A Writer’s Question: What Course Should I Take?

Media alert: I just got my award from Media Bistro for winning First Prize in Family Circle’s Fiction Contest! I get a one-year’s subscription to their how to video library – which includes 555 videos on so many subjects it’s dizzying – and I get to sign up for one of their online courses– for free! Now the question is: What course should I take? I need your help in making my decision.

There is so much to choose from. I could take a course in novel writing since I’m in the process of doing the third draft of my novel, “Downturn,” about a couple whose marriage falls apart as they both lose their jobs at the same time . I wrote the novel eight years ago and stuck it in a drawer, discouraged. Then, after I won the Family Circle contest, I decided to pull it out again. So, should I take a novel writing course?

The only drawback to that is this: I’ve already taken dozens of writing courses. I’ve studied with the best, including Diane Ackerman and Grace Paley.  Athough I haven’t managed to sell any of my novels — yet —  one of my novels was chosen as a semi-finalist in amazon.com’s breakthrough novel award. That counts for something. So, I’m thinking that maybe instead of focusing on the writing, I should focus on selling.

“You can keep writing novels the way Emily Dickinson wrote poems and never let more than a handful of people read what you wrote,” my friend Lily said. “Or you can do something different and try to sell them.”

Of course, the selling part of writing books is not half as fun as the writing and reading part. Many writers grouse about how much work goes into selling their books – sometimes even more than actually writing them. But that’s show business for you. Margaret Atwood doesn’t like going on book tours because her books sell themselves. But for most writers, we have to build – and keep – an online presence to sell books. It’s a business like any other.

Even a talented and very successful writer like Jennifer Weiner has a blog, a facebook page and a website…And she’s always connecting with fans and future readers. So maybe I should take a course in online marketing. There’s one course that will teach me how to “drive traffic and optimize sites through SEO, social media, and blog outreach.”

Or, I can take a course in where to put a link in my blog post, like right here, to get you to go to another post on my site. (Tricky, huh?) There’s another course in how to improve my rankings, and increase traffic to your blog, but that sort of seems like the other course. How do I tell them apart?

What about online marketing? Or branding? Or magazine writing? I’ve written for magazines before but media bistro offers one course, Stiletto Boot Camp, which teaches how to write for the best-paying women’s magazines and websites. That could be interesting. I’ve written for Glamour, Seventeen and Mademoiselle but I haven’t been able to break into O…Oh, is that the way to go? That would increase my salary but would it help me sell books?

At least I know that I don’t have to take a course in blogging. I’ve figured most of it out on my own with an extra pinch of pixie dust and help from Catherine Ryan Howard who has an incredibly lively blog, Catherine Caffeinated, which combines three spectacular things: strong coffee, writing, and Irish wit.

Do you think I should take a course that is good for me even though it doesn’t really intrigue me, the way you’re supposed to take vitamins because “they’re good for you”? Or, since I won the award and it’s free – sort of like throwaway money – should I take something that could be simple fun, like a writers’ festival with Susan Orlean, author of that wonderful book, The Orchid Thief

All you writers, marketers, soothsayers and book mavens, help me out here. I will be publishing my own book on October 5, 2012. Which way should I go?

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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2 Responses to A Writer’s Question: What Course Should I Take?

  1. Tricky, but if you are self-publishing the marketing course is the way to go. Speaking from experience, marketing is the trickiest thing about self-publishing, so any tricks you can pick up to make your book stand out from the thousands of others coming out each day will be worthwhile. Good luck.

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