CWC presenter Laurie Scheer is a writer who wears many hats: an instructor, mentor, and conference director who’s worked in a variety of genres. In anticipation of her panel “Branding Yourself: The Author’s Place in the Marketplace,” we’ve asked the media goddess to share some of her best advice on navigating the media landscape. Read on, and get ready to learn a few things!
1. How can writers be true to their artistic vision, but also earn a paycheck?
Writers can apply their writing skills and earn a paycheck by pitching article and content ideas to websites that feature content that is similar to their interests – whether the interest is in the same type of genre the writer writes within (think of all the websites that feature YA, Romance, Sci-Fi authors and sites about writing – Writer Unboxed for instance), or a particular interest that the writer enjoys doing such as gardening, cycling, astrology, etc. At first, there won’t be a lot of pay, however, you’ll be establishing yourself as an expert in that particular field and it can build your writing credentials for when you are ready to release your first (or newest) book.
Writers can also apply for jobs where writing is part of the job – technical writers are in high demand, as are medical writers and police reporting writers. You’d be surprised how many writers do not think their skills are worth anything beyond their love of fiction or nonfiction writing.
One of the best ways to earn a paycheck is to obtain an assistant type of job and during the down time on the desk continue to write your own novel or nonfiction manuscript. I did this during my “secretary” years and found it to be very productive.
Overall, offer to write to let people in your community know that you are a writer. Network and offer to promote a new community endeavor – perhaps the pay is not high, but get in on an early new offering – it could turn into a full time job – writing. Also, there are some high schools and local community colleges that teach video gaming and website writing. Offer to write for them – again, they may not have a huge budget, but you’ll be getting your work out into the world. A writer writes, plain and simple, so go and write.
2. How engaged should writers be with social media?
Before publication and while writing: Follow all favorite writers on their social media. Follow all of the important e-newsletters, Facebook and Twitter accounts of publishing gurus such as Dan Blank’s weekly newsletter. Become engaged in the forums of author’s websites – gather information through these sites.
During the writing process: Set aside one hour a day to gather as much info as possible until you are unable to process any more – what is more important is your own writing.
When your book is about to be published (1 year, six months, 3 months, etc.): It is important that you generate as much content on social media to gather interest in your book. Weekly newsletters, posting on other writers’ sites/blogs, doing as much as possible to be read and seen on social media – get your name out there, establish yourself as the expert and brilliant writer that you are.
3. There are more ways than ever for writers to get published, thanks to the Internet. Do you see this as an advantage or a disadvantage?
I see this as an advantage if writers are interested in what we once called “vanity books” – publishing for your own family and friends – yes, it is possible to do this now at a fairly affordable price. These varied opportunities however, can work against you if you want to be considered a legitimate writer. If you do not have a proper edit of your manuscript along with an amazing high powered public relations agency behind you, it is virtually impossible to sell large volumes of your book. You are still better off going the traditional route with an agent and publisher to assist you (although their assistance is minimal). You will also be considered as an actual player with a book that is published with a publisher. As the e-book phenomenon passes every year, e-books are becoming less and less important in the overall scheme of publishing. I know one agent (if not many, actually), that look down upon authors who self-publish. Do the traditional path.
4. Are you optimistic about the state of today’s media and the place writers have in it?
Yes, very optimistic. There are so many outlets for writers today. The transmedia landscape offers opportunities for writers of all genres – from video gaming to researching and writing historical journals. If you can’t find a job writing in today’s media landscape then it is because you haven’t searched enough – because there are plenty of jobs available for writers in advertising agencies, academia, software developers, websites, etc. Content is needed everywhere, everywhere.
5. Can you offer one piece of advice about how to maintain a good amount of digital engagement without going crazy?
To live a full life, one has to limit their digital engagement. I set aside time in the morning and time at the end of the day to look at the sites that are of interest to me regarding news, entertainment, wellness, cycling, environment, etc. I then plan on viewing 2 to 3 movies over the weekend along with 1 series during the week overall. I wish I could do more but it is not humanly possible. Set some guidelines for yourself and you’ll eventually consume most of the content you wish to view.