6 February 2014

Do we need a postgraduate self-publishing degree?

The University of Central Lancashire in England has launched a new postgraduate course, simply titled, Self-publishing MA. Apparently, it’s the first of its kind.

Taken from the the course information, here’s what you get:

This course will equip you with all of the necessary skills you will need to be a self-published author including how to edit your book, how to lay it out, how to monitor sales, how to manage yourself and your finances, marketing yourself and your book and how to create an eBook. The final part of the course will give you the opportunity to complete a finished copy of your book.

I must admit, I can’t work this one out.

I understand that the skills required to self-publish a book might not come easy to everyone, and I know that some people will appreciate the opportunity to learn those skills in a closed, taught environment. But I’m not sure what advice an MA could provide that isn’t free and easy to find via a quick Google search.

The cost issue is important. For some reason, the course information doesn’t currently include fees, but the University’s other postgraduate writing courses, such as its Writing For Children MA, cost £5,000 a year.

I happily admit that I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that forking out that kind of money is the opposite of what the self-publishing movement has been about these last few years.

Perhaps the only way a fee of that size can be justified is if it includes access to professional editors, cover designers and proofreaders. But that’s not what the course information says. It talks about learning ‘how to edit’, but not direct support on getting your manuscript into shape.

I’m sure that this is just the first of what will likely be a wave of postgraduate courses on self-publishing. But if you ask me, you might as well explore the archives of sites like The Creative Penn, where you’ll find all you need to know.

Part of self-publishing’s allure is the satisfaction of doing it yourself – of being in control of the process from start to finish. I’m not sure that paying thousands of pounds to achieve the same end has quite the same appeal or ethos.

15 July 2013

Learn something old

How many times have you thought or said, ‘I’m going to learn something new,’ but then got so far into that learning and either given up or realised you weren’t quite cut out for it?

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11 July 2013

When is it okay to stop reading a book?

It’s always okay to stop reading a book. For some reason, we often feel obliged to carry on, even when we’re not enjoying it, but there really is no obligation. I’ve abandoned three books already this year and I’m about to do so again. Here’s when I think it’s okay to jump ship.

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19 June 2013

Favourites as likes

How do you use Twitter favourites? I’ve never been sure what to do with them. I tried favouriting tweets that contain interesting links, like a built-in bookmarking system, but I never went back to check those tweets, because I have Pinboard and Instapaper for that kind of thing.

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23 January 2013

Keep your writing app open

There are many techniques and methodologies and goodness knows what else that claim to help you with your productivity. For writers, there is often a battle to get started, but the keeping going, that’s also tough, what with all those pesky distractions. This year, I’m trying a new approach to writing fiction and it goes against everything I’ve ever done. But it works.

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21 January 2013

Picking the right idea for your novel

Writing on her blog for writers, Writability, Ava Jae today asked the question: where do your novel ideas come from? It’s a good question and one that writers will answer differently, I’m sure.

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16 January 2013

Poster, the perfect app for blogging from your iPhone or iPad

If you’re anything like me, you’ve long wondered why there is no sensible iOS app for publishing new posts to your WordPress blog. Well wonder no more, because today I discovered Poster, and it’s brilliant.

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8 January 2013

7 splendid articles on using Goodreads as an author

Goodreads is the social reading platform that allows people to track their reading habits, review books they’ve read and interact with likeminded folks. However, it’s a site for authors too.

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1 January 2013

What to do with your unfinished manuscript in 2013

It’s a new year and everyone is making resolutions and predictions. When it comes to writing, there are three main options, especially if you’re halfway through a major project and wondering what will happen to it in the coming months.

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26 November 2012

Entry for the 2013 Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize is now open

Entry for the 2013 Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize is now open and if you’re an unpublished writer with a finished (or nearly finished) novel, I highly recommend that you enter.

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30 October 2012

How to write about controversial subjects

I didn’t really consider, when I was writing my debut novel, A is for Angelica, which is available from all good book shops, that I might be tackling a controversial subject. It was only when I started sharing it with other people that I though, ‘Okay, maybe some of this is a little close to the bone, I need to get it right.’

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25 October 2012

3 text-expanding tools that will speed up your writing

I don’t believe in taking shortcuts when it comes to writing. I think quality work comes from time, attention and plenty of editing. However, if there’s a way to reduce how long I spend on repetitive tasks, I’m all for it. And that’s what this post is all about.

