These are valuable tips indeed. Jeff Gardiner, editor and master of several genres, is well qualified to write a continuation to my “Author Countdown” which started by accident a couple of weeks ago, when my blog “TEN THINGS…” broke hit records last month. We’ve shared a successful library talk, and a book signing. A quiet, self-effacing man with a lovely family, and we have Africa in common. Welcome back, Jeff.
1. Cope with rejection. This one is important. You can’t afford to be overly sensitive or sentimental about your creativity. Very few writers get their stories or novels accepted immediately (follow this link to make yourself feel better – http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/). Rejection is part of the process. As one of my friends likes to say, “Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it!” Have faith in yourself and your book and send off some more submissions. If you’re too scared to submit then you’ll never be a published author – or you could go down the self-publishing route.
2. Accept criticism and harsh reviews. Along similar lines, you’ve got to steel yourself for critical comments and suggestions for improvements. Take the opportunity to learn from these opportunities and don’t let them deflate you (All together now ‘You gotta accen-tuate the positive, elim-i-nate the negative…’). Hopefully, you’ll get praise and encouragement too. It’s easy to forget the nice comments and to allow the pessimism to dominate your darkest, loneliest moments. Don’t. Just don’t. Be professional, and humble enough to accept advice.
3. Improve your time-management skills. Authors work alone and you’ve only got a publisher (possibly an agent) and your friends and family to answer to. But essentially you’re the boss. Sometimes you have to learn to make the most of half an hour here and there, while your busy life whirls around you. So be it. Be effective in how you use those half hours. Work out when you write best (are you a morning or night person?) and utilise those times. Watch less TV. It’s not only about writing but using the time to answer emails or to plan your publicity or marketing.
4. That I must improve my publicity and marketing strategies. This is the hardest bit for me. I’m not good at pushing myself or my books, and I’m very conscious of annoying my friends on Facebook and Twitter with constant hard-sell posts. I spend many hours trying to get reviews; writing blog posts; answering interview questions; organising spotlights or guest posts on other people’s blogs, and so on. Yes, folks it takes hours and hours, even though you wonder if anyone is even the least bit interested. I’m still learning about this one and if any readers have any new ideas or tips then I’d love to hear them.
5. Juggling work and family life. Having kids is awesome. It’s the most wonderful, frustrating, fulfilling and difficult thing I’ve ever done. Children eat your time; they demand (and deserve) attention. They also don’t understand the concept of silent concentration. What I’ve learnt is that school holidays and weekends are not good times for writing, and my work has to take a back seat at these times. This is good for me, in terms of becoming a better parent, and because it also stops me being too self-indulgent or obsessed with my writing.
6. Don’t give up the day job. Unless you’re very lucky you will not be rich like J.K Rowling. When people hear you’re an author they immediately assume you’re rich and lazy. I wish. Unless your book is a bestseller, or you sell the film rights, it’s unlikely you’ll even earn a living wage. I do other jobs around my writing. Many fiction writers are also journalists, freelance article writers, editors, proofreaders or work in publishing. Many great writers also hold down full-time jobs (or marry a rich spouse). When you get your first acceptance letter from a publisher don’t get so excited that you make the mistake of phoning your boss to tell him or her where to stick their job!
7. Learn about tax returns and self-assessment. A published author is essentially a self-employed person. If you earn more than the tax threshold (or even if you don’t) you’ll probably have to complete the dreaded tax self-assessment form. It’s essential to read up about it (https://www.gov.uk/personal-tax/self-assessment). If you don’t declare your earnings then you could receive a fine. Most importantly keep all receipts and remember you can claim back on things like heating, lighting, petrol, computer purchases, paper, stamps etc. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with what’s required it isn’t too daunting.
8. Get used to working alone. Solitary confinement is a punishment in some societies, but writers choose it as conducive to the state of creativity. I cannot write with distractions or music playing. I like to be alone and in silence. We’re all different though. It’s important to find a space where you’re happy and comfortable. It’s important to look up from your screen regularly and to go for walks or include exercise in your daily routine. I say make the most of being alone. Let the chance to concentrate free your imagination and allow you to make your writing the best it can be. Just be wary of those little voices that come back to haunt you at 3am (or is that just me?).
9. Take part in events such as signings or talks. Part of being a professional writer involves you talking to groups, visiting schools or colleges, going to literary festivals, organising launches. One word of warning: be ready for nobody to turn up, and don’t take it personally. Nobody said being a writer will be easy or glamorous. But if you’re willing to put in the hard work then success will arrive… eventually.
