GETTING A SMALL START BY STARTING SMALL - WRITING SHORT STORIES
This has worked for me and for others. But I love to write short stories. If you don't write them, of course, it won't work for you. There are many more outlets for shorts, many more possibilities for publication, than there are for novels, even though they come and go unpredicatbly. Some ezines take everything submitted to them. I'd avoid these and concentrate on those with editors who screens submissions, who turn pieces down as well as accept them. It gives you more credibility. Also look at who is being published in the magazine and, if you see names you recognize, that's a good sign it will do you some good to get accepted there. Study the stories being published and see what you have that would fit, or what you can write that would fit in.
SHORT STORY MARKETS
If you don't write short stories, you can still get yourself known by having short pieces published--articles. These can be articles on writing, reading, book reviews, interviews, or life essays, if you're so inclined. If you're featuring a Jack Russell terrier in your novel, see if you can get an article accepted in a dog magazine.
Volunteer to write articles for newsletters for the organizations you belong to. If you live where there are small local publications, see if you can write articles for them.
Local author, Karen MacInerney, wrote a serial short story that was featured in a bed and breakfast magazine to publicize her Gray Whale Inn bed and breakfast mystery series. Very clever!
Beth Groundwater is the author of two series, one featuring Claire Hanover, gift basket designer, and another starting next year with Mandy Tanner, river ranger. She also has just published a science fiction book called THE EPSILON ERIDANE ALTERNATIVE. She started out with short stories, her first in an anthology. She also got one accepted by an airline flight magazine, "Wild Blue Yonder" the inflight magazine for Frontier Airlines. That gave her tons of exposure. I would never have thought of submitting there.
Search out unusual places for articles and stories. Look around and see where you can stick your foot in.
You can put your poetry out, too, if you write that.
I didn't start a newsletter until some time after my book came out. I found I was making appearances I wanted people to know about, so I made use of the email list I'd been compiling for at least 2 years. Anytime anyone encouraged me or commented favorably on me somewhere, they went onto my list. When I sent my initial newsletter out with the option to cancel and not receive any more, I started out with 243 subscribers and I now have 246. About 29 unsubscribed right away, but some of those were duplicate addresses for the same person. For some reason, I keep getting new subscribers, slowly, but regularly, several a month. I have a prominent signup form on my webpage.
GETTING YOUR NAME OUT AT CONFERENCES
The best way to get known at a conference is to be on a panel. Some small conferences will put you on a panel without much in the way of credentials. Larger cons require some sort of publication.
The first panel I was on wasn't planned. A conference in Plano that is, alas, defunct now, had a panel coming up and some of the members hadn't shown up. A friend insisted I'd be able to speak on the topic, Religion in Writing, or something like that. I said I couldn’t, I'd never done a panel before. She practically shoved me up onto the platform and into the chair.
It went amazingly well and, after it got started, I relaxed and was able to say things that, I think, sounded coherent. I also resorted to drawing out answers and clarifications from other panel members, especially the one who had forced me onto the panel. Cindy Daniel. She writes the Death Warmed Over series, and has also written a book with her daughter about her experience with breast cancer.
After the panel, several audience members wanted to talk to me! I was astounded.
I've been on panels at every conference I've attended since then, as a short story writer. Every con seems to have one short story panel.
After a short story panel at Malice Domestic, I even had one person ask for my autograph on her program, since I didn't have a book to sign. I was sitting next to Carol Nelson Douglas, so it was nice to get a fan.
The easiest job is moderator of the panel. All your work is beforehand. You get up a list of questions, or ask the panel members for suggestions, and get that all worked out by email ahead of time. At the time of the panel, you merely introduce the members and ask the questions. They do all the work.
Also, schmooze at cons. There's usually a gathering place with iced tea, sometimes more. This is the place people put bookmarks and fliers at some cons. Don't be shy about sitting with someone you don't know. You'll be wearing a name tag and you'll meet interesting people. At night, there's the bar.
Here's a partial list of conferences for mystery writers and fans:
CONFERENCES AND CONVENTIONS
Malice Domestic, DC area - 4/30-5/2 fan conv http://www.malicedomestic.org/
Bouchercon - moves, in San Francisco for 2010 10/14-17 - fan conv http://www.bcon2010.com/
Left Coast Crime - moves - fan conv in Santa Fe for 2011, 3/24-27
Love is Murder, Chicago IL - 2/4-6, 2011 for fans & writers (some writer workshops)
Mayhem in the Midlands, Omaha NE - small conf 5/27-29
Murder in the Grove, Boise ID - small conf http://www.murderinthegrove.com/ Maybe
no conf in 2010, they are planning 2011, though
Magna Cum Murder, Muncie IN 10/29-31, 2010 http://magnacummurder.com/
Pike's Peak Writers Conference, Pike's Peak, CO, in April http://ppwcon.org/
Deadly Ink, Parsippany NJ, 6/25-27 http://www.deadlyink.com/conference.html
Crime Bake - conf Dedham, Mass, 11/12-14 http://www.crimebake.org/index.htm
Sleuthfest - Boca Raton, FL in Feb, http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm
PP WebCon - writers conf online held Oct 24th 2009 for the first time http://www.ppwebcon.com/
Killer Nashville, Nashville TN, 8/20-22 http://killer-nashville.com/