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Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (April 2013)

Writing Novels in Australia has reached the end of its fourth month of articles for 2013, from this year’s line-up of monthly contributors encompassing aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelists.

You can connect with Writing Novels in Australia on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

– provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

– relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for April 2013

Prose Cliches And Originality When Writing Novels by Greg Barron

Proofreading A Novel Manuscript by Phillipa Fioretti

What Makes A Bad Writer (And How To Avoid It) by Lia Weston

Life As A Newly Published Novelist by Jenn J McLeod

Why Have A Literary Agent? by Alison Booth

Finding Inspiration For Your Stories by Kelly Inglis

How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel? by Onil Lad

The Business Of Being A Novelist by Helene Young

Starting A Novel With A Great First Sentence by Ben Marshall

This month’s articles and writing my novel

Helene Young wrote: Has it ever been enough to simply write a unique and compelling story? I suspect not. In today’s climate with the debate raging over the longevity of books, and traditional publishing versus self-publishing, it’s even more crucial that a writer has a game plan. […]
As a writer you are both product and producer, so you have two briefs to write for your business plan. Before you can do that, however, think about defining what it is you want from your writing career.

Lia Weston wrote: What makes you a bad writer is refusing to deal with criticism.

Helene makes a good point that writing a story is not sufficient to get lots of people reading your story. If this is to happen, word has to spread somehow. Maybe you or your agent will get publishers in multiple countries to publish the book in particular countries or languages, with each publisher investing in a marketing and publicity campaign and ongoing support for your novel. Maybe your agent will find you lots of publicity opportunities. Maybe your existing family, friends and acquaintances will buy your novel or read a free copy you give them then blog about it, review it on bookseller websites and recommend it to their family, friends and acquaintances. Maybe you will do lots of interviews and guest articles. Maybe you or your publisher/s will buy some advertising. Maybe a journalist from your local newspaper will write something about you.

The bottom line is that this has to happen somehow if you’re going to find lots of readers, so it’s worth considering in advance how you can help this happen. This is important for novelists published by major publishers but crucial for self-publishing novelists, as you don’t have major publishers working behind the scenes to market and publicise your novel (not to mention major publishers’ extensive established business relationships with distributors, retailers and media outlets, and their extensive networks of contacts on social media sites and email-lists). In general, publishers want their novelists to be pro-active in connecting with readers – so the publisher can amplify your efforts and you can amplify the publisher’s efforts to publicise you and your work, creating a win-win situation.

Whatever you do for marketing and publicity, don’t irritate people with unwanted appeals for them to buy your novel. The more people you reach with this tactic, the more people who will make a mental note to avoid you, so they don’t encourage you to keep annoying them, and to not work with you in the future, because your sales tactics would be a liability. If you want people to discover your novel, do an interview, a blog post, a guest blog post, a social media update about how you’re going with your work-in-progress, put an image of your newly-confirmed cover design on a social media site, or a photo of newly-arrived proof copies of your book, or photos from your book launch, or any number of other things that people will find interesting and from which they will gain some value. Think what you’re offering other people, not just what you want from them. If your social media updates and photos, blog posts, guest blog posts, interviews, etc are valuable to other people, many of them will click through to your author site to discover what you’ve written and how they can buy it.

It’s also worth considering what your novel itself offers readers, not just what it offers you as the writer. Of course, your novel can be very meaningful to you and also offer something valuable to readers. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

Taking my novel-in-progress as an example, it’s meaningful to me as an exploration of human behaviour at a very significant turning point in world history – the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which brought the Great Powers of Europe into conflict and precipitated World War 2. It also personally interests me to go beyond the typical textbook and history book accounts of this setting to investigate the day-to-day human dimension of life in Poland in late 1939. However, this novel is intended for teenagers (and adults) and I know that some, or maybe most, readers will care much more about the characters and the personal conflict they are working through in the story than the historical setting and its significance in world history. Luckily, I also have an interest in storytelling which transcends time and place while still being firmly situated in a specific setting. The story’s appeal would be much more limited if it hinged on a reader having a pre-existing interest in 1939 Poland. The novel will offer readers a story of friendship, family, adolescence, adventure, loyalty, courage, suspense, historical drama, a catalyst for readers of Polish or German ancestry to learn more about their family history, and more. It’s up to each reader which aspects appeal to them more strongly or less strongly. If the historical significance of the story rates as a non-issue for a particular reader, maybe they love stories of adolescence and friendship, or maybe they love stories of loyalty and adventure. Part of the personal appeal for me is also to provide a novel that lots of readers can connect with strongly and which can be a catalyst for further independent thought.

So I’ve thought about the story but how will I find readers?

Some things I have in mind include:
– a blog with things like history articles to provide extra resources for readers interested in the historical setting and its significance in relation to World War 2, to the history of Poland and Germany, and to world history; character profiles; my research methods and resources used; my writing process; study/discussion guides for schools, writers and writing groups; and more
– social media pages/profiles for readers and writers to connect with me and the book online, so they can stay up-to-date with these additional resources and other news about me and my novel
– interviews and guest blog posts for book blogs, other authors’ blogs and group blogs for authors

These are the kinds of things any novelist can do with little or no financial investment and with little standing in the industry or public profile, regardless of who publishes your novel. If people are searching for the kinds of resources I offer, they might come across them through search engines. If people like the resources and news I offer, they might ‘Like’ or share it with others, who might also ‘Like’ or share it, or connect with me or the novel on a social media site. Of course, there are also options like arranging author profiles in national newspapers, book tours, library and bookstore events, paid advertising, literary festival and writers’ conference appearances, and so on, but these tend to require having the appropriate contacts, some level of industry standing or public profile, or financial investment.

Whether writing your novel or connecting with readers: Be creative. Assess your options and come up with a plan that works for you and your readers.


‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Teen Novels.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.


Writing Novels in Australia


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