Jeff Gardiner is a UK writer who was born in Jos, Nigeria. His first novel, Myopia explores bullying and prejudice among teenagers. Igboland is a novel of passion and conflict set in war-torn West Africa. Treading On Dreams is a tale of obsession and unrequited love. He has recently signed a three book deal with Accent Press for a trilogy of YA fantasy novels beginning with Pica.
His acclaimed collection of short stories, A Glimpse of the Numinous, contains horror, romance and humour. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines. Jeff also has a work of non-fiction to his name: The Law of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock.
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)
Jeff’s website: http://jeffgardiner.com/
Jeff’s blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/
Jeff on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeff.gardiner2
Jeff on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeffGardiner1
I love this Jane… says we all stand a chance but we have to keep at it!! I notice the acclaimed short story note… I’ll follow up!! 😉 Thanks!! 😀
It’s never too late, AJ!
Yep… NEVER!! 🙄
Thanks, AJ. I believe in the maxim: if you don’t have a go at it, you’ll never know if you’re any good. Everyone has a chance – and you’re right … determination is the key.
Hi Jeff, thanks for taking the time to reply. Yes, between your’s and Jane’s posts I got a bit wiser today. I’m thinking Accent Press may soon be getting a submission from me! Thanks again! 😉
Thanks for letting me take over your blog. I’d love to hear any feedback from your readers.
It’s a pleasure, Jeff – keep an eye on the comments here!
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
Sound advice from author Jeff Gardiner, via Jane Bwye’s blog 😀
Pingback: NINE THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR | Jeff Gardiner's Blog
Reblogged this on evelynralph and commented:
Lots of hints and tips hete.
Terrific observations and advice. Thanks for sharing.
Great tips, Jeff. All of them needing to be revisited and/or kept in mind!
The more often the better, too.
Thanks, Nancy. We all need a little reminding from time to time. That’s why it’s important for writers to support each other.
Reblogged this on Crooked Cat's Cradle.
Great words of wisdom, Jeff. We all need to be reminded of them. Incidentally, on No. 4 (publicity and marketing), I have found that since I stopped doing the hard sell on my book and obliquely publicising it in other ways, it has been doing rather well in the charts. Is there a connection, I wonder?
Hi Nessa. Thanks for that. Isn’t that funny? Creative marketing is probably much more effective. It just takes hours…
Creative marketing – I love that! It puts a name to the (unnecessary) hours I spend socially networking.
Time management was my thing. First justifying to write just for me and not for a client, then the time I wanted, and then the discipline to write every day. But now I have the discipline and can switch mediums and times seamlessly. For example, I may not write today on the computer but in a journal and maybe not in the morning after sports but during lunch downtown. But it took time to learn this. Thanks for a great post!
Time management is my problem, too, Alice! I get stressed when I know I should be writing, but I’m not. I look for other things to do. Now I believe I am beginning to understand … a little bit every day to establish a routine – but havent I heard that so many times in the past!
Great point, Alice. This is a difficult one, but I like certain routines (they’re always broken of course). Though you need to be flexible enough to be able to utilise sudden opportunities. Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for this, Jeff. So true, so many of the points. Especially the one where one blogs for hours every day and really wonders if anyone is even listening. Yup.
I guess this blog is proof people do listen, gipsika! Records are being broken as I speak.
Absolutely, Gipsika. It feels like shouting into a black-hole at times. As Jane says, we never fully know extent or effectiveness of each blog post.
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Very helpful suggestions. Thanks for sharing them.
Wonderful advice.Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Thanks for your comment.
You are welcome.
Thank you Jane and Jeff! Time management and marketing are con-joined evil twins for me! Take time to read blog posts like this- ah- but don’t rush around trying to meet every blogger on the planet!
I think it’s the same for most of us, Lisarem! We just need constant reminding of how to do it.
Prioritising is important – I haven’t got it right yet.
Reblogged this on lisaremickwriter and commented:
Which of these resonates with you?
Reblogged this on The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet and commented:
My fellow Crooked Cat authors Jeff Gardiner and Jane Bwye chatting about what writers need to learn to survive the journey from writing to publication.
Much appreciated, Yvonne.
Reblogged this on Condos and Condoms.
Great advice. I keep reading about analytics and data, but most of these things don’t really tell us when people do engage or what they think about what we write, that’s the important thing. I don’t have kids and I still can’t manage to find enough hours in the day so I know perfectly what you mean.
Don’t get me started on data analysis …that’s also the problem with politics (and hence education). You’re right, Olga; writing and life itself are about individuals being creative and it’s complex and messy. That’s why it’s so wonderful. Give me messy imagination over dull statistics any day. Thanks for your comments. Good luck with your writing.