When it comes to writing fiction, getting your name and your work out there can be tough.
Assuming that your writing skills are ready for an audience, where’s a new author to start? How do they build an audience quickly and efficiently? What are the best avenues for making contact with other writers? Everyone’s looking for the best ways to get noticed.
The two options I’ve found to be most effective are short stories, and writing letters.
In the short story genre, writers get paid for their stories – but not enough to live on. This creates a rotation effect of established writers moving on to bigger and better things (ie. novels) and new writers coming in and becoming established in their turn.
And this is the opportunity for the fledgling writer. The appetites of these magazines, e-zines, and books is voracious for new short stories and you can help fill in the gaps. They need good short stories, period. On the other hand, publishing a novel is strictly a business proposition for a publisher…can he make more money off you than he’ll lose printing your book? Usually the answer is no because of the high cost of promoting a new author. This is an entirely different feel from a magazine that already has an audience, already making money, and just needs good material to continue doing so.
Starting off in the short story genre allows you to build an audience you can then take with you when you decide you do want to publish your novel. This gives you the upper hand in negotiations with the publisher, and allows you to get some revenue right off the bat without having to try and build your audience from scratch.
Some genres of fiction have a more thriving short story market than others. For example, I believe science fiction is an easier sell than short story romance. Nature of the beast. Every area of fiction can use short stories, so keep trying and eventually you’ll get there.
And while your writing, be reading. And more importantly, write letters to the authors of stories which move or repel you. Transfer your writing skills into valuable criticism and let the authors know what you think. Everyone loves getting feedback, especially authors.
If you can develop for yourself a reputation as an appreciative reader, and develop a network of authors and editors who know your name, you can leverage this fact when you want to publish your own fiction. For instance, editors are more willing to take a chance on a name they know and have conversed with. Authors are more willing to read, review, and recommend your book when you’ve been writing to them about their books.
Write to authors, write to editors, write to anthologists, write to poets; everyone you engage can help you in some way, and it’s always fascinating to talk to these people.
If you take one year and use both ideas, you’ll begin to see something happen with your own writing. Something, no one can really predict what, but something will happen. I can promise it. It’s the law of averages; make enough phone calls, write enough letters, create enough stories and someone will respond.