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A is for Angelica reviewed in Time Out
13 September 2012

Is traditional publishing worth the wait?

Those of you who’ve followed this site and the podcast for a while will know that it took some time for me to first write, then publish my first novel, A is for Angelica. Like every other author, I had to deal with life getting in the way and make a number of sacrifices. Nothing unusual about that.

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Some dos and don’ts for hosting your book launch

Last week I launched the paperback version of my debut novel, A is for Angelica, at the delightful Lantern Theatre in my home town, Sheffield. It was a smashing evening and I loved every second. You can see all the pictures over on my Facebook page. While you’re there, feel free to like me, if you know what I mean.

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7 September 2012

Listen to me on BBC Radio Sheffield

Yesterday I was interviewed on BBC Radio Sheffield, where I talked about my novel, A is for Angelica. It’s the first time I’ve been on a show with such a large listenership. I felt like I was a little slow to get going, but it was good fun and great to talk about the book.

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4 September 2012

Sock-puppeting is as grim as it gets for authors

You’ve probably heard about all this sock-puppeting business that’s been in the media this week. You can read a good summary in this article on the Guardian website, but the gist of it is as follows.

Award-winning crime writer RJ Ellory, like self-published authors John Locke and Stephen Leather before him, has been caught out (by the ever-intrepid Jeremy Duns) writing glowing reviews of his own work on Amazon, using various alias accounts. Oh, and then he used those accounts to rubbish his ‘competitors’.

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16 August 2012

Writing and publishing is all about teamwork

Stephanie Thwaites, children’s agent at Curtis Brown in the UK, published a lovely post about rejection this week on her blog.

It begins:

It’s all about rejection. No, not online dating, but publishing: according to an editor I was chatting to last week, it’s an industry of rejection.

Personally, I’m a little tired of all the negativity around publishing. I think it’s time we all pulled together and tried to do things differently and push things forward. So I confess to letting out a gentle sigh when I read that first paragraph.

But I needn’t have worried, because Stephanie’s post isn’t really about rejection at all. Instead, it’s a great reminder that, for every book that gets published, there is a team of hardcore fans behind it, willing it on and making it happen.

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31 July 2012

I was supposed to be a professional footballer

I played my first competitive, 11-a-side football match when I was seven years old. It was on a full-size pitch and my team needed special permission from the league, because the minimum age was eight. The age limit was there for my safety, but I didn’t care because I was big and tall and really good at football.

Two years later, I was playing competitively twice a weekend. On Saturdays, I played for one team, on Sundays another. A scout from Notts County, a professional football club here in England, came to watch one of our games. He asked 10 of us to attend trials the following week.

Aged nine, I went to the trials, where there were more than 1000 other children. After two days, there were just 24 of us left. I made the cut, abandoned my previous Sunday team and became part of Notts County’s first ever squad for under 10s.

Many kids have trials with professional clubs and some stay with the team for a couple of years. I played for Notts County until I was 16. I was team captain three out of the seven years I was there. I won trophies. I travelled the country. It was both a pre- and post-pubescent sporting career.

But something happened in that final year. When asked about it, I’ve sometimes said that the problem was that I’d become more interested, like most teenagers, in girls and underage drinking. But that was never the truth.

The real problem was that I was supposed to be a professional footballer, but being a professional footballer was not what I wanted to be.

After playing competitively throughout my childhood, sometimes four or five times a week, by the time I was 15, the magic had worn off. I didn’t want to do it any more. I didn’t care if it didn’t happen. Being a professional footballer.

And so, of course, things went wrong. I stopped putting the effort in and fell behind my teammates. They all wanted it far more than I did. It was still their dream.

Then, on one blustery Nottingham evening after training, I was taken to one side, along with my Dad, and told that, unfortunately, I wasn’t going to make it.

It was hard to hear. But also a blessed relief.

By no chance or coincidence, roughly a year before I left Notts County, I wrote my first batch of poetry. It was nothing special, and it was part of my regular schoolwork, but the feedback I received lit something inside me.

A new, entirely different dream began to emerge. I wanted to be a published author.

