On Reading the Book That Beat Me for the 2016 Text Prize

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In 2016, I entered the then unpublished manuscript of my young adult novel Black Spot in the Text Prize competition for young adult and children’s writing. I wasn’t holding my breath about winning because I’m not the holding-my-breath kind of person. And when I received a blanket email from the Text Prize people thanking everybody for their entries and saying that the shortlisted authors would be contacted individually, I assumed I wasn’t one of them because I hadn’t heard anything.

A couple of days later, my phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number. I thought it might be about a job I’d applied for. Instead it was a woman named Ally, who told me she worked at Text Publishing. She was calling to let me know that Black Spot had been shortlisted for the Text Prize. And to invite me to the announcement of the winner in just under two weeks’ time.

If it sounds like I was very calm during that phone call, I wasn’t. I was stunned. I was overwhelmed. But I was happy. This was an achievement. This was amazing. This was bliss. Continue reading

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A Story About Choosing an Author Photo

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Sometimes (okay, more than sometimes) I like to live in a world where the only thing I’m judged on as a writer is my writing. The rest of the time I know I have to play the game. You know the game. The one where what you look like, how cool you are and how good you are on social media seem to be just as important. I resent the hell out it (mostly because I’m not beautiful, I’m a nerd – not one of those cool new-age nerds, just an old-fashioned awkward nerd – and my social media skills could charitably be described as needing work).

So imagine the personal torment I went through as I recently chose a new author photo to go on the back cover of my latest book, Black Spot. If you know my history with author photos, it’s not that hard to imagine. Continue reading

I Am the Very Model of an Unknown Author Immemorial

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I’m very bad at marketing and anything promotional
Even though with books I’m always quote devotional
In short, in matters authorial and even editorial
I am the very model of an unknown author immemorial
(And in this case, a bit of a plagiarist and an awful lyricist)

I know I do plenty right when it comes to my writing. If I thought differently, I probably would have given up a long time ago. But I know I do plenty wrong as well. How do I know that? Because I’ve written two-and-a-half books of writing, editing, publishing and marketing advice and often it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because at least fifty percent of the time, I don’t – and sometimes just can’t bring myself to – follow my own advice. Which undoubtedly has something (probably a lot) to do with why I remain an unknown author (since time immemorial).

Here’s a (hardly comprehensive) list of things I do wrong. 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 Write a Christmas-themed Book?

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Clearly, it’s much easier to make the decision to write a Christmas-themed blog post (a thousand or so words, a fairly small investment of writing time) but should you write an entire Christmas-themed book? Depending on the type of books you write, it could be another small (or at least smaller) investment of writing time (such as with children’s books) or it could be months or years of your life (such as with full-length novels).

As with all writing choices, there are pros and cons. The final decision (and the reasons behind it) for one person will be completely different to the final decision (and the reasons behind it) for another. So this decision needs to be the right decision for you. Continue reading

The Importance of a Searchable Platform

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As much as we might like it to be otherwise, being a good writer – even being a great writer – generally isn’t enough to become a successful writer. And in this day and age, when the first instinct of many people is to Google something or someone in order to know more about them, if you aren’t on those first few pages of results, you might as well not exist at all. Unless other people are already talking about you and your writing, having a searchable platform is one of the keys to this. Continue reading

Reading Your Own Writing

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Do you ever read your own writing? Not as part of a rewriting and editing process but just for pleasure? In the last five years, I’ve written over half a million words – it may even be closer to a million – in the form of articles, blog posts, book reviews, novels and non-fiction books. And that doesn’t include all the paid writing – tenders, case studies, websites, brochures and other types of marketing copy. I can’t possibly remember it all. So sometimes I go back and read bits and pieces of my own writing.

There are a lot of books out there, I like discovering new ones and I’m not narcissistically self-indulgent so after the rewriting and editing process, I’ve never sat down and read one of my own books from cover to cover. But every now and then I’ll bring up one of my book reviews, articles or blog posts and read it through. Continue reading