Here’s an article about how tough it is to make good money as a writer published by The Guardian a few days ago. Obviously I have a vested interest in such things. As I read it however, it became abundantly clear that my definition of a reasonable amount of money and their idea of a reasonable amount of money are worlds apart. When I got to the part about Joanna Kavenna’s advance for The Ice Museum (non-fiction, sounds intriguing. I’m going to have to read that) my jaw sagged open. And there was me thinking “jaw dropping” was a just one of those idioms that make useful linguistic shorthand. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘writing’
Tags: literary fiction, money, The Guardian, writing
Tags: word of mouth, writing
As a writer, when you tell someone that you are a writer, many people assume that your first book contract must mean cuban cigars and megayachts all round. Sadly (and I mean that, I’d love a really big boat) that’s not the case. Indeed, one time I explained the actual financial underpinnings of writing for a living to an old family friend and he rather disappointedly said,”So it’s not a get rich quick scheme, then?” To which I replied, “No.”
Instead, your first publishing contract is only the beginning.
YOU, the AUTHOR, are a salmon, swimming all the way home through the TEMPESTUOUS OCEAN to spawn. The first contract is the sweet taste of fresh water on your highly sensitized snout organs. But does that mean it is time to get it on with the other fish? NO! One must first swim the river, avoiding its perils – bears, fishermen, dams, thoughtless littering, below-average rainfall and so forth – all the while slowly starving to death. Only then, my little fingerling, can you make with the fish jiggy.
And then you die.
Okay, so writing for a living is not at all like being a salmon. I have warm blood for a start, and no gills. And I sincerely hope that having attained my goals I will not immediately expire. I’d like to enjoy my life – go salmon fishing perhaps – before karking it. But the starving slowly to death part, that’s uncomfortably close to the truth.
Fact is, as I’ve said before you have a limited window in which to sell enough books before you’re dropped by your publisher, denting your chances of being published again in the process. I’ve said this before, so say it with me now, “Publishers are slow to act but once they have, they are impatient for success.” That’s the beginning of a cult right there.
The single biggest problem to be overcome – the grand salmon leap if you will (stop it Haley! No more fish) is recognition. Not plaudits and awards and all that, but merely getting people to know you exist. As I’ve also said before, many, many times, one of the best ways of doing this is via the internet. But it takes a long time and a lot of work to build up an internet constituency, it can pay off big time, and it has to grow organically – it cannot be manufactured. For someone like me, who writes full-time, I have a dilemma – Need money, so write more book for money = no time for self-promotion = no book sales = no money. So write more books for money… And on in ever-decreasing circles until no bookshop will ever buy your books again.
Word of mouth is where it’s at. Yes, still. But how do we get that?
Now I love my job, and I’m doing okay at it. I think I’m past the danger zone. I’m humungously lucky to be able to do it full-time, rather than trying to cram it in around another career. Black Library could keep me employed on its own, and my stories have been well received. Thanks for that.
But there are lots of hot new authors out there WHO NEED YOUR HELP. So, the reason for this post is to list some ways that you can support authors you like with no additional financial cost, by building word of mouth.
Lend out your books
Go on, if you enjoy it, let your mates read it.
Talk about it in the pub
The best way, really. I tend to tell everyone about Dan Simmons’ The Terror when I’ve had a few.
Read the author’s other books
You don’t have to buy them, get them out of the library. (One thing bugs me: why aren’t there lots of official online libraries? Are there? Tell me! If not, someone sort that, right now. And no, I don’t mean copyright-busting torrent sites).
If you have the time, blog about it. If not, just mark it on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever. Click those stars. I’ve no idea how much attention you pay to reviews. I read reviews before I buy, but I know some people don’t. On balance, high-starred marks can’t do any harm. (I’ve talked about negative reviews before. Write them – they’re still useful to writers, but for different, craft reasons).
Send cheques in the post.
Okay, now I’m just getting pleady.
The point is, if you like someone’s book, talk about it. Tell the world! That way, the author whose book you’ve liked gets to write some more, hopefully for you to like as well.
And then they get to lay their eggs.
