Monday, 13 June 2011

Ten things I've learned from writing ten books (part 1)

I’ve been a writer for eleven years. In that time I’ve had ten books professionally published. My career started small—co-authoring an update of the Insiders’ Guide to Phoenix. That gave me the credibility to get my first solo title: Byzantium: An Illustrated History and I’ve been under contract for one or more books ever since. Currently, my main sources of income are writing military history books for Osprey Publishing and blogging for, the most popular travel blog on the Web. How did I do it? By quickly learning the following ten facts.

Networking is essential. I got my first book because a colleague recommended me. I got my blogging gig because a colleague recommended me. My recommendations have gotten other colleagues work. What goes around comes around. Of course you have to be a hardworking professional before anyone will recommend you, and you have to network with other professionals. Writers’ newsgroups and discussion boards are good support for beginners, but once you start writing professionally they aren’t so valuable.

The publishing world isn’t collapsing, it’s changing. Publishing is always changing; this just happens to be a bigger change. The major publishers aren’t going away. They have the capital and the clout and the bestselling authors. Magazines and newspapers aren’t going to all disappear either, although they’re losing a lot of market share to websites, like the one that pays me to write travel articles. Change means opportunity.

Steady work is essential. Constantly hustling for freelance gigs is exhausting. Find something that offers steady work and steady income. For me that’s blogging at Gadling. They pay me on time every month. Manna from heaven! Some publishers like having house authors who do one or two books a year. Focus on pitching those publishers.

Much of your work day is consumed by tasks other than writing. Networking, answering emails, editing, sending queries. . .the list goes on and on. Sometimes I think unpublished writers with day jobs actually have more time for writing than professionals! These tasks are essential, however, and can’t be ignored.

Work for hire is a good thing. My first guidebook and all my books for Osprey were work for hire. Some writers shun such contracts, but if it pays decently and advances your career, why not take the job? Elsewhere I’ve discussed the advantages of work for hire, as well as a surprising benefit of work for hire.

Tune in tomorrow for five more things I've learned from more than a decade in the publishing industry.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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