Look, we KNOW it’s all about the writing … and totally NOT all about the writing. But bar networking and meeting people, what else do writers actually need to do, to earn that all-important good first impression? After all, we know a bad impression has a nasty habit of lasting and stinking us all out with its fetid whiff, so chew on these advance solutions for size:
1. Send them all they ask for, the way they ask for it.
C’mon guys, this is a no-brainer, right? Well, you would *think* so. But until submissions guidelines get READ, never mind adhered to, I’m going to keep banging on about it. More: Submissions checklist (PDF download) and my Submissions Insanity column at Scriptmag.
2. Contact people you want help from the way THEY prefer.
You know what’s cool? Reaching out and asking people. You know what’s NOT cool? Using channels that make it difficult for those people to respond to you. Never just fire off questions into cyberspace: get to know where Pros hang out, have conversations with them and work out the ways/channels they prefer. Remember, it’s their help you want; if you make easy for them, then you’re more likely to get that help!
3. Quit telling Pros they’re doing it wrong.
There are precious few places online I haven’t seen less experienced writers telling the more experienced how their own job works. WTF! Now, I’m not saying newer writers have to bow and scrape to Pro Writers, far from it; just don’t tell them how to do their job! How hard is that? In other words – ENGAGE WITH THEM, DON’T ENRAGE THEM. You’re out to make contacts here, remember. And for God’s sake, know who you’re talking to. More: 3 Reasons Someone Might Not Read Your Script by Max Adams.
4. Campaign courteously.
Look, I get it. These are issues or projects which are important to you. I know that, because you’ve spammed me up the arse with your crowd funding attempts or your Amazon Author page or your blog links or pioneering transmedia projects about goats in Peru or God knows what else. But realise this: nobody’s here to make you a star or give you validation; no one owes you anything.
Why? For one reason and one reason only:
In order to GET? You have to GIVE.
You can fight the above – and lose – or you can start your journey and INVITE others to get on board with you. So what’s it to be? More: 5 Tips For Crowd Funders.
5. Use social media WELL.
Social media’s great. You can use it to set yourself up and meet people and do all sorts of amazing things … Or you can use it to kill your career BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED. It really is as simple as that.
So, use social media: it WILL make your job easier. Just know as well there’s nothing more tedious than the Keyboard Warrior spunking outrage all over the internet for no good reason. Always, always remember there are multiple, multiple ways that writers can Kill Their Credibility Online.
6. Take responsibility.
Everyone makes mistakes. There will be times when it is your fault; other times, it will be someone else’s. But be dignified and do not air your dirty laundry in public. Do whatever it takes to get your project, your brand or whatever back up to scratch and move on. Don’t waste time plotting revenge either: whomever has done you down will gets his/hers. Plough that energy into positive endeavours and leave them behind. More: The B2W Required Reading List.
7. Be honest & generous.
Don’t bullshit others. If you don’t know something, that’s fine; “No one really knows anything” as Goldman said. And if you know stuff or find it out, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it and your good karma will come back to you tenfold. More: Check out Marc And Angel Hack Life for more on good Karma.
8. Don’t try and “save” the industry.
It comes down to this: if it was as easy to “save” as the industry as so many laypeople on Twitter insist (whether the issue is female directors; better representation in front of the camera; indie publishing; Hollywood “flops” or something else)? IT WOULD BE DONE BY NOW. Why?
Because we’re all in this business to BE CREATIVE but most of all, MAKE money. There is no secret cabal like a malevolent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D trying to stop everyone except the heteronormative white dudes. There’s important things we need to address – ABSOLUTELY YES!! – but making out that you have the BIG ANSWERS from your tabletop that apparently no one in the industry has **apparently ever thought of before**?? Dream on! Don’t make yourself look like an amateur and shoot yourself in the foot.
9. Know what you’re doing!
Have a career strategy and remit. Set yourself goals; work towards them – and don’t be afraid to change them. Sometimes we have to move sideways to get where we want … And other times, we end up in places we never imagined, yet it’s like it’s meant to be. More: 5 Career Strategies for Writers.
10. Don’t chase referrals endlessly.
Imagine this: you’ve written a fabulous screenplay or book … And you think it’s PERFECT for ***insert name of producer, agent or publisher here***.
OH, IF ONLY YOU HAD THAT PERSON’S EMAIL ADDRESS! They’d love it straight away, buy it for $$$$ and propel you out of obscurity!! But, oh. That producer, agent or publisher does not have an open door submissions policy. Supersadface.
But wait! You know someone who know someone who KNOWS THAT producer, agent or publisher you want to send your work to … It must be fate, right???
NO. IT IS NOT FATE. It is wicked temptation. You must not simply ask for that agent, producer or publisher’s direct or personal email address from your contact, or for your contact to endorse you /pass on that work (especially without reading it!), commonly known in the industry as a “referral”.
Because those pros do not want your work. They have lots of their own to get on with. If yours lands in their inbox, at best it will likely get “moved to trash”. Sad but true.
But there are things you CAN do instead!
You CAN do your research online and via The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. You CAN query companies via email. You CAN get your work solicited. In fact, every time you think you can’t get read? You must think: YES I CAN.
So don’t imagine a referral is the *only* way into the industry and it’s all “who you know”. Because it simply isn’t.
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