1) Even if it’s hard, find other writers to read your work. In 2012, I had long left behind my M.F.A. program and was therefore out of touch with other writers, but I wanted to write a book. Looking back, I know that the book I ended up self-publishing had some original moments, but it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. What I needed was someone to tell me the hard, cold truth about what was working, what wasn’t, and why. On the surface, this may not sound like marketing or promotional work, but if we believe that readers want to read good work, then it makes sense that we’ll have more readers if our work is strong. You can find talented writers through writing workshops such as the Hurston-Wright Foundation, VONA , the National Black Writers Conference, and at writers retreats such as the Vermont Studio Center, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, and Bread Loaf.
2) Attend as many readings as you can. Be truly passionate about literary community. If you’re someone who is an active reader, your writing will get better (see tip #1), and because people will recognize you as someone who cares about the literary community, they will want to support you and nurture your writing career.
3) Be a good online literary citizen. A lot of writers have Twitter and Facebook accounts-they’re almost a given for anyone with a book out. But the concept of being a good literary citizen online is discussed less. Being engaged–following, listening to other writers, and discussing them on social media–is part of being a good online literary citizen. Your Twitter and Facebook feeds should overflow with the witty ideas of other writers; with social media, you have the opportunity to read the thoughts of writers ranging from the hilarious Mat Johnson to the somewhat morose Joyce Carol Oates.
Recent and upcoming events/sightings: Nelly Rosario, Sheila Maldonado, and Marcena Hernandez at Kweli Journal’s Desveladas: A Fotonovela Jan. 16; Randall Horton, Shirley Kwan, and Madeleine Beckham at the HarlemWorks Reading Jan. 17; The Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Celebration Jan. 16-Jan. 17; Taneika Wilder and Marc Polite at the Independent Author Symposium at Countee Cullen Library Jan. 30 ; Chris Abani and Victor LaValle Jan. 30 at Community Bookstore