Writing can be a lonely business, and the fragmentation of the publishing industry can leave aspiring authors feeling unsure as to whether they’re got more or less opportunity of getting their work read than ever before.
Last weekend’s Writing In The Digital Age conference – an event organised by leading manuscript assessment service The Literary Consultancy – was a rare opportunity for the UK’s leading publishers, editors, agents, writers and digital innovators to gather in an atmosphere of honesty and openness to swap experiences, perspectives and practical advice.
From a blistering keynote by journalist and sci-fi author Cory Doctorow to a panel about what book reviewing means in the twenty-first century, it was a rollercoaster ride through the opportunities and challenges on offer for those of us mad enough to cobble together careers based on words.
If you fall into that category, here are seven things you need to know.
1. Take control of your own career.
Whether you choose to self-publish or pursue the traditional route, it is no longer viable to shut yourself in a garret and expect the royalty cheques to come. Orna Ross, founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors, got it in one when she said that “every writer should be an indie [independent].” Define why you want to write, what sort of things you want to write, how much money you want to make, and the lifestyle you want to live while you’re doing it. Make it into a proper business plan, with a timeline, marketing strategy and KPIs. Then go out and find the tools and partners that are the best fit.
2. Self-publish, at least once.
Ross also insisted that even trade published writers should experiment with self-publishing at some point. It’ll give you a much better understanding of the full range of publishing services and tools out there, and will encourage you to get over the mental barrier of sharing your work. Beware of making anything public too early – you still want to thoroughly polish before you slap an ebook onto Amazon – but genre novels, specialist non-fiction, short stories and experimental formats might get more traction on niche platforms than in the traditional marketplace. You won’t learn until you start producing, and there’s real value in overcoming your ego and learning how to ‘ship.’
Other points covered:
3. Turn one manuscript into multiple streams of income.
4. Think beyond books and experiment with multimedia storytelling.
5. Get creative with funding.
6. Don’t sacrifice editing for marketing.
7. Never give away your DRM.