The biggest lesson I've learned since getting laid off in October 2011, and most especially in the last year or so, is that I am always my own best advocate. No editor, publisher, agent or anyone else, no matter how wonderful they may be, will ever be you. That's really the bottom line, and it's in your best interests to always be looking out for your bottom line. Case in point: my male and female nudity column from last week got cut from the print edition of Philadelphia City Paper due to space considerations. It didn't occur to me to ask until it was too late to have them put a line in the paper saying readers could find my column on the website, but I've now done so in the event that happens again.
It's not that I would have gotten paid more for that or that it truly matters in the long-term, but the more readers, the broader my reach, the more my work is being seen and that can potentially lead to future work and more people who are familiar with me. Otherwise someone night have think my column had ended (as they will find out this week, it hasn't). So that's one example. Another is me contacting publications and asking them to credit my OrgasmQuest column and link to it. So far everyone I've asked has said yes, and the reason I do that is both because I know the powers that be care about readership, but even more, because I broke that story. Generally, online, most places will link to the source of a story, as Jezebel and Bustle did, including some of my words along with the basics of what's going on. Again, that isn't necessarily in my job description as a sex columnist, but for me it's important.
I always scour my books' Amazon listings to make sure things like the correct book cover, book description and other identifying information are included, and when they're not, I advocate to get them changed. This isn't so much because I don't think people will by the book if there's one stray mistake, but those listings represent me and my name and brand and I want them to be as accurate as possible. Of course, you have to balance these sorts of things with earning a living. Even though I have Google alerts on my name and variations of it and I do try my best to pay attention to what's going on related to my work, I'm sure I miss plenty of things. That's okay too.
But I fully believe that nobody else will be watching out for you the way you will be, and rather than just sulking that something's wrong, I see part of my job in the broader sense as working to fix those things. To me it's all part of what your goals are for your work as a writer and how you go about building that brand, something we will be discussing more of in my upcoming Erotica 101 and Sex Writing 101 classes (I'm working on getting more online classes in the mix after March!), because I think they are part of what help you further your career goals. I learned a ton about how to promote myself over the course of promoting readings, starting with the very first one I organized, a Best Lesbian Erotica 2001 reading at Bluestockings, through the five years of In The Flesh Reading Series in New York and now through assorted writing workshops and readings. All of that is information I use pretty much every day to make sure that I'm doing myself justice, that the pieces I spend time on are read by as many people as possible. That's how I think of it, and reading The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul by Danielle LaPorte has helped me get clear on why I do what I do and what my mission is with it. I have emails drafted to people I respect about a story that will run tonight that I think is an important one, not because I wrote it, but because the whole reason I did is that I think it's an important feminist sexuality issue that we should be paying attention to. LaPorte has helped me understand that in advocating for myself, I'm also advocating for what I'm putting out into the world. If I wasn't proud of that, all this would be pointless.