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  • [SWP: Behind the Book] Since I Signed with She Writes Press
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[SWP: Behind the Book] Since I Signed with She Writes Press
Contributor
Written by
Celine Keating
April 2015
Contributor
Written by
Celine Keating
April 2015

Tomorrow is the pub date for my latest novel Play for Me, a good time to look back over the ten months since I signed with She Writes Press.

As I reflect on lessons learned, I’m struck by the fact that my volunteer literary activities, which I thought of as ancillary, have turned out to have been as important as my marketing plan. At the time, I simply got caught up in these projects; they weren’t part of any strategy. But in hindsight, I suspect that by focusing on building community I am also building “platform” and, hopefully, readership, if not immediately, then in the long term for my next novel and an anthology I am working on as co-editor.

Given all the things a writer needs to do when preparing for book publication, it seems counterintuitive to suggest that you add to your workload by taking on volunteer literary projects in the year before your book is published. But such activities reward your time and energy in both tangible and intangible ways. Here are some things that worked for me you might also want to consider.

Volunteering: I have editing skills, and I offered to help at Hanging Loose, a literary press and magazine. Later, when I needed advice about publishers, contracts, and a publicist, I knew where to turn. More recently I got involved in The Women’s National Book Association, on the board of the NY chapter, and enjoy helping plan events. Recently the WNBA gave me the opportunity to participate on a panel with some terrific women writers, held in conjunction with Pace University, that drew a packed audience. Clearly, I’ve gained as much from working with the organization as I’ve given. So keep in mind that while PEN, The Authors’ Guild, and The National Writers Union are well known, there are many other organizations less familiar that are hungry for volunteers.

Organize Group Readings: I have helped organize three readings of multiple readers: one with writers from my former workplace, BusinessWeek magazine; one with writers whose work, along with mine, appeared in anthologies published by Wising Up Press; and another was organized around a Mother’s Day theme. Bookstores are leery of scheduling readings for unknown authors, because they know how hard it is to draw an audience. But that calculus is turned on its head with group readings, because the expected number of attendees exponentially increases. The writers don’t have to be well known or even published. If you can’t find a willing bookstore, try a café or library. In each of the readings I put together, I worked with a co-organizer, someone I didn’t know well or at all. This not only helped to share the work but also made it a lot more fun. As a result of these readings I gained wonderful connections, contacts with bookstores, and afterward, I had great content to share in social media posts. You can be even more ambitious and start a reading series; while that’s a big commitment, it’s a terrific way to build a network. 

Put Together an Anthology: I know some wonderful writers whose work hasn’t yet been published, and was inspired to do something about it. With a co-editor, we are putting together an anthology. Of course doing this at the same time as I was preparing for my book to be published was a tad crazy, but as it happens, the anthology has gotten a fair amount of press and given me a lot of exposure in my local community. Because we will do a crowd-sourcing campaign to fund the anthology through Pubslush (like Kickstarter but for literary projects), I decided to experiment with a pre-order campaign on Play for Me as a practice run for the anthology. I turned to fellow She Writes Press author Nina Gaby, whose Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women has just been released, and she was very helpful to me in some of the aspects of what’s involved in putting together an anthology.

These are just a few ideas that worked for me on many levels. There are any number of other ways to contribute – say, mentoring young writers , such as Girls Write Now, a wonderful organization that She Writes founder Kamy Wicoff is involved in), or teaching a workshop at a library.

Recently, in commenting on a blog post I wrote on how community building might also build platform, fellow SWP author Betsy Graziani Fasbinder put this concept beautifully:

“When I reject the idea that it's ‘networking’ and think of it, as you suggest, as building my community, then the events and encounters are deeply satisfying. Hosting a reading series has allowed me to meet and get to know the most amazing people. As a side benefit, the series has also brought me great writerly opportunities. Supporting other writers and welcoming them as part of my personal ‘tribe’ has come to be an important part of not only my platform, but an important part of my life and one for which I am far the richer.”

 SWP authors created a private facebook page where we can all share ideas and give each other support. So, speaking of community building, another word for this might be “sisterhood.

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Mary Lou Gomes

    Celine, I just finished your post. Great ideas. Look forward to reading your book.Thanks for getting in touch. 

  • Patricia Robertson

    Good suggestions. It strikes me that an important part of this is that you were "caught up" in these activities. That makes a difference. It's not just another "should" we have to do, but something we are interested in and enjoy that ends up also being good marketing. That's how I approach these activities.

  • Michelle Cox

    Great advice, Celine!  Congrats on your pub date!  

  • Celine Keating

    Kalisha, thank you!  I'm eager to check out your work as well.

  • Kalisha

    Congratulations Celine! Beautiful title and cover I am putting on my summer reading list. This insight is very powerful. Have a wonderful book launch! Kalisha

  • Celine Keating

    You are all terrific examples of this very point! Thank you.  Rita, great idea! Learning SO much....

  • Rita Gardner

    Celine, hope you also write about the anthology project too!

  • Rita Gardner

    Thanks, Celine, for illustrating some of the many ways that "building platform" is also a pay-it-forward endeavor when volunteering comes in to play!

  • Amen, sister. I could not agree more. (Obviously?) Lori A. May's book "The Write Life," about literary citizenship, also underscores this beautifully. It's so good to have supportive people around you when you publish, but you have to support them in turn.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Fabulous advice Celine on growing one's platform and supporting others! I also love the "sisterhood" of SWP authors helping each other, so much knowledge sharing and encouragement! 

    And congratulations on your pub date tomorrow! Play for Me is definitely on my reading list!