FAQs For Writers: How To Find & Apply For Grants

While white picket fences and a family car might be the American Dream, the Writerly Dream is just making enough of an income from your writing for it to be able to support itself. The average Australian writer makes $12,900 a year, which confirms just how unattainable this dream can be. It can be frustrating to think of all the awesome things we could do if we just had enough money to get started.

One often forgotten way that writers can be supported while creating projects and building their career is by applying for grants. Here’s everything you need to know about finding the right grants to apply for and the application process.

What is a grant, anyway?

Grants are when an organisation, often related to a government, offer money for a specific purpose. Most arts organisations are funded by government grants, but there are is also project and out-of-round funding that individuals can apply for, including writers.

Project funding is granted on a single project basis, for anything from writing a novel to starting a small publisher. Out-of-round funding is usually offered by state/territory arts departments, and can offer artists money to travel to interstate development opportunities in certain circumstances. Note that for out-of-round funding, the application process may not be available online, and you may need to contact the funding body directly.

If you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is suitable for the grant you’re applying for, you should be able to find past recipients online to see how the money has been used previously.

Where Can I Find a Grant?

Writers are usually looking for writing or arts-based grants, unless it has a specific purpose. For example, a travel, health or environmental writer may be able to look towards government departments, charities and other major organisations that work within these fields.

In Australia, the key places are the Australia Council for the Arts, and then each state/territory’s arts department. The Copyright Agency also has a Career Fund for both emerging and established individuals. These grants usually run on a calendar basis, and it’s useful to jot down the due dates for each one.

There are also occasionally one-off grants from organisations, as well as other opportunities such as fellowships, subsidised opportunities and residencies. The best way to keep on top of everything that you can apply for is to get in touch with your state writers centre and other relevant writing organisations.

How Do I Apply?

Take a look at the website of the grant you’ll be applying for to see the application process. Often it is some kind of online form, but this can differ from organisation to organisation. Again, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the people who have received funding previously.

Regardless of the grant, you’ll need to include how much money you will be asking for, a proposal of what you will do with the money, a short history of the project, any ‘in-kind’ support you’ll be providing for the project, and a breakdown of your budget. Letters of support from trusted organisations or individuals can also help to set your application apart.

It’s best to be as realistic as possible, to pay people (including yourself) fairly for their involvement, and to already have some experience in the field you’re requesting money for. If it’s an individual writing-based project, you may also need to include some sample writing.

Remember that this is a professional application. The tone should be vibrant and optimistic, to excite the reader. Take a look at the official documents produced by the organisation administering the grant to get an idea of their preferred style, but be sure to include a bit of your personality and branding as well.

What Are My Responsibilities?

If you receive a grant, you’ll sign a contract or agreement about the terms of the grant, and you will be expected to follow them. This means that you’ll need to use the grant for what you originally stated the grant would be used for within the time frame, acknowledge the funding body when appropriate, and complete the acquittal process, as well as any other requested reporting.

The acquittal process isn’t as scary as it sounds. Basically, you’ll need to show how the grant was used, detail your successes, and give the final budget breakdown. If any events were held (such as a book launch, workshop or festival), it’s great to include some photos or feedback. If you can’t get the acquittal in on time, contact the funding body immediately to request an extension.

What About Other Opportunities?

While grants are the most structured form of support, there are other opportunities that writers can apply for as well. These pop up throughout the year, and it’s good to look out for them and add them to your writing calendar.

Writing residencies are a great example, where a writer can have access to a space to just write. Often a stipend is provided by the venue to cover the writer’s daily expenses. If you can get away from work for a week or two, these are definitely worth applying for. There are also fellowships, and other subsidised opportunities.

 

 

How to Network with Publishers, Agents & Other Industry Professionals

Whether you’re hoping to work in the writing industry, or you’ve got a manuscript you’re hoping to submit, meeting professionals in the writing industry can really cement your career. It’s easy to forget that the whole industry is made of people—people who adore books and writing and words, and people who could adore you.

