I’ve been meaning to try out this blog malarky for some time, over a year in fact. In 2011 I attended a conference run by the Writers & Artists Yearbook. The day was a bit of a milestone for me because it was the first time I stepped out of my bedroom and into the real world as a ‘writer’.
Of course I’ve written all my life privately. My public writing has been mainly limited to newsletters, marketing copy and the odd article for trade magazines, but I’ve never called myself a ‘writer’. Of course, in a literal sense, anyone who writes anything is a writer, you don’t have to be published, you just have to commit the act.
I’ve digressed, so back to the conference. The conference itself was interesting and not what I expected. For starters I expected a great many of the participants to be highly educated, thrusting youngsters who had already had something published in some worthy literary magazine. What I found was a friendly crowd of a variety of ages, backgrounds and experience and most genres were covered. Everyone had their own reason for going, but also the same question, “How can I get my book seen and accepted by an agent/publisher?” The answer was, as all important answers always are, ambiguous.
Of course your book, play, script etc. has to be good; but then ‘good’ is relative; one man’s meat is another man’s poison as the saying goes. Your work needs to be original and yet it is beneficial for publishers/agents if you can pigeon-hole yourself; find the exact sub-genre or even two authors in/between which you sit nicely. This is to help them decide how saleable you are and how easy to market. This may seem vulgar to sensitive creatives, but it’s still true.
The second question attendees were collectively interested in, even if they didn’t admit it, was: Can I earn a living writing? The answer was almost certainly ‘no’. I already suspected this, so wasn’t as deflated as perhaps some were. When I’ve mentioned publishing a book to friends the usual inference is that if you sell a blockbusting book you’ll never need to work again. Everyone, but everyone, quotes JK Rowling. As the learned publishing panel reminded us, she is the exception to the rule. Her books are good but she has also been very, very lucky.
What did surprise me is that apart from writing a cracking book that just happens to appeal to at least one individual agent/publisher, having a good blog and a decent online audience is a factor in securing a deal. The blog is supposed to show the agent/publisher how well you can write, beyond the chapters you’ve sent them. Your blog’s following is their ready-made market to push your book; you’re effectively doing part of their job for them.
I think the most disappointing thing about the whole drive to build your own audience is that some creative people are odd, shy and not necessarily very organised. (That probably describes me in a nutshell!) They are exactly the kind of people who probably don’t want to engage with the ‘public’ and self-promote. It seems the last bastion of the meek has fallen and the loud and brash will rule the day. Or maybe others like me willI have to stop being so ‘British” and blow our trumpets whether we want to or not.
So, a year ago I took my first step in ‘coming out’ as a writer and today my first step coming out as a blogger; not quite shameless self-promotion yet, but hey, baby-steps. I hope, as with all creative projects this blog will get more interesting and beautiful as time goes on.
I’d love your comments, so don’t be shy.
(I reserve the right to change my mind about any and all comments made above 😉 )