Three Ways to Share Your Writing with the World

When we think of sharing our writing with the wider world, we think in terms of traditional publishing or self-publishing. But we need to think beyond these two options. Whether you choose mainstream or independent publishing, the process is punishing, and this can put off many people who are otherwise very talented, enthusiastic writers. Even if you do succeed, with those options, you then have to fight for your audience.

But any writer worth their salt wants to write for others, not just themselves. And I’ve become increasingly convinced that you don’t need to publish to find an audience for your writing. You can find an audience beyond the cosy circles of your friends, family, writer buddies, writing groups or creative writing workshop. You’ll know you’ve arrived when a total stranger reacts to your writing. And if you’re inventive, you’ll find ways to reach them.

Here are three ways of finding an audience and gaining street cred as a writer, on your own terms.

Perform Your Writing

If you’re a writer with a bit of an extrovert streak, you could try performing your writing at an open mic night or a spoken word event. At open mic nights, writing is performed along with music and comedy sketches, whereas at a spoken word event, it’s just writing. These kinds of performance events lend themselves well to poetry, but you could write prose that’s designed to be performed too.

Reading at Modwordsfest - Derek Flynn
I performed my writing at a recent spoken word festival called Modwordsfest. Photo Credit: Derek Flynn

 

Submit to Journals

There are lots of altruistic literary types who found journals that showcase original new writing. This is particularly useful for poets and short-story writers, as it’s hard to attract the attention of a publisher for a collection of short stories or poe from a debut author. Many of these journals are prestigious, with high submission standards, so being featured in them gives you great kudos.

Broadcast Your Writing 

Many people don’t realise that broadcasting is seen as a form of publication, and radio programmes are eager to accept great writing that will sound good over the airwaves. Some radio programmes accept stories and poems from writers, particularly community radio stations and stations with a public service remit. You can also enter competitions to have your story or play published, and you may even win a prize!

Have you shared your writing in this way? Are there any ways in which you share your writing?

Why Writing Is Like The Salmon Season

When salmon are breeding, they must travel thousands of miles to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea. The journey is arduous, and along the way, thousands of salmon fall away. Only the strongest make it to the Sargasso Sea.

Salmon Season
Writing a book is like the salmon’s journey to the Sargasso Sea, long and brutal.

The process of becoming a published writer is a lot like that. It’s a long process and it can be brutal, and there are a lot of hurdles to be jumped.

First, you have to actually start the book. How often have you been at social gatherings and heard people say, ‘I’d love to write a book?’ For many people, the desire to write a book has never gone beyond idle conversation. So if you commit to putting pen to paper, you’re already ahead of the game.

But the writing of the book can be overwhelming for people. It’s easy to get bogged down in your story, with its many plot twists and its cast of character. And some people never make it out of that maze. They abandon their book halfway through.

When you do finish your book, it’s quite right that you should congratulate yourself. But your journey is not over yet. Now it’s time to find an audience for your book. And the main way to achieve it is through publishing. Whether you self-publish or look for a traditional publisher, publishing is tough.

If you self-publish, all the work of a publisher falls to you – publishing, cover design, editing, printing and promotion. And finding a traditional publisher can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is the stage that really separates the minnows from the big fish. It involves at least as much work as the actual writing of the book, if not more. If you get through it, the rewards can be great.

But your work isn’t over. If you really want to establish yourself as a writer, you have to make the journey again and again. Each book will be a new journey, but if you have the inventiveness to keep coming up with new ideas and the faith to act on them, you’ll truly establish yourself as an author – and you may even make a living from it.

So what are the qualities that will get you through these hurdles to the Sargasso Sea that is the life of a published author? I believe there is a holy trinity of qualities – talent, hunger and discipline. If you display those qualities, they’ll help you over those hurdles. And in the end, it’s what you want that matters. Maybe the simple writing of the book is enough for you. Or maybe your writing ambitions simply lie elsewhere.

Whatever route you choose to reach the Sargasso Sea of publishing, good luck. If you have reached it, what qualities or resources helped you on your journey?

Is Self Publishing for Everyone?

A self published author I know, a lively, go-getting character, posted on a Facebook I run about how fed up he is with the stigma around self publishing. He was published by a traditional publisher, but found he sold far more copies as a self published author. Yet he felt that self published authors like him were looked down upon for not being with an established publisher. Several self published authors then shared their positive experience of self publishing, and the general feeling was that self publishing was now a force to be reckoned with and snobbery should be set aside.

I would certainly agree with that. I self published copies of my novel after the publisher I had stopped printing copies. I did enjoy the control that came with self publishing, but I’ll still be trying for an established publisher next time. I still nurture fantasies of lunch with my editor in a swanky restaurant.

 

editor lunch
Toasting success with a future editor.

