— Guest Post by Ekta R. Garg, author of The Truth About Elves and In the Heart of the Linden Wood —
Writers spend so much time waiting on others—for outlets to accept or reject our work; for editors to send notes; for readers to post reviews—that sometimes we’re reluctant to ask for what we want. Independent authors need to be proactive. Always keep in mind how you can turn a potential interaction into an opportunity for outreach about your work.
Here are three examples of proactivity from my publishing journey.
1. A “no” could become a “yes.” Atmosphere released my holiday novella, The Truth About Elves, in October 2021. In fall 2022 I heard about a huge holiday market that would take place just before Thanksgiving, and I called the organizer about selling books there.
This two-day market has gone on for nearly 40 years, and once vendors sign up those spots belong to them until the vendors release them. New vendors join a waitlist. I could add my name to it, the organizer said, but the likelihood was low I would get into the 2022 or 2023 market. I might have a shot at 2024.
“Should I add you to the waitlist?” she asked.
I had nothing to lose, so I said “yes.” Two weeks later, the organizer sent a mass email to the waitlist. A few vendors had dropped out, and she wanted to know if any of us wanted one of those spots. I emailed back, got a spot, and sold 42 copies of Elves that weekend.
If someone says “no” at your first request, that doesn’t mean the answer will stay “no.” If you’re turned down once, ask how to be included in the next opportunity and stay optimistic.
2. It’s okay to bargain. A month after my second book, In the Heart of the Linden Wood, released, I heard from an ad assistant at the New York Review of Books (NYRB.) She’d read a favorable trade review of Linden and wondered whether I’d be interested in advertising the book in NYRB.
More than 130,000 subscribe to NYRB, a major exposure opportunity for Linden. I also knew advertising in NYRB was risky. Subscribers look for more literary and nonfiction work. Would they roll their eyes at my fairy tale for grownups? Or would Linden stand out from typical NYRB books?
I knew something for sure: the one-time ad rate of $425 was too high. I told the assistant my ideal price was $275. That’s still a fair amount of money for a one-time ad, but as an independent author I’ve learned I have to take reasonable risks. Thoughtful, calculated chances. The more risks I take, the higher the likelihood more people will read my work. And that’s my ultimate goal, a readership as wide as possible.
I expected the ad assistant to turn me down. Instead she said, “Can you manage $285?” I decided the risk was worth the potential reward and said yes.
Until you ask for a reduction in a stated price, you won’t know if you can get it. If the price is firm and it’s an opportunity you think is well worth it and the only barrier is cost, ask about other options (like a payment plan.) Don’t let sticker shock scare you away.
3. Pitch ideas to those in your network. This article is a perfect example of me asking for an opportunity. When I read in the Atmosphere newsletter about this column for writers, I made a mental note of it. I’ve done several writing workshops for our local libraries, host a book podcast about craft, and write a quarterly deep-dive column into books I’ve read. Contributing a post would come easily to me. I just needed the topic.
After my experience with NYRB, I pitched this article to Atmosphere Press. They said, “We haven’t featured a guest author on our blog before, so I’m really happy to forge this new path with you.” In other words, my publisher was willing to give it a try.
Think of ways you can contribute to your network. You’ve built a relationship with those people or organizations. They know who you are and what you’re capable of; they’ve taken a chance on you before, and when you pitch them an idea they’re already open-minded about considering it.
In conclusion, sometimes writers have to wait on others, and sometimes we need to extend ourselves by asking for what we want. You’ll probably hear “no” a lot, but if you ask enough you’ll also hear “yes.” Indie authors are used to forging their own paths. Make this another stop on the roadmap of your career, and I guarantee it’ll take you to places you never imagined.
About the Author: Since 2005, Ekta has written and edited about everything from healthcare to home improvement to Hindi films. She’s an author, freelance editor, writing contest judge, book podcaster, and book reviewer. Ekta also manages The Write Edge, blogging short stories and haiku, book reviews, and all things writing and editing. Her holiday novella, The Truth About Elves, and her fairy tale for grownups, In the Heart of the Linden Wood, are both available now from Atmosphere Press.