Writers and other publishing types love to give new writers advice about how to be successful. I find these columns and blogs in my Facebook feed at least daily if not more often.
But there’s one subject they never mention: location.
Despite the Internet, despite Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr and all the rest of the ways to reach, create, and seduce fans, where you park your laptop can be as important as what you write and how you promote yourself. Publishers are gaga about social media, but they’re always touting something new. Before tweeting it was blog tours and before that book trailers.
Life as a writer can be very different in a city with lots of traditional media. Even though they’re declining, newspapers can still give you inimitable coverage in reviews, features, and interviews.
Likewise, being able to appear on many radio stations still makes a difference in getting the word out locally to help build your audience before you break big.
And if you’re in a media nexus like New York, you’re more able to make face-to-face connections with other writers, with reviewers, with editors and agents at parties, book signings and readings. These are precious contacts that writers living in East Podunk just can’t make happen for themselves. Random contacts at summer writing workshops and yearly conferences aren’t the same thing.
Being in a big city also means lots of colleges and universities. They offer the opportunity of speaking gigs and something else: invitations to teach at writing workshops. That world is pretty much a series of closed circles. A writer I know who runs one in the New York area confided that she only invited her friends in the New York area. Other writers who make various circuits say they see the same people over and over. If someone breaks in, she’s usually a star, not a newbie.
Of course, being born into a family of writers trumps everything: That’s the ultimate good location.