I regularly recommend self publishing as an option at my creative writing workshops. But I also believe it’s not for everyone. Here are three instances when I believe self publishing is not a good idea.

If you write literary fiction

I read an article in The Guardian which said that self publishing worked for most genres –  except delicate literary fiction. The trouble with literary fiction is that it’s quiet and understated, and needs the gentle push of  a publisher to make its voice heard. Also, unlike other genres, it doesn’t follow strict rules, so you’re creating each book from scratch. This takes up a lot of headspace. If that headspace is taken up with worries about how you’re going to get your book out, it will affect the quality of the work. Using an established publisher at least takes that concern away.

If selling gives you the shivers

Some authors are naturally quite commercially minded, and those authors tend to make very successful self publishers. As I said, you need to be able to shout loudly to be heard as a self published author. Some authors have neither the personality or the inclination needed to do that shouting. You do have to do your own publicity when you have an established publisher as well, but at least they will do the basics for you, and this gives you a leg up.

If you don’t have a specific audience

Self publishing works really well if you are writing for a defined audience. You can learn who that audience is, what they want and how to deliver it to them. You can narrow your focus and tailor your sales approach to that audience. If you write books that are very general, it will be hard for you to find people to target, and to compete with authors who know what readers they want to reach. Having an established publisher behind you gives you a platform to reach a wider audience, and from that experience, you may discover which readers favour your book.

What do you think? Is self publishing a go-to for every author? Or are there authors whose work is more suited to an established publishing model?

Self Publishing Day at Irish Writers’ Centre

This week, I thought I’d bring you a report from the Self Publishing Day organised by the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Centre has a long tradition of holding publishing days, which give budding authors the chance to hear from experts in the publishing industry and get tips on sending in their manuscripts. This time, the Centre decided to embrace the brave new world of self publishing and the day featured five leaders from the world of self publishing.

Morning Presentations

The day began with a guide to the Dos and Don’ts of Self Publishing and the presenter was Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of writing.ie. Vanessa has a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips, and she managed to cram most of it into her 90-minute talk. The real value of her talk lay in the fact that she is a self published author with  a strong background in traditional publishing, so she was able to give insights from both side of the fence. The kernel of her message was that you should make sure that your self-published book looks as much like a traditional book as possible.

Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin from writing.ie,(Image, asiam.com)

Editor Robert Doran then took us through the different types of editing and what you should expect from your editor. His talk clarified the differences between editing and proofreading and within editing itself, which can often be confusing. He also discussed the value of getting a sample from an editor – it turns out that opinions are divided on this topic.

Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon was devoted to marketing and sales for self published authors. Anne Marie Scully of Orchard Wall Publishing, a digital publishing company, spoke about how to make use of online advertising tools. She previously worked at Google, so she had a particular insight into Google Adwords. Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin was back again for the last session, in conversation with Robert Doran and two self published authors who had made it.

Emily Evans has sold 84,000 copies of her young adult romance novels and Catherine Ryan Howard has turned her self-publishing experience in a career, offering advice to other authors through her conferences and her book, Self Printed. They had plenty of nuggets of information to share about how to run successful book marketing campaigns, and were particularly enthusiastic about WordPress websites.

Audience Participation

People were free to ask questions while the speakers were talking, and there was lots of lively discussion, about topics like libel, the correct spelling of manana and the use of pen names, as well as more nitty gritty questions about how much you can expect to spend on self publishing.

Online Participation

Successful self published authors have a strong understanding of social media and the digital world and the conference put a lot of emphasis on the digital world. For example, there was a hashtag that people could use for Twitter, so that when they tweeted about the event, it would be easy for other people to find out about it. But I believe that there is still a schizophrenic attitude towards the online world in Ireland. The people who are immersed in it can’t imagine why other people aren’t. Meanwhile, there is still a fairly vast swathe of people who have either chosen not to go online or are a little frightened of it.

Therefore, I think it would have been better if the presenters had pitched their talk on the basis that people knew nothing about social media or the digital world, as the audience seemed a little confused by the material at times. I also believe that traditional marketing methods still work, and it would have been good to see those covered in the talks as well.

Overall, I commend the Irish Writers’ Centre for organising this day, and for opening up a mine of valuable information to help people realise their dream of becoming self published authors. It’s interesting to reflect that when I went to my first publishing day at the centre, self publishing was dismissed as a footnote. Now it gets a day of its own.

Three Advantages of Traditional Publishing

This month’s Writing Magazine has a big special on self publishing, in which authors frankly share their warts and all experiences of the self publishing world. Self publishing is certain gaining momentum as a way to get your work out into the world. Authors are carving out incredibly successful careers independently of publishing houses. It’s never been easier to put your writing out into the world, and authors are seizing those opportunities, and profiting from them too.

