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?

 

 

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writing tips

Balance and Control in Publication

It’s the first thing anyone an author will say when you ask why they’re self publishing:

I’m in control of my book, every element of it.

Now, that can sound controlling, paranoid or just like a hell of a lot of work. When you think about the things outside of writing a book, that are just as important, like the editing, the promotion, the cover, the blurb, the reviews, the pricing and the long term plan for a book, it can seem daunting.

I’ve never thought I’d be able to do my books justice. I struggle as it is to write and work and study.

But there is something terrifying about leaving your book at the mercy of others, letting the cover, the angle, the promotion and the pricing be decided by someone else, whether they’re a specialist or it’s the market that determines how it’s seen.

The truth is, your book is never going to be more important to anyone than you. For you, it’s a piece of yourself, a piece of your truth, whether it’s a silly story or a saga you spent years perfecting – it’s yours. And the idea that it might been seen in a way you don’t want it to be, can be painful.

However, at some point, you have to give up the control any way. The minute those words are released into the world, the minute someone picks it up and starts the first sentence, you have no control. The control you had as a writer is done the minute the final draft is finished. The control you have as a publicist is to ensure your book is defined correctly, that the cover isn’t misleading and that you keep the conversation going.

This summer, I’m running workshops at Larmertree Festival in Wiltshire. This will be my sixth year with them, and along with my writing for wellbeing, I’m going to be running a ‘Writing for Publication’ class. This will be focussing on defining your work, branding and owning that branding. Deciding who you’re writing for and what you want to say. But as a dear friend and excellent writer said recently, “I want to work with writers who love what they’re writing.” So publication can’t always be the main goal. It’s got to be a labour of love, to an extent.

That’s how I feel about my latest book, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday. It will be released on Friday, and then I’ll have to let it go, out into the ether to make its own destiny, create it’s own history. Perhaps, it will achieve greatness, or perhaps it will sink into the depths of thousands of other books being released this week, month or year – ignored and destined to sit sweetly on an Amazon page. And after it’s out there, all I can do is talk about it, tweet about it, and wish my baby well. There’s a grief and anxiety in that, like not fully preparing your child before they go off to uni.

But most of all, I’m excited to introduce you to Ruby. This is my favourite story, and I’m so glad I get to write two more books in the series, and hang around my fictional friends a while longer!

Keep an eye out on twitter over the next few weeks using the hashtags #goodbyerubytuesday and #houseoncamdensquare and stay tuned for news of a London launch next month!

And to all the writers out there: how much control do you want over your book?

 

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

 

 

writing tips

Dinner Party Etiquette for Writers: No-one Cares About Your Novel

Don’t think I haven’t heard it, that glum sigh when someone asks what I do, and I tell them I’m a author. You know why the sigh? Because they think I’m going to bore them for the next forty five minutes with the epic tale of my latest masterpiece, pausing along the way so they can nod and tell me how brilliant I am. Then they’ll blandly say ‘that sounds really interesting,’ and I’ll say ‘well, it’s hard to explain but it’s better when you read it.’

Except I don’t do that, because it’s DIRE and AWFUL and no-one wants to interact with people like that. So normally I make a joke about being poor, and they make a joke about being the next J.K. Rowling (and I don’t go into a long rant about how she’s the exception to the publication rule) and we return to talking about the weather, or accounting, or something that isn’t my work. Easy.

I am a big fan of not talking about your WIPs. Or even outlining your novel. Even when people ask what it’s about, they don’t actually want a four page synopsis. They want an X meets Y approach: ‘Yeah, it’s like Indiana Jones, but set in space.’ ‘Oh, well it’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, but between McDonalds and Burger King employees.’

I often give the advice to keep your stories close to your chest, especially when they’re in progress. Partly, because I think ideas are precious, partly because I think that energy and passion should be channeled into writing them down instead of talking about them. And partly because I’m doing dinner party guests across the country a massive favour. It’s the equivalent of sitting there and talking about how your kids are the best kids ever for an hour. Except at least when that happens, you give other people the chance to but in and talk about how great their kids are. You can’t do that, unless you’re in a room full of writers.  And you can’t expect other people to know that’s what’s going on, so you’re going on about your epic fight scene (that you haven’t written yet) in chapter thirty four, and the woman next to you can’t exactly jump in and go ‘oh yes, my son Marcus has excellent swordmanship. He beheaded two goblins last week!’

