Last week I posted about five things I learned from the Leicester Writes festival of new writing – specifically from the events on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 June. Here are five more things I learned over the weekend, this time at Sunday’s events.

1. Don’t do it for the money

Remember why you write; remember what inspires you – and what you want to communicate to your readers. Even the professional writers at the event who make a living from writing don’t usually do it from one type of writing alone. Novelists and poets have side projects in writing for TV, film and radio, and are involved with theatre and the spoken word. You need to cast your net wide. And working 9 to 5 is a perfectly acceptable way to make a living. If you want to write, you will find the time to do it.

There are exceptions, of course. Famous people and best sellers. Even if you’re a brilliant writer, you probably won’t be one of them.

Nikesh Shukla behind lectern

Nikesh Shukla making an inspiring gesture

2. Online marketing is hard work but you should do it

You are at the top of your own priority list, but not at the top of anyone else’s (except possibly your partner’s and your parents’). The publishing industry won’t create momentum for you. Take control of your own marketing. “The internet is your friend,” as Nikesh Shukla said. “It’s a tool to help you do your job.”

Online marketing won’t always help you to sell books. Even a viral video won’t necessarily increase book sales. You still need to do it, though, to raise your profile. You can also use the internet in other ways; to help you find collaborators, for instance, like a great illustrator, or getting you a slot at a festival.

3. Read, read, read

Speaks for itself. Read. Not just books that appeal to you, but look at books you don’t like and see if you can work out why they’ve been successful.

4. Get critical feedback

The best thing you can do is get people’s honest opinions. Join writing groups and online forums where you can get constructive criticism.

Authopods is a group of writers interested in publish-on-demand. Although their website is themed around West Cumbria, they are keen to expand their online presence to support writers around the country. Publish-on-demand authors can feel the lack of a helping hand from a publisher or editor; Authopods aims to put them in contact with other writers who can provide feedback and discussion.

5. Plough your own furrow

There’s no such thing as ‘have to’. You don’t have to write every day. You don’t have to write what you know. The only thing you have to do is write!

Catherine Dunn

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