As an author, how findable are you?
by Blake Kimzey
A month ago
I enrolled in a creative writing night class at a local community college in the fall of 2007. It was the first time I had taken a writing class and the first time I was made to finish a story. I ended up taking the same Introduction to Fiction class three semesters in a row. For the first time, I had a mentor, warm readers, and best of all: deadlines.
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By the end of my third semester, I started to figure out how to send my work out to literary journals. This took a while because there are a lot of places to send your work. This also meant there was a lot of work out there to be read. Which made me wonder, how could I, as an unknown writer, break through and find my work in print? At the time it felt daunting, and most days it still does.
I didn’t get a story published until 2009. But even before that, I wondered, if or when I do get published, how findable will I be? In a sea of writers, how can I stand out? How can I make myself findable by editors or agents who (way, way down the line) might want to reach out to me after reading something I’ve written?
I knew for sure that decision-makers interested in seeing more of my work would want to see that I was active in the literary community—that I had a Twitter account, a blog or website, and that I was publishing my work regularly. That I was easily findable.
Gaining footing early in a career can be difficult. Unless you are one of the rare writers who publishes a hit debut book that sells for six or seven figures, then you’re like me and most writers who find it hard to get paid for the work we do. Printed literary journals might send a contributor copy. Online journals and blogs often offer a backlink to your website. All of this adds up to exposure, which some people think isn’t worth it. But I do.
Even though I now have over forty short stories published, I can count on only one hand the number of publications who have paid me for my work—VICE, McSweeney’s, Day One, Short Fiction. But I still find my publishing credits invaluable. They helped establish me in the literary community; they gave me little bursts of confidence when I needed it; they introduced my work to readers; and in the end, they made me findable to literary agents, which is how I came to know my literary agent.
But this didn’t happen overnight or even with just publishing stories. Finding my footing came over time and with a diverse body of work to my credit. All of the hard work you are doing now will gather into something meaningful if you give it enough time. Maybe along the way you’ll get a check for your efforts. In the meantime, sending your work out to places that give you a platform can be very worthwhile.