Saturday, 2 June 2018


In the 80’s when hair was permed and big and shoulders broad, I was a potter working towards my first ceramics exhibition. Then in 1987 my first novel was published. Thirty years later I’m still writing.

Last week, a question asked by a young man from HMS Census Dept: Does being a writer require any qualification? sparked my immediate reaction:  'Anyone can be a writer.' But after he left, I felt I had too easily dismissed the years and years of 'qualification.'

So in no special order, I’ve made a list of things that might smooth the process for a first-time published writer.

1. Celebrate being a debut author. The world loves a debut. It puts possibility in sight for anyone with aspiration. Even if the publisher doesn’t offer, have your own party. There’ll never be another debut book for you. So party on...

Illustration by Piet Grobler from my story Fiddle Dee Dee to be published soon by Otterbarry Books
Illustration by my friend Niki Day, from his book Welcome to Zanzibar Road. 
Illustration by my friend Fiona Moodie from her book Noko's Surprise Party published by Frances Lincoln
2. Plan in advance for how you think your book could be marketed or what events it might fit with. Don’t wait for the day it’s published. Publishers don't necessarily know everything.
Carol Thompson's marvellous tiger from her workshop for our book, My Daddy is a Silly Monkey, Otterbarry Books. 
3. Say thank you… thank you to everyone along the way – your editor, your agent, the bookshop, the librarian, the teacher, your foreign rights person. Grace generates grace.

4. Writing is a lonely business. Get out there. Do things… photography, fabric design, learn a new instrument, do high-wire trapeze… anything that involves other people.
Illustration by Piet Grobler from my book Fiddle Dee Dee to be published soon by Otterbarry Books

5. Join the SOA (Society of Authors). They are your Trade Union and lifeline for helping with Contracts, Questions on Tax, Copyright, Agents etc etc. and they’re a jolly nice crowd. Join Here. IBBY (International Board of Books for Young Children) is also worth joining. Also a jolly nice crowd! Join Here.

6. Don’t compare yourself to others. It's a bad habit. Your voice is unique.

7. If, like me, you are hopeless at paperwork, use an accountant. Look out for tax deductions. Have I said it before...? Join the SOA.

8. Only use social media if you’re comfortable with it. Choose what suits you best. If you write picture books, Instagram might work for you.

9. Write a good bio (high-wire trapeze? be sure to mention it) and insist on being introduced at events. It sends a much more positive message to an audience, than standing there saying… hi, I’m an author.

10. Even though you may already have signed 100 books, make eye contact with the person in front of you. It might be the first book that child or adult, will ever have signed.
Jane Ray signing at The Illustration Cupboard for her book Feather Girl pub by Frances Lincoln
Polly Dunbar signing at Daunts Bookshop, Marylbone High Street.

11. Be generous. Build a book community. Photograph friends’ books in bookshops and fairs. Send the message out there. Books are great!

12. Lastly – writers empower people. Why else have so many writers been imprisoned or banned over the centuries? Ovid was banned from Rome to Constanta in Romania in 8 AD for his writing, Beverley Naidoo’s Journey to Jo’burg, a children’s novel, was banned in the apartheid years of South Africa.

Beverley Naidoo reading When I Coloured in the World by Ahmadreza Ahmedi, illustr by Ehsan Abdollahi, Tiny Owl

So get out there. Empower people with your writing. Break boundaries. Break down barriers. Dream adventures. Explore down the rabbit hole. Open trapdoors to other worlds. Take courage and write! And most of all, have fun doing it. And feel free to add some more tips in your comments.

PS this blog is full of links to publishers and writers if you want to find out more.
Instagram: diannehofmeyr

Dianne Hofmeyr's next picture book TIGER WALK will be out in October this year and is illustrated by the very talented Jesse Hodgson and published by Otter-barry Books.


Lynne Benton said...

Great post, Dianne - and some useful pointers to remember. Many thanks!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

You're an old hand don't need these tips but we all forget too I suppose.

Rowena House said...

Lovely tips! I especially like the one about not comparing yourself to others. Non Pratt expressed this beautifully, too: 'Make peace with success however it comes.'

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Too true! And you could say... protect your own fragility.

Anne Booth said...

Thank you for those wise words - including the wise ones in these comments from you and Rowena (and Non Pratt!)