Publicity & Promotion for Writers - Part 2

by Marg McAlister


So far we've taken a look at at what to include in a writer's media kit, a writer's blog and a writer's website. Now it's time to explore the value of promoting your writing skills in the workplace, and how to handle media interviews.

Promoting Your Skills in the Workplace

A huge percentage of writers spend hours every day 'enduring' paid work outside the home, squeezing in time to write early in the morning or late at night, dreaming of the day they can write full-time.

Unfortunately, for most of them that day never comes. Sometimes it's because they give up on the dream - in the end they decide that writing is just not something that's vitally important to them. Sometimes it's because it's all too much: they have no life apart from work and writing, and writing doesn't pay the bills.

What they sometimes miss is this: it's often possible to 'tweak' your job so you get to do more of what you really like - writing! It's not always an option, of course. It's pretty hard to write anything if you work on a production line, or if you're standing there directing traffic at a construction site. However, if you work in an office, it may be time to look around and see what you can do.

You'll find that while there are plenty of people in an office who can write well enough to get by, there aren't many who can actually write WELL. That's where you come in. If you see continuing problems with phrasing letters or structuring reports, can you turn this to your advantage? You can, for example, talk to the boss about writing a guide to help others, or creating a set of templates that others can use as a basis for their own letters and reports. This could lead to writing a lot more material for the business - and perhaps even a change in your job description.

Newsletters are another option. Would it help the business to create a newsletter to send to clients? In the newsletter, you can include advice or tips on using products, details of special offers, and a 'what's new?' section. If you work for a large organisation, there's probably room for a newsletter that circulates to employees.

What else could you write? Here's a short list:

  • Office manuals (guide for new employees, systems and processes, standard operating procedures, etc)

  • content for the company website or blog

  • task briefs

  • ad copy

  • promotional copy on flyers and brochures

There are sure to be some types of business writing that will appeal to you more than others, but here's a tip: start with where you can see the biggest need and/or the biggest benefit to the business. That will be easier to 'pitch' to the boss, and will get your foot in the door. You can look for other things that might be more fun once you have a reputation for your writing skills.

How to Handle Media Interviews

Just thinking about being interviewed by the media makes some writer's mouths go dry with fear. That's understandable, if you've never been interviewed before - but a lot of that fear will go away if you are well-prepared. So let's look at a few basics of handling an interview.

Whether your interview is by phone, in person, on the radio or on TV, there's one thing that will help above all others - and that is knowing ahead of time what questions will be asked. This allows you to think about your answers and to prepare just the 'angle' you want. So always ask for advance notice of the interview questions. You won't always get it, but most interviewers will at least give you an idea of the topics that will be covered.

For most writers, the questions cover the same ground: how and when you write; how you come up with your plots and/or characters; your background as a writer (when did you start writing; have you published other books/stories); how your family feels about your writing; when do you find time to write; what your book is about; how it feels to be published and so on.

These should be easy for you to answer. After all, you have lived the life of a writer for a long time - you know what the day-to-day routine is like. And you should certainly know your characters and plot inside out. If you write nonfiction, then it's a safe bet you have a degree of expertise in your subject matter, so questions shouldn't 'throw' you too much.

What if the interviewer does sneak in a question that leaves you floundering - or goes into areas you don't want to talk about? Have your answer ready for this sort of question, too. Here are some suggestions:

"I'm not sure about the answer to that one. I'll have to get back to you."

"Today I'm just talking about my book... we'll leave that for another time."

"Sorry, I'm keeping my family life private."

"That would probably come under the heading of 'Things I never want to talk about'!" (Said with a laugh.) If the interviewer persists, shake your head and say 'Sorry, no, I won't enter into that one."

Four Tips on Making Interviews Go Smoothly

  1. When you have your list of questions (or your list of 'expected questions', if you can't get hold of the actual questions), take the time to sit down and write out the answers. You can then read over these answers several times before the interview. Being so familiar with your responses will make you feel calmer. Just a word of warning: don't plan to take your answers with you and read them out - it will sound stilted and take most of the human 'warmth' out of the interview.

  2. Smile. This might sound like simplistic advice, but it really does help. A smile will help you feel more relaxed and to stay calm.

  3. Rehearse. Get a friend to play the part of the interviewer and run through the questions. You'll be relaxed because it's a friend, but you'll feel as though you're on familiar ground when the actual interview starts.

  4. Think about the audience. If you're on a radio show, who will be listening? A drive-time audience is different from mid-morning, where it's mostly people at home or in the kind of workplace where you are permitted to listen to the radio. If you're doing an interview with a journalist, is it for a weekend colour supplement, a magazine, or a daily newspaper? Your focus or 'slant' might change depending on who will be listening to/reading the results.

The final piece of advice is probably one you've heard before: be yourself. The interview wouldn't be taking place if someone wasn't interested in hearing what you have to say. If you met a stranger who asked what you do and how you write, the conversation would flow easily, because you wouldn't feel threatened - in other words, the real 'you' would come to the fore. Allow this to happen in the interview, too. Then enjoy the fame that results!

© Marg McAlister


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