Build relationships (along with a portfolio)

Thursday, June 20, 2019
I mentioned earlier this year that although I have directed successful public relations campaigns for others, I have a difficult time promoting my own work. Because you can't solve a problem until you identify it, and to be honest, I've identified it, named it, and lived with it for a long time, I now feel ready to move on to the next step.

I have begun, in earnest, to promote my own work. And, I'm building momentum. For example, I've read my work in front of others, as well as submitted stories, poems, pitches, and books. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a real-world problem, pitched the idea to an editor who liked it and will pay me to write about it. Cool. Dream job, right? To be honest, yes and no.

The reality of working as a writer on her own is that once you write and sell an idea or story, then you may need to start over. The satisfaction of submitting that story is short-lived. After I sell that article, I need to start from scratch, and that's when contemplating the safety of a 9-5 job sounds pretty good. Well, maybe for a few minutes, because there are many ways to connect your writing to those who need it.

The key is to think in terms of building relationships, and building a network of connections that overlap. If I connect with Company or Editor A, then I should take a look at their connections (as much as I can) to see where I may be able to write and sell something similar to Company or Editor B.

If my relationship with my editor or contact is friendly and casual, I can ask for other names of people who might be interested in my work. If not, I may go online to find their business contacts, and ask Editor A if I can use him or her as a reference when contacting someone else in their network. Be careful that Company or Editor A is not archrivals with Company or Editor B. You may never hear from either one again. I speak from experience. But sometimes they hate each other so much that they like stealing each other's writers. That's also happened to me.

When I sold my last article to the editor I am working with, he told me their budget for summer projects is pretty low, so not to expect much in the next two months. That's bad news for me, but I know he's been in his job for a long time, and one of the people he had me interview for an article has a media production company. Guess who I'm going to call next week?

During these conversations, I'm going to ask both of them for names of other people they do business with to see if any of them need a writer. I'm also going to look at those industries because I have pertinent writing examples.

I've reached out to others in the publishing industry as well. I am now a first reader of stories for a literary journal. There is no deadline for these, and sometimes they remind me how many I have left to read as a gentle push to finish one batch so they can send the next. It's a great way to see the type of writing others are submitting. Although I can't submit to this journal now, as a reader, my work may get a second look at a different journal when they find out about the work I do (because I will tell them!).

As a teacher, I've been asked a few times to review textbooks, which I find enjoyable. When I did this a few months ago, the editorial assistant who was responsible for submitting my W9 form couldn't read the one I sent through the website. We emailed back and forth a few times, and after she received a good copy, I asked if I could send a humorous short story. She said it wasn't her area of interest, but she would pass it on to other editorial assistants in her very large corporate publishing company. I haven't heard back, but I have her email and will use it later if I think of something educational she may want to read, because that is her area of interest.

As a writer, don't just focus on submitting work. Build relationships, because all business involves people, and publishing is a business.

Mary Horner teaches communications and has been spending more time contacting potential clients to increase her writing revenue.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--You sound amazingly savvy about this--and brave. I've never felt like I could fit into the business world, so I'm quite impressed with what you're doing.

I bow down to you. ;)

Margo Dill said...

I agree with Sioux. This is some grat advice here and stuff we can all learn from. Thanks for this post, Mary!

Mary Horner said...

Sioux and Margo, it's not that I am savvy, but I reframed my thought process about making what I do best work for me. I look at these tactics as trying to help others solve their problems. I write mostly nonfiction for clients, and when I read websites and other forms of communication, I see that some people aren't maximizing their potential. Today, for instance, a slide from a huge government entity that showed up in my newsfeed contained a noticeable spelling error. Whoever wrote that needs someone to proofread or edit. I can help with that, although I couldn't figure out how to respond, I'm still going to work on contacting them. I'm can use my strengths to help someone. That's a better way for me to think about it, and I'm more likely to do it!

Pat Wahler said...

You're so right-on with this, Mary. Most writers would love to stay in their little writing nook and, well, write. These days there are a thousand other tasks necessary to get a great little story out into the world. It surely does start with networking and overcoming a natural reluctance to promote your own work.

Renee Roberson said...


Smart advice! I think it's great that you have reframed your thinking about networking and promoting yourself as a writer/editor. You never know where these connections will lead you. Because of connections I've maintained with a local magazine for 10+, I just got a great new contract job that wasn't even advertised. There have been plenty of times I've interviewed people over the years who have later reached out about writing opportunities. As long as you present yourself in a professional manner (which I have no doubt you do), doors will swing wide open for you!

Mary Horner said...

Pat, I know you have been taking advantage of connections and opportunities like these for a while, and it's paid off! I hope to follow in your footsteps and get several books out there someday. And Renee, it's so exciting when they think of you first before telling anyone else! Love that, it's happened a couple of times to me, but I'm hoping to build some momentum in that area!

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