My Write-Up of The Literary Consultancy's Writers' Day (part one)
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
On Saturday, I went to The Literacy Consultancy's (TLC) annual Writers' Day. It was a fantastic event and I'd like to share with you some of the stuff that I learned. In this first post, I'm going to share some top advice for editing your novel, three key questions to ask potential literary agents and five amazing tips on book marketing.
As I've said before, now I've finished the first draft of my novel All of our Tomorrows, I'm attempting to learn more about the publishing industry and events like this are great opportunities for me to do just that.
The day began with an introduction from TLC director and organiser of the day Aki Schultz. She spoke of the driving forces behind TLC and the Free Word Centre and signposted their upcoming programme of events entitled "Being a Writer," which I'm very interested in tapping into.
The first talk was from Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You. She spoke both of how she wrote the book and how she then got an agent and then a publishing deal. Her path to publication is very different to what mine could ever be, but there was still a lot that I took away from her talk. She had was successful in her application to multiple writer's courses and residences which meant that she's had a lot of time to work on her craft. For me, I don't have that time, so it's going to take me longer. However the flipside of that is that I already have a job and career that feeds me, so I don't have the pressure of "publication or bust."
Rowan had plenty of advice about writing and editing. As I'm editing All of our Tomorrows at the moment, the advice that resonated with me most was "Skip to the fun parts." For example, if you need a character to move to another location just end the chapter and then restart with them in the new location.
Rowan was a real advocate of putting the writing away in between drafts because it can give you perspective. Sections that I'm stuck on may have a really easy solution that I can't see because I'm too close to it. Although I've barrelled straight into my current round of edits, I'm definitely going to put my novel away for a while before the next round of edits.
Rowan also had some great advice about speaking with agents, which I'm sure I'll return to if/when I get to that stage. She gave us three key questions to ask of any potential agents which are:
1. Why did you like my book? (Are the agents reasons the same as mine? If not, are they reasons that I can go along with?)
2. What do you want to do with my story? (Any edits? Do I agree with their suggestions?)
3. Which publisher do they see the novel fitting in with?
After Rowan was a barnstorming talk by book marketing expert Sam Missingham. I first heard Sam on the Bestseller Experiment podcast and she was just as great in real life. She had some great insights into the industry as a whole. For example, despite the massive popularity of ebooks, they still make up only 30% of total book sales. She had so much golden advice to give, so I can only recall a few things here.
1. Always have an elevator pitch for your book ready. Create one. Practice it and polish it so that it's good to go at any given moment. You never know who you're going to bump into or when it's going to be useful. When I went to a Meet the Agents event, Allison DeFrees told us that agents find authors in many ways including social gatherings. I was out with friends a few months ago and my friend's flatmate brought a date with her. He turned out to work for HarperCollins. I didn't have an elevator pitch and now I feel that this was a potential missed opportunity for me.
2. Always ask. The worst anyone can do is to say no. She told us the story of how she got the legendary Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace etc) on one of her events just by asking the question.
3. Learn from the best. When doing anything for the first time, seek out others who do it well and learn from them. For example when starting out on social media, add people with large following and see what they are doing to make themselves so popular. Bookstagrammers, here I come!
4. Have a plan. Treat your writing like a start-up business. Sam said that aside from helping professionally, having a plan for things like websites, social media, newsletters etc helps personally because it will protect against the inevitable emotional burn that writing entails.
5. Signpost. Certain genres of fiction have a certain look when it comes to their associated imagery. Think of a crime thriller book cover vs a romance cover. Use this associated imagery for your website and social media. This is something that I'm going to have to think. At the moment my website, my Instagram and my Twitter are authentic, but the images don't say very much about my actual book.
I also was lucky enough to have a chat with Sam during the lunch break and she gave me some great advice about starting a newsletter. I'm planning to launch mine very soon, so it you've not done so already, click on the subscribe button on top of this page and to be the first to receive one.
I'm going to stop now, but I will be back very soon with a load more great stuff I learned at the Writers' Day.
Bye for now,