Tags: Baneblade, Black Library, Interview, The Independent Characters, writing
A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with Geoff and Carl at the wargaming podcast The Independent Characters. It was heaps of fun, and went up on the net earlier this week. I talk mostly about Baneblade, but within that cover my work process, what it’s like writing for The Black Library, where my ideas come from and other writing-craft related topics. Be aware, there are spoilers.
Tags: Chuck Wendig, Getting Published, writing
Chuck Wendig, entertainingly foul-mouthed author of Blackbirds, and something of a doyen of writing advice, posted this on his blog today:
It spawned a lengthy response from me, which I republish here, if you’re interested.
It kind of helps who you know, but not that much
I’ve been trying to get published since I was 18. I didn’t succeed until I was 34. I was a journalist on a scifi magazine called SFX for six years, I edited gaming mag White Dwarf, then I edited another magazine called Death Ray. Bottom line is, I got to meet a whole load of publishers, writers and other associated industry types. The wordage part of the genre was always my thing, so I always kept up with these people. I schmoozed and tickled their ears with risqué babble. Some of them became my pals. This meant that they were more than willing to look at my stuff when I bashfully said I wished to write.
This does not mean they took it. That you do the secret handshake and air kiss and bare your arse at the hungry would-be writers outside who can’t see you through the silvered glass of word-heaven central as laughing nymph girls slip five thousand pound notes into your author’s jockstrap. It means they might look at it, when they get round to it.
This can take a very long time. Years. I had one book that I sent in. It took six months to be rejected. I sent another. Another six months, and there was interest. Two years of writing, and toing and froing, then resubmitting, then a meeting nearly a year after that… To be told it wasn’t what they wanted. The whole process took four years. This was to someone I had met many times, and who liked me, and who had seen my writing and liked that too. Basically, if it’s not good enough, it doesn’t really matter who you know.
And then there’s taste. I’m quite friendly with one of the UK’s biggest agents. He won’t represent me, seven published or about to be published novels or not, because my stuff isn’t to his taste. So there you are.
Sure, I know who to write to, who to talk to, and I stand a good chance of getting to speak to them. But all that took conscious effort to establish. I went into journalism specifically to build these contacts up. I tell all the other aspiring writers I meet that YOU TOO CAN MAKE THESE CONTACTS. Go to conventions, events, author signings. Nowadays, you can comment on blogs, be tweet buddies. Be nice, be charming, don’t attack them with rolled up manuscripts howling your brilliance in their terrified faces in hotel lobbies. Yes, it does help to know people, so then, get to know them. It’s not an exclusive club. It’s not like all my old colleagues are now novelists. Oh, hang on, none of them are, while I have seen dozens of people without contacts plucked from obscurity. See? No guaranteed entry.
Trad publishing is very slow…
We are talking glacially slow, mind-numbing, awfully, horribly slow. The slowness that sees years flicker by in time-lapse haste, and the rise and fall of entire phyla of organisms. They’re not being haughty, a lot of publishers are ridiculously overworked. Getting to know them helps. An agent helps a lot more.
I submitted something to a contact six months ago who said they wanted something off me, and they haven’t got back. I submitted something else to an actual friend, and our conversations trailed off over a year ago. Bear in mind, I am already published.
I was known to Games Workshop, and worked for them. A lot of them are my genuine “Hey! How’s it going? Let’s play Warhammer right now!” friends. It took me six years of pitches to get published by them.
…and then is impatient for success
If you do get published, and your first book is not a success, you’ll be out. There are a roughly a bazillion-trillion writers who want your job, so publishers can keep popping exciting fresh product out on the shelves with minimal outlay until one of them is a raging success. The days when a publisher loved an author, and had the time and money to nurture them are mostly gone. They’re under a lot of pressure to achieve instant megabucks. The world of publishing is currently in a brutal phase. On the other hand, there is more opportunity available for everyone now. Swings, roundabouts, all that.
Trad publishing is not going anywhere
People will always want filters. Trad publishing is a filter for readers. An agent is a filter for publishers. Reviews are filters for everyone. We all use filters, all the time. Google does, our brains do, our coffee does. If a publisher rates it enough to publish, you know it must be at least okay. That’s not something you get through self-publishing. Self-pub is undoubtedly going to get a lot more important, and the industry is changing. But look at music. That took an earlier and much harsher battering than publishing is taking now, and the big labels are still there. It’s sticking around, it will change, use it to your advantage, don’t spurn it.
