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