It’s always scary to put yourself out there, especially if you’re an introvert, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Too many people let the fear of networking stop them, and if you push past it and try, you’re already beating them. Besides, publishers and agents are looking for up-and-comers, and they want to meet you as much as you want to meet them.

Identify Who You Want to Meet

The first step is to identify who it is you’d like to meet, both generally and specifically. The idea here is to give yourself enough knowledge about the industry so that you know what the people in it actually do. You’ll be way better off if you know the difference between an acquisitions editor and a proofreader.

Are you looking for publishers? Big publishers or small publishers, or are you willing to consider both? Do you need an agent? What is your genre? What is your target audience? Who publishes what you write? Who writes what you write? Which books cater to your niche, and who worked on it? Who else might be useful to know?

If you’re not sure where to start, a recent book that has been published for a similar audience to yours, and make a map of all the people you can find who worked on it. Make sure to find a book that was first published in your region, and try reading the acknowledgements  and searching for author interviews for clues.

All of these questions are relevant both for people looking to submit a manuscript, and for people hoping to work in the industry. Most professionals work in their own niche, and who might be helpful for one writer may not be helpful for another. Once you’ve figured this stuff out, you can start to think about which specific people you’d most like to meet.

Go to Writing Events

Writing conferences, festivals and events are the easiest way to meet writing professionals face-to-face. Whether they’re speaking or attending for their own professional development, they attend events like this with work in mind, and are totally prepared to meet and network with writers. Plus, the very fact you’re attending an event like this shows that you’re serious about your craft and you’re keen to learn more about the industry.

Events like this are also likely to be filled with people you haven’t even thought of networking with, like other creatives, or people who work for support organisations, or digital publishing experimenters, or publicists, or someone who might know that niche piece of knowledge you need for your manuscript. You’re also likely to meet other writers—both those who are a little further in their careers, and those who are at a similar stage to you.

So take a business card or your 30-second pitch, be polite to everyone you talk to, and listen as much as you speak. Don’t be afraid to go up to other people, because they’re all there for the same reason you are.

Look for Opportunities

If there isn’t a conference near you, there are tons of other ways to meet writing professionals and progress in your career. And don’t forget about the people with great connections who make things tick in the background, like writers centres and booksellers.

Go to writing workshops, online or in person. Follow writing support organisations online and subscribe to their email newsletters. Offer to volunteer for a support organisation or small local press. Go to the Australian Society of Authors’ literary speed dating events. Apply for programs like the ACT Writers Centre’s HARDCOPY program, and the Victorian Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Submit to magazines with open calls for submissions, in the hopes that you might get to work with an editor. Send an email to a successful local author or a support organisation or someone with your dream internship asking for advice.

The point is do something. Reach out and make your bubble a little wider. You might not get to talk to the senior editor at Penguin Random House right away, but you could get to talk to an intern or someone who works in a small press. There are plenty of people in this industry, which is much wider than just publishers, and most of them are incredibly generous.

Reach Out Online

While nothing beats face-to-face contact, we’re incredibly lucky that we live in a world where everyone is just a click of a button away. Networking on Twitter is totally a thing, and a little online stalking can really result in a conversation or a small piece of advice with an industry professional. And even if you don’t get to talk to them personally, it might give you an insight into the kind of person they are, or what manuscripts they’re looking for.

Don’t be shy! If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at who writing organisations or literary journals are following, and then go on a train where you look at who those people are following. You can find wonderful things this way, or at least have a fun afternoon spiralling through the industry.

A Word of Warning

Remember that the writing industry, especially in Australia, is very small. This is great for many reasons—it means that the industry is accessible, and that making one good contact can open your world to lots of great contacts. But it also means that word travels quickly, and if you act unprofessionally or treat someone rudely, it may seriously affect your career.

So be generous to everyone you meet, and treat everyone politely. Even if your book is somehow guaranteed to be a bestseller, receptionists or interns or emerging writers deserve your respect—and you don’t want them telling their boss or other colleagues that you’d be difficult to work with.

