How to care for your author

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Random wifflings
Tags: ,

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).

Review it

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.

  1. ethanreilly says:

    Nice post Guy – as one of the struggling masses who aspire to mainstream writing success it’s always good to hear a positive message, even if it’s wrapped in a, let’s face it, slightly disheartening Salmon metaphor 😛 I guess there’s something to be said for living free and pursuing your dreams, whether they be writing or…ahem, spawning…related.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s