business, Uncategorized

Top 5 Things Every Author Needs When They’re Starting Out

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One of the most wonderful things about this industry is the flurry of new authors who enter the fold each month and year – people realising their dreams and making their stories into a reality. But whether they’re planning to self publish or debuting with a publisher, some have no idea of the resources they need to make their book a success. Often, a debut author isn’t necessarily a blogger or part of the online book fan community already, meaning they don’t know about netgalley, blog tours or all the elements that become standard when you’ve been doing it a while.

So here are 5 things you absolutely need when publishing a book:

A decent website

Ideally, get your website up before your book is out. You can do it yourself cheaply and with very little effort, using pre-created templates on WordPress or Wix. I’d recommend looking at websites of authors you want to be like – focus on your theme and genre, and match that accordingly. Down the line you might want something more professional, but until you establish a brand, you just need to take up space. Even a basic website is better than having no web presence at all.

A social media stream

A lot of people come to writing with old fashioned ideals – they don’t read ebooks, they expect their first deal to put their paperbacks in Waterstones, and they don’t do social media.

In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: ‘Big mistake. Huge.’

Almost 40% of book lovers, when asked their reasons for buying a book, felt they had some sort of online relationship with them. Whether that’s as bloggers, seeing adverts online or getting a ‘thank you’ tweet for reviewing the author’s last book, social media exists to form relationships with your audience. It’s a massive way to reach people. It also offers opportunities – my ‘big break’ was through finding a call for submissions on Twitter. Social media showed me how many publishers and agents were out there, it helped me get a sense of what they wanted. Watching things like pitching through hashtags, or agents giving their wishlists, it gave me an insight into the industry, and helped me create friendships with other supportive authors. Whichever social media stream you choose – enjoy it, use it to learn about and interact with other authors, show support and get conversing. Your readers care who you are, so show them.

Writer friends

Get yourself a writer posse – maybe it’s other writers with your publisher, or groups of self publisher writers, or a local group. Whether it’s an online group with friends halfway across the world, or people who are down the road – you’re going to need a support system. One’s who know what the joy of that first great review, and know the perfect thing to say when the bad reviews come (and they will always come). Find a group who can answer your questions, and share their knowledge and be there to celebrate with you. Having people who know just how painful that second round of edits can be, or to remind you that you’re not crap halfway through a first draft makes the whole thing more enjoyable.

Content

Part three of the trifecta of website and social media is having things to say. Any writer who thinks their job is done when their book is written does not know what it means to be an author. Your job starts after the book is done. You’ll write more blog posts than you ever thought possible, about your process, your characters, your goals. You’ll write top tens, and create spotify playlists and do everything you can to share about your book. Channel that love for writing into your blog posts and share your excitement.

Be a reader

The old way of reading used to feel impersonal – an author could write something that would touch you, and yet you’d have no interaction with them, beyond paying for their book. You might read about them, or hear an interview, or recommend their book, but that’s it. Now, the reading world is so much bigger than that. You can interact with authors, talk to them, and influence their sales. As an author, you’ll know how much one review, one retweet, one fan saying how much they’ve loved your books means. Make sure you do that for other authors. Read their books, and be part of the community. And find your own rules for sharing feedback – think about how it makes you feel, and how true to yourself you need to be.

Personally, I follow a ‘nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’ policy. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. You’ll find your own way, but please PLEASE just think of how it feels to create something and have someone else shit on it. If something isn’t for you, that’s cool, but please don’t tag an author on Twitter telling them how crap it was. We’re a delicate community, and you’ll need other authors on your side.

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I remember how terrifying it was starting out, how it was a completely different world. So I’m creating a resources sheet for authors, including things to remember when setting up a blog tour, stock image sources, and how to consider all different promotional forms. A comprehensive checklist of everything you need if you’re wanting to promote your work. If you’d like to receive my resources list, sign up for my newsletter here. And if there’s anything you really want to see on the resources list, put it in the comments!

 

 

business

9 Things I’ve Learnt by Writing 9 Books

I like number nine. It’s got something a bit sassy about it. Which is why I’m glad Cocktails and Dreams was my ninth book. I’ve written nine books in five years, and the more I think about that, the more insane it is. And I’m in a completely different place to where I was even a couple of years ago.

