By: Kesia Alexandra
Tips on Sharing your Fiction
So you’ve decided to write a book or five! Great! Now you have to figure out how to get it out into the world and in the hands of all the people who are waiting to read it (and believe me, people are waiting to hear what you have to say). Below are three things to consider while pursuing your journey as an author.
1. Decide if you want an MFA
Although degrees in creative writing are not often available at the undergraduate level, writing fiction is not something you need a degree to do. People who are dedicated to getting an MFA should be more interested in teaching creative writing at the college level than sharing their own fiction. That’s what an MFA is good for and if that’s something you want to do, then it’s worth your effort to complete an MFA program. However, if what you want to do is write and share stories for a living, then you don’t necessarily need a degree. What you do need is an audience.
2. Find and Connect with your Audience
There are lots of ways to build an audience these days. There’s Twitter, there are blogs where one can do guests posts, there’s Amazon. It takes time to build an audience but it can also be fun. You need an audience whether you want to publish your books through a traditional publishing company or publish them independently. Terry McMillan published Waiting to Exhale traditionally, but she still ended up doing a lot of the promotion herself, sending out letters to bookstores and arranging signings.
Being published traditionally only guarantees that the publishing company will take part of your proceeds. It does not guarantee that the publishing company will promote your work, especially if you’re a new writer. If you’re unsure about this just take a trip to Barnes & Noble. I used to work there so I know it’s true. Look at the shelves: the books receiving the most promotion are not necessarily well-written books. They subjects may not even be that interesting to those of us who enjoy reading. They’re the celebrity confessionals or cookbooks or memoirs—the books the store believes people will buy. And they’re right. People will buy them, not because they’re exceptional, but because the customer is already familiar with either the writer or the subject. They already know what to expect.
So what you need to do is make yourself familiar to people. Join some online writing communities. Scribophile is the one I use most often but there are several others. If you’re not on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook, as far as people are concerned, you don’t exist. The only reason people bought Michael Jackson’s post-mortem album is that he had been a superstar in life. No one buys the work of an unknown ghost, which is essentially what you are if you’re not on social media. If you’re not a fan of social media, that’s okay! I wasn’t either. A lot of artists have said that they are not. But there are still many artists that have been successful through social media because they have made the websites work for them.
3. Stay True to Your Voice
You’re not going to appeal to everybody. You’re just not. We’re all forced to read certain books in school, that’s why we all know about them. Shakespeare, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter—whatever. Some of these books may have appealed to you in school, many of them probably didn’t. My favorite book that I read in high-school was Their Eyes Were Watching God. It was the first time I had seen someone, a black woman no less, write in dialect. It showed me that I could write in my own voice and my friend’s voices as well and that it would still be valid.
People are attracted to what they can relate to. We’re attracted to things that reflect us. No one reads fiction to learn. We read it for entertainment and feeling. If a lesson slips between the cracks, so be it, but mostly we read fiction to escape for a little bit. Point being, since you’re not going to appeal to everybody, no matter what you do, you might as well write about what you are genuinely interested in and care about.
I write about black people, mostly black girls, because I’m writing the stories I wish I could have read when I was younger. It’s not much deeper than that. I am not trying to get every person in the world to appreciate, understand or value black girls. I write because I am always working on getting that for myself and I hope my work will help another black girl get that as well.
So be open about what your goals are and what you’re writing. If a white person reads my work and loves it, great. It has happened many times. And I too have read many books by white authors and related to them, because humanity is complex. But be open about what you’re writing so that you attract the right audience.
I wish you the best of luck in pursuing your writing goals. Remember, our stories are important and deserve to be told.
Kesia Alexandra is a 25 year old writer from Washington, DC. She is the author of “It Ain’t Easy” and most recently “Eating off the Floor”. She can be found on Twitter @kesialexandra.