers, but the professorial tone is gone. You see, I’ve recently discovered that I’m actually not Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Shocking, right?

If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, try sharing this post on social media!

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If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

If you have any funny stories about landing an agent, you can share those in the comments too. The more absurd the better! To quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Fighting the good fight just like you,
Alfonso

 

 

Five Benefits To Starting A Literary Magazine

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It’s been a while! I apologize for the lack of posts, but I’ve been extremely busy with other projects since last November. Quick update: I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for Supersonic Productions and a nonfiction book for a New York City-based nonprofit. In combination with my duties as co-founder and publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, free time has been at a minimum. Still, no excuses, right? On with the show!

Right here on WordPress, when I was scrolling through my feed, I found an incredibly talented writer named Dario Cannizzaro  We became friends, and he introduced me to his friend Austin Wiggins. They told me about their plan to start a literary magazine and I was intrigued. I had started a couple of literary magazines in the past, but they had fizzled out for various reasons. Now, with a couple of high-character partners, we set out to start a literary magazine. The rest is history.

Has running a literary magazine been easy? Not always! But it has definitely been worth it, and for many writers, choosing to start a literary magazine can be an incredibly valuable experience. Here are a few reasons that I’ve found as to how starting a literary magazine can be beneficial for writers. If you know of any that I’ve missed, make sure to leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps!

  1. Networking. If you’re not Cormac McCarthy or Junot Diaz, you probably could benefit from gaining some new contacts to help advance your writing career. Running a literary magazine affords you the opportunity to network with talented writers. If you accept an author’s work, or even if you send them a personal rejection, you can start a conversation that can lead to some incredible contacts with ties to editors, publishers, and literary agents. Personally, I’ve become good friends with someone who’s collaborated with elite-level Hollywood directors. Pretty good for a budding screenwriter, right?
  2. Immersion. I understand that you might have to hold down that 9-5 until your literary dreams come true, but what are you doing on your time off? Starting a literary magazine gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the culture of writers. You’re responsible for reading countless submissions, so that means putting Netflix aside, logging off Facebook, and learning from your contemporaries.
  3. Credibility. If you’re submitting short stories or poetry to literary magazines, or manuscripts to literary agents, running a competitive literary journal shows that you have some skin in the literary game. If a journal or agent is on the fence about your work, this could be what tips someone in your favor.
  4. Friendship. Whether you choose to go solo or partner with others on your litmag, your dedication will likely attract the attention of other like-minded people, and many of the most valuable friendships of your life may develop.
  5. Discipline. Starting a literary magazine is a form of leadership. Your readers are dependent on you putting out excellent content. Your writers are dependent on you screening submissions in a timely fashion. As a writer, discipline is critical, even more so than talent. Working day in and day out on your magazine can instill the necessary work ethic needed for success in the literary game.

Have any questions about starting a literary magazine? Comment below and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts! If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! 

 

How Can I Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal of time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit an 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact who could potentially lead you to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancée.

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The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple: etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Aren’t Getting Your Writing Published

In baseball, some of the best players in the game only get a hit roughly one out of every three times they are at the plate. The same can be said about writers and publishing.

Ty Cobb, one of the legends of the game, had a .366 batting average, the highest of all-time in Major League Baseball history. On average, 634 out of every 1000 times that he was at the plate, he would fail to get a hit.

Writers looking to publish can learn a lot from batting averages. A position player in the major leagues will generally hit between .200 and .360 during a full season. A writer successfully targeting journals relevant to their style, tone, and themes will have a success rate roughly equivalent to the average baseball player. If you get in a particularly hot streak, you may get a few acceptances in a row without a rejection. You may also get into a slump. In time, everything will average out.

If you are submitting your poetry or short fiction to competitive journals, contacting agents, or submitting your manuscript to publishers, and you are getting rejected consistently without any acceptances, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have I had my writing edited? Does it read well, or is it choppy? Are there major problems?

2. Am I targeting the right literary journals, publishers, and agents? Would they actually be interested in my type of writing, or is this completely off the mark?

3. Do I need to build my platform? From where I am right now as a writer and a person, can I do anything to attract some attention to myself?

4. Do I know where to find agents, publishers, or literary journals? Duotrope.com, PW.org, and the Writer’s Market 2016 are all great places to start.

5. Have I been writing consistently enough to develop my skills to the point where my work is of a publishable standard? Do you treat writing as a part-time hobby, or are you serious about it? Your writing will improve the more you actually write.