So I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect on what I’ve learnt:

  • No matter how many books you write, you are always going to have those moments where you are insanely certain that you are the worst writer in the history of the world.
  • It’s not enough to work on your craft, you’ve got to do your research on the industry – listen to podcasts, read the bookseller, keep an eye on what’s selling and what’s not.
  • Surround yourself with positive people – find your tribe. People who tear you down, who constantly try to one-up, brag about their work or trample your wins are not your friends. Not everyone will get ‘it’ and that’s okay. But the ones who try to understand, or support you even when they don’t understand, keep them close.
  • Don’t limit yourself – when it starts to feel stale, deviate, explore and play. No one writes the same book 40 times. You’re going to grow. The things you never thought you’d ever want to write, or be capable of writing, might just surprise you.
  • Know that you shouldn’t compare yourself to other writers. You’re going to do it anyway, but know that you shouldn’t.
  • Think bigger, and long term. Don’t be the fool who takes a thousand pound payout compared to a lifetime of trickling royalties. This is a career. Keep your rights, think about what you can do with them. Look after your pieces of the pie, don’t just sign the first contract that comes along.
  • Stay hungry. Dream big. It’s not a conveyor belt. Don’t do the same thing a hundred times. Learn new marketing techniques, try new things. Growing and changing as a writer is one thing. Growing and changing as your marketing exec is just as important.
  • Be a listener, a collaborator, a reader. Give to receive. Be part of the community. Don’t expect people to give a shit about your work when you don’t give a shit about them.
  • Think about value – think about what you’re offering to readers, not what they can offer you. So often we just consistently call for people to buy our books. Instead, think about what you’re offering them. Maybe it’s not just a good story. Maybe it’s a friendly interaction on Twitter, or a response to their review. Maybe it’s a blog post that might help a writer earlier on in their career.

 

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business

Dealing with the ‘Business’ Side of Being an Author: tips and tricks.

I know. We’re artists. Creatives. Imagineers in a world of drudgery and darkness.

But we still have to do our tax returns.

Being an author is a fine balance between the art-driven self, and the money-driven self. If you want to write for free, and just want to have a couple of people read your book, of course that’s fine. It doesn’t make you any less of an author. If, however, you’re one of what I assume is tens of thousands of us who would like to be able to write full time eventually, then it’s time to start thinking about the business side.

I’ve spent a few months doing research on this, as though I did an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, which made me thinking about funding streams, deal-making, self promotion and branding, it didn’t tell me much about the specifics of being a writer, and what that means. Sadly, neither did my writing degree. We focus on the art, but the business side needs a space.

So, here’s some points I found useful if you want to work your way towards making more money, writing full time or just feeling like you’re achieving more:

 

  • Register with the HMRC – if you’re making money from your books, however little, it’s worth registering straight away. After all, even if you’re just making pennies now, this time next year, you’ll be a millionaire (Rodney), won’t you? Keep any receipts for relevant writing-related spends, including things like printer ink, tech, books, promo costs, and any training/travel to training, and any journals or memberships. It’s costly being a writer. Think of all the pens.
  • Sign up for PLRif you have a book that’s currently out in the world, ebook or print, it might be in a library. Signing up for PLR means you get a little back whenever someone borrows your book. Now again, might be pennies to start with, but we’re setting up for long term success, aren’t we?
  • Join Amazon AssociatesA similar thing – when you share a link of your book on Amazon through your website or social media pages, you get a little back for recommending people come to Amazon, even if they don’t end up  buying your book, but buy something else. This also isn’t just for authors, so anyone can do it.
  • Get your branding house in order – Don’t like social media? Tough luck I’m afraid. If you’re an author hoping to sell some books, research has shown Facebook ads are the way to go. Make sure you have everything you need for people to know who you are, and find your books easily – a website/blog, a Facebook author page, a Twitter handle, and anything else you want. Research is still being done as to whether making boards on Pinterest, sharing images on Instagram, sharing videos on Youtube or making book playlists on Spotify will help sell books, but it will help give your readers a sense of who you are and what you do. Find the things you enjoy, and make them a way of selling who you are. It also helps with the next point…
  • Find your tribe– your fans are out there. So find them. Call out for them! Offer prizes and goodies, ask what they’d like to see in your next book, ask how they want to be advertised to, or how they choose which books to read. Your existing fans are your greatest insight to what you’re doing well, and what you’re not. Author and marketing specialist Mark Dawson has offered some great advice about how he gets his books out there, sending non-finalised copies to an Advance Reader Team of fans, who will come back to him with criticism. When he felt unsure about an ending, it was his readers who agreed with him, and encouraged him to rewrite a more satisfying ending. The result? 200 people who felt valued as readers and fans, and who immediately gave a good review on publication day. You can hear more about this on the podcast Self Publishing Formula and on Joanna Penn’s interview with Mark on The Creative Penn podcast. (Both of these are invaluable resources, even if you’re traditionally published).

