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Spread Your Talent

August 11th, 2016

tennysonsgif4thestate-blogI was reading an interview in the paper last weekend with best-selling author James Patterson. To date he’s sold more than 350 million books – but he was rejected by 31 publishers before his first novel ‘The Thomas Berryman Number’ was published in 1976. So, if you’ve had your fair share of rejections, don’t despair!

When asked what advice he’d give to others he was quoted as saying, “Writers always ask me how they should market their books. My advice is, don’t worry about that. Just start your next book. Just write.”

Sounds good, but I suspect it only really works if you already have a publisher, are earning lots of money for them and you are famous. For us mere mortals, in an age where getting an agent, let alone a publisher, seems nigh on impossible, I don’t really think it works. Publishers are having their promotional budgets cut all the time and the onus to generate self-publicity is falling more and more upon the author. And if you choose to self-publish, you’ve no alternative but to use every means at your disposal to reach the reading public. The thought of sitting at home beavering away at book after book may sound comforting but it’s not going to get a novice writer noticed.

I think if you asked me what my best piece of advice was, I’d suggest having a number of writing projects on the go at the same time – don’t just concentrate on one. Especially if it’s a novel.

If you’re a non-fiction writer working on articles, then take some time to send out a few readers’ letters; or try your hand at writing short stories. You could even put a certain amount of time aside each week for looking out for and entering competitions.

And if you’re writing a novel then it’s even more important to diversify. It’s a long, hard, slog and you’re pinning all your hopes on it. You may not have the finished item for months (even years). So make sure you’ve some other projects on the go where you get more instant feedback and, hopefully, success to keep you motivated.

Still on the theme of successful authors, Lynne Truss’s book on punctuation – ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ has now sold over three million copies world-wide. It’s an unlikely best seller, but whether you just like writing – or you’re planning to be a proofreader – I’d strongly recommend it. It’s light, easy to follow and witty – not something you can often say about tomes on punctuation.

But she’s not just an author of non-fiction. I’ve recently finished reading her novel ‘Tennyson’s Gift’. It’s based on the rather peculiar literary and artistic community that flourished around the Poet Laureate, Alfred Tennyson, on the Isle of Wight in the mid-nineteenth century. It’s a quirky little book, but it made me laugh out loud in places. And as I went through it I found myself googling facts and characters to find out more about them. She’s obviously taken plenty of ‘poetic license’ but there are still lots of interesting facts woven into the narrative. I love being educated and entertained at the same time – and not many authors can pull it off with such a deft touch.

Talking of great poets, our Limerick Competition has now closed and next week I hope to be able to announce the winners and let you see how limericks should be written! So until then…

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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