Because books are my bread and butter folks occasionally ask me how they might get into the business of being a writer. There are a lot of things you can do to get your polished prose in the hands of booksellers. Note that this isn’t about self-publishing, but getting your book printed the old fashioned way.
The more you can do to convince the publisher that you’re an authority in that area, the easier it will be for them to sell you to Barnes & Noble.
The simplest way to do this is to start a blog. A lot of potential author’s worry about “giving away” too much info on a blog, so that there is nothing left for their book. Unless you write poetry, this is a non-issue and obsessing over it only looks unprofessional. It turns out people have no problem buying a book that reproduces the content of a blog they can read online for free. Go figure. And if consumers will buy it, somewhere there’s a publisher who will publish it. Sites like Stuff White People Like, XKCD, and the Oatmeal don’t worry about giving away too much.
Of course, once you’re a blogger you have to start worrying about SEO and keeping up with other people’s blogs and all kinds of HTML nonsense that has fuck all to do with writing your manifesto. Starting a blog is in some ways like joining a virtual, global community. If you’re not interested in the existing community that exists around the glockenspiel, why would you expect anyone to read your potential book, Stop, Drop and Glock: How the Glockenspiel Will Set Your Roof on Fire? So while it is a lot of work, that work is seeding potential fans of your obsession (It is an obsession, right? If not, why bother?).
Another way to establish expertise is to write guest posts on other people’s blogs, or articles for local newspapers. However, this is easier to set up if you already have a blog in the first place. Otherwise, what can you point them to that shows you have something to say on the subject?
Local organizing can be useful as well, but remember publishers are looking to sell your book all over the country. A monthly meet-up of thirty people isn’t going to impress Simon & Schuster.
Building expertise is less true with fiction, but it is still true. Many writers now are experimenting with keeping up a blog about their process. This can include research notes, advice, and inspiration. There are sites like Urbis.com where writers upload pieces of their draft to be critcized by other writers. This is another way of joining communities and building a fan base.
This seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is. But if you’ve chosen your subject matter wisely it turns out to be just another way to immerse yourself in a subject you are passionate about.