Tag Archives: novels

If there’s no money in writing & publishing, why do we do it?

There's nothing like opening a box of newly printed books. The love of stories and ideas is why we do it. Photo by Blaise van Hecke
There’s nothing like opening a box of newly printed books. The love of stories and ideas is why we do it. Photo by Blaise van Hecke

Small Press Network ran another great Independent Publishers Conference this month. It was great to get together with a roomful of writers, publishers, booksellers and library professionals. This is a unique way to look at the book world from all angles.

As we all know, the selling of books is the hardest part of the game and there was a lot of talk about publicity and marketing of books over the two days that I attended. The biggest take home for me was that everything is in the data. Thanks to digital technology, there are many ways to get data for a book out into the world. So be sure to register your book on Title Page (you must be a member of the Australian Publishers Association or Small Press Network to do this) and ensure that any online platforms have as much data as possible. Think key and tag words.

After two days of talking about how hard it is, you could start to think that being in the book game is really not worth it. Too hard. And yet, there are so many people writing books and starting up indie publishing houses. Why is this? Here are some of the things that were cited on the panel (of which I was a panellist):

  • The industry is generous. Where else can you be friends with your rivals, and share industry knowledge with each other?
  • It’s such a rewarding way to spend your work life.
  • The collaborations are fantastic.
  • We are all working to a common goal. To create great books.
  • Humans connect through story, so we feel compelled to get those stories out there.
  • Life is never dull!

And maybe we need to examine the phrase ‘no money’. What does that mean exactly? No money literally means zero and of course this is an exaggeration. To me it means that we’re not all becoming millionaires but many are making a good living from it. This is where we examine the value of working in something that we love versus working for money. I know what I’d rather be doing.

Blaise, the book chick

So you want to be a writer?

Work in progress
Work in progress

In a room full of people I would say that around eighty per cent have at least one book in them. And secretly, many of them have the desire to write it.

But should they?

Each of us has a unique fingerprint and this means that we are essentially one of a kind. So telling a story should be different for everyone. But this doesn’t ring true if you look at what is on offer out in the world of literature. Many people write what they think the industry wants, which comes out as clichéd, risk averse and often boring.

Having a good idea for a novel or an ‘interesting life’ for a memoir, does not make good writing, and even for a seasoned writer, the story that’s in your head doesn’t always translate onto the page as you would hope.

The main reason for this is that people think that they can bang out a story and – hey presto! – there’s a best seller. If only I had a dollar for every time someone came to me saying, ‘This is going to be a best seller’. If anyone could predict such a thing, we’d all be doing it.

I’m a huge advocate for new and emerging writers. And we do a lot of work with people through workshops and mentoring to help them improve their work. But at the heart of great writing is hard work. This is where the wanna-be writer will fall away – once they realise how much sweat and tears goes into it.

So what do you need to be a writer? Yes, there is the need for some talent but there are many out there who write great books on little talent because they put the work in. You need resilience, tenacity and an open mind because to make it in the writing world you will come up against rejection and naysayers over and over again. It will feel like ground hog day. You’ll also need to work and rework your writing until you are so sick of the sight of it that you may want to torch the whole damn lot.

If you asked a writer if they’d do all that work again on a novel they just brought out they may look at you like a crazy person but it’s a bit like childbirth. Once you have that baby in your arms, you forget all the pain and discomfort that went into making it. And then you go back and do it again.

So you want to be a writer? Be prepared to work hard. Don’t give up. And have that vision of yourself holding the baby in your arms.

Blaise, the book chick