Help! I’m A Writer! How Do I Open Doors?

14 Tips to Help You Break into the Industry

Prompted by a comment from a fellow writer, today I want to share 14 tips to help you break into the industry. Some of these apply to all writers, some more to screenwriters and others more to novelists. Pick and choose the ones that feel most relevant to you.

14 Tips to Help You Break into the Industry

  1. Let’s start with the basics. Write some good work. To do this, learn your craft; hone your piece of work, polish it, get feedback, and rewrite it. Then keep getting feedback and rewriting it until there are no big notes from your critique partners.

    There’s a fair chance your first piece of writing won’t be good enough to launch your career. So keep writing and honing over and over to get better.

    BUT, even if this piece isn’t the one that’s going to open doors, you should still share it. Start sharing it as soon as you’ve completed Tip Number 1. Because, firstly, it’s a good habit to get into, and secondly you might attract someone’s attention. Or at the very least get some feedback and/or some encouragement, and we all need encouragement to keep going. So share your work as soon as it’s ready.
  2. Go to talks by successful writers and other industry folk and soak up their tips. Be brave and politely ask for advice.
  3. Declare yourself a writer and join a community of writers both online and offline. By hanging out with other writers you’ll hear about useful courses, talks, competitions, schemes, networking events, opportunities, etc etc and you’ll also find critique partners who can give you valuable feedback.  

You Need a Plan!

  • 4. Come up with a networking plan and stick to it consistently. This is not a ‘do it once and then give up’ kind of a thing. It’s a lifelong endeavour. You have to keep persevering and that means making networking a part of your routine and sticking with it month in and month out.

    The idea of this might fill you with dread, but over time you’ll come to enjoy it. Because really, it’s all about developing relationships with friends and colleagues who you might one day work with.

    Don’t think about it as selling yourself. Try to keep in mind that you’re just having friendly conversations, that may or may not ever lead to anything else. But if all you have is a nice chat, what’s not to like about that?
  • 5. So, what might your networking plan consist of? Here are 4 ideas. Attend in-person events; use Linkedin; have an online presence; and enter competitions.

    Let’s delve into each of these ideas in more detail.

6. Find in-person networking events to attend – and set yourself a target of attending a certain number of these per year. Then, set yourself a goal of speaking to a certain number of people each time you attend an event. Keep in touch with the people you meet. These events might be Book Fairs, seminars organised by the Writers Guild, pitching forums, film festivals, and many more. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, and use your community to get ideas.

My favourite tip – Linkedin!

  • 7. Use LinkedIn – this is the big one. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for networking with folk in your industry. I use it ALL the time, and it’s how I get most of my screenwriting commissions. Again, I recommend setting yourself a target number of people to connect with and follow up with every single month. For more on Linkedin, here’s a dedicated article I wrote about it. 
  • 8. It’s important to have some sort of an online presence. That way industry professionals can look you up after meeting you and find out more about who you are and what you have to say.
  • Your online presence might be on social media – whatever platform you prefer – or you could create your own website, or start a blog.
  • If you’re going to write a blog, though, I would suggest you think it through carefully before you launch into it. Figure out what your theme will be and how you will come up with topics. Consider what you know that might be interesting, entertaining or helpful to others. You don’t want to start a blog only to find that you run out of steam 3 months down the line.

What about competitions?

  • 9. Enter competitions to try and get placed. Entering competitions is helpful, because they give you deadlines, which we all need, and there is a chance that you might be placed amongst the finalists. However, be aware that it might be a long shot.
  • If you reach the finals, the semi-finals, the shortlist – anything at all – put it on your CV and mention this success in your covering letters when you’re reaching out to industry folk, like agents, publishers, and producers.
  • Note! Entering competitions shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing, as it’s like trying to win the lottery. I’ve written more about the pros and cons of competitions here.
  • 10. Use your real-life experience to your advantage. This is really helpful if it’s relevant to the type of stories you’re writing. It can also be a real bonus if you don’t have much else on your CV.

Do you need an agent?

  • 11. If you’re approaching agents, do your research into the ones that are the most appropriate for your type of work. It might sound obvious, but make sure they’re open to submissions, and follow their guidelines (which will be listed on their website) to a ‘T’. Notice that this is number 11 on the list. I don’t think this should be the first thing you do when trying to break into the industry.
  • Agents generally expect you to have made some progress on your own before they will consider taking you on. Any success you have had before you contact them will help you to stand out on their slush pile.
  • 12. Get feedback on your submission pack (including your covering letter, your synopsis, and the work that you’re submitting), before you start sending it out.
  • 13. Don’t stop after you get a few rejections. It’s a numbers game. You’ve got to keep going. As I said earlier on, set yourself monthly targets and keep them up. Also, create a spreadsheet to remind yourself who you have contacted and the date when you need to chase them up if you haven’t heard back.
  • 14. We often talk about how to find an agent at the London Writers’ Meetup, so come along and join us! 

I hope you found these tips about breaking into the industry helpful. What one thing will you try this week?

Need help?

I help with all of this in my coaching. So, if you dread the idea of sharing your work and trying to break into the industry, fear not, let me hold your hand and walk you through the process. I’ll help you set targets and hold you accountable, week by week.

Feel free to set up a free call and we can talk it over.

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