6. Did I ever learn the fundamentals of writing, or have I gone into creative writing with a lot of passion, but little education in the workings of craft? If you never learned how to write well, you won’t.

7. How is my mindset? Am I visualizing success or am I anticipating another rejection letter? Your thoughts become reality. Create a reality where you expect to publish your writing.

8. Have I been reading other writers who write like I do? Absorbing ideas and style from other writers is critical, and writers who don’t read are writers who don’t get published.

If your writing is almost never accepted, or is never accepted, with around 95% certainty, I can say that you are probably doing at least one of these things wrong, and most likely many of them.

Now, once you correct your mistakes, you will not get accepted to every literary journal you submit your poems or short fiction to, or every independent publisher that you submit your manuscript to, or every agent that you contact. Far from it. But, you will get some successes.

I hope that this post motivated you to move forward.

I know that if you work hard and make the appropriate tweaks, you will become a successful writer.

In success,
Alfonso

When A Publisher’s ‘No’ Should Be Understood As ‘Not Now’

When you submit a manuscript to a publisher, there are four common outcomes:

  1. Acceptance
  2. No response – Unfortunately, some publishers who decide to pass on manuscripts will never inform you that they have done so. A good rule of thumb that I use is that if I have not heard from a publication one month after the latest period of time in which they normally respond, I assume they have rejected the piece and disregard any simultaneous submissions restrictions.
  3. Form rejection – A polite way of informing you that your submission was not close to meeting the journal’s standards conveyed through a form cover letter. This is sent to most writers whose works are rejected by a publisher.
  4. Personal rejection – This is a personalized rejection from a publisher, often telling you what was good about your writing, but listing the reason/s why it was not chosen for publication.

Receiving a personal rejection, counterintuitive as it may seem, is a good sign. Publishers receive countless manuscripts, and the amount of time it would require to personally respond to all applicants would preclude the business of the publication from ever getting done. When a publisher takes time out of their busy schedule to send a personal rejection, it means that they view your writing as solid enough to comment on. They like your writing, but feel that something about it misses the mark.

Jack T. Marlowe was the publisher of Gutter Eloquence Magazine. Aside from my friend Russell’s journal O Sweet Flowery Roses, Gutter Eloquence was the first journal where I submitted my poetry. Mr. Marlowe commented that he liked the grit of my writing, but that it needed a bit of polishing. I started my literary career with 24 rejections in a row, yet his was the only one that was a personal rejection. Not coincidentally, his was the only journal that was an appropriate fit for my writing.

After I landed my first poetry publication in Michelle McDannold’s Citizens for Decent Literature, I decided to submit to Gutter Eloquence Magazine again. This time, having spent the extra effort in shaping my poetry up and choosing the most appropriate fit for the magazine, I had my poem accepted.

The takeaway is this, when you submit your writing to a publisher and receive a personal rejection, you should know the following:

  1. Your writing is perceived to be of excellent quality by the publisher.
  2. There is a specific issue with your writing that led the publisher to passing on it, but that the work as a whole is strong.
  3. You should consider submitting a different manuscript to this publication at a later date.
  4. You should not submit the same manuscript with revised changes there, unless the publisher specifically asks you to do so. 
  5. You should find other journals or publishers that are stylistic fits for this manuscript, and after considering the revisions the publisher suggested, submit your writing again to a new publication.
  6. You should never argue the rejection with the publisher.

So, in short, while any rejection for a writer hurts, a personal rejection is actually a good thing. It means you are quite close to the mark, and with a few tweaks, you can easily publish your writing in that publication or in a variety of others.

In success,
Alfonso Colasuonno

How To Find Appropriate Publishers For Your Writing

The whole process of becoming a successful writer, at its essence, can be boiled down to three simple steps:

1. Write the manuscript of your novel (or short story, poem, etc.).

2. Have your work edited to a publishable standard.

3. Find an appropriate publisher and submit your writing.

Regarding step 3, one of the most common errors new writers make is submitting their writing to publishers who have no interest in the style, genre, or content of their work. There are few publishers who do not have VERY specific parameters of what publish. If your writing falls outside of those parameters, the chance that your submission will be accepted by that publisher is close to 0%, no matter how good your writing might be.

First, let’s backtrack for a second. If you have amassed a body of writing that’s been edited and is ready for publication, but have no idea how to get published, it is critical that you become familiar with these two resources:

Duotrope.com – Duotrope is a subscription-based (only $5/month) catalog of most every high-quality literary journal, contest, and many publishers. Duotrope is highly recommended for any writer looking to find a home for their short fiction or poetry. For contests, I personally prefer using Poets & Writers (pw.org). For manuscripts of novels or nonfiction, the Writer’s Market is a far better resource.