 

 

How to Write a Manuscript Synopsis

Querying a publisher or agent is never an easy task and it’s important to get all the essential bits right, including the synopsis. Your synopsis is your chance to sell your novel as a complete story, and when most publishers only request the first few chapters with unsolicited submissions, a great synopsis can convince a publisher to request the rest of your manuscript.

Of course, writing a synopsis is a totally different mindset to writing a novel. It’s strategic rather than creative, and you need to include certain pieces of information so that the reader has a clear idea of your manuscript.

What’s it for?

The first thing to consider when crafting a synopsis is the purpose of the thing. Most of the time, you’ll be trying to sell your work to a publisher that may or may not have read your query letter or sample chapters. You want to convince the editor that you can carry the story through to the end, and that you have a clear sense of the manuscript as a whole.

Usually when submitting you send in a query letter and sample chapters as well as the synopsis. The purpose of the query letter is to sell your manuscript to the publisher, and include the details including target audience, genre, wordcount, your bio, etc. Your sample chapters give the publisher an idea of your writing style and the pacing of the novel. Your synopsis is there to do the rest—convince the publisher that you can do this thing all the way through.

Now, it’s a totally different thing if an editor or manuscript assessor has requested a synopsis. Here, describe your vision for the novel, so that they can understand what you’re going for when reading your work. It’s important to spend some time on this—if they misunderstand what you want, they may make suggestions that aren’t relevant or helpful.

The Structure

A synopsis is a 1-2 page (500-800 words is a good guide) description of the major events in your novel. It’s designed for a publisher to be able to see the structure of your manuscript as a whole, so that they can determine whether it is appropriate for them to asking to read the full manuscript.

This should be easy and fun to read (i.e. not a laundry list). Make it as legible as possible. Use paragraph breaks, and if it makes it easier to read, capitalise the names of each character as you mention them for the first time.

Unlike your query letter, this doesn’t need to change from publisher to publisher—a good synopsis gives a clear idea of the manuscript, and as long as you’re submitting the same manuscript, you shouldn’t need to personalise it too much.

The Basics

  • The plot: Your primary job is to list the major plot points and events, including the ending, to give the editor a sense of the structure of the book. If you have a defined structure (such as a three-act structure), your synopsis should reflect that.
  • The characters: Mention each character by name as they appear in the plot. For major characters, include their goals and motivations.
  • The setting: Explain the parts about your setting that are important to the plot. The reader should have some idea of where the book is set, but you don’t need to include all the details.
  • The writing: Make the synopsis easy to read, and match the tone to the tone of the manuscript.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do finish the book before writing your synopsis. Especially if you’re writing fiction, you’ll generally need to finish the book before submitting. Besides, you don’t know if major plot points or structural bits will change if you don’t have a polished manuscript.
  • Do take time to write your synopsis, and to edit it. Great synopses are very rarely written in the first go, and you really want to get this part of your submission right. If you can, get writing buddies or other networks to read over your synopsis before using it.
  • Do search for example synopses online to get a feel for the structure.
  • Don’t include a cast list, or every character in the book. If a character is central to the story, they should make it here—and if they don’t, you should consider their relevance to your novel.
  • Don’t include all of the details of your worldbuilding or setting. If there are key plot elements related to your setting, mention them, but don’t waste room describing your world and forget to tell your story.
  • Don’t be ambiguous. Clearly outline all of the major events in the novel, including the ending—and if the ending is intended to be ambiguous, say so!

10 More Magazines That Pay Writers & Accept Submissions

Submitting to magazines can be a great career move for any writer—you can get paid for your work, build a publication history, and it’s just a great confidence boost to see your name in print. Earlier, we posted a list of 10 Australian magazines you can submit to for pay, and today we’re following up with 10 more.

Going Down Swinging

going down swinging

Since 1979, Going Down Swinging has been fostering a community of writers and artists around stories worth sharing. They host live events, publish print and audio anthologies, and regularly publish content both online and in their journal. Their recent issues have been published in app form, which has allowed them to be open to more experimental content, including animation, interactive text and short films.

