10 Ways Pre-Published Writers Can Start Establishing Their Careers NOW

Today's guest post is from freelance writer Sarah Allen (no relation that we know of, but we do have a lot of things in common, including the agreement that Colin Firth is THE greatest Mr. Darcy, and a tendency to knee-weakness at the sight of Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones). She is still in the query process with her novels, but has published numerous articles and short stories. She also has a great blog and is working hard on establishing her career. 

She'll be answering your questions on Sunday while I'm making some of those important in real life (IRL) connections. I'll be speaking at an event given by our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. 

If you're anywhere near Morro Bay CA this afternoon, drop by the Coalesce Bookstore (inspiration for Camilla's bookstore in NO PLACE LIKE HOME) and meet some great mystery authors and join us in a glass of wine, some of my famous Tuscan white bean dip, and some chocolate-dipped strawberries...Anne

10 Things Pre-Published Writers Can Do To Boost Their Careers

by Sarah Allen

There is a long (sometimes a LOOONG) period of time between the moment a writer decides they’re serious about this writing thing and starts writing their book and the moment when their first book finally hits shelves.

A writer can easily go through several years and several manuscripts before they are picked up by a traditional publisher or make the decision to go the indie route.

This period can be frustrating for so many reasons. One of the biggest frustrations about this waiting period for me personally is that even though the most important thing is the writing and writing and better writing, I still have this strong desire to start building an author career for myself.

Except, how does one do that without a published book? How can we start building ourselves this writerly life from the very beginning, without waiting until things work out for us in publishing?

I’ve come up with 10 things pre-published authors can do to boost their careers. Again, even though the most important thing is to just keep writing, and hone your craft, these are some practical things a new author can do to get the professional wheels moving. And even though the tips are targeted to pre-published authors, I think they can be easily adapted for writers at any phase of their career.

1. Write and submit short stories. 

This may be the most important and directly applicable way writers can start building a professional career. 

Publishing short stories is a great way to get your writing and name out there, and show agents and editors that you’re serious as you start querying them. 

It’s also a great way to become a better writer. This is a long-haul and huge-effort journey of its own, but with some hard work it can potentially serve as a quicker way of getting your work out there while you work on the Big Novel Project. You can find great lists of literary magazines at Poets&Writers or NewPages.  

(For more info on this very wise tip from Sarah, see my post 10 Reasons Why Short Stories are Hot..Anne)

2. Pitch articles to consumer magazines. 

Similar to tip 1, but also another fantastic way to get your name and writing out there. I love picking up the latest Writers Market and seeing the insane number of possible venues. It can be a little intimidating, like going in to the Bellagio buffet and realizing how many exotic yet yummy options there are. (Calamari is surprisingly delicious). 

But pick a subject that interests you and start researching a couple magazines in that area. And believe me, you can find lots of tasty options. Some of these magazines reach hundreds of thousands of people, and rather than paying for an advertisement, you get paid (usually) and get your name and bio right there in front of possible future readers.

3. Promote other writers. 

This goes deeper than "I scratch your back, you scratch mine". Yes we want readers for our future books, but promoting other writers comes down to making genuine and lasting connections. It’s more than simply getting your name out there, although promoting other writers on your social media accounts is one of the best ways to do that.

It’s about joining a great community, and becoming someone who those in that community know, like, and trust. Be a friend first, a salesman second. And this pre-published waiting time is the perfect opportunity to do that, by promoting your fellow authors on Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other sites you use.

4. Enter writing contests. 

This, again, comes down to getting your name and writing out there even before you have a published book. Don’t be intimidated by writing contests, and don’t take anything too personally. (Remember, even J.K. Rowling got rejected). But if you keep at it, contests can be a great way to build up some street cred as well as make connections within the publishing world. Awesome contest lists are easily accessible at Writers Digest, P&W, NewPages, and FreelanceWriting.com.

(Another great resource is C. Hope Clark's Funds for Writers newsletter...and the "Opportunity Alerts" at the bottom of this blog...Anne)

5. Use your hobbies. 

I think it’s important to keep in mind that readers are not ONLY readers. They also have many other interests, including some that may overlap with yours (like kettle corn and all things Pixar...that’s not just me, right?).

So even if you don’t have a book out yet, you can still talk to future readers about things you both love. For example, if you’re a stamp collector, you could start a Philately Friday on your blog. If you’re a Victorian Era fan, do reviews of Jane Austen movies (and who doesn’t need another excuse to look up pictures of Colin Firth?). If you’re an artist, photographer, musician, singer, video-editor, anything like that, use your other skills and hobbies to start making connections in as many ways as possible.

I personally love movies and video editing, so I had a blast making a fun little stop-motion video (with my socks) and putting it on YouTube. (This is the most adorable love story about socks you've ever seen--Sarah sure is multi-talented!...Anne)

6. Use Social Media itself as an artistic outlet. 

This one is just fun to me. It seems like authors are constantly told to push and push on every social media site like the world depends on it. No wonder it all seems weird and intimidating.

However, if you think of social media as an artistic outlet in and of itself--another way to publish your work--then hopefully it’s not only less intimidating, but can provide a way for us to use the best tool we have: our words.

Let me get more specific about what I mean here. Sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are growing incredibly fast, and provide a great way of tapping into new readers. And as I said, it doesn’t have to be super intimidating if you think of social media as another way of telling stories and being published.

You can use your words and creativity to tell stories on sites like Tumblr and Pinterest. There are some hilarious examples out there, like Yacht Cats on Tumblr and My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter on Pinterest. And many of these story-telling social media accounts (including MIWDTD) have been picked up as books.

So be creative, and just think of social media as another way of “getting published.”

