Last autumn I went on writing course run by Patricia Mullin at The Sainsbury Centre in the University of East Anglia. This was a fun and positive experience and Patricia packed in an immense amount of information and writing practise and managed our diverse group in the gentlest, most effective way. She has kindly posted a guest blog from me on her website:
One October day I found myself, aged 52, standing on top of a telegraph pole. Below me the rest of my ‘team’, five youngsters half my age, two of them clinging to the free end of my safety harness, were urging me to jump. At eye level to my right, but way out of reach, dangled the bar of a trapeze.
Another 867 words at Patricia’s blog…
A fascinating account. 4 degrees seems enough to be going on with. I’m waiting for the 4th book.
I’m working hard on the 4th (non-fiction), the whole ms goes to a commissioning editor of a suitable press tomorrow… I forgot that my blogging friends, as opposed to unknown struggling writers, would be reading this. The degrees sound boastful, but at the time I was considered to be skiving.
It definitely is a trade-off constantly to be negotiated, between writing and selling. For some of us, the one activity seems to make the other activity nearly impossible. It appears that even celebrities, with trade publishers, (and “best seller” applied to their titles even before a single copy is sold!) need to go on tiresome TV interviews and book- signing tours to godforsaken places to plug their books nowadays. Perhaps this is because everybody and his dog is writing a book….
You are right and I’ve always known that it was a buyer’s market, because there is such an oversupply of my kind of novel. That should be less true of poetry, which is far more difficult to pull off convincingly (as you very much do). I discovered a couple of years ago (when an agent rang) that I actually fear success, because it would limit my freedom so much. I feel privileged that I don’t have to live off my writing.
I simply don’t have what it takes to market. Foolishly, I had believed that would be done by my publishers’ marketing person; and the discovery that I was on my own was horrifying. You have done so much better than I, Hilary; especially taking into consideration the fact that I had only the one story to tell …
I think distance lends you a kindly eye. I have done very, very little to market any of my books. Like you, I believed the first one would be marketed by the publisher. I only ever did one reading for the launch of that one – no library lectures like you! I am still hoping for a full-time publisher for my non-fiction book and we’ll see if that makes any difference.
I so look forward to that time, Hilary ….
Yes, if I have to worry about publishing I would stop writing. I do it just for the enjoyment of it. Of course, I would be chuffed if publishing in book form came about as well.
I admire your determination and stamina, Hillary. I would probably collapse and faint in front of a publisher giving me an opinion of my work.
Mind you, I suspect they mainly look at the saleability of anything in print. They can’t live of love for books alone. I console myself that Vincent van G. never sold a single painting. ( But I am also no Vincent)
Sadly, publishing never ‘comes about’ (I’m not sure it ever did). Either the writer or, if they are very lucky, some influential ‘other’ has to go seek, beg, battle or pay to publish a book. You are right, though, unless they can sniff good sales publishers cannot afford to take a chance – and so they have to play a difficult guessing game with every manuscript they see.
An interesting and honest article. I’m completely with you on the choice between writing and selling and it’s a pity it has to be this way. I’m glad you get so much good feedback and I hope it continues to spur you on and provide the satisfaction you need as a writer. You deserve a wider audience, in my opinion, and I hope you get it in time to come.
You are very kind. My honest guess is that, without any advertising, shouting or begging, the readership will only diminish and I accept that. I am easily excited, so feedback from individual readers keeps me going.
It’s amazing how much encouragement you can get from a positive comment or two. That’s one of the things I like about the blogging world, it’s full of that sort of positivity.
You’ve done trapeze?? I haven’t done that one yet…
Sorry. Got distracted. (Squirrel!)
I think you’ve achieved remarkable things wearing all those team hats, sometimes all at once, no doubt.
There’s plenty of time… There’s a the weird thing, though, I remember jumping, and I guess I must have caught the trapeze as I don’t remember falling, but the clearest moment is standing on top of that pole and deciding to jump. I don’t do that kind of stunt as a rule and I have never done any running just lots of canoeing as a child. I can’t wear most of those hats, but being a mother certainly trains you in a variety of roles.
Isn’t that interesting? That you don’t remember actually catching the trapeze. That is weird.
My niece was posting photos of herself on Facebook doing trapeze last year and I so wanted to try it. Now she’s doing aerial silks but I think that’s a bit past me.
I seem to remember we did a lot of jumping and throwing ourselves off things and trusting our team mates, I like all of that. For me the challenge was to climb this pole and stand upright on it alone. I never thought I could do that.
I think it’s easier to promote someone else rather than yourself, when I do telesales in the holidays that’s easier than trying to persuade someone to book me for a recital, not so personal. You need an assistant 😊
You are absolutely right. I do a passable job promoting friend’s writing. But I can’t say – read this brilliant book buy HCG – because I know all the things that are wrong with it. I have actually taken courage from the way you do your promotion, because it works so well.
I’m happy promoting others, and just chatting. Luckily I have nothing to promote or market, and in no hurry to be published, either.
That sounds like a very good place to be, glad you enjoy it.
Here’s someone you really might like to look into!!
Thanks so much! I know Lizzie Oliver as a researcher and speaker at the conference and we talked about our mentor Rod Suddaby from the Imperial War Museum who died 18 months ago… but I didn’t know about her blog!
Great guest post, Hilary. It was fascinating to read more about your career, in academe and otherwise. It struck me, just recently, that I also fear success. I have grown more introverted over the years in some ways, now that I am not in a 9-to-5 world where I need to interact with large numbers of people, and so I cannot fathom the idea of having to market my writing (it feels too much like marketing myself, at which I am not terribly successful in real life!) in person. Social media-wise, it’s much easier. That is perhaps my saving consolation. As I believe you wrote here or on Ms. Mullins’ site in a comment, that publishers don’t just come to most authors. You have to get out there and work for it, and marketing is just one of the hats that must be worn, as you’ve depicted in relating your experiences of trapeze-ing and such at the team-building CRAC workshop (a wonderful acronym if there ever was one!). So, anyway, I’ve got to reconcile my desires for being read/published with my personality/persona and all within the milieu of platform and self-branding. A personality that is essentially, at times, solitary and self-sufficient. Always a work in progress, both of my self and of the art form I pursue.
The happy thing is that personality is a work in progress and can make surprising progress in unexpected directions – if there is something we want enough at the end of the road. I once thought about hiring someone to promote me and my writing, but apart from the cost, the idea seemed suddenly very funny as I would have to promote myself to the promoter.