How Important is Your Writing Portfolio?
This is a frequently asked question by new and aspiring writers and as with everything in this business the answer is not black and white. The simple answer is very important. The honest answer is it depends.
When I say it’s very important to have a strong portfolio of published writing I always have one person quote how such-and-such a writer’s first book went viral and why can’t they do that too?
Well, the answer to that is the same as why it’s important to have a strong portfolio. If the only work you’ve ever produced makes you millions then clearly what you’re writing about and how you’re writing it has the strength to stand on its own two feet. But then I point out that more than half of those writers (and there’s few of them to begin with) who got a 6-figure advance on their 2nd book had to pay it back because their 2nd book flopped. So you need your strength to be sustainable and you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket – to be on the safe side.
That translates into building up your portfolio/paper trail/publications – making a name for yourself.
How do you do this?
There are three steps you need to follow to make this happen:
3) Do it again
As with anything it’s about persistence. Here are some ways you can focus your efforts:
Write articles for your local/home town paper for free
Start your own ezine (you don’t have to do it alone)
Submit essays, articles, poetry, short stories, etc. to literary journals (print & online)
Submit your writing to magazines (print & online)
Enter writing contests (free and fee but don’t pay more than$25/submission)
Be a guest blogger on various sites as an expert (this does not mean you need to be a professional, just know your stuff and be able to write about it in an interesting way)
Try your hand at Freelance Writing
Consider Ghostwriting (Caroline Keene did not write all of the Nancy Drew books alone, she had help)
Write a newsletter for a local business
Write website content
So the next question is, “How do I make this happen?”
By looking for opportunities – rarely will they come to you, you have to find them. There are a number of sites for new writers that pay next to nothing for your writing but you can use them just as they are using you – for exposure. I joined ELance online and ghost wrote a How To book for a woman’s start up company. I currently write for the online magazine Authors Publish. I wrote a blog-like column for the online version of my local newspaper about my experiences as a new person in town finding out about local businesses. I even started a website around a novella idea I’m thinking of self-publishing someday [The Adventures of the Ivancic Superheroes] and I wrote about my experiences on guest blogs for readers and writers. Not to mention that I made use of Authors Publish Magazine’s weekly lists of journals looking for submissions.
And I’m still doing all these things while running this website.
…. You don’t have the time? Make the time. Pick one or two suggestions from the above list and just keep at it whenever you get a spare moment. You might get lucky and find an in right away or, like me, you might have to work at it for a year or more before the free stuff turns into paid gigs and contests start taking you seriously.
The point is, the more you can get your writing in front of an audience the better. Use a tag line like mine “Author, Editor, Freelance Writer” and include your weblink so people can find you and follow you. Then, when you write your query letter for your book you’ll have a little something to say about what else you’ve written and how you’re growing a following.
This is one of the avenues to help build your recognition, your brand, your author platform.
You can do it – just believe in yourself and build up your support system to keep you motivated and positive. I belong to two writers groups and run my own critique group. Trust me, they’re invaluable for getting through slow times and getting over hurtles. Don’t give yourself an excuse to avoid building your portfolio, instead empower yourself.