Feminartsy

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Forms: Fiction, nonfiction, essays, poetry, photo essays, art spreads.
Frequency: Ongoing

An online feminist literature and arts journal, this publication has a bit of everything. From live events to fellowships to a podcast in the works, it’s been upping its game since it started in 2014. This publication was built purely on passion, and as such, the amount they pay their contributors may fluctuate—but they always pay something.

Australian Book Review

abr

Forms: Book reviews, poetry.
Frequency: Bimonthly

Australian Book Review is an independent nonprofit and a bimonthly magazine, and while they are selective, they are totally open to new reviewers. They pay every writer they publish—whether that’s in print or online—and they also publish poetry.

Peril

peril

Forms: Art works, prose, poetry, non-fiction, essays, blog posts.
Frequency: Ongoing

Peril publishes diverse art from diverse people, as long as it has a relationship with issues of Asian-Australian interest. They prioritise submissions from Asian-Australians and other diverse backgrounds, but they’re open to art from all people. This is an online publication which has been around for 10 years—and thanks to generous funding bodies, they pay all contributors.

Southerly

southerly

Forms: Essays, creative nonfiction, short stories, reviews, poetry.

This is one of Australia’s oldest literary journals, and it’s highly respected. Each issue has a theme, and submissions are open for several themes at a time. Southerly accepts many different types of submissions, which makes it a great suggestion for almost any kind of writer, but read a back issue or two to grasp the tone of the journal before submitting.

Tincture

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Forms: Poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction.
Frequency: Quarterly.

If you like your journals a little less structured, take a look at this one. There is no thematic focus, and it’s published as an ebook rather than a physical magazine. This journal commits to publish a diverse range of voices, and pays everyone they publish.

Antic

Antic-logo-1

Forms: Nonfiction, fiction, poetry, reviews, criticism.
Frequency: TBC

It’s always lovely to see exciting, new publications, and Antic is one of these. Its first issue isn’t even out yet, but it’s a literary journal dedicated to supporting Australian (and international) writers. Keep an eye on this one.

Quadrant

quadrant

Forms: Articles, poetry, book reviews, short fiction.
Frequency: 10 times a year.

Ideas and debate are the heart of Quadrant, which is a publication based on essays, literature, poetry, and political and historical discussion. They’ve got both an online section and a print magazine, and both are full of intellectual and interesting content.

Peppermint

Peppermint

Forms: Nonfiction articles on fashion and lifestyle.
Frequency: Quarterly

Peppermint‘s tagline is ‘Style, sustainability, substance’. They’re eco friendly, and cover fashion, lifestyle and creativity. Many of their articles are commissioned, but they still readily accept submissions in the forms of pitches and complete articles.

Griffith Review

griffith review

Forms: Essays, memoir, reportage, short fiction, poetry, visual essays.
Frequency: Quarterly.

Published by Griffith University, Griffith Review prides itself on being the first publication for many successful writers, and encourages writers at all levels to submit. The journal itself likes to intelligently analyse current events, anticipate upcoming trends, and deliver insight into what matters most.

Scum Mag

scum mag

Forms: Fiction, poetry, column, culture, memoir, review, art.
Frequency: Ongoing

Feminist friendly and weird in the best way, Scum Mag publishes new writing several times a week. With alumni including Oliver Mol, Patrick Lenton, Krissy Kneen and Zoya Patel (founder of the aforementioned Feminartsy), this is a favourite of many in the writing industry.

How to Write an Author Bio (Even Without Experience)

One of the most fearsome things about getting published is the dreaded author bio. Even established authors with hundreds of stories and articles published struggle to get it right, so how can the rest of us mere mortals even try? Especially if we don’t even have a publication record?

Relax, friends! There’s an art to writing the perfect author bio, and if you can pull it off, no one will dare question your writerly authority.

Remember, if your author bio is being read, it’s likely that someone else has endorsed you. An editor has decided that your writing is perfect for their publication or website, or even if it’s on your own blog, it’s likely that someone has shared it. You don’t need to prove to anyone that you can write; you’ve already gotten at least one tick of approval.

What Do You Write?

First things first: your bio should make it absolutely clear what kind of writer you are. What topics or genres take your fancy? Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Longform or short? Is your ethnicity or culture important to your work? Are you a freelance writer, or do you only write what you want to, when you want to?

