Driving from Manchester yesterday in the pouring rain, I was crawling along in traffic on the M6 and my mind was wandering to the questions I've been frequently asked in the last two weeks. There are many new and aspiring writers out there. It wasn't that long ago when I was 'aspiring' myself. I'm still a newbie by the industry standards having only been around since January 2007.
Reflecting on the past year I have learnt quite a bit about the industry. Been on the receiving end of some bigotry (nothing new there) and I've made some amazing friends that have the same interests as me.
The world of a writer no longer belongs in an ivory tower. It's not just about writing that masterpiece, but you have to be prepared to follow through with promotion. Promo takes many forms. Online networking is an excellent way of establishing a presence. And all writers should have an online presence because we cannot any longer rely on book sales always occuring in shops. (Partly because the shops are fleecing the publishers and it's always the writer who ends up not getting paid - but that's another blog entirely!). So. First step - get your book in print (gosh, that makes it sound easy doesn't it). Second step - make friends on Myspace, Facebook, Bebo ... wherever you want. And before you sigh and say 'I don't have time for all that, I'm too busy writing...' then consider this - One hour a day checking them all instead of watching TV will be boosting your career (I borrowed that from Darren Turpin (Orbit Books) at the self-promotion panel at FantasyCon - but it's not plagiarism because I'm telling you he said it). It's good advice.
I spend more time online than that though, perhaps several times a day - because it isn't enough to go and make thousands of friends, you need to be nice to people too - and believe me they can tell if you're fake and are just promoting. The bottom line is - as a writer you should be interested in people - especially those who like your work. One, you get feedback from them, which I like to receive personally, even if it isn't always what you want to hear. Two, you make some interesting and diverse friends from all over the world. Three, if you're loyal to them, they will be loyal to you.
My latest online site is http://www.goodreads.com - this is fantastic because it is all about reading. People on there are looking for new books to enjoy and you get some really interesting and intelligent emails from them. I'm forging some nice friendships and enjoying receiving some great recommendations to add to my reading list too.
And for those writers who have books on shelves already you can develop a writer's profile. So people immediately begin to associate your books with you - that nice person who replies to their emails. (The marriage proposals were, however, ignored for obvious reasons :)).
More on this subject to follow ...