The context doesn’t fit. And here’s some smart thinking- these people may buy your book if you remain that mysterious author who gave them a brief snippet of what you’re working on. If you’ve told them the whole thing, they’re not going to give a crap. Even if it is interesting to them, who buys a book when it’s been narrated to them all evening by someone who isn’t Stephen Fry?

However…yes, I will admit, there are moments when it’s good to talk about your work. What I’m talking about here is sharing your passions, talking about who inspires you, who you want to be like, what you want to achieve.

I don’t really talk about my books when I’m writing them, occasionally give a brief outline, usually about a sentence. But I’ve started talking about my research, the work I’m doing on my MSc, working with writing and body image, and eating disorders. When you’re passionate about something, and you’re learning about it, you want to share it, and suddenly everything becomes relevant. Whilst I’d still say reigning yourself in at dinner parties is important, sharing the seeds that have sent you on your path, the things that have inspired you in your work can often bring great connections and contact with people you never would have met.

So share your passion, your inspiration, your fire…just, don’t give away the ending. Because it may surprise you.

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Workshopping at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

It has been a majorly busy week! I’ve signed on for a further two novels with my publisher, I got to see my new cover design for my soon-to-be-released Christmas novel (Driving Home for Christmas) and I was teaching creative writing workshops for children at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

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There are a few moments in life where you really feel like you’ve ‘Made It’ in the field. Obviously, I just wrote about how there are no big breaks, and what I love about this opportunity, like all of the other really awesome exciting things I have coming up in the next few months, have happened really organically. Sometime last year, after working a few summer festivals near Cheltenham, I enquired about workshops, and got a reply saying that the person I’d emailed wasn’t really in charge of that, and she’d pass it on.

I didn’t think it would go anywhere. And yet this week I was running workshops for four different schools, inside canopies and tents and a Waterstones Hideaway. It felt amazing to be part of something so literary! We created dragons with powers, mystical island settings, animal superheroes and crazy characters! It was so much fun, and it felt brilliant to be in the midst of such creative talent! Plus, Cheltenham is absolutely beautiful.

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Just goes to show, that gradually working your way up, you can get somewhere. So let’s aim big: next year, I’ll be giving a talk, or reading from my book!

I’ll be sharing some awesome news about different lectures I’m giving, residencies I’m taking part in, and workshops I’m running too, but expect there to be an overwhelming amount of details and competitions about Driving Home for Christmas soon enough!

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Release Day: The BookShop On the Corner by Rebecca Raisin

The Bookshop on the Corner

Release day!

 

Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?

Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Ever since her close friend Lil, from The Gingerbread Café, had become engaged she had been yearning for a little love to turn up in her life. Except Sarah knew a good man was hard to find – especially in a tiny town like Ashford. That was until New York journalist, Ridge Warner stepped into her bookshop…

Love could be just around the corner for Sarah, but will she be able to truly believe that happy-ever-after can happen in real-life too!

 

Praise from Mia March, author of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, and Finding Colin Firth.

“How I wish this magical little bookshop was around the corner from my house! Brimming with heart, hope, and wisdom, THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER is a wonderful novel about love, life, friendship, romance, books galore, and finding that happy ending.” –-Mia March.

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Snuggled in the cozy bay window of the bookshop, I looked up from my novel as the first golden rays of sunshine brightened the sky. Resting my head against the cool glass, I watched the light spill, as though it had leaked, like the yellows of a watercolor painting. Almost dawn, it would soon be time to switch on, and get organized for another day at The Bookshop on the Corner.

Every day I arrived at work a few hours prior to opening to read in the quiet, before customers would trickle in. I loved these magical mornings, time stolen from slumber, where I’d curl up with a book and get lost inside someone else’s world before dog-earing the page and getting lost in mine. Sure, I could have stayed in bed at home and read, but the bookshop had a dream-like quality about it before dawn that was hard to resist.

