Friday, 15 April 2011
Diversification or How to survive as a writer - Linda Strachan
'We're all doomed! DOOMED!' as Private Fraser (played by actor John Laurie) used to say, in Dad's Army.
And if you listen to all the reports of the book trade (and elsewhere) these days, you might believe he is right. But being of an optimistic nature, I just don't believe it.
Yes, there are no doubt hard times ahead and there will undoubtedly be casualties, there always are, and the best route to becoming one of them is to start thinking negatively.
Let's face it, no one in their right mind becomes a writer to make their fortune. Or if they do they are soon abused of the notion as harsh reality forces them to look again. Most of us realise that it is going to be a precarious living at best and if fortune smiles on us, and our books become best sellers - well, all to the good.
So how do we survive in these difficult times. I think one way is to look around at different ways you can ply your craft, different avenues that will provide an income stream but still allow you to keep true to your inner muse. There are various ways to do this and I believe that as writers for children we have a few more possibilities than our counterparts, who write solely for adults.
Diversification. That's the trick.
First of all, as a published writer in one age group, have you thought about trying to write for a different age level, perhaps picture books, teenage or 7-9 yrs. Or writing non fiction if you usually write fiction.
Have you thought about writing for book packagers - where they create a series, characters and plot lines and ask you to write within these guidelines? It is not for everyone but worth trying- you may find you actually enjoy it.
Writing for the primary school educational market is another option, books that are written to strict specifications for use in teaching children to read. You don't have to be (or have been) a teacher to do this, the publishers will give you very detailed briefs to follow - but the time scales are often quite tight. If you have training in a particular subject, writing for the secondary school market is more specialised, but also a possibility.
It is possibly the right time to look in other directions, too. Script or playwriting, for theatre, TV or radio, there are always courses available and it will add another string to your bow.
Magazine articles. Do you have a hobby or company magazine that you might be able to write a fun or interesting article for.
If none of these work for you perhaps you might be interested in passing on your skills as a creative writing tutor - this can vary from local authority night classes, writing groups to tutoring residential courses.
In these harder times spending a bit of time promoting yourself and your books is never wasted, and could make you a more appealing candidate for a new publisher. Especially if you can show that you can not only write well, but are willing to help give your books a push with social networking or blogging etc.
Networking, going to conferences and talks where you can meet people in the industry, can only help your understanding of what is going on and also help to put a face to the name - if you have to contact people at a later date- but remember to be NICE, so that any contact you make will recall your name with pleasure and not horror!
These are only some ways of diversifying and with some thought you can probably think up others, or a new angle to one of the above that is particularly suited to you, your own personality and abilities.
The most successful entrepreneurs are not so very different from the rest of us, they have just taken time to think outside the box, and then had the courage to try something new. So why not give it a go, you have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain!
Linda Strachan is an award winning author of over 60 books for children of all ages from picture books to teenage novels. Her writing handbook WRITING FOR CHILDREN features many of the areas of writing described above.