But I’ve got to say that if I ever manage to finish that difficult second novel, I’ll be choosing the traditional route to publication. And I’m going to slaughter a sacred cow and hazard a guess that some self published authors would agree with me. here are three good reasons why.

1. You don’t have to produce your own book.

Why did you become a writer? My guess is that you wanted to tell stories and find an audience for them. Developing your stories to a degree that will make people want to read them takes 100% of your effort. Yet for a self published author, that’s just the beginning. They then have to format, design, produce and distribute their own book. To me, that’s like expecting artists to produce their own canvas, or musicians to produce their own instruments. If you’re traditionally published, your publisher will carry that financial and logistical burden for you, and let you get on with the business of being a writer.

 2. You get on the shelves

When my first novel was published, I was amazed at the extent to which, in this digital age, people expected it to be available on bookshelves. That’s why I believe that despite the availability and popularity of e-readers, if you’re not in bookshops, it’ll seriously damage your sales. Self published authors are at a huge disadvantage here, because it’s next to impossible to get your book into a bookshop on any significant scale using your own resources. Traditional publishers will put you in front of your reading public by ensuring your book is distributed using the major book distributors in your area.

 3. You get kudos

Being accepted by a traditional publisher means your book will be taken more seriously. You’re a lot more likely to be reviewed in national papers and to be put forward for awards. If you’re applying for arts council funding, your self published book is less likely to be considered as a viable publication. If your book is being traditionally published, it means that someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to books thinks your book is worthy of publication. Call it snobbery, but that still carries weight in certain circles.

Do you fly the flag for self publishing or for traditional publishing? Let me know your thoughts. I’m expecting some lively debate!

How to Get Your Self Published Books Into Bookshops

We may be living in a digital age, with ebooks on the rise and rise, but people still expect to be able to buy books in a bookshops, and won’t view you as a credible author unless your book is on the shelf.

Self published authors tend to imagine that this still-powerful selling resource is closed to them, but as writer turned blogger Lorna Sixsmith demonstrates, going independent need not end your dream of seeing your book on the shelf.

Here’s her post sharing her experiences. You can find this and other interesting posts about her self-publishing journey on Irish Farmerette.

Are you thinking of self publishing a book?  Many believe that self published books are only available from the author’s website, as ebooks or on Create Space but bookshops will stock self published books providing some criteria is met. Yes, printing your books is not cheap and depends cash up front but many readers still prefer to read the physical book rather than the ebook and furthermore, they expect to see it in bookshops.

Within Ireland, the main wholesalers are Easons and Argosy Books. Argosy is the wholesaler for all the independent bookshops. Easons have a large number of their shops nationwide. In the UK, Gardners is the largest book wholesaler. Many bookshops will only accept books from the wholesalers although it is possible to see if local bookshops will stock your books.

What will the Book Wholesalers ask for?

Kanturk Bookshop
Kanturk Bookshop

The wholesalers will want to know your sales to date, past publicity and future publicity. I had heard that Argosy had told a self published author that they would stock her book when she had sold 25o. I received my books on 29th November but didn’t contact either wholesaler until January – this was partly because I didn’t have time, partly because I knew they would take 55% and I would then be selling my first print edition at a loss (as I included all my expenses such as website, editor, illustrator etc in the first print run) which I wasn’t prepared to do and partly because I knew I had to prove first that it would sell.

As it happened, the Argosy buyer had heard my interview with Joe Duffy just before Christmas and had planned to contacting me. On hearing that I had sold 750 books and also been interviewed by Ryan Tubridy, they were happy to accept my books.  By the end of February, 105 books had been sent to 32 account holders. I’ve loved received tweets by people telling me they have seen my book in bookshop windows or on shelves. Kennys Bookshop is stocking it too and as they ship worldwide for free, it really maximizes the chances of people abroad buying it.

I’ve yet to hear from Easons although they did request a copy of the paperbook and some more information last week.  Not only did they want to know about past publicity but they want to know about upcoming PR too.  Trying to get continual PR is like a full time job and I have to admit I’ve taken my foot off the pedal lately! I’m waiting now until there are agricultural events and I will try to get coverage around my involvement in them.

It’s ironic though, I would have sold more books following the Tubridy interview if the books had been in the bookshops but on the other hand,  I needed the publicity first to be accepted by the wholesalers.  I have sold just over 1000 books now. I have about 70 hardbacks left and there are a few out there with one or two stockists.  There’s about 250 of my paperbacks ‘out there’ but of those, it is hard to know how many have sold. Argosy have taken 175 of which 105 went to bookshops in February (I’ll get an update on March next week) but they are still provided to the shops on a sale or return basis so I need to keep the publicity up to encourage sales.