I wrote more poetry and soon persuaded my far-more-talented-than-me friends to let me join their band. I was the singer, of sorts. I did my best to write lyrics, hold a tune and avoid complete embarrassment.

But it wasn’t until I moved to sixth form college and studied English literature that the dream began to take shape. Most authors remember the book that made them want to write and I’m no different, although it may seem an odd choice.

It was Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and I can still remember, not the reading of the book itself, but the way I read it. For the first time, I analysed every sentence like a writer. If a particular passage dazzled me, I wanted to know why. So I read it again and again until I thought I’d figured it out.

That change in mindset was profound. I stopped reading for pure enjoyment and started learning my craft. I wanted to one day write a book that other people would read and be moved by.

Because that, for me, is what writing is all about. It’s not about the thrills, spills and turning pages. It’s about creating a world, having something to say, and telling a story. It’s making people laugh. Making people cry.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To move people by creating something that no one else has ever created and by putting words in an order that no one has or ever will again. That’s the crux of all of it.

The digital version of A is for Angelica is published tomorrow. I was supposed to be a footballer. But I’m not, I’m an author. That was and is my dream. Until a few hours time. When it comes true.

23 July 2012

First impressions on the internet

You might think me mad, but I’ve been thinking a lot about first impressions and the way things appear right now.

In the always-on world of social media and running a website like this, I’m meeting new people all the time. And mostly without knowing it.

Take Twitter, for example.

Permanent, but temporary

Twitter is the ultimate throwaway medium, where 140-character sentences come, go and turn to history in the blink of an eye.

Conversations, links and self-promotions. They are permanent, but somehow temporary. No one deletes your tweets, but barely anyone remembers them either. Which is fine. They’re not supposed to remember. Not really.

And yet, new people are finding me (and you) all of the time. And what do they have to go on? Our profile photos and biographies, sure. But then what? What are we really like? What do we tweet about?

On a platform like Twitter, you have very little control over first impressions. You don’t know who’s looking at your tweets and you don’t know what they’re looking for. Really, the only thing that you can guarantee is that the first thing they’ll look at is your most recent messages.

Because that’s how Twitter works. It’s about the here and now.

Stand by your words

But what if the last thing you tweeted was part of a conversation about something completely different to whatever your thing is? How will it look if the last time you posted it was in frustration, weather-related or, heaven forbid, a description of your last meal? What sort of first impression is that?

The answer, of course, is that it shouldn’t really matter. Those tweets are part of whoever you are. Or whoever you are online, at least. So why worry about it? Who cares what people see first? If they’re worth their salt, they’ll look beyond a handful of short internet messages. Won’t they?

Well yes, probably.

However, I do have this thing about being able to stand by everything I write. Not in terms of quality, necessarily, but certainly in tone.

It’s why I almost never swear on the internet. Not because I don’t swear in real life (I do), or because I object to other people swearing (I don’t). It’s because I want to make a good impression. And I’ve no idea who might be reading.

Consistency is key

Again, you never know when people are going to check your Twitter profile, Facebook page or blog for the first time.

You can’t control it and I can’t think of anything worse than micromanaging your online profiles in a way that means you only ever have your most brilliant tweets, status updates and posts at the top of the pile. That would be illogical, antisocial media.

If you care about first impressions, the one thing you can achieve is consistency. You can aim to always meet your own idea of what’s appropriate. It may be that someone stumbles across your writing, wherever it may be, and the first thing they read is far from ideal.

If you’re consistent, it won’t be the end of the world.

Who’d have thought?

This is what I’ve been thinking about. First impressions and consistency. I’ve also been thinking about why I’ve been thinking about it so much. And it’s because, I’ve decided, it’s important to me. I care what people think. It’s been a tiny revelation.

21 July 2012

Information for RSS subscribers

Hello everyone. Just a quick one to acknowledge that those of you who are subscribed to the site via the RSS feed are still seeing posts come through from Write for Your Life and not, well, Iain Broome. Of course, it doesn’t affect the actual content of the posts, but you may want to change it so that you can sleep at night.

Sadly, the only way to do that is to unsubscribe (noooo!) and then resubscribe to the feed (yeah!). I’ve tried everything my end, but apparently this is the only way it can be done. Thanks to Captain Hackett for the information.

That’s it! Have a lovely weekend.