7. Go to Conferences. 

Conferences are great places to get good writing advice, learn about the publishing industry, and make connections. It’s as simple as that. I’ll be going to my first conference later this month, and I’m super excited! (If anybody’s going to the Las Vegas Writers Conference...wanna have lunch?)

8. Make IRL connections. 

Wherever you live, it’s probably a good idea to get involved with the local writing community. Get to know your local booksellers, and use MeetUp.com and other sites to find local writing and book groups. You can also use LinkedIn to make real life publishing industry connections.

And if you can’t find any, maybe you can make your own!

9. Blog to join the conversation. 

Yes, I know writers are already told to blog, blog, blog, and I mostly agree with that advice. If social media are spokes of outreach, a blog or website is your hub. And I do think every writer needs a hub.

However, I want to take it one step further.

I suggest looking at a blog not as a way of bringing people to you, but as a way for you to reach out to other people. Especially in the beginning. One of the great things about a blog is that you can make it whatever you want it to be, but keep in mind what type of content will be valuable to your readers.

And use your blog to join a community conversation by reading lots of other blogs and leaving thoughtful comments. Join blog-hops like the A-Z April Challenge currently going on.

Personally, I feel I have learned more about the publishing industry and being a writer through reading some of the amazing blogs out there (like this one...thank you Anne and Ruth) than I have in any other way.

10. Be you.  

I mean this in a practical way. There is a certain combination of interests, skills, and connections that is completely unique to you. Be creative and use what you’ve got and you’ll be able to come up with your own strategies that will work for you in ways they couldn’t for anybody else.

Think of the unique connections you already have, and the unique services you have to offer. Put yourself out there and offer up whatever it is you’ve got (even if it’s mostly just an excessive ability to go on and on about Benedict Cumberbatch’s cheek bones). People are attracted to sincerity, and if you give them you, they’ll stick around for the long haul.

I’m working on these things as much as anyone, but hopefully this gives you some practical ideas to incorporate in your own writing career, whatever phase you’re at. If you’re a pre-published author struggling to get things going, keep working hard, and I have faith it will work out for all of us in the long run!

Sarah Allen is querying two novels (one adult, one YA, both magical realism) and drafting a third. She has been published in several literary magazines and placed in several writing competitions such as the Utah Arts and Letters Original Writing competition and the Writers Digest 77th annual competition. She received her English degree from BYU and currently lives in Las Vegas where she works as a grant writer for Best Buddies Nevada. 

You can find her at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other places. Her short story collection, Cross-Eyed, is available on Amazon.

What about you, Scriveners? Are you pre-published? Are you taking advantage of any of these ways to jumpstart your career? If you're published now, are there any things you wish you'd done before you started publishing? Anything to add to Sarah's list? 



Every writer who's ever been in a critique group has to see this one.

An ensemble comedy about a weekly critique group of unpublished writers whose fabric is threatened when one member scores an agent, a book deal, and a movie deal in quick succession. Starring Kaley Cuoco of the Big Bang Theory and the late Dennis Farina. (And written by SLO's own Dave Congalton) 
Here's the trailer at YouTube.

Authors Anonymous 

Available to rent or buy from Amazon and iTunes. It's also at Charter on Demand, Dish TV on Demand, and a whole lot of other Video on Demand sites. Although it's not yet on Netflix, you can save it to your queue. It will be shown in select theaters across the US starting April 18th, including the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo (afterward it will move to the Downtown Center).
Here's a link to the other venues.

and this just in...

Narrated by award-winner C. S. Perryess and Anne R. Allen (as Camilla)

Set in San Luis Obispo. Great for that morning commute...

$17 for the audiobook or free with Audible free trial. Download of Audible is free for your PC or Tablet Nearly 8 hours of hilarious entertainment!  Available at Audible and coming soon to iTunes


The Golden Quill AwardsEntry fee $15. Two categories: Short fiction/memoir (1000 words) and Poetry (40 lines max) $750 1st prize, $400 2nd prize in each category. Sponsored by the SLO Nightwriters and the Central Coast Writers Conference. Entries accepted from April 1-June 30th.

The Saturday Evening Post "Celebrate America" fiction contest. $10 ENTRY FEE. The winning story will be published in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and the author will receive a $500 payment. Five runners-up will each receive a $100 cash payment and will also have their stories published online. Stories must be between 1,500 and 5,000 words in. All stories must be previously unpublished (excluding personal websites and blogs). Deadline July 1.

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award. Entry fee £15. This is a biggie. Stories in English up to 3000 words in any genre from anywhere in the world. £3000 First Prize. Judges include iconic mystery author Lawrence Block and Whitbread & Orange short-lister Jill Dawson. £4500 ($7200) in total prizes. The top 50 contestants also get a free critique of their stories. Deadline June 30th.

E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award: Entry Fee: $15 A prize of $1,100 and publication on the Writecorner Press website is given annually for a short story. Submit a story of up to 3,000 words. All entries are considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Deadline April 30th

Flash Prose Contest $15 ENTRY FEE. WriterAdvice seeks flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running 750 words or less. Enlighten, dazzle, and delight us. Finalists receive responses from all judges. First Place earns $200; Second Place earns $100; Third Place earns $50; Honorable Mentions will also be published. Deadline April 18th.

Amazon’s literary journal Day One is seeking submissions. According to Carmen Johnson, Day One’s editor, the litzine is looking for “fresh and compelling short fiction and poetry by emerging writers.” This includes stories that are less than 20,000 words by authors that have never been published, and poems by poets who have never published before. To submit works, writers/poets can email their work as a word document, along with a brief description and author bio to dayone-submissions @amazon.com .

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