In addition to honing your craft as a writer during your years in graduate school, you should also consider building your brand and begin publicizing yourself. As writers, it is not enough to just produce good work – we must also do all we can to facilitate the exposure of that work. Luckily, technology is at a point where this has never been simpler to do. There’s no excuse to put it off, and the sooner you get to it, the better!
Social media platforms are an easy answer, but they have a tendency to be mere time-wasters generally devoid of engaging, marketable content. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have the option to create business or public facing pages that are clearly delineated as being for professional purposes. You can create an author’s page for yourself and engage with your building audience as a writer, steering clear of the murky waters of personal pages and their mundane content.
I think the best platform to show who you are as a professional writer is a website with your own domain. This might sound daunting for people who don’t normally describe themselves as technologically savvy, but it is actually a relatively painless process. You can buy domain names for as little as ten dollars a year, and find a cheap hosting package that allows you to install a free Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress. The advantage of CMSs is that you won’t need to know much in the way of HTML or CSS coding to get the site up and running.
Of course, as a writer you might think you don’t have the necessary skills to make the website visually appealing. This problem is easily solved. At Columbia College Chicago, you have the advantage of being part of a network of artists of all kinds. You can make friends with photographers who can provide you with a slick headshot for your site, or chum up to a game designer who will understand and be able to modify the code of your CMS. Then, all three of you can ostensibly use the site as a showcase or portfolio piece.
Your site should minimally feature an “about” page, your CV, some excerpts of your work, and a calendar of upcoming readings (in Chicago, there’s limitless opportunities to read). Once your site is up and running, be sure to update the content frequently. Sad to say that many of my favorite authors have posts on their sites telling their fans to check out their reading…in 2015! The goal is to generate interest, stay relevant, and enhance your chances of landing a book contract.
So I think that, while many of your colleagues are busy posting pictures of their dinner to Instagram or going on Twitter to share decontextualize news stories that confirm their own biases you ought to be busy building your brand. Once you’ve built a thoughtful, engaging site, potential agents, editors, and publicists can visit and realize you are serious about writing and you are a marketable commodity that’s ahead of the game.