Posts Tagged writing careers

I write because… I’m totally unsuited to anything else – interview at Chris Hill’s blog

chris hillToday I’m at the blog of Chris Hill, which I’m rather chuffed about because Chris has appeared on some impressive writing shortlists: The Daily Telegraph Novel In A Year competition; the Yeovil Literature Prize; the Bridport. (And of course you might know him already from The Undercover Soundtrack.)

Chris asked me how I ended up with radio shows, masterclasses etc, and also a few things that made me think hard – the themes that characterise my fiction and what I’m like as a person. Which led to the statement you see in this headline. Come on over for more.

PS Proper Nail Your Novel post is in the pipes. Keep watching this space.

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You have an agent: why self-publish? The hybrid writer

Charles Dickens self-published sometimes. And he sat on chairs the wrong way round (thank you Smabs Sputzer)

Writer Laura Pauling dropped by one of my recent posts and asked this rather interesting question:

I’m curious about your decision to self-publish as I believed you had an agent?

Yes, I have an agent. Not just one, actually; two. Jane Conway-Gordon for my adult fiction and Piers Blofeld of Sheil Land for my MG/YA work. Agented up to my eyeballs and beyond, in fact. And yet I’m self-publishing My Memories of a Future Life. What gives?

Well, My Memories of a Future Life is one of those awkward novels that agents love, editors love – but it’s not what publishers are buying as breakout novels at the moment. It’s come back from editors with notes that said ‘we loved it but was too unconventional’.

It’s a matter of timing. My Memories of a Future Life has a speculative element and would have done fine if I’d been submitting it at the same time as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or Iain Banks’s The Bridge. But a lot has changed since they came out (particularly The Bridge, which was published in 1986).

So what’s a girl to do?

Even six months ago there would have been a stigma if a professional author self-published a work of fiction. But some books fit the high-volume needs of the publishing industry and some are better as a slow-burn cult discovery.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need publishers. Far from it. But it does mean that professional authors are developing a hybrid approach. Alina Tugend wrote in The New York Times this week that many traditionally published authors are now choosing to self-publish some of their work. The Bookseller recently featured a group of established writers from all genres who are bringing their own projects to Kindle with their own ebook site – Kindle Authors UK.

Writers are creative people. From time to time, what we create doesn’t sit within well-established genre boundaries. But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to read it (I refer you to paragraph 4…)

And we’re only following in the footsteps of other industries. Buffy creator Joss Whedon made Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog himself, rather than take it to a network. But he hasn’t turned his back on mainstream film and TV.

And I’m not turning my back on conventional publishing. Just because My Memories Of A Future Life doesn’t fit the industry’s needs doesn’t mean my other books won’t. Indeed, my MG/YA novel, Life Form 3, is on editors’ desks right now. Because writers today can do both.

Should you self-publish too?

If your novel is solidly in the middle of a high-selling genre and isn’t getting a sale, perhaps you still have work to do. But if you’ve got a book that’s earned its spurs by securing an agent, has had good feedback but hasn’t made it through the marketing department, maybe you should think about self-publishing too. (In fact I talked about this a while ago in this post here… and a lot of you had plenty to say…)

Laura has also asked how I’ll be promoting the novel, as I usually blog only about writing. It deserves a post of its own, so I’ll deal with that tomorrow!

In the meantime, tell me your thoughts on the changing nature of writers’ careers. Personally I love the hybrid approach – some of my books will be right for mainstream and some will be better as indies. It gives us all more freedom to have fulfilling and viable writing careers. It brings readers a wider breadth of work. It keeps the artform fresh. What do you think?

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How to break into ghostwriting

Today I’m guesting about ghosting. Ollin Morales has invited me to his blog Courage2Create, which this year was voted one of Write To Done’s Top 10 Blogs For Writers.

On Courage2Create, Ollin is documenting his journey to write his first novel and equip himself for a long-term and lasting writing career. As part of that quest, he seeks advice from a diversity of sources, practical to spiritual.

Though I have to confess that despite the name, the ghosting I discuss is entirely practical…

So here they are. All the secrets. Who does it. What it’s like. How you could do it too. Or as much as I can tell you without having to kill you…

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Self-publish first book, seek an agent for the second? Good, bad, risky?

As publishing becomes increasingly like the music industry, should you self-pub to kick-start your career?

I’ve had an interesting question from Stacy Green‘An online writing friend is going to self-publish a novel to build an audience, and then submit a second book to agents. What do you think’

The writing industry has become like the music industry. Writers are starting their careers not by  genuflecting at the desk of an agent or a publisher, but by getting out on blogs and websites, gathering like-minded folks on Twitter and Facebook. Effectively we’re gigging.

With Kindle books so cheap and so instantly available, it makes sense to have a book to prove ourselves with as well.

But should you self-publish a novel while you’re building your audience?

Is it spoiling your chances of a proper deal?

Six months ago I’d have said it was. But a few trailblazers have changed the world. Crucially, they have proved to the sceptics that self-publishing isn’t for slushpile losers. Traditionally published authors who retained their e-rights are putting their backlists on Kindle, showing that ‘proper’ authors self-publish too. Some agents are thinking of doing it for them.  Some authors are ditching their publishers and going it alone, or bringing out their more off-piste work themselves. And there’s that Kindle millionaire Ms Hocking. Yes, she’s in a minority but a lot of people took notice.