But the internet really is where it’s at
One thing I’ve noticed is that the new writers who have been the most successful are those with an established internet constituency. Good old Chuck here, or Adam Christopher. Doing cool, engaging stuff on the internet can help, nay! ENSURE, success when you are picked up by a trad publisher, or if you self publish. This is a lot of work in itself. God knows how much time the likes of Mr Wendig or John Scalzi spend blogging. When do you guys eat? It’s a constant struggle for me — write something for guaranteed repo-men repelling monies, or spend valuable time-units connecting with the world. Gah! My head acheth already at the merest contemplation of it.
Trad publishers are only human
I got some very stern advice from one publisher about never, ever writing spin-off fiction, that I’d waste my talent, that I’d never be taken seriously, that I’d not develop as a writer if I yoked my meagre portion of creativity to the every-hungry franchise monster.
This was very bad advice. It was well-meant, and it was true in some respects – people still do look down on tie-in fiction, and I’ve a few examples of this – but it’s not as true as it was. Plus, I need to pay the bills. Franchise fiction offers an instant audience, and a guaranteed return which original fiction does not. On top of that, franchise stuff can lead others to your original fiction. Writing shared-universe material is not hack-work, it’s as hard as and can be as rewarding as spinning out your own world. BUT the same publisher did give me lots and lots and lots of very, very good advice too. You are the arbiter of your fate, not some “gatekeeper.” So, follow your own head.
Trad pub can work for you
I’m dubious of the utopian claims of some pundits who herald the collapse of trad pub and the emergence of a creator culture, as trad publishing provides stability to the whole ramshackle edifice of storytelling, primarily by allowing writers who aren’t bohemian whizzkids with a ton of time on their hands and/or an enormous trust fund to eat by paying advances up front. I pray this does not go away, or I’m out of work.
They’re generally not bastards
Publishers are nice people who love books. I have never had any ideas stolen, or been mocked, or been otherwise humiliated or even discomfited (outside the soul-crush of rejection). Sometimes books come out with suspiciously similar ideas to your own, but that’s almost certainly coincidence (like, I’ve had a lot of ideas I’ve told no one about, and this has happened several times). The publishers I have met have all been lovely, lovely people. Authors, on the other hand… Sheesh. Kidding! They’re pussycats too.
A lot of it is down to you
Every time I do a seminar, I get a crowd of (metaphorical) pitchfork waving people hailing self-publishing as the new god, and about how trad pub deliberately keeps them out. I get the feeling they are impatient (see above comment on slowness). You have to: Keep writing. Keep schmoozing. Keep positive. And be humble. I’ve met more than a few “They don’t recognise my genius!” type aspiring authors. They are generally rubbish, as well as annoying. If you don’t at least listen to the advice many publishers give you in the bar/rejection letter/on the net, you will lose. Listen to criticism, talk to your friends, join reading/ writing clubs, read tons of books, don’t follow the one path, follow them all! And read this blog — Chuck’s advice is among the very best. All these things are surer ways to publication — by whatever means – than whining about traditional publishing houses and their status as Illuminati puppet-theatres. We’re all people, trying to do our thing. Evil rarely enters into it.
Does that help? I hope so.
Tags: Baneblade, Skarsnik, The Black Library, tie-in fiction, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000, writing
Here’s a guest post I wrote for The Black Library Blog, about why I enjoy writing for the Black Library (in case the title didn’t give it away). Click on the link or scroll down to read it.
I’d like to add some more regarding the writing of tie-in fiction rather than the consumption and validity of it as a literary form (for this, dear readers, is the underlying topic of my BL blog). (more…)
Tags: Abhinav Jain, Angels of Retribution, Cordwainer Smith, JRR Tolkien, language, linguistics, Names: A New Perspective, Norstrilia, writing
Here’s a piece I did for that really rather top fellow, Abhinav Jain, to publish on his blog, Angels of Retribution. It’s part of Names: A New Perspective, a series of guest blogs by writers about what their attitude is to naming and language in speculative fiction. Re-reading mine, I sound like a grumpy bastard. Hang, that’s because I am a grumpy bastard. Ah me. I also use the word “important” a lot. Makes me sound pompous. I’m probably that too.