I turned back to the inside of the shop to watch shards of muted sunlight settle on piles of books, as if it were slowly waking them. The haphazard stacks seemed straighter, as if they’d decided when I wasn’t looking to neaten themselves up, dust their jackets off, and stand to attention. Maybe a customer would stumble across one of them today, run a hand lovingly across their covers, before selecting a book that caught their attention. Though my theory was books chose us, and not the other way around.

The bookshop was silent, bar a faint hum — were the books muttering to each other about what today would bring? Smiling to myself, I went back to my novel, promising myself just one more chapter.

When I looked up again the sun was high in the sky, and I’d read a much bigger chunk than I’d meant to. Some stories consumed you, they made time stop, your worries float into the ether, and when it came to my reading habits I chose romance over any other genre. The appeal of the happy ever after, the winsome heroine being adored for who she was, and the devastatingly handsome hero with more to him than met the eye tugged at my heart. And I’d read about them all: from dashing dukes, to cocksure cowboys, I never met one I didn’t fall for.

The sounds of the street coming alive filtered in, roller shutters retreating upwards, cheery shop owners whistling as they swept their front stoops. Lil, the owner of the Gingerbread Café across the road, arrived, hand in hand with her fiancé, Damon. They stood on the pavement in front of her café, and kissed goodbye, spending an age whispering and canoodling.

I tried to focus on my book, but couldn’t help darting a glance their way every now and then. Each morning they embraced almost as though they’d never see each other again, yet they worked only a few short steps away. It was as if they were magnetically drawn to each other; one step backwards would draw the other person forwards. I bet they couldn’t hear the sound of shops opening or cars tooting hello. They had their own kind of sweet music that swirled around them as if they were in some kind of love bubble.

Feeling as though I was intruding on a private moment, I swiveled away from the window and padded bare foot down to the back of the bookshop to make more coffee. My feet found the familiar groove in the wood; the path was so well trodden it was bowed. The feel of the polished oak underfoot with its labyrinth-type trails exposed around stacks of books was comforting. It’d weathered traffic for so long it was indelibly changed by it.

Taking the pot of coffee to the counter, I poured a cup, and sipped gingerly. Lately, I’d felt a little as though I was at a crossroads. You know that frustrating feeling of losing the page in your book? You didn’t want to go too far forward and spoil the surprise, and you didn’t want to go too far back, so you kind of stagnated and started from a page that didn’t seem quite right, but you read it a few times just to convince yourself…that was how I felt about my life. A little lost, I guess you could say.

Ashford was buzzing with good news recently, love affairs, weddings, babies, but I was still the same old Sarah, nose pressed in a book, living out fictional relationships as if they were my own. I was waiting for something to find me. But what if that something never came?

What did heroines do when they felt like that? Broaden their horizons? I imagined myself swapping Ashford for Paris, because of the bookshops and the rich literary history. But really, I’d never ventured far from my small town, and probably never would. My bookshop was a living, breathing thing to me, and there was no one to look after it even if I did want to do something spontaneous. Should I take up a hobby? I’d be the girl stuck line dancing with the octogenarian. Instead of dreaming of the impossible, I set about opening the shop, and shelved that line of thought for another time.

 

Find The Bookshop on the Corner here:

US Amazon http://amzn.to/1jMmIWA
UK Amazon http://amzn.to/1lGBvED
AUST Amazon http://bit.ly/1fTDwWW

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/bookshop-on-corner-gingerbread/id850630026?mt=11

Kobo http://goo.gl/PjVtr1

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/rebeccaraisin/the-bookshop-on-the-corner-by-rebecca-raisin/

Find Rebecca here: 

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

http://rebeccaraisin.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum 

The Bookshop on The Corner blog: http://thecornerbookshop.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Five Ways to Know If a Creative Project is Worth Your Time

As writers, artists and other creative entrepreneurs, we are often asked to do things for free. Or worse, we’re given ‘opportunities’ that turn out to be free labour. From internships to magazine work, freebies are a part of the creative work environment. But how do you know if you’re wasting your time?