If you self-publish a novel, is it written off?

Agents warn that if you self-publish a book you won’t get a deal on it, ever. However, a few self-published authors have had offers for foreign rights. Again, they are in the minority, but it does happen.

For the vast majority, though, no publisher will touch the novel that’s been self-published.

That might not matter. Traditional publishing deals hardly pay very much these days so your earnings might not be much different if you keep all the rights for yourself. If you secure a deal for your second book, that will expose you to a wider spread of readers. If they like you, they will probably seek out your first book and won’t care where it came from. And so your first novel will not be sacrificed into a void.

But why shouldn’t Stacy’s friend approach traditional publishers?

Last night I was talking to a former agent and publisher who told me about the soul-destroying business of acquisitions meetings. He and his fellow editors would be passionately championing a book but just one veto from the marketing department could reject it.

The major publishers, he said, will only take potential best-sellers. Market is what speaks to publishers now, even more than merit.

Of course, new smaller publishers are stepping in to take their place, but they only publish a handful of titles a year. You might wait for ever. All the more reason to get out and gig your book.

Before you do…

Here comes the nagging. As everyone says ad nauseum (including me), make sure your book does you credit. Don’t toss a novel off so you’ve got something to get started with. Don’t put a book out because you don’t dare query with it, or you suspect an editor would tell you there were flaws. Edit and polish as slowly and carefully as you would for a formal query. Get a professional opinion and treat it like a job.

Authors who have blazed a trail this year have demonstrated that self-published writers are capable of policing themselves. Because of this we all have a better chance than ever before of building a career this way. But only if we all set our standards high.

Thank you, Hoong Wei Long for the photo.

To Stacy’s friend I say: good plan. If you have a book ready to gig, go for it.

What would you say?

 

 

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Ghostwriting, hiring an editor – and the Kindle millionaires

Today I’m being interviewed by historical and speculative novelist KM Weiland at Authorculture, a powerhouse blog she shares with authors Lynette Bonner, Johne Cook and Linda Yezak. Its manifesto is ‘to inspire, enlighten and unite writers and readers’, which sounds pretty necessary to me. And, with their combined background of writing, editing, publishing and mentoring, they certainly deliver.

They’ve long been champions of my book Nail Your Novel, and today they wanted to pick my brains about red-hot topics for writers today – how ghostwriting works, what to look for in a freelance editor, the mistakes I see most commonly in WIPs, the Borders closure, the recent upheavals in publishing – and the Kindle millionaires.

Terrific questions, and I do warn you Katie let me say rather a lot…

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A new mission for literary agents

You might have heard this week that the Ed Victor Literary Agency has started its own ebook and print-on-demand venture, initially to republish clients’ books that have fallen out of circulation.

I said in a comment on my recent post Should You Hit Self-Publish that this was disappointing. Because what I’d really like to see is agents using a model like this to showcase the work of original new writers.

As I said in my post, publishers were once allowed to acquire books purely because they were good, but now they have to worry about selling sure-fire winners to book chains and supermarkets. This means the original, the unusual, the unknown, the pesky cross-genre novelists are not getting publication deals. And yet these books were considered brilliant enough for agents to take them on.

There can’t be an agent in the world who doesn’t have a few titles they’re 100% passionate about but can’t sell.

This is bad for our art form. It’s bad for authors. It’s bad for everyone who likes a good read. It’s ghettoising our next generation of original authors, who ten years ago would have had a chance to build a career.

So what I’d really like to see is this. Agents should start their own ‘discovery’ imprints on POD and ebook. They should showcase, say, six titles every few months that they passionately believe deserve to be read.

The major reviewers would take notice, because the titles would have been stringently picked with the seal of approval of a legitimate agent. It would be another way to encourage publishers to have confidence in these new authors. And even if the showcased titles were too kooky for the mainstream, the publishers might want to know about the author’s other work.

It used to be that if you self-published a book, you’d scuppered all chances of it appearing in print conventionally. Even that’s changing. Kindle Direct Publishing’s latest newsletter features the story of Nancy Johnson, who published her novel on Kindle and has had offers of representation and publishers wanting to buy foreign rights.

All in favour, say aye

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Me, me … again: My career hat and my creative hat

Thank you Margaret Adams of The Adams Consultancy and Susie Nott-Bower of Strictly Writing, who have both hosted me as an interviewee this week!

With my careers hat on

Margaret is a careers consultant and has a blog that delves into the less commonly discussed aspects of writing – namely building a long-term career that will pay the bills. She interviewed me about my strategies for making a living as a writer, which you can find here. And you can find her latest post, Planning Your Bestseller, here.

Strictly Writing is the blog of eight writers, brought together by their enduring love of writing. They let me witter on here about my creative process for far longer than I should probably have been allowed.

With my creativity hat on

Thank you, Margaret and Susie et al, for hosting me!

Anyway, now it’s your turn. I’d love to know how writing fits into your life.

How much is writing a career for you? Are you writing for the pure creative love of it, maybe with the hope of publication someday? Have you already had fiction published? Do you make your living from words in other ways, such as journalism? Or do you have a job that is totally unconnected with the writing? 

 Tell me in the comments!

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