Using Duotrope, you can search over 5,000 literary journals by a variety of limiters, allowing you to find journals that are a match for your genre, form, etc. Once you find a match using Duotrope, it is essential that you carefully read through at least one full issue of the magazine (or at least ten pieces of fiction or poetry for those that are not issue-based). Does your work convey similar themes? Is your writing style similar to that of the writers they publish? How does the content of your writing compare to the content of the authors published in the magazine? If you perform your due diligence and truly study the publication, then you will be aware of whether or not your writing is a match. If it is not, do not bother wasting your (not to mention the publisher’s) time by submitting your writing, as it will not be accepted.

I have not found a single public library in the United States that does not have a copy of the Writer’s Market in their reference section, and many have older editions available to check out. The Writer’s Market is an invaluable resource for anyone who has written a novel (or a long work of non-fiction). This book has an index of publishers that you can browse through, with quick descriptions about the publishers. Using the Writer’s Market, you can quickly identify potential homes for your fiction amongst a variety of independent publishers. Once you notice a potential match, I recommend that you visit the publisher’s website and read some of the blurbs of the books they’ve put out. Again, are they similar to your manuscript in genre, style, and content? If so, you should submit your manuscript and see what happens. If not, do not waste your time, as you will not have your manuscript accepted.

Of course, there is also the self-publishing route, which has its own advantages and drawbacks, but that is a topic for another post.

In short, the key to getting your writing published is to ensure that your writing is a direct match for what the publisher puts out. If your writing fits a publisher’s niche, you have a good chance of getting your work accepted.

In success,
Alfonso

No Publisher Should Ever Be Overlooked

When you’re an aspiring writer, any offer to publish your writing should be accepted graciously!

Now, I don’t necessarily mean vanity presses, but that’s a post for another day. Any competitive press or literary magazine that would like to publish the manuscript of your novel, poetry, or short fiction should (in most cases) be accepted wholeheartedly.

There are certain places that everyone would like to publish with. Of course you’d probably like to publish with The New Yorker, Granta, Glimmer Train, Tin House, PANK, Word Riot, or any of the Big 5 publishers—so would every other writer; that doesn’t mean that the obscure journal with a subscription list of 1,000 should be overlooked.

The fact is that any competitive press is just that—competitive. They screen out lots of writers’ work. If any publisher or press likes what you’ve sent them, that’s a huge victory. It’s not a slight to get published somewhere that isn’t widely known, even amongst literary crowds. Keep in mind that the big publishers pay attention and are always scouting for new talent. If nothing else, you are building quite a portfolio.

The reality is that it’s just not common for most writers to start at the top of the heap, unless they have a wide platform from being notable for some feat other than writing. If you have the chops to get published, no matter where, that’s a huge victory. Embrace it. The journals and presses that you may be seeking to publish with quite possibly may take note, and soon you will be on your way!

-Alfonso

Promoting Your Creative Writing

Before I launch into this post, I hope that you’ll read my poem “Smyrna, 1993” published today in Eunoia Review, an excellent online literary journal.

There’s a tendency for many writers to often downplay their own achievements. Out of modesty, they may not want to promote their writing as often as they should, or even at all. Doing so is seen as commercial and crass.

I don’t believe that this attitude is a healthy one. Writing is about sharing your vision with the world. You can’t do that if you’re an unknown. It’s so much easier to get yourself moving in the right direction if you start letting people know who you are and what you’ve done. 

But how can you do so? Here are four ways to consider:

1. Social Media – Whenever good things happen, whether it be having a piece published in a literary journal, putting out an eBook, getting booked for a reading, completing the first draft of your novel, or planning to visit an open mic to perform poetry, let your friends and followers on social media know about it. 

2. Get Connected to Local Writers – Regardless of if you live in a metropolitan area or a small town, there will be other writers around. Find them. Join their groups. Go to their events. Strike up friendships with them. Being an insider will help integrate you in the literary game.

3. Online Writing Spaces – Read the blogs of other writers. Join writing-related message boards and websites. Help other writers whenever possible. If you put forth a good effort, you’ll soon establish some excellent contacts who would be happy to assist you in promoting your own writing.

4. Help Publishers – Volunteer in some capacity for a literary magazine or small press that publishes work that you enjoy. If you have relevant experience, consider applying for positions at a major publisher.

How do you promote your own writing? Did I miss anything that may be helpful to an aspiring writer? Please feel free to share your thoughts.