1. You’re Getting Paid

Obviously, you’ll decide if it’s worth it- but if you get paid for what you do, that’s a good sign that it’s worth doing. Not only are you making moolah, but being paid is a legitimising factor. It’s a symbol of professionalism, and a mark of respect. And once someone pays you, the likelihood it they’ll continue, as will others who want your services.

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2.Feedback

There’s a reason facebook is so powerful, and it’s not its addictive quality or ability to pander to nosiness. It’s because of the information it holds. People’s likes and dislikes, their hobbies and preferences matter. And they should matter to you. If you get the chance to get feedback, professional or otherwise- it’s invaluable. It can help you hone your skills, get testimonials which can lead to further work. It’s also useful in marketing because you’ll know what your audience likes, and know where to focus your advertising.

 

3.Contacts

No artist is an island, and the greatest thing we can do is find contacts in our field. They might promote your work, they might pass opportunities your way. They might just be someone who works the same way you do, and can make you feel like you’re not so alone. This artistic life can be a bit lonely, and the more people you know, the easier your life becomes. Just don’t get sucked into trying to attend everything- be as supportive as you can.

 

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4. It’s good advertising.

Sometimes doing a freebie is worth it if it’s going to lead to further work. This summer I’ll be running a Write Here, Write Now writing workshop for kids as part of the Finchley Literary Festival. I’m doing this for free. But the hope is that the kids and parents who attend will know who I am and what I’m about, and know where to find me if they want to do further lessons. It’s also a great chance to give out some flyers, talk to interested people, and generally find out who is in the area. Doing too many of these freebies isn’t advisable, as people tend to think you’re willing to work for free. But the occasional work to get you into a new area, especially when you know people in that field are doing well, is very worth it. 

5. You enjoy it!

 

Sometimes, you won’t get paid for doing what you love, but if you love it, it can be worth it. I ran a creative writing workshop every week where only one child turned up. Technically, it would have been smarter to scrap the workshop and focus on new revenue streams, or writing my book, but I LOVED working with this kid. He was excited and talented and really appreciated the time I spent with him. And that excitement invigorated me in the rest of my work. Sometimes we forget about the joy- it’s a necessary component!

 

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Motifs of Life: Writing your own story

If you’ve studied English Literature, you’ll find motifs came up quite often. It’s a musical term, meaning a small repeated collection of notes/image. The more I write, the more I start to notice these little motifs and symbols reoccurring in my own life and my own writing. 

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It’s subtle, but you’ll start to notice the same images popping up- for a while, I kept using trees. Trees grow tall and strong, and up into the clouds, so they symbolise freedom, but they’re also rooted and heavy, so they’re grounded. The more I wrote, the more I found trees came to symbolise a whole bunch of things that I felt.

It might not even be a symbol, but a certain phrase that reappears. This phrase becomes a mantra, and the minute you recognise it from your other work, realise that it’s a repetition, it opens up doors for you.

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Writers often talk about the themes that interest them, or what they like to write about. But what about what they end up writing about, when they’re not setting out to do so? That unconscious leaning is what fascinates me, and what can give us an insight into how we’re feeling.

 

A few months ago, I kept writing about apples. Apples are seedlings, they symbolise growth, spring, Englishness. You can link them to the Garden of Eden myth, conveying innocence. I was writing about apples in response to children, to having children, to problems with childbirth, to the possibility of never having children, to responding to family members who ask these questions lightly. Are apples the best literary symbol for any of these things? No, probably not. But they became my personal marker. Every time I found an apple symbol creeping into my work, I could think ‘Ah, so I’m thinking about that again. Why is that bugging me today?’ and I could get to the root of what was worrying me. Often it’s just something that needs to be expressed, but if you’re being haunted by an image, and you don’t know why, then it has power over you, instead of you using it in a powerful healing way.

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There are no particular writing exercises for this- it’s just about being aware of the space that you’re writing from, and what it means for you. Have a look back through some of your old journals/stories/poems, and see if a particular time or event created a motif for your life at that time. It’s always fascinating, and can be useful.