Tags: cool thing, Interzone, iRobot, Jim Burns, sf art, short story, writing
Here’s a cool thing for a Tuesday, my very own Jim Burns illustration! Jim is one of the biggest names in traditional SF art, having painted covers for most of the genre’s leading lights at one time or another. I’m lucky enough to know Jim personally, and with whom I occasionally enjoy a pint. Quite by chance, he was commissioned to create this image for my first story in Interzone,” iRobot”. It’s in issue 244, out January. I’m very excited by Jim’s involvement, as many of his book covers adorned my shelves while I was a youth. Jim Burns, man, it’s Jim Burns!
Tags: Advent Calendar, Audio Drama, Black Library, Fiction, gaming, Horus Heresy, Salamanders Space Marines, Warhammer 40000, writing
In the grim darkness of the 31st Millennium, there is even more war than in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, ain’t that a fact? I’ve been lucky enough to write a piece set in this period of galactic-scale civil war, and it is published today! Friday the 14th will forever be remembered by me as a day of firsts. Strike and Fade, my first Horus Heresy piece and my first audio drama, is story fourteen on the Black Library’s advent calendar, a war-packed countdown to Christmas penned by the brightest and best in BL’s firmament of writerly stars (and, er, me).
There have been some fantastic pieces this year. Each story is around 1000 words long, with the occasional audio, like Strike and Fade, salted in for extra spice. This is short Warhammer and 40k fiction at its most exciting; pithily told and as sweetsome as a Christmas chocolate, and boy, are there are plenty of nice chocolates in that tin. Go and check it out!
This is the latest in a string of Black Library stories and novels you’ll be seeing from me over the coming year, some of which I have revealed earlier on this blog, others are hush-hush, top-secret, so don’t ask. The pace is picking up, and stories will be arriving thicker and faster as we go into spring. 2013 is going to be an exciting year, and I hope some of you feel inclined to join me there.
And yet, spring is a ways away, so if Strike and Fade whets your appetite, you can always try my Blood Drinkers story, The Rite of Holos in Hammer and Bolter 24. Or perhaps I could tempt you with some of my non-BL fiction? Freebies on the drop-down “Fiction” menu at top of the site, and details of my novels down the side to the left.
Tags: Black Library, new office, Skarsnik, Solaris, The Crash, The Death of Integrity, The Next Big Thing, Where have you been?, writing
I’ve been away from this blog for nigh on three months owing to huge building work upheaval. I’m tired of working at the top of the stairs, I said, let’s convert the attic, I said. I’ll do a good chunk o f the work myself, I said. It should take, oh, two to four weeks, I said.
Optimistic chump, I’m saying now.
Ten weeks later, it’s finished. I’ve spent every goddamn waking minute for two months hammering bits of wood together and plasterboarding (okay, I did some work work, had two very short holidays, and have been ill, but apart from that: Hammers. Nails. Swearing. All the way baby, I’m like a foul-mouthed Bob the Builder). And I added terracotta roof tiling to my repertoire of earthy man skills (I’ve done some roofing before, but with corrugated iron sheets, so this was a bit more involved). The result is that I am sitting in a new room, which is kind of weird, like one of those dreams where one discovers one’s house has whole, undiscovered wings crammed with sinister secrets. Or is that just me? I call this haven from the world below THE GOBLINARIUM. Because it’s full of Goblins, alright? Not for any other reason. Sheesh.
I have no stairs, just a ladder. I can’t afford stairs until next year, but other than that, it’s tickety-boo.
Anyway, I’m well behind on my work, and wasn’t going to post for a while longer, but then Richard Ford and Cavan Scott both tagged me in this Next Big Thing meme/blog/pass-the-parcel game, so it’d be rude not to respond. Not that I give much of a fig about being rude sometimes, but now is a more civilised phase in my lunar-linked egocentric psychosis path. I’ll be back later this week with the covers to my next two books, The Crash and The Death of Integrity. Until then, answers to the meme’s ten questions below. Thanks for the nod, Cav and Fordy.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
It ain’t no working title, guv’nor, it’s called The Crash, and it’s out next June, so I better finish it. Technically, mind, it’s not my next book – I have Baneblade and Skarsnik out from the Black Library first, and then there’s The Death of Integrity out after The Crash, which is currently in the hands of the editors. But The Crash is what I am currently writing. And I am behind on it, so let’s keep this brief.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book.
