Monday, 7 November 2016

NCW Graduate Fair 2016 - Part 1: Panels and Talks

On Friday, Sophie Claire and Louise Marley attended the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University. Organised by Comma Press and The Manchester Writing School, there were panels and workshops on a variety of subjects, AND the chance to pitch to a literary agent!

In this post, Louise summarises the main points from the panels she attended on digital publishing and social media. In Part 2, coming tomorrow, Sophie will share her experience of pitching her novel to two literary agents!

Reaching Your Audience:
Creating a Presence in Public and Online

Tom Ashton: Literary Assistant, Kate Nash Literary Agency, founder of The Writers Quibble
Kate Field: Director of Openstories
Sarah James: Poet, Blogger
Chaired by:
Joe Stretch: Manchester Writing School

Tom: Encourages his authors to try and spend around about an hour a day using social media. Sometimes this can be a struggle but he suggests reviewing a book you’ve enjoyed on Goodreads, or blogging, or creating and sharing content on Twitter. He recommends using Facebook and LinkedIn, but particularly Twitter. Publishers will look up an author on Twitter, and if an author already has an online presence it saves them work. However, as it can take time to build up a presence, he recommends starting now. Follow people in the publishing industry and engage with others – don’t just retweet. Make full use of hashtags to share content and find the kind of things you’re interested in. Ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I love that can be shared on the internet?’

Kate: Blogging is great but ask yourself if it is a good investment of your time. In the past, when there were fewer bloggers, it did break down barriers into publishing; now, not so much. Quality is very important. Start small and then, when you are established, expand. But don’t tie yourself in knots trying to do everything. When will you have time to write the book? Publishers and agents will love it if you blog, but accept that you won’t have so much time to use Twitter, for example. Use your judgement about what is best for you. Follow writers you love on social media and see how they do it.

A question was asked about the importance of having a website.

Kate: It is very important to have your own website. A publisher will create one for you but it is better to have one of your own that you can control. You can set them up for free. It is the perfect place for people to find you, find out about you and your work, and for them to get in touch with you. But you must regularly update it.

A question was asked about what to do if you feel you have failed to connect with others on social media.

Tom: These things take time. Try different things to see what works.

Kate: We’re writers, we’re used to rejection! Failure happens! Yes, you might screw it up but that’s the only way you learn.

Sarah: Sometimes it might be just because it’s a quiet time on Twitter. Find stuff you like that works for you. You will always find more energy for sharing the things you love on social media.

Kate: Be kind and generous. Think carefully about the public persona you are creating. People like to see the personal stuff, to see that you have a personality and a sense of humour.

Joe: Shut up the voice inside you that says you’re too old, too young, whatever. But if you’re not enjoying using social media, and know that you are not coming across as ‘you’, then stop doing it. But yes, you might be ignored, but if you are honest, humane, and animate your writing, the audience will come.

Disruptive & Digital Publishing
The Short Way Round (Panel)

Tracy Bloom: Self-published Author
Valerie O’Riordan: Senior Editor, The Forge
Dr Lyle Skains: Co-investigator of the Reading Digital Fiction Project
Chaired by
James Draper: Manchester Writing School

Tracy Bloom

In 2012 Tracy self-published her first novel, No one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday. It got to #1 and sold over 250,000 copies. In 2012 sales relied on heavy discounting, and traditional publishers didn’t want to know about ebooks; now they are very keen. The cost of producing an ebook is low and there is the opportunity to make a lot of sales. Now there are a lot of ebooks discounted to 99p, including new novels by established authors, and all publishers have digital imprints.

Asked if she preferred traditional or self-publishing, Tracy explained that there were pros and cons to both. With self-publishing the author has control over everything, including the title and the book cover. This doesn’t happen in traditional publishing and it can be hard to hand over the control. But with traditional publishing the author has the opportunity to work with great editors and see their books on shelves and in shops. Self-publishing takes a lot of time and energy, and success can depend on genre (literary fiction does not sell so well).

Valerie O’Riordan

The Forge is an online magazine set up by a group of writing friends who had submitted stories to magazines for years and decided they could do better. They chose to set it up as an online magazine, partly due to the cost of producing a physical copy. This meaning they can afford to pay their authors.

They have a lot of submissions and a reach they wouldn’t have achieved with print. They give feedback where appropriate (usually a couple of lines of constructive criticism) unless the submission is completely wrong for them (something they wouldn’t publish). 

Lyle Skains

Inter-active digital fiction is a good experimental technique for a writer but perhaps not so much for a reader. Different links going different ways can mean the reader is pulled out of the story by having to make a choice what to read next. Would the reader like an informed decision about where the story is going, or prefer it to be random? Then there is narrative arc satisfaction. When you read a book, you are on a journey with the characters and worry what will happen to them. Non-linear stories sometimes repeat and take that experience away. But from a writer’s point of view, it is interesting to see what can be done with it.

Writing Life & The Next Step
(A series of 15 minute talks)

Unfortunately Louise missed Andrew’s talk, arriving only in time for the conclusion:

Just write a good story. Don’t worry about selling thousands of copies. Write because you are passionate about writing. But if you think you’re going to make millions you’ll be sadly disappointed.

When Monique asked her students what aspect of writing they were struggling with, it wasn’t plot or characterisation but ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Can I do it?’

Cultivate patience when it comes to learning your craft. Don’t send out your first draft. If approaching agents, try six at a time but then wait for feedback before sending it out again. Work on the premise that one day you will get published.

Accept that you are going to have do some research, even if your story is about something you think you know.

Keep your old work. If you have a story which is not working, sometime in the future you might learn how to fix the problem and get it published.

Writers are still working in solitary confinement. Make friends with other writers – not just ‘Facebook friends’ but writers in real life. No one understands a writer like another writer!


The National Creative Writing Graduate Fair

Related Posts:
Manchester LitFest 2015 by Sophie Claire
Writing: Getting Serious by Louise Marley

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