Monday, 30 December 2013

How Writers might Make 2014 a Happy New Year

May I wish all of our readers and Fiction Feedback customers, reviewers and editors alike a very Happy New Year.

It’s sometimes useful to focus on what we can control about our lives to make such a thing happen. For the writers among us, there’s one very obvious thing, and that’s to find time for our writing. For those of you who are now thinking, pretty obvious, yes, check; congratulations; for others among us – well, you understand what I mean! In 2013 I made a discovery: waiting to get a huge chunk of time which I could dedicate to Finishing the Novel or Editing the Novel or even Starting the Next Novel was setting me up for a very long wait with no finished novel at the end. I can’t easily take huge chunks of time out of my working life. I found the secret is to hive off a set amount of time every day, even if it’s just half an hour, and keep it sacrosanct. Yes, you might take 5 minutes of that to get into the flow again, but if you’re working regularly you’re on top of the story and your writing style is easily accessed so the other 25 minutes is productive. If you only ever touch your novel every few months or even few weeks those advantages are lost. And half an hour a day adds up very quickly. I hope that’s useful advice for some of you.

At the end of 2013, I read a quote that made me think hard. It’s one you’ll probably be familiar with: ‘If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.’ I must have read it lots of times previously but on this particular occasion, at a time when I’m looking for significant changes in my professional life, it resonated with me. Maybe 2014 is the year I’ll step out of my comfort zone and look at ways I can do things differently with specific goals in mind. Maybe you can too.

Finally, 2013 was the year I finally accepted the fact that self-publishing is a viable and possibly even better alternative to traditional publishing. I’ve been arguing with myself over the Unknown Debut Novelist’s Big Question for a couple of years – along with the rest of the writing world – and a situation I won’t explore here in depth has led to me to this conclusion. Essentially, if you wait for a traditional publishing deal, you could wait forever and your novel could miss its time. That’s a big downside and for the determined author, may be too large a risk. Here’s a three-step rule to successful self-publishing: first, get the work critiqued and professionally edited so you can be confident your finished novel is as good as you can make it. (Well yes as the owner of a professional critique and editing service I would say that, but after you’ve read some self-published work out there that’s not been edited, you’ll likely agree it's essential.) Shop around, and get a free sample from your chosen contenders if you can; this will probably show you the way. Second, adopt a professional marketing strategy to give your novel the best opportunity to stand out from the crowd. If marketing is not your area of expertise, or you appreciate the days and weeks it will take will deprive you of valuable writing time, then pay for expert help. And shop around for this, too. Third, ensure your novel is distributed through as many of the traditional channels as possible. Notice that distribution comes after much of the marketing effort if you’re going to give yourself the best chance of success.

I’d like to wish two of our successful self-publishers further success in 2014: David Rashleigh with thriller Mindblower and Austin Hernon with saucy fictional biography Robert, The Wayward Prince. I’d also like to congratulate crime writer DJ Harrison on the astounding success of Due Diligence and Proceeds of Crime which were published by a small indie press, Open Circle, earlier this year. I’m looking forward to concluding the editing of his third book in the Jenny Parker series, Limited Liability, early in 2014.

Best wishes for health, wealth and happiness to all writers in 2014 and to the people who help them get published.