Often, when planning festivals and events, or sourcing people to write articles, planners rely on writer’s bios to tell them what they are. You don’t need to answer these questions one-by-one, but make it absolutely clear to anyone who has never heard of you exactly what kind of writer you are.

Where Are You From?

If you want opportunities to come to you—especially the speaking-at-events kind—it’s very important that you say upfront where you are located. As someone who has worked in arts programming, it can be a little frustrating not to be able to figure out where a writer lives (and even if they’re still in the country!). Make it as easy as possible for people to think of you for stuff.

You might think that you’re not experienced enough for these kinds of opportunities, but you never know. Often, a young or fresh voice can be great on a panel, or you could be in a particular niche where appropriate writers are hard to find.

Any Particular Achievements (Or Experiences)?

Mention any writing achievements, such as being featured in a publication, placing in an award, doing an internship or receiving a fellowship, straight up in your bio. If you can, include at least one specific, tangible achievement that people can be impressed by.

Be creative! If you don’t have a tangible achievement just yet (or this bio is for your first one), look to see if there’s anything relevant in your life, either to the writing piece itself, or to writing in general. For example, if you’re publishing a food article, you can mention the time you won a pie-eating contest, or how you grew up in a household made of chefs.

Another approach is to take a look at the audience of where your bio will be displayed, and try to relate to them somehow. If you’re writing to an audience who loves painting, mention how you’ve been fingerpainting since you were three, or if it’s a publication about your local town, talk about long you’ve lived there or your experience with a local landmark.

Read Other Bios

Take a look at the other bios being published in the same place yours are. Pick up a copy of the publication, or take a look at the website, and spend some time reading them to pick up any common themes or styles. Odds are, if you’re being published there, there will be other writers at a similar stage.

Also take a look at the bios in similar publications, on blogs, at the Emerging Writers Festival, and anywhere else where writers at a similar stage to you might be posting. This will also expose you to different structures and different types of bios.

This will help you to play with the structure of your bio. Copy a few other people’s, and play around until you find a fit that’s right for you. It’s also a good way to figure out how to adapt your bio so it’s appropriate for different audiences: chances are, you’re going to use it in places with totally different styles and audiences.

What’s Your Voice?

The author brand is an intimidating term, but really it’s quite simple. What kind of person do you want people to think you are? What kind of voice do you like writing in? Why should they read your stories?

Think about what people come to your writing for. Are you funny, do you make them think, or do you create wonderful worlds for them to escape to? Is your prose lyrical or sparse or something else entirely? Are you calm and professional, quirky and funny, or dreamy and full of wonderment?

Try to use this same voice in your bio—remember that your bio is an introduction to you, and if you can use your own voice while also matching the style of the publication, you’ve really succeeded.

 

Twitter Tools and Hashtags for Writers

Twitter is a conglomerate of things; it is a powerful networking tool, a way to experiment with writing micro-novels, and a delightful place full of wonder and distraction. Whether your goal is to network, increase your follower count, or just to make your feed better, there are plenty of online tools and hashtags that you can use.

Jazzing Up Your Posts

The thing about Twitter is that it’s so in-the-moment; it’s essential to have a sparkling profile at all times, with lots of new and exciting content, or passerbys might wonder if you still exist. There are plenty of tools online for curating content, scheduling your posts, and for making them stand out.

It’s a myth that curating content is the hard part. The internet is such a huge playground, and there are plenty of wonderful articles, apps, sites, videos and other things (some you might not even realise exist) to explore and share with your audience. Tools like Feedly and Bloglovin’ help you to keep track of all of your favourite blogs and topics, and keeping accounts with sites like YouTube and Tumblr can help you to track the other things people are doing on those topics.

Apps like Pocket and Instapaper make it really, really easy to save links—both to read later, and to Tweet, should it take your fancy. Buffer (which has a free option) is my scheduling tool of choice, and it even has some analytics built in. Other scheduling options include Hootsuite and Social Oomph.

