If you’ve ever read a poem, a short story, an article or a book or seen a play, a photograph or a painting so evocative that you thought, “This should be a movie,” then you’ll know it’s often the first step towards the creation of something new and wonderful yet familiar and comfortable. Regardless of where the idea begins and where it ends up, after that first step there are several more that will help ensure that when using the source material of others, you do so with honesty and respect.
As part of the announcement of the release of my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I sent an email to the alumni group of Swinburne University where I studied and graduated with a Master of Arts in Writing. I’d done the same thing when I published Project December: A Book About Writing and they’d been kind enough to include a mention of it in their e-newsletter and a link to where it could be purchased. I hoped they’d do the same this time.
Instead, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed and profiled as part of a series on their past students. I thought, “Why not?”.
But once I’d agreed to do it, I did what I always do, which is panic. Sometimes I feel like I have proverbial foot-in-mouth disease (not literal foot-in-mouth disease – gross!) and am prone to say things I shouldn’t. I aim for witty and end up coming off like a weirdo. It’s why I’m a writer, after all. I like having the chance to revise. And revise. And revise again. Speaking off the cuff doesn’t give you that chance.
To keep myself calm and to try to prepare for an interview where I didn’t know exactly what the questions were going to be, I decided to attempt to pre-empt what might be asked and come up with answers. That way, if they did come up, I’d have something that didn’t make me sound like a person on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
Yes, essentially, I interviewed myself.
I am by no means a marketing or design or website expert but, luckily, I happen to know someone who is. When I or my editing clients need assistance, she is my first (and only) point of contact. That’s how good she is in my opinion.
Through my professional relationship with her, I have distilled some (hopefully most) of the key points to consider when developing a website for your book.
The first decision is what you want to call your website. If you have only written one book and don’t plan to write any more, you may prefer to set up a website in the name of your book for maximum exposure. If you’ve written more than one book or plan to write more in the future, it might be better to set up a website in your name to promote yourself as much as the books. Of course, you could always call your website something completely different (John Birmingham’s is called Cheeseburger Gothic – no idea why). As long as you have a good reason and it doesn’t make you and your book very difficult to find (which defeats entirely the purpose of setting up a website), then why not?
This is the titular chapter from my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing.
If you’ve read my book Project December: A Book About Writing or the various Project… blog posts on this blog, then you’ll know Project October is about intensive writing, Project November is about editing and revision, and Project December is about getting your book published. And, of course, I hope it makes sense that Project January is about starting all over again.
The pride and relief at finishing and finally publishing a book is wonderful. But the realisation that all that hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears that it took, all the back and forth, all of the begging for beta readers, all the doubt and belief and doubt again, the realisation that all of it simply rewinds to deposit you back at the beginning again can be hard.
Some people only want to write one book, only have one book in them. If that’s you and you’re okay with it, great. For the rest us who don’t want to be one-book wonders, we’re confronted with an entirely different set of problems from when we began writing our first books. So here are a few things to consider to help get you back on track to another Project October, Project November and Project December.
I’ve been helping an internet and marketing ignorant author about thirty years older than me in the lead up to his book being published and he’s also been receiving moral support from another published author roughly his age. He’s paying a professional to put together a small website and I suggested I set up a Goodreads author profile for him so that when the book is released I – and whoever else is so inclined – can post a review. He agreed.
I signed him up, added a picture and posted his About Me text that we’ve been working on for the website. Then, since I’m on Goodreads as well, I connected with him as a friend. And knowing the name of the other author who’s supporting him, I looked her up on Goodreads in an attempt to connect the two of them.
But when I found her profile, it was empty. She’s there – her book was quite successful and has an average rating of 3.46 – but there’s no picture, no author bio, no other information except that she was the author of the book listed. I was surprised. I went back to my friend and told him what I’d found, suggesting he contact his friend and let her know her profile was there and that she could claim it. He told me she was as clueless as he was when it came to technology and being online and that he doubted she would be interested. Fair enough. She clearly doesn’t have someone like me to help her out the way he has me.
Almost as soon as I finished writing Project December: A Book About Writing, I knew I was going to follow it up with a sequel. I told myself a year was a reasonable interval between books and that since the first one had only taken six months to write, I had a little bit of time up my sleeve. I took some time off, wrote 30,000 words of a novel I’ve been trying to finish for the last four years (still not finished) and then started to gear up to yet again write about writing.
Of course, as with all the best laid plans, life was about to get in the way. I landed a six-week writing job, then another, did a semester of intensive tutoring for a university student and last but not least received – and accepted – an offer to extensively rewrite and edit an autobiography. Suddenly, it was November and I barely had half of Project January: A Sequel About Writing written. I hadn’t even had a chance to do my traditional Project October month of intensive writing.
These days it seems like writing a book is on everybody’s bucket list. And if you’ve got a great story, then it deserves to be told. But what if you’re a bad writer? Just because everybody wants to write a book doesn’t mean everybody is capable of doing it.
If you can recognise that you’re a bad writer, congratulations. It puts you one step ahead of all those people who can’t see it and persist in trying to write and circulate a book that is never going to get published, at least not in its current terrible form. And if you’re committed to getting your story out there regardless, here are a few options to help make it happen.