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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Three New Categories Of Writing

The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio, via inversehypercube/wikimedia commons
By Antonio Litterio

WRITING FOR PLEASURE
This is how we all start. Telling stories is a compulsion as old as time. Once we discover our ideas can be made semi-permanent through the fascinating marks made by fat wax crayon, there’s no stopping us. Whether you keep a diary or create a best-selling series, the simple pleasure of opening a clean file or feeling a new page under your nib is unbeatable.
WRITING FOR PUBLICATION
This used to be a case of either catching the eye of a respectable publisher, or delving into the murky depths of vanity publishing. The first often meant jumping through hoops, then signing away some or all of your rights. The latter involved risking a lot of money to see your hard work turned into books - if you were lucky. The explosion of online possibilities means you don’t need the skin of a rhinoceros any more. The scourge of rejection is no longer a threat. Anyone with access to a computer can create, upload and offer an ebook for international sale. The downside is that an already crowded market has now been flooded with the type of writing publishers used to reject, together with self-published gems they will wish they'd been offered.

Vanity publishers may have competition now, but the need for deep pockets hasn’t gone away. It’s a good idea to invest in great cover art to make sure your book stands out from the millions of others, all clamouring for attention. Professional editing will make sure your text is a flawless read, but be warned - it can’t do much for your plot, or story-telling skills. Even poop can be polished until it shines.

WRITING FOR PROFIT
This is the Holy Grail of many writers. Seeing your name in print or on screen isn’t always enough. The newspapers love winners like Rowling or James, but most writers don’t hit those heights. If you’re making a thousand a year, count yourself lucky. That’s a good average. Unless you’re contracted to a major publishing house with a multi-book contract, writing is usually a lucrative part-time job, at best.

Of course, these three categories aren’t mutually exclusive. The walls are permeable. Commercially published writing may not sell. A privately published book might take off like a rocket. Something written with nothing but profit in mind may never recoup its costs, while a work with a tiny initial print run may find itself the centre of international attention. In the end, the only sure way to success is the same as it always has been - write from your heart, for your own pleasure. That’s always going to be the best way to appeal to your readership. And if you decide the only reader will be you, then you’ll have satisfied 100% of your audience–and that’s something not even William Shakespeare has ever managed to do.

What type of writing are you doing at the moment? Would you like to switch to a different category?