Identifying Influencers

Online tools can be useful for identifying who and what (at least according to what computers think) are the major influencers and hashtags are in your field. Don’t rely on these alone, but they’re fun to explore, and can help you to get a comprehensive view of your niche.

Klear is an easy and free tool to identify influencers in any niche, for both Twitter and Instagram. The paid version lets you track hashtags, and monitor your own brand. EpicBeat analyses influencers, hashtags and posts on each topic, showing you who’s doing well and why. BuzzSumo is another great tool for analysing both influencers and content.

Assessing and Increasing Your Influence

It’s hard to figure out how well you’re doing with this whole social media thing, especially when it feels like you’re just making things up as you go along. Klout gives you a score between 1-100 on your social media engagement and influence. By using its browser extension, you can see the Klout scores on every profile, and gauge where you fit. Klout also has great growth-tracking tools.

Other tools that can be helpful for increasing your engagement and following include Tweriod, which is a tool that figures out when your followers are most likely to be online, and then syncs up to Buffer to ensure that your posts go out at the best time. Twitonomy gives you a comprehensive view of your profile, your followers, your engagement and your growth.

Hashtags for Writers

Hashtags are a great way to find other writers, potential readers and communities around the genre of books you write or love. Tracking and participating in these tags can help you make friends and networks and promote your writing. Make sure to look at each tag before using it so you know that your tweet fits in the tag (noting that some tags are used more for conversation, while others are used more for promotion), and not to use too many tags in one tweet.

Publishing, Agents and Industry

  • #MSWL – This is the hashtag lots of agents use to describe their ‘manuscript wishlist’. This is a great way to find agents that might want to pick up what you’re putting down.
  • #tenqueries – Every once in a while, an agent will use this tag to comment on ten queries and why they’re requesting more or rejecting each submission. This is an interesting insight into the industry.
  • #AskAgent, #AskEditor, #AskPub, #AskAuthor – These hashtags can be used for asking people in the industry questions, and for reading the answers to questions other people have asked for you.
  • #Publishing – Great for tracking what’s going on in the publishing world, and for learning who’s who.

Writing Community

  • #Writing – The general tag, full of banter, articles, quotes, etc. Not everything here is relevant, but a lot of good content finds its way here.
  • #AmWriting, #AmEditing –  Here, people share their writing adventures (and misadventures!), and encourage each other. This is a great way to find writing buddies.
  • #WriteChat – A tag designed for all kinds of writers to chat.
  • #1k1h – This hashtag is a challenge to write 1000 words in an hour! Use this to join sprints with other writers.
  • #SpilledInk – Here, people share bits of what they have written. Usually, it’s small pieces of prose that they are particularly proud of.
  • #WriterWednesday, #WW – Every Wednesday, Twitter-ers use this tag to share something writer-related.
  • #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is a challenge where writers all over the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. The official month is November, and the spin offs, ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’, take place in April and July, but there is some activity in this tag all year round.

Readers and Book Lovers

  • #FridayReads – People on Twitter love sharing what they’re planning to read on the weekend! This is a fun hashtag – a great way to find friends and people who might be interested in your book.
  • #AmReading – This is where bookworms share what they are reading, with quotes, pictures or opinions.
  • #BookHaul – This tag is used when someone buys a bunch of books and they want to share their haul! This can range from 2 to as many books as you can fit into a photo or video.
  • #GreatReads, #MustRead – Here, people share books they really enjoyed or ones which have made it onto their favourites.
  • #BookTube – BookTube is the YouTube vlogging community for books and reading! It’s very active (especially for YA readers), and this tag is an easy to see who and what is trending.
  • #BookWorm#BookWormProblems

Form and Genre-Specific Hashtags

Are there any other writerly (or readerly) Twitter tools or hashtags you use? Leave them in the comments below!

How to Use Twitter as a Networking Tool

Twitter is a fabulous, sparkly beast, full of wonderful conversations and intelligent people. It’s a great place to spend a lazy evening, from getting distracted by all sorts of hilarious celebrity ramblings to following the minute-by-minute reactions from people all over the world to the climax of the latest Game of Thrones episode.

