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Taking your writing further

 17 May 2013

Sarah Scotcher is an editor at Rowanvale Books, an independent publishing firm in Wales that specialises in new authors. She offers 6 tips for people who are exploring publishing options.

If you want to write for a living rather than just for fun, then you must accept that it won’t be easy. (Image: Fiona Mountain)
If you want to write for a living rather than just for fun, then you must accept that it won’t be easy. (Image: Fiona Mountain)

1. Join a writers’ group in your area

Writers' groups can help you to meet new people, and potentially good friends and contacts, and it never hurts to get a bit of objective advice.

You will improve your critiquing skills by discussing others’ work, which you can then apply to your own writing.

You also may gain valuable nuggets of information that extend further than ‘writing’ itself – groups often discuss publishing as an industry, e-books, bookshops, agents and courses.

Writers’ groups often have speakers, which provide excellent networking opportunities with authors, editors, publishers and agents. The same goes for conferences, and to some extent webinars.

2. Follow and write blogs

If you are serious about approaching publishing houses, a Writer’s Market guide will help.

There are countless sources of information and advice out there. Many publishers, agents and authors post blogs regularly, and there’s no reason why these shouldn’t improve both your writing quality and your knowledge of the industry.

Feel free to get involved and post comments, since bloggers and other followers often provide extra information when requested.

Blogging is also a great way to extend your own writing, and marketing, and to explore your writing style. It can be handy to ask your friends to check out your blog posts and tell you their thoughts – and it can be less pressured than laying bare your more serious writing.

3. Think about why you are writing 

There is nothing wrong with writing stories, books or poems as a hobby, and many people enjoy it as precisely that. If you want to take it further, however, it is worth considering how far you are willing to go.

There are options to publish your writing, but it can be a tricky industry and it often requires hard work and commitment. Above all, remain open-minded and realistic.

4. Buy a guide to literary agents

It can be futile to approach publishing houses without an agent, since publishers often do not consider or review unsolicited submissions.

Consider what a particular party’s agenda might be, and if this fits in with your own intentions.

Guides available on literary agents can be great resources when putting together a proposal. The most well-regarded of these is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which is updated annually. It provides contacts for agencies, detailing things such as their terms of trade and international operations.

If you are serious about approaching publishing houses, a writer’s market guide will help you find publishers and publishing opportunities. 

Concentrate on your own writing and development – even the best proposal in the world needs a great quality text.

5. Educate yourself on publishing options

You’re likely to have heard that traditional publishing houses are pretty impenetrable, that ‘vanity’ publishers can be questionable and that self-publishing companies have a certain stigma.

I would not necessarily disagree with these points, but bear in mind that things are changing very quickly.

Major publishing houses are merging with self-publishers, or developing their own imprints, and some well-established authors are now even providing self-publishing services for others.

We all know that e-books and technology are changing the face of things, and it can all get confusing – but it is important to do your homework.

It is sometimes difficult to know who to trust, so do consider what a particular party’s agenda might be, and whether this agenda fits in with your own intentions and aspirations.

6. Have the right attitude to writing

Stay positive, accept criticism, be confident in yourself and your abilities… sound familiar?

It’s frustrating to hear, time and again, but it’s also largely true. If you have come to the conclusion that you want to write for a living rather than just for fun, then you must accept that it won’t be easy.

Increasing numbers of writers are testing the waters with their self-published material, and some lucky ones are succeeding, but the majority are likely to struggle.

There is no shame in trying and ultimately bowing out. But if you do genuinely believe you can make it, then you’ll need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work, time and energy.

Take advice and criticism wherever and whenever you can, keep writing and try to remember why you started.

For more tips for writers, visit the Rowanvale Books blog.

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