Things I wish I’d known when I became a published author – Part 1
You must write because you love writing
A career as an author is more challenging than you might imagine. It will take you to unexpected places and stretch you to tackle new skills, such as public speaking. This can be scarily exciting and may push you beyond your normal comfort zone but also fill you with a huge sense of achievement.
After all the hard work, the emotional rewards of publishing your first novel are amazing. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the moments you receive your first 5 star review, find your book on the shelves in Waterstones or see someone on the train absorbed in reading a book you have written.
Don’t expect publishing a novel to make you rich
This is another reason why you must write because you love writing. We hear about authors who hit the big time, the ones who have publishers fighting over their manuscripts at auction and achieve million pound advances but the sad fact is that it probably won’t be you.
In real terms, according to the ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collection Society) professional authors’ incomes have fallen to a median income of £11,000 pa, a fall of 29% since 2005. This figure, of course, takes into account extremely high earners such as JK Rowling and the annual income of a mid-list author is likely to be lower than £11,000 pa.
Make sure you receive proper advice from your agent before signing a contract. If you don’t have an agent, or even if you do, the Society of Authors will give free advice on contracts to their members.
Your book is a product.
Once you’ve signed a publisher’s contract, you must deliver the completed manuscript on time. Your novel may be a work of art to you but, to your publisher, it’s a product.
You need to grasp the concept of being creative on demand and on time.
Your work is never done
Your life may be full of complications and you may be juggling a demanding full-time job with family needs but you still need to make time to write every day.
When you finish your first draft, working to a tight deadline, don’t imagine you can sit back and rest. You’ll need to edit the manuscript yourself before you send it to your editor, then make requested revisions – possibly more than once, and later carefully check the proofs. You’ll need to approve the cover and write the blurb.
While all this is going on you’ll be launching and promoting the previous book. It isn’t enough to be passionate about writing. Publishers have tiny budgets to promote your work and expect the author to do this, both though social media and at book signings and library talks.
Did I mention your agent will also be clamouring for the synopsis for your next book?
Or possibly two.
You must build a support network
Writing is often a solitary pursuit. It’s enormously helpful to find your creative tribe. Join a writers’ group or organisation, make friends and discover what’s happening in the publishing world.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association more information
The Historical Novelists’ Society more information
The Crime Writers’ Association more information
You’ll meet other writers if you take a workshop or join an online forum.
Offer to partner an online writing friend to critique one another’s work and brainstorm ideas. Set up a writing group and build your network by taking time to share your experiences with less experienced authors.
Learn to use social media.
This can be daunting, especially if you started writing later in life, but it is essential. creating an author profile
Don’t use FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send out reams of posts asking people to BUY MY BOOK!
After all, you wouldn’t go to a party and shout, BUY MY BOOK! to a room full of people you don’t know. You’d engage in conversation with them and when you’re getting on really well, let them know you’ve written a novel. If they seem interested, you talk about it with enthusiasm and then tell them where they can buy it.
Tomorrow, read Part 2. ‘What do writers Alison Morton, Carol McGrath, Denise Barnes and Deborah Swift wish they’d known when they first became published authors?’