Monday, March 19, 2012

Presenting a Professional Image – Part One

Carlie Cullen has agreed to share her thoughts on the business side of writing. It is something that many people struggle with, and unless you can master at least the basics you won't get far.
These days, authors have to work much harder to get their work in the public eye. We have to have an understanding of how to market ourselves and our books (especially those who indie or self publish); we have to network, maintain blogs and keep up a social media presence.

A great deal of this work is done behind the scenes so it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at your computer in scruffy jeans and a sweatshirt that could double as a wash rag for your car. BUT what does matter is your attitude. Let me explain . . .

A very good friend of mine is Senior Editor for a publishing company and obviously has a large number of manuscripts to read through and give feedback on. She confided in me recently that a proportion of writers go ballistic when given constructive criticism on how to improve their work in readiness for possible publication. How professional is that?

I was pretty gobsmacked by this. If you ask someone to beta read your work or you submit it to an agent or publisher, you should be prepared and ready to accept their opinion. Let’s face it – are any of us so perfect that we can submit a flawless manuscript first time every time? No, of course we’re not. We edit and revise over and over until we think it’s the best it can be, but there’s always room for another perspective, another opinion and improvement.

My writing is precious to me; I’ve nurtured it and watched it grow from a weak seedling to a strong forest. I’ve edited and revised several times before placing it in the hands of a beta reader. Yet, am I so arrogant about my work that their views don’t count?


I know my work isn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be and I know I’m too close to it to see the flaws. That’s why I welcome critique from industry professionals.

Now don’t go thinking I’m some kind of masochist and that I get a kick out of my blood, sweat and tears being trampled on with hobnail boots. What I do get a kick out of, is receiving good, honest, constructive criticism before I take that final step and submit my work for publication. I don’t want to embarrass myself or waste an agent’s or publisher’s time by sending a pile of crap – I want my work to have a strong voice not a whimper!

So before you ask someone to beta read your work, ask yourself if you are ready to receive feedback that you may not like. If the answer is ‘no’ then don’t send it! If you can’t take constructive criticism without spitting the dummy then how professional are you being? Is your beta reader likely to want to help you in the future? Remember, publishing is a business (and a damn hard one at that) and if you can’t be professional in your business dealings then you won’t get very far.

As for me – I say, bring on the hobnail boots! I’ll listen, I’ll learn, I’ll improve, I’ll be professional and I WILL go far!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Carlie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge

For those of you who have done Flash Fiction before, you know how this works. You have a month to write a short piece of any genre. It could be fiction, non-fiction, life-writing, or even a poem – the choice is entirely yours. Last month’s experimental word count proved to be a tad too small, so for your challenge this month you have 1,000 words to play with! Don’t panic if you fall shy – it’s a maximum limit and you don’t have to use the full allotment if you don’t want to. Previously some people have had difficulty sticking within the word limit so you have an extra 10% to play with: that’s 1100 in total!  
This month is a proverb, a theme. If you can fit the words in then go for it – but don’t feel that you have to; sometimes it’s better to leave it unsaid, if saying it would ruin the story.
This month’s idea: Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Remember: the deadline is Saturday 7th April and you must mark on your email whether you want your piece critiqued or just read.

Good Luck Everyone

P.S. If you missed the last meeting and want to give the challenge a go, then send them to

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Essex Book Festival Launch

On Thursday the Essex Book Festival was launched at Chelmsford Library and it was a big success with BBC Essex transmitting live, providing background music for us, and holding interviews with local authors and publishers! Check out the Dave Monk show at 9am Thursday 1st on to hear them - but be aware that BBC iPlayer only hold onto programmes for a week before deleting them!

Immediately upon entry you encountered Jane, holding court at the Friends of Essex Book Festival table. It’s unclear how many people she managed to ensnare by being in such a prominent position – hopefully we’ll find out soon! J

It wasn’t just for adults though; there was plenty to occupy the children. Just Imagine, the children’s bookstore had a stall selling their books and advertising their groups, elsewhere there was a table where you could make your own bookmarks.

Towards the back of the area was the section for reading and writing groups. Believe it or not, Writebulb weren’t the only ones there. I had quite a nice chat with the guy from the Brentwood Writer’s Circle who was at the next table. Thank you to Justine, Bev and Chris for coming down to help out! A few people stopped by and showed some interest – so with any luck we might get a few more members!

There were a few low points to the event though. The groups were a little too far out of the way – almost like we were the poor relations and we didn’t get as much traffic as those in the main area. Another low point was the organisation. I was talking with the deputy mayor and he said that he was invited along as he is an author; he was very disappointed that his book was nowhere to be seen.

Overall it was an amazing morning and there was a general buzz of excitement from the very young to the very old about the wonderful world of books, a world that continues to capture the locals of Essex if the big turn-out is anything to go by!