What does success look like to you_

The most important factor that I keep coming back to, and was the same thing I learnt doing my creative business degree is – define what success means to you.

My idea of success has changed over the years. At first it was ‘write a book’, then it was ‘get a book published’, then it was ‘get some reviews.’ Whilst I did manage to survive as a full time writer for a couple of years, supplementing my income with workshops, classes and tutoring, I am aiming for a life where I don’t have to do that. Now, that might not be achievable until I’m a few years off retirement, but luckily, writing is something you can do for the rest of your life, if you enjoy it.

Success for me looks like over a hundred reviews on this new book, a lot of promo, noise and visibility on this new series, getting an agent, and in the next two years, being able to go down to four days a week at work. This job is a long term goal. You build a backlist, you build fans, a readership, a writing community. These do not come the minute your book goes live, or is placed on shop shelves. And my biggest mistake has been in not collecting that data, recording my fans, getting a subscription newsletter up and running, or a street team. I’m working on those things now (if you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, please do) as well as experimenting with different types of social media, exploring promotional tools I’d never thought of.

So, what does success look like to you, and which tools would you recommend for the ‘business’ side of being a writer?

 

 

business

Aligning Planets, Aligning Dreams: How to be an efficient creative being.

I didn’t see the eclipse this morning. I was lying in what felt like the world’s most comfortable bed, in the most gorgeous hotel, having drunk a leetle too much champagne the night before and simply breathing. I lay there in this comfortable bed and thought ‘Ah, I remember this. This is what it feels like not to worry.’

I am a worried. I am also a planner, a schemer, a long-term investor, a busy body and someone who gets rundown easily. I am possibly the worst person to be self-employed. I do maths, I make charts- ‘How can I increase my efficiency?’ ‘Can I squeeze in any more hours this week?’ ‘How much more can I get done if I learn to be happy with six hours sleep a night?’

This is not the right way to be efficient. Or creative. Or a human being that other human beings want to be around.

This is the way to a nervous breakdown and a heartattack before I’m thirty.

So as I lay there in this very comfortable bed, doing nothing but ruminating and breathing, I thought to myself ‘Why am I panicking when everything seems to be going right?’

I wonder if you ever have this sensation too? That you are so full of dreams and hopes and plans that they never feel like they’ll get there soon enough. And by the time they arrive, you are too busy worrying about the next plans to fully enjoy them.

This, I believe, is about alignment. On my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, I was required to write a five year arts and business plan. This was meant as a tool to equip me on my writing career. It had contacts, it had aims and goals and ways of achieving them. But nowhere in that plan did I factor in the astonishing realisation that whilst you’re working towards these goals, life is still happening. Life doesn’t stop to let you catch up, or get ahead. I could sit here and work out that x+y = 13 books a year, and how much a % commission is and what likelihood it is that I could write full time…but you know how my time would be better spent? Writing book 5. And letting book 13 work itself out when I get there.

I spend a lot of time tutoring kids in analysing Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. It’s a brilliant book, and often the essay question the kids get is: ‘Explore the importance of dreams in the novel.’ It throws them, because they can’t see any dreams in the novel, no-one’s asleep and imagining crazy things, no-one’s looking up at the Hollywood sign and saying ‘I’m gonna be a star’ (although one character thought that, once). It’s a landscape of failed dreams and unachievable goals. But here’s the catch, the important thing was to have a dream. To let it nourish you, to give you strength to get through another crappy day where nothing seemed to change. To let it be your lullaby when your weary head hit the pillow.

My lesson here, dear readers? Dreams should be invigorating, they should give you purpose and movement and strength. But they are no substitute for real life. Let your dreams inspire your life, but let your life be more important than your dreams. Work hard, play hard and BE PRESENT. Only then, can your creativity align with your passion. I’d also recommend mindfulness, and I’ll be posting some mindfulness writing tasks next week for those of you who want to be more present in your present!