In short, you need:

1. A well formatted book with an attractive front cover.

2. An ISBN number.

3. Existing Sales record.

4. Past and future publicity.

5. A book that the wholesaler likes and believe will sell.

If you happen to spot my book in a bookshop, I’d love to hear.  Do let me know too, of your experiences with self publishing or if you are thinking of writing a book.

 

5 Kick-Ass Writing Blogs

There are zillions and zillions of blogs out there about writing. It can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. But over the past few months, I’ve isolated a few that are entertaining and informative, and that meet needs you never knew you had, which is exactly what a good blog should do.

I’m sharing five of them with you in this post and I’ve aimed to include a couple you mightn’t have come across before. Apologies to my international readers for the Irish bias, but I’m confident these blogs will have universal appeal. They share certain ingredients in common: a generous spirit, readability and useful information. Happy reading.

  1. Women Rule Writer, Nuala Ni Chonchuir

For information about writing events

Writer Nuala Ni Chonchuir tirelessly promotes a variety of writing events in her blog, which gives valuable promotional opportunities to other writers and valuable information to her readers. This has helped her build a strong following in the writing community, which she can then use to promote her own fine publications.

  1. Catherine, Caffeinated, Catherine Ryan Howard

For advice on self publishing

This blog is a no holds barred look at the reality of self publishing. It’s packed with hard-won nuggets of advice from a self-published author who is at the coalface of self publishing and has decided to share her experience for the benefit of others. It’s brutally honest, full of biting humour, and bound to make self publishing a lot easier for budding indie authors who need Catherine’s advice.

  1. Carmel Harrington’s Blog

For a masterclass in subtle self promotion

It’s quite an art form to be able to promote yourself without being in your face, but Carmel Harrington makes it look effortless in her blog. She chats about her writing process and about the challenge of combining writing with motherhood in a warm, friendly tone, shot through with flashes of humour. Carmel is also generous to other writers, hosting a guest blog every Wednesday.

  1. Isabel Costello, On the Literary Sofa

For incisive book reviews

If you like to read books with a bit of meat, you’ll get plenty of reading ideas from Isabel Costello’s blog. She writes book reviews with all the rigour that you’d associate with a traditional newspaper critic. She also has a knack for spotting the upcoming books that will be on everyone’s reading lists in the coming months.

  1. Tara Sparling Writes

For a touch of inventiveness

Any blog which gives a retrospective on the top reads of 2014 during the first week of January deserves a second look. Tara Sparling does just that. Her writing is full of playful humour, but she also has a sharp eye to the latest book trends and is happy to share her insights with readers.

What writing blogs do you think readers should know about? They can be Irish or international.

Oh, How I Love Gabbing About Writing…

… And that is exactly what I had the privilege of doing when I met the poet-in-waiting and his marketing guru in a wooden cafe by the sea. For 90 minutes, they listened to me talking about writing. The excitement! The ego boost!

The marketing guru had picked up my card when I took a stand at a bank and attempted to lure people over to it with cupcakes. I had come away feeling the cupcakes and banks don’t mix, so I was delighted to realise my ploy had worked. She was representing a poet who had three collections of poems waiting to be published.

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The poet is now at the point where he’s dying to show his work to the world and the marketing guru wanted to help him realise his publishing dreams. While I’m not a poet, I do know about publishing – and I know quite a few poets. So I agreed to meet them.

To Self Publish or Not to Self Publish

The central issue to be settled was whether to choose a traditional publisher or to self publish. The poet was pretty clued in on the main poetry publishing houses in the country, but he was also in a hurry, so although the jury is still out, I reckon he’ll choose self publishing. I recommended choosing a local printer with experience in printing small books.

The Publishing Process

I said that these days, publishing was a costly process and some poetry presses required their authors to obtain funding from local county councils. I also pointed them towards the Title by Title publishing scheme, which helps self publishers and publishing companies bring out titles.

If they choose self publishing, they’ll need the book to be as professional in design and content as possible. I recommended they find an editor and a book-cover designer to help them produce the book. Though this involves an investment, the investment will be worth it.

Promoting the Book

The poet was keen to perform his work, and to hear others perform it. He wondered about organising open-mic nights for poets. I suggested a local arty/scruffy bar which would be ideal. I had to break it to him that regardless of the publishing route he chose, the book was likely to take longer than he thought. so creating a marketing campaign to whet people’s appetite for the book would be a good way to make use of the time.

The Publishing Dream

I was highly flattered when the poet said he was blown away by the information I gave him (I blabbed so much my coffee nearly went cold!). I just relish the opportunity to share my passion, and whatever knowledge I’ve gathered. I didn’t pull any punches about the hazards of publishing.

But I told him it’s always worth publishing, so your work can see the light of day. There comes a time in your writing life when you need to show your work to the world, and with over 200 finished poems, my poet friend has reached that point.