Should I Stop Telling You What to Do?

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Recently, I was scrolling through Twitter (as I do several times a day) when I came across a post from either someone I follow or someone who had been liked, retweeted or commented on by someone I follow. (It’s hard to tell sometimes.) The poster essentially said that unless you were Stephen King or some other bestselling writer, then he didn’t think he should read or follow any advice you might have about writing. Most of the comments agreed with him. Some even thought that the only way to improve was to write more (but not to listen to advice on how they might be able to write better).

I have no problem with Stephen King. I have his book On Writing. I’ve read it. I don’t consider it a Bible on the craft. I’ve written and published two books on writing myself. I’m close to completing a third. I don’t consider any of them definitive guides on writing. (Obviously, if one of them was a Bible on writing, I’d be a lot more successful than I am now and I wouldn’t have needed to write the other two.) I have many books on writing. None of them render all other books on writing irrelevant. Continue reading

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Why I Don’t Go to Libraries Anymore (and Why I Love Them Anyway)

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My local council has recently built an architectural award-winning building (even though I’ve heard people describing the outside as looking like Donald Trump’s hair) and moved both its offices and the library into it. I’m assured it’s beautiful inside. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t gone in and don’t have any plans to.

I don’t go to libraries anymore. The last time I went to a library was with my sister and her then pre-school aged daughter on one of their weekly trips to return the children’s books they’d borrowed and select some more. Before that? A body corporate meeting of unit owners where I lived that just happened to be in a hired meeting room at a library. And before that? During my undergraduate studies, which I finished when I was twenty-two (nearly half my lifetime ago). Continue reading

How to Proofread Like a Professional

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You’ve written, you’ve rewritten, you’ve had your manuscript assessed, you’ve rewritten again (and possibly again), you’ve had it edited and it’s finally time for your book to be published. If you’ve already paid a manuscript assessor and editor and you can afford a proofreader as well, then go ahead and do it. A professional will always be able to do a better job than you. But if you’re looking for a way to save a few bucks and you’re confident you have the skills to take on the final stages yourself, then here’s how to proofread like a professional. Continue reading

Preparing for the First Time You’re Asked for Your Autograph

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Anna Scott: Oh, signed by the author, I see.
William Thatcher: Um, yeah. Couldn’t stop him. If you can find an unsigned one, it’s worth an absolute fortune.
Notting Hill

Rufus: Can I have your autograph?
Anna Scott: Sure. What’s your name?
Rufus: Rufus. [She writes on a scrap of paper and hands it to him.] What’s it say?
Anna Scott: That’s my signature and below it it says, “Dear Rufus, you belong in jail.”
Rufus: Right. Good one.
Notting Hill

There is nothing quite so humbling for an author as the first time you are asked for your autograph. I distinctly remember my first time. It was just a few weeks after I’d released my debut novel and it was a guy who worked with my mum. But since I’d released Enemies Closer as an ebook only, I couldn’t sign a copy of my book for him. Instead, I printed a copy of my one and only professional head shot, wrote a message about how this was the best I could do until I did publish the book physically, autographed it and emailed it to my mum so she could forward it on to him.

For some, though, being asked for an autograph can also be a little bit frightening. After all, if you haven’t prepared for that moment, it can be flustering. Why? Here are a few reasons. Continue reading

Should You Market Your Book, Yourself or Both? (Part 2: Marketing Yourself)

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On Tuesday I looked at marketing your book and today I continue the theme by looking at ways to market yourself. It’s not everybody’s favourite task – in fact, I once asked a friend if she wanted to be the public face and name of my books because I was so afraid of the scrutiny (she declined) – but if you’re planning on publishing more than one book, establishing your identity as a writer can be just as important as establishing the quality of an individual book.

Find Your Angle
Everybody has an angle – they just have to discover what it is. John Grisham is a former lawyer so when he started writing crime books, it made total sense. Jeffrey Archer was conned out of a significant amount of money so when he wrote a book about characters trying to exact their revenge for the same thing and get their money back, it was a great selling point. When Lauren Conrad wrote a novel about a girl and her best friend appearing on a reality show, the fact that it was a thinly veiled autobiography and she had a guaranteed readership from the audience of the show she had appeared on helped to ring up the sales, even if the critical acclaim didn’t accompany it. Continue reading

Should You Market Your Book, Yourself or Both? (Part 1: Marketing Your Book)

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I love to ask myself questions that I don’t know the answer to and spend time considering them at length, then spend time discussing them at length in a blog post. So, somewhat surprisingly, when I asked myself the question “Should you market your book, yourself or both?” I realised I already knew the answer. Of course, all writers seeking an audience for their work must market both their books and themselves. It’s everything that comes after that realisation that tends to be a lot more difficult.

I’ve previously admitted that I have a problem with marketing myself and I’m not much better at marketing my books, not because I don’t think they’re any good but because a lifetime of reinforcement that humility is more important than confidence when it comes to self-promotion is hard to overcome.

So here’s an exercise in “do as I say, not as I do”. You don’t have to do them all – in fact, you probably shouldn’t, at least not all at once in an effort to avoid overkill. But by selecting the right combination over the right length of time, your marketing efforts may just pay off. Today I’m looking at marketing your book and on Thursday I’ll look at marketing yourself and together those two approaches will hopefully translate into book sales now and in the future. Continue reading

The Unusual and Irrational Obsessions of Writers

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Miranda Margulies: We can get the Times to write something. Or that nut from the Observer.
Kathleen Kelly: Wait, what… what nut from the Observer?
Miranda Margulies: Frank something? The one who’s so in love with his typewriter. This is just the sort of thing that would outrage him!
You’ve Got Mail

Most writers have unusual obsessions. For Frank Navasky in You’ve Got Mail, it was his typewriters (yes, plural – he had several). For me, it’s my dictionaries (yes, plural – I have more dictionaries than Frank had typewriters). I’ve written previously about how my dictionary is the one book I can’t live without, specifically my Macquarie International English Dictionary.

But the version I have was published in 2004 (which was when I bought it), making it twelve years old and meaning it doesn’t contain any of the words invented in the intervening period or reflect changes in how English is used (and as much as pedants would prefer there weren’t, there are always changes).

Last year, when I was using it to ensuring spelling accuracy and consistency as I edited Project December: A Book about Writing, I thought it would do the job well enough. But it was in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to put off buying a new dictionary for much longer. And this year, when I was hired (and subsequently paid) to edit an autobiography, I knew the time had come. Continue reading