Publicity for Authors: 5 Questions for Katharine Duckett

“The more you can prioritize your writing in your budget, your personal space, and your schedule, the more rewards you’ll often reap.” -Katharine Duckett

Katharine Duckett is the award-winning author of Miranda in Milan, a Shakespearean fantasy novella debut that NPR calls “intriguing, adept, inventive, and sexy.” Her short fiction has appeared in UncannyApexPseudoPod, Interzone, and Tor.com, as well as various anthologies including Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Wilde Stories 2015: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction. She served as the guest fiction editor for Uncanny’s Disabled People Destroy Fantasy issue, and is an advisory board member for The Octavia Project, a free program that empowers girls and non-binary youth in New York City to imagine and engineer new futures.

On Wednesday, June 7th, Katharine Duckett is teaching a class for the WLT called “Marketing & Publicity for Authors: Working with Your Publishing Team. In this class, you’ll learn more about how to build a brand for yourself as a writer and best market your work.

Here’s what Katharine had to share with us:

Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?

Katharine Duckett: I write speculative fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror—basically, anything with a little bit of magic or out-of-this-world technology! I’ve always been a storyteller, and started studying acting and performance at a young age, along with creative writing. Fiction offered me the most freedom in terms of exploring my imagination—as a person with a mobility disability, acting sometimes presented serious challenges or restrictions, but writing was always something I could do with just myself and a notebook or computer. During my time at Hampshire College, I studied creative writing and began interning in the publishing industry, which eventually led to a job working in publicity for Macmillan Publishers. As a publicity manager there, I helped launch a new imprint and learned everything about creating a successful publishing operation from the ground up. I began writing and publishing professionally while at Macmillan, and now teach and write full time.

Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?

KD: Over the years, I’ve developed systems that work for me both in terms of keeping myself accountable to the page and helping me manage the business side of writing. I make sure I write a little bit every day—I use the morning pages exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, where you write three pages on anything that comes to mind without stopping as soon as you wake up, and I’ve found it’s really helpful for clearing the creative pipes. So I really don’t encounter writer’s block—plenty of other craft challenges might arise, but having the words on the page to work with makes any other obstacle feel much more manageable. When it comes to the business side, I make sure to schedule blocks of time to manage correspondence, social media, promotional campaigns, and so on, and keep those separate from my writing time and my time to relax and recharge so that it doesn’t feel draining.

 Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?

KD: Yes, I hit that moment in almost every work that gets published! If I can’t find that moment, I know what I’m writing may not be publishable—that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth writing, but I’ve learned to discern between the products of me figuring things out or playing with a concept and those nuggets of gold that lead to a publication-worthy piece. It’s very easy to second-guess yourself once other people’s eyes are on a work—whether that’s your editor, reviewers, or readers—so I always try to hold onto that initial rush where everything clicks in my brain as long as I can, because that’s really the ultimate joy of the process for me. As soon as the work is out in the world, that feeling will ebb and flow—it’s just part of letting the work out of your hands.

Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?

KD: Well, this is borrowed advice, but I’ve tried to adhere to this bit of wisdom from Grace Paley: “If you want to write, keep a low overhead.” You’ll have much more flexibility, and potentially much greater success, if you set up your life so that you have the financial room to grow as a writer, to let yourself try different approaches and experiment with what works for you and your career. It’s not always possible to do that, of course, but the more you can prioritize your writing in your budget, your personal space, and your schedule, the more rewards you’ll often reap.

Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?

KD: After this class, you’ll have a tool box of marketing and publicity skills that you can use throughout your career. These tools are applicable across genres, and are important to have at your disposal when you’re working with a publishing team and navigating the launch process: they’ll help you become adept, empowered, and ready to adapt your marketing and publicity approach to any new publishing project.

Thanks, Katharine!

Click here to learn more about Katharine Duckett’s upcoming class.

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