Friday, 14 June 2013

Writing in the Digital Age or just Old Age?

As a co-ordinator, founder, tutor of Greenacre Writers, I find my writing time is severely limited because when I'm not at my day job (working in a medical library) I am always doing some sort of admin work and this eats into creative time. Last Sunday I attended the Literary Platform, 'Writing in the Digital age'. And what a pleasure it was not to have to organise the event. All I had to do was find a way to get from Finchley to Stoke Newington and this let me tell you, was not an easy task. It’s just under 8 miles from my house to the Babble Jar in Stoke Newington High Street where the event was being held. I checked with TFL and it seemed I would need to take 5 trains and 10 buses to get there. I spent ages trying to decipher the quickest route. In the end I decided to stay out of central London and skirt round the edges, I got a bus to Arnos Grove, met a friend and let her tell me which way to go.

Goodness knows how you cope if you are a tourist in this country and google TFL. You get all sorts of junk appearing first which a tourist wouldn’t necessarily know was junk advertising. Plus TFL never give you the quickest and most direct route, they always seem to take you round the houses. There must be loads of tourists who spend their holidays riding round and round in circles on public transport feeling confused.

I often feel confused these days and wonder if I’m spending too much time on the Internet or I’m just getting old. Trends change so quickly, I could spend 24/7 online and still not feel any the wiser. This is because there is so much online, one of the subjects spoken about on Sunday by Niven Govinden, noise rather than quality, and a lack of quality control. I tend to look at writerly things, like authors websites, Twitter, Facebook, writing competitions, writing courses and each thing can take up a lot of time. It’s like a thousand trillion mazes, I start at the entrance of one and before I know it, I’m lost.

Emily Benet
But as writers, surely, we have to be online, have to have a digital presence otherwise nobody will know who we are. As Emily Benet, who was on the literary platform, said, it is all about the pitch, and building up your readership. Which was how she became published with Salt Publishing, a small but now much larger small press since The Lighthouse by one of their authors, Alison Moore, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The publishing world has changed beyond all recognition, Chris Meade, also on the literary platform told us, 85% of Americans want to write a book. What this also means is that unlike newspapers or writing magazines that used to review or critique a relatively small amount of books, there is an awful lot of writing bilge online that one has to swim through before finding something worth reading. A lot of hit and miss tweets that might sound enticing but once you get to the website can be utter crap.
Chris Meade on the left, Niven Govinden on the right

Chris also spoke about collaborative projects, such as three people who hired a cottage and sat in separate rooms all writing a story together. It's all wonderful and very creative and I want to be part of it. However, on the one hand my creative conscience says, isn’t it fabulous that so many people are being creative, and the devil within says, no, I wish they’d all just stop so we could have some control and order back in our lives instead of all this online chaos.

And of course, the 85% can now self-publish. I have said before and I’ll say again, I do not want to publish my book on Kindle. I don’t own a Kindle, I don’t want one, and I will never use one. I like, no love, the feel, smell and look of a real book.

But, says the clever-dick within, you use your phone as a Kindle, and sometimes you read stuff online, ner-ner.
The internal money-grabber pipes up, with the million-dollar-question, what if a publisher offered you a deal, a kindle deal, what would you do then? Say No, I don’t think so.
Okay, so supposing one day, when I’m ready to publish, I consider using a self publishing tool. What then?

I found these 7 tips listed by Mark Edwards at The Creative Pen which I thought were very useful: 
1. Design a cover that tells the reader exactly what kind of book this is and that looks professional.
2. Write a book description that makes the reader desperate to read it.
3. Write a marketing plan and carry it out – adapting it as you go along to do more of the stuff that’s worthwhile and none of the stuff that isn’t.
4. Instead of sending out endless links to your own followers on Twitter, try to get retweets – reach your audience’s audience.
5. Contact, in a friendly and professional way, every single person and website you can think of who might want to give you exposure – and give them a good reason for doing so.
6. Associate with successful writers – learn from them and get in front of their fans.
7. Be prepared to work damn hard!

I really like the idea of designing my own cover, (actually I already have) and a marketing plan. But, I would also add to the list: 

8. Get yourself a damn good editor!

There is nothing worse than reading a self-published book that is full of spelling and grammar mistakes. I know of one self-published author who had to take back all the books sold because there were so many mistakes in the novel and people had been complaining and demanding their money back.

And of course when the 300,000,000, three hundred million (the mind quite literally boggles and explodes), people are writing their novels in the US, Chris Meade reminded us and all us other writers, to question:

What do you think matters?
Who do you want to be read by?
Discover your point of difference.
And lastly, Do what you’re passionate about.

Chris after writing the The Nearly Writers Guide all about being a nearlywriter, also has a webpage of Nearlyology where you can list your nearly moments. Mine was the nearlyvideo in the 80s with David Bowie, my nearlyfamous moment.

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