I like books about planetary colonisation efforts that go horribly wrong. This book is about a planetary colonisation effort that goes horribly wrong.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Science fiction, planetary colonisation efforts that go horribly wrong sub-genre.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I don’t know yet, as I am still getting to know them.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A planetary colonisation effort goes horribly wrong.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s out from Solaris, God bless ‘em.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I am still writing it. I usually give myself three months to write a book’s first draft, but I redraft a lot as I’m writing, so what I end up with at the end of that is closer to a second or third draft than a first. Then I plead for more time, about a fortnight, to polish it up.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmmm. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, the Colsec books by Douglas Hill. There’s a fair bit of social commentary in there too, I suppose, but not so much as you might get in something by Charles Stross or Ian Macleod. But they are both more intelligent and well-read than I, so I’m sticking with alien space monsters.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Tricky one that. Lifelong immersion in SF that is neither Star Trek nor Doctor Who, I s’pose.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Alien monsters, how the continued entrenchment of plutocratic elements in our society might play out, a cool planet, and a frickin’ big twist in the tail. There’ll be fights, and some weirdness, and hopefully sequels. Hell, you might as well read the back blurb, mightn’t you?
The Market rules all, plotting the rise and fall of fortunes without human intervention. Mankind, trapped by a rigid hierarchy of wealth, bends to its every whim. To function, the Market must expand without end. The Earth is finite, and cannot hold it, and so a bold venture to the stars is begun, offering a rare chance at freedom to a select few people. But when the colony fleet is sabotaged, a small group finds itself marooned upon the tidally locked world of Nychthemeron, a world where one hemisphere is bathed in perpetual daylight, the other hidden by eternal night. Isolated and beset, the stricken colony members must fight for survival on the hostile planet, while secrets about both the nature of their shipwreck and Nychthemeron itself threaten to tear their fragile society apart.
It’s on US Amazon already, although how they know it will be 384 pages when even I don’t know how long it will be is a little freaky…
Tags: Anime, editing, gaming, SFX Magazine, The Black Library, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000, writing
This is what I spent most of June and July doing; an SFX Special Edition (or Collector’s Edition, it depends who you ask) on anime! Printed upon its glossy pages you’ll find a figurative ton (because ink don’t weigh that much) of articles about a whole host of new shows hot from Japan, a peek into Euro anime fandom, a profile of Toei animation, and some tip-top opinion from those who know anime well – including the likes of Bristol-based hipster Tim Maughan, lady anime guru Helen McCarthy and long-time eastwards-looking journo Andrew Osmond. Included also, a large number of very fine free gifts.
I don’t edit magazines very often now. To my immense surprise the majority of my income comes from writing books, but it’s extremely nice to actually leave my house and go into an office where there are grown-up people and not just children and animals, adults who are concentrating and being quiet. The chance to focus all my attention on something with no interruption for a couple of hours is so welcome, it’s enough to make me weep over Future’s Apple keyboards.
The magazine was out on 20th July. But I’ve been ill, ill, ill again, away, and have my parents in law here, so that’s why I’m writing about it only now. It’s also why I haven’t blogged for aaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggeeeeeeeeees. And why I’m well behind on my work, which has included:
- Prepping a new novel for a new publisher’s further consideration – more on this later in the year, I hope.
- Finishing and handing in my final draft of Skarsnik to The Black Library (whoop!).
- Waiting to hear if a certain short story has made it past the second selection stage for a certain well-known publisher of short stories.
- Falling horribly behind on my third book for The Black Library, which is about [REDACTED] fighting the [REDACTED], but I’ve got my gun sights trained on it now and will be blasting that task to completion ASAP. (Cripes, what an unwieldy and poor gun metaphor. I’m playing 40K tonight, maybe that will get me into a proper war head space).
There’s a bunch of other stuff going on, too. You can read as always reviews by me in SFX Magazine. In a few weeks, I’ll have an interesting announcement to make about a new job I’ve landed writing stuff for Australians. Lastly, if I said the words “Hammer”, “Bolter” and “soon”, all entirely unconnected to one another, you understand, would you be excited? You might be…