Pep Talk: Giving Your Work Away Is a Great Way to Sell It
As writers, if we want to grow an audience, we need to spread the word about our work. Yes, whether you’re fiercely indie or want to publish with Random House—or, indeed, you’re somewhere between the two—then posting a blog, publishing online, or creating an e-book are powerful ways to get known for what you do. But I often hear writers telling me that they’re too shy to post their stories online, or they don’t like to “give their stories away,” or they don’t gel with social media. And yet, many of these authors also tell me, “I just want to get my work out there. I want my work to sell.”
I’m fortunate enough to work for Dorie Clark, who is a big deal in terms of personal branding--and more. Her awesome book Reinventing You enables us to transform ourselves by owning our personal brands. After all, every one of us has a personal brand, or, if you will, a professional reputation. The question is, do our personal brands as writers put us forward in a way that we desire? So, if you do want to sell your work, you need to get known for your work. And one way to do that is by giving away your writing.
That’s right—you heard me correctly. It’s a great idea to give our work away for free!
Now, I’m not talking about gifting all our work to the world. We have to decide what we want to give away and what we want to sell. But what we do decide to give away will help us sell our other writing because, today, our personal brand is what creates our community, and our community creates our readers, and our readers, if they enjoy us, will want more of our work.
Here are three great ways to give your work away for free:
1. Write a blog. Many of you already have blogs, and if you do, that’s fabulous. You’re already sharing your personal brand with the world. But if you’re a fiction or memoir writer, have you shared any of your creative work on that blog? If you’re looking to publish a longer work with a publisher, or have already done so, you need to make sure that you don’t give away too large an excerpt. But snippets are a great way to go because they prove your worth as a writer not only to potential publishers, but potential readers, too. And the latter is important, especially if you’re an indie writer.
2. Create a free, downloadable mini e-book. Giving away a mini e-book that contains a free story or article can be a great way to spread the word about your work. You can organize for the book to be downloaded from your website, free of charge. If you like, you can ask readers to give you their email addresses in exchange for the free gift. That way, you can stay in touch with them and build your community.
3. Be a social media writer. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are wonderful places for sharing little excerpts of work. And “little” is key, I argue, if we want to leave readers thirsting for more, rather than leaving them swamped by our words. Taking an interest in others’ shares on social media is also important, of course. As writers, we build community by exchanging our support. And don’t worry if you’re shy! Taking an interest in others’ work and sharing it with your community are great ways to get used to being active on social media. What’s more, such actions build your brand in a very positive way. After all, generosity, a great aesthetic, and warm authenticity are fabulous things to be known for.
But, however you share your work, do remember to build community by promoting the work of others, too. Whether you retweet or share their writing on social media, or comment on others’ blogs, or comment on their free content, community is a cornerstone of business today—and that’s a wonderful feeling. After all, what’s more important than a sense of team?
Sue Williams is co-founder of Here Booky Booky (herebookybooky.com) where authors' works are made into beautiful books. With a background in psychology, education, and online marketing, she is an instructor and confidence coach at Grub Street and has published her short stories at a variety of magazines and journals including Narrative (where she also worked as an editor), Salamander, the Yalobusha Review, and elsewhere. Under her pen name, Sue is agented, has published a novel and several collections, writes columns on sexuality and spirituality, and also runs an indie press. As Sue, she works as a marketing assistant for branding and marketing expert Dorie Clark, and also coaches writers who are looking to build their confidence and platforms. Find out more at www.herebookybooky.com and www.suewilliams.co.ukSee other articles by Susan Williams