After winning a literary contest, how do you prepare to promote yourself as an author?
Ringing in Women’s History Month with my own personal historical achievement: I won in the middle grade/young adult category for the Black Creatives Revisions Workshop.
The program was sponsored by literary advocacy organization We Need Diverse Books and mega-publisher Penguin Random House. After years of submitting stories to fellowships, I finally nabbed a fellowship and won the grand prize!
The workshop lasted four months in 2022 from May to September. My cohort and I submitted our revised manuscripts to Penguin Random House at the end. The application required a completed draft manuscript, as the main focus of the workshop was to prep that manuscript for publication.
While spending those months on trying to perfect my story to the best of my ability, I got married, left a job, started a job, and brainstormed my next idea for a novel.
My manuscript now is being considered for publication at Penguin Random House. The workshop, like many other opportunities, doesn’t guarantee a publishing contract, but I feel much closer to one. I’m still querying literary agents. I have to keep writing because luckily my story ideas keep overflowing like a waterfall.
Though I had submitted to programs in the past, I plan to rev up submissions for short story prizes. Once this thought entered my mind, I noticed Kima Jones post an informational reel about submitting short stories and keeping track of those stories. She is a veteran on these matters: She won the PEN America fellowship in 2013 and created her own retreat with Jack Jones Literary Arts. Her memoir, Butch, is expected to be released this fall.
Boosting yourself up as a future author is hard. You have to be strategic, like amassing thousands of social media followers, a requirement for some literary agents. You have to figure out a media brand when you don’t have a book out in the world. As a journalist, I have hundreds of articles under my byline, but a book is a different beast.
For the same manuscript in a rougher form, I also had the honor to be longlisted by the inaugural Voyage YA First Chapters contest. I didn’t boast about that honor because of the longlisting. I wanted to win the top prizes, but reflecting back, I still should’ve hurrahed louder for the fact my work was recognized.
This blog has given me great insight into the publishing industry. I started the blog after realizing that I had a lot of work to do to become a traditionally published author. Even authors who self-publish still have to research the best ways to get their books distributed and learn how to promote themselves and their books. Those are just the basics.
Most people who have creative writing passion knew that to make a living, they needed a day job. Fortunately, I always dreamed of being a journalist, too, and that dream felt more attainable. Living the multipassionate life is a struggle, but when you imagine yourself as an author, all those actions you have to take become more visible. And it’s nice when your work also becomes more visible.