Paying it Forward

I originally published the following post on Writer Unboxed (7/30/10). You can read the comments here.

Ten years ago, a movie called PAY IT FORWARD hit the theaters. The plot was based on the notion of repaying a favor not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people, and so forth and so on until the world was revolutionized by peace, love, and happiness. I got to say, I like the concept. It appeals to my idealistic side, as well as that part of me that says, “Hey!  I could really pull something like that off.” And then it occurs to me.  I see this happening every day in the world of publishing.

(*insert sound of tires screeching to a halt*)

“What?” says the unpublished writer. “I just got three new rejections in my inbox. I’m not feeling the love just yet.”

“Pssh,” says the best-selling novelist. “I just received a 40-page editorial letter for my third novel, and my kids have the chicken pox. I don’t have time for good deeds.”

Well, with all due respect, I’m suggesting that none of us can afford not to.

It’s no secret that marketing has fallen more and more on authors’ shoulders and, because most of us have no formal training in marketing and public relations, it’s this concept of paying it forward that is an overlooked and undervalued marketing tool for writers. What I’m trying to say is, supporting the writing community is a FREE and POWERFUL tool for self-promotion.

Use it.

“Okay, okay,” you say. “I get your point. So, how do I do this?” Paying it forward is something we can all do because no matter where we are in our writing careers, there’s always someone just one step behind, hungry to learn. Here are some ways to “pay it forward” that I have experienced from both sides of the fence.

Offer to Review Another Writer’s Query Letter: Sure it’s time consuming, but the goodwill that spreads about you after helping out a fellow writer is like butter on a griddle. Believe me, people talk. This goodwill equates with better name recognition, loyal fans, and . . . in the end . . . more dollars in your pocket. (Of course, the peace, love, and happiness doesn’t hurt either.)

Follow Other Writers Back on Twitter (even those who aren’t on the NYTBS): It’s as easy as clicking a button, and the impact on a new writer when a favorite author follows them back is astronomical! Developing a name as a writer is easy to do these days in the world of social media, and the people you meet through social media will be your first fans when your book comes out. In short, the more accessible you are, the more readers there will be who are willing to give your work a shot. (For more on this subject click here.)

Share Your Resources with New Writers:  Imagine you are at a writers’ conference and the person sitting next to you says, “I’m just so new to this. I wish there was some place I could learn X.” This is the perfect opportunity for you to lean over, introduce yourself, and scribble out a handful of helpful writing websites, blogs, agents’ names, etc. It takes a long time to learn the publishing industry. Withholding “secret information” doesn’t help you or anyone else. (For more on this subject click here.)

Given the fact I am only able to make this post because Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton decided to “pay it forward,” I would be amiss if I didn’t thank them for the opportunity.  In addition to Therese and Kathy, I’d also like to give a shout out to those writers who, in my experience, are paying it forward every day of the week.  So without further ado.  Thanks for all the peace, love, and happiness:

  • Malena Lott, author Dating DaVinci; founder Book End Babes;
  • Kristina Riggle, author The Life You Imagined; Real Life & Liars; editor Literary Mama;
  • Allison Winn Scotch, author The One That I Want; Time of My Life; Department of Lost and Found;
  • Kelly Barnhill, author The Mostly True Story of Jack.

May you all live long and prosper!


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