But the Twitter beast has claws; it is also an excellent place for meeting likeminded writerly types and ‘network’. Really, ‘networking’, especially in the creative world, is just a fancy business term for ‘making friendships that can lead to great creative things’. Through networking, you can meet your next writing buddy, people who will want to share your stuff because their audience will love it, or even find that person who might know what the best next step for your career is.

Getting Started: Follows

For a long time, I didn’t even realise writers centres existed, let alone literary collectives and experimental writing festivals and zines and indie basement journals. I didn’t even know there was a writing community I could belong to. So, if all of these magnificent future-friends are out there, how do you reach them?

Find the awesome things you already know about! Follow the magazines, organisations and people who make the stuff you love, and then go through who runs them, and who they follow. If you read blogs or mags, look for the writers of the content that you love, and then go through their networks. This network-stealing trick is a great way to build a brain-map of your niche (and every time I do it, I find awesome indie journals which I’ll submit to one day).

If you’ve got no idea where to get started, this might take a little bit of digging. Hunt for arts organisations in your area, or historical societies, or whatever floats your niche, and look for their Twitters. Search for blogs, journals or magazines in your niche (trust me, they exist), or even a subreddit. You can also go through hash tags! #amwriting, #writing, and #amreading are all popular for general reading/writing, and there are plenty of other niche hashtags.

Getting Strategic: Lists

Once you’ve followed a lot of people, you need a way to cut out the noise. Whether your Twitter is brand new or 5 years old, your feed is likely to need some cleaning up. Lists are a great way to keep track of the people in your niche, and the people you want to chat to, without getting bogged down in the rest of your feed. Choose a combination of people who have different amounts of followers—some around the same as you, some a bit more, and some with lots.

Creating these lists can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I like to split mine between ‘Friends’, for the people I know; ‘Future Friends’, for the people I want to reach out to; and ‘Opportunities’, for the magazines, journals, organisations and other collectives I want to keep track of. Then, once a month or so, I go through all the new things I’ve followed and add them to my lists.

Hint: It’s much easier to build (and keep track of) lists using an app/non-Twitter site! I use Tweetbot for Mac, but Tweetdeck is a pretty great web app with similar functionality.

Getting Markety: Your Profile

Think about your Twitter profile (as well as any other online dwelling) as your own little corner of the internet. It’s the place where you get to dazzle everyone who passes by, but it also will affect whether other people reach out to you. If your posts are old and outdated, they might assume they can’t reach you through that platform, and if it’s not clear what you’re passionate about, they might not even think you have anything in common.

This is where social media is fun and creative. Write yourself a bio: sum up the things you love in 10 words or less. Draw something or get a talented friend to create you a header, and make sure your picture looks enticing. And post! Whenever you find things that excite you, share them with your followers. The more things you post, the more chances you give other people to interact with you.

If you have a niche, try to make a good percentage of your posts related to it, but it can never hurt to sprinkle other bits of your personality through your feed. Attend online events and twitter chats, comment on any current events, share cool articles and online finds, and do promote yourself, but never too much. There are lots of theories about the right ratio, but a good rule of thumb (and karma-grabbing) is to share other people’s content at least as much as you share your own. Use a tool like Buffer to schedule and plan your posts.

Getting Social: Reach Out

Now that you’ve identified the people you want to reach out to, and you’ve jazzed up your profile, it’s time to talk to other people. An easy way to do this is to share great content the people you admire create; this is a win-win: your followers get to experience their fabulous content, you get to flesh out your social media feed, AND the creator-human gets the warm fuzzy feeling that someone loves their content.

But there are other ways to do this too. Log in regularly, even if it’s only for 5 minutes at a time, and see what the people on your lists are getting up to. Is there a comment you can reply to or something you can ask to stir up a conversation? It’s like smalltalk, but much easier because it doesn’t involve actual human contact.

Try to reach out at least 5 times a day, especially to people you’d like to collaborate with or have share your content. Don’t be scared to do this—don’t you love it when you get a surprise message from someone? Most people do! And the worst thing that can happen is that your comment goes unanswered.