Those of us who work with words have a tendency to be liberal with our advice about how to use them, when not to use them, how to publish them, how to build a career out of them: anything we think is useful about our own experiences or knowledge, we just can't wait to share with others to help them along.
But there is a risk that this eagerly donated information can have the opposite effect.
The writing community is a loving and caring one; those who share our passion with us are friends for life. But aside from the dangers of information overload, there's a very real possibility that you might receive misplaced, inaccurate, or badly timed advice.
For example, if you're absorbing everything you can lay your eyes on concerning pitching agents or dazzling publishers but you're still on your first draft, there's a good chance your writing may be swayed by what you've read should be your end goal (what the completed, polished book needs to look like). This might work if you're taking a practical approach around writing to market, but chances are your own creativity will suffer, and the finished product may be a far cry from what it might have been if you'd just approached those initial steps with a free rein.
So how to organise this deluge of information into some sort of order that means it's still useful but not overwhelming or detrimental?
Faced with my own impending brain combustion, I realised that instead of trying to absorb everything about all aspects of writing and publishing, I would have to cut my intake into regular, targeted doses (self-prescribing, if you like).
For instance, while I currently have books on marketing a novel sitting on my bookshelf, I'm still only in the 'creating' stage of my book series, so until I'm approaching readiness to publish, I know there's little point me reading about how to sell them. The same goes for articles, blogs and podcasts on the subject.
Of course, publishing requires you to look ahead and be prepared - particularly self-publishing - but it's also a long game, where the potential to flounder in an ocean that was deeper than we thought is exponential. So, focus instead on the part of the process you need right now, with only one eye on the stage that will follow directly after. Anything else is a distraction from the task in hand.
Opening new folders in your email and on your web browser in which to specifically store anything that may be useful a little further down the line, and which you can come back to when you're ready.
Schedule your daily dosage. Personally, I spend half an hour in the morning reading blogs/articles that I've signed up to (trusted sources) and that come through on my email; when my time's up, I leave the rest for the next day.
Finally, in terms of what's useful advice and what's not, I always tell the authors I work with to trust their instincts - take what you need and discard the rest. As a general rule - and being the stubborn rebel that I am - I'm always wary of anything that categorically insists 'you should do this' or 'shouldn't do that'. Remember, most advice is subjective (including this advice!), and your own ideas, processes and experiences remain valid. If the advice you're hearing goes against what you've done or what you feel, don't sweat it! Whose to say your way won't work better?
Take 2 Money's Too Tight To Mention
Authors' earnings have made the news again in the last week, following the release of the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's survey on author incomes.
ALCS' findings put the median annual author income at a measly £10,500, a fall of 42% since 2005. These figures are based on research carried out amongst 'professional writers', i.e. 'those who dedicate over half their working lives to writing'. The findings subsequently reveal that less writers are writing full time, needing instead to supplement their income via other avenues. And all this, ironically, at a time when the 'creative industries in the UK... are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole'.
Such disheartening figures, as expected, have lit the touchpaper for some fairly heated debate in the press and on social media, with everyone getting involved from top-name authors such as Philip Pullman, industry professionals (executive society members), all the way down to the 'rest of us' - writers and authors trying to find our way through this minefield, some of us before we've even really begun.
Naturally, blame for this decline has been slung in several directions, primarily sticking to publishers (for not paying their authors enough) and Amazon (for not sharing their slice of the pie, and for - frankly - spoiling the traditional publishing party). And no doubt the conversation and muck-chucking will go on, though perhaps through all the noise some real change will emerge.
Since the dawn of the Amazon/Kindle apocalypse, traditional publishing has been threatened, and whilst it's always a sad state of affairs to see an industry in decline, we are living in a world in which change is imminent and necessary. Old business models must be reconsidered and rejuvenated or make room for newer, fresher ones to come through.
My only hope would be that writers are not disheartened too much by research and figures such as these. They never really tell the whole story (pardon the pun). And a decline in one old publishing model does not have to mean the 'supply of new and innovative writing will simply dry up', as Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, has bluntly predicted. Other successful publishing models are available, with new and innovative writers already making the most of them.
Take 3 Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
On the home front, June was a successful and pleasant month in terms of both proofreading projects and my own writing. After a non-fiction foray in May, I returned to working on a fiction project this month, made all the more enjoyable as it was a new manuscript from a returning client.
Working with new clients is always an exciting prospect, but the benefits of working with an author repeatedly are enormous.
For one, we get to cut out all those initial enquiries as I attempt to get to the bottom of what the client expects, whether I'm a good fit for them and their work, and what their hopes and intended outcomes are. With a repeat client, I already know all this. I also know what to expect from them and their work; likewise, they know what they'll get when they work with me. And together we'll already have an established working method we are both comfortable with.
But above all, a rapport developed with a returning client makes for an enjoyable and relaxed partnership, which is particularly rewarding when I get to witness the progress that writer makes from one project to the next. The proofreader-author partnership at its best!
In terms of my own writing, my WIP Book 2 has taken a little bit of a back seat lately, however I've still managed to fit in a fraction of my word count on most days. But rather than beat myself up for not hitting my daily word goal, I simply remind myself that this will happen occasionally and I can catch up during other, quieter periods. Moral: Go easy on yourself when life gets in the way - there will be time to catch up.
The good news is, though, that I've finally received feedback from Book 1, which was more positive than expected. Yes, okay, she is a friend of mine, but I did tell her to be brutally honest. What was most pleasing to me was that I garnered from her feedback that her feelings reading it were precisely my feelings writing it. What more could I ask for? Onwards and upwards...
We've all been baffled at some point or another (or continually) by the variety of ways it's possible to get published these days. In one regard, you could say it was easier in the P.E. days (Pre-Ebook), when you either got taken on by a literary agent who would thrust you towards publishers and glory, or... you didn't. They were indeed the tough old days.
Now, however, it might be a bit more complex but it has to be said publishing is within everyone's reach (which is pretty fantastic, I think). So to help make things clearer - and because these publishing models are developing and changing shape more regularly than before - Jane now publishes this extremely handy chart every year, with a breakdown of every possible path to getting your book published.
There are pros and cons to each, which is why it can be hard for us to decide which route is best for us. But thanks to Jane collecting all this information together into one printable chart, it makes the process a little easier. Just click the link above, which will take you through to her website, where you can read a rundown of what's on the chart, or print off the easy-to-compare PDF version.
Take 5 Coming up in July
Here's a snippet of some of the bookish events taking place throughout the month of July. Pop along in person if you are able, not forgetting to share your experiences with the rest of us via social media. Or, if like me you spent your money on a mindless rock concert when you should have kept it for one of these lovely events instead (it's good for the soul; I'm not apologising), then perhaps some other kindly soul will tell us all about it on Twitter!