Not Sure How to Market as a Writer? Get a Pet.
I am very lazy and I meant to write an article on how to market yourself as a writer for newbs, but let’s be honest, the pandemic did me in and I just want to look at photos of my new kitten, Freya.
I’m being pedantic, but really, having a pet is a fantastic way to market yourself as a writer. Stick with me.
One of my favorite authors is Flannery O’Connor. Known for her strange stories that often struck straight to the heart of human weirdness, O’Connor was also known for having over 50 peacocks on her property at one point. Visitors would be greeted by a chorus of peacocks and birds, from guinea fowl to chickens.
O’Connor probably didn’t intend for her birdies to become a marketing sensation, but they did, spawning hundreds of articles about them and cementing her eccentricity as a writer. The peacocks became so associated with her that when she got her own postage stamp, it featured an array of peacock feathers in the background.
Maurice Sendak has a dog named Herman (named after Melville) and delightfully, Sendak never found out Herman’s age because “I refused to ever find out. I don’t want to know. I wish I didn’t know how old I was. This is far more than I expected, far more than I need, far more than I desire. I didn’t think I’d live this long.” (New Yorker). Ernest Hemingway had a white, six-toed cat, Kurt Vonnegut had a dog named Pumpkin, and Charles Dickens kept ravens.
There is a long and rich history of writerly pets and the readers who love learning about them.
In today’s world of writing, marketing is seen as this big push involving many complicated steps. Post about your book, but not too much! You must utilize all the social media! Don’t be political! Schedule posts for three times a day! And so on, and so forth. It’s exhausting.
The reality is, the best advice you can follow for marketing yourself as a writer is to . . . be yourself. People are interested in following writers online because they want to know more about who they are as a human being. Authenticity has a high value these days.
What the World Needs Now is Cats, Sweet Cats
Many of the writers I follow on Twitter are known for their adorable fur-babies, and that’s the kind of content the world needs right now. Let’s face it. Everyone is tired and we don’t care about your book. (Okay, we do care, but we’d rather see a pic of your cat we’re just too nice to say so.)
One of my favorite SFF stories of the past decade is Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer. It’s about an AI that gets loose in the internet and tries to help people . . . but spends most of its time looking at cat pictures. It just so happens that Kritzer is onboard with the whole cats-as-marketing-tools concept too:
You might consider going as far as to give your cat its own social media presence. Some might call this a distraction from writing . . . but those people probably just don’t like cats.
Author K.T. Bryski is the podcast editor for Apex Magazine and her cat Guinness has his own Twitter account (and convenient pronouns in the bio.) Guinness spends most of his time bemoaning his owner’s writing tendencies and the lack of attention for him they garner.
Even editors get in on the cat-a-palooza. The editor of F&SF (Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine) is known for both his very kind rejection letters and his adorable cat Whiskey, who has his own hashtag #AShotofWhiskey:
Cats make great writing companions because they are little bastards and very distracting, which writers need. But they’re also there to lend a paw when you’re feeling depressed about your book sales or the story you’re struggling to write.
Pet pictures are the best part of the internet, and they are here to stay.
Tips for Sharing Pet Photos
As T.S. Eliot said, “I am glad you have a Cat, but I do not believe it is so remarkable a cat as My Cat.” Thus there are really no rules for sharing photos of your pets. I have made an arbitrary list of tips anyway.
- Blurry photos are fine. A blurry cat is still cute. But please make sure I can see your pet. Because I want to.
- Please give your pet its own animal dialect. Whether it speaks in LOLcat speak or in We Rate Dog Doggo dialect, if you can make up a funny speech pattern for your pet, I’m all in.
- Do you have multiple pets? Great. Get them all in one photo. Arrange them on a couch if possible. Bonus points if you throw in a baby.
- I want to know the story of how your pet got its name. Even if it’s a very bland story. Because any story about a pet is one I’ll listen to.
- Post pictures of your pet as often as possible. Maybe several a day. They say a tweet lasts fifteen seconds, but the memories of your pet live forever.
- Your pet is likely interrupting your writing process and I’d like to know about that. Because so is mine.
- Misbehaving pets are the best kind. Did your dog roll in poo? Did your kitty destroy something? Take a pic. It will last longer than the anger you feel.
I promise at some point I’ll make a real post about marketing as a writer. Maybe after I’ve figured out how to stop my kitten from chewing on my laptop cable.
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor based out of Houston, Texas. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She provides editing services for writers and organizations of all genres, experiences, and backgrounds, but enjoys working with new writers best. Find her on Twitter or visit her website.