A lot of people think that the life of an author involves nothing but writing. If only that were true!
Setting aside the fact that most authors don’t make enough money from their writing to do it full time (and thus have to hold down another job in addition to their writing career) there are a lot of other components that go into being a professional writer that often go overlooked. And public speaking would have to be the big daddy of them all.
Before I was published, I’d heard of writers being provided with media training by their publishers and thought I may experience something similar. As it turned out, I was more or less thrown in the deep end and had to learn along the way. Thankfully, I’d attended enough author events to have an idea of what was expected of me, but it’s one thing being an audience member and something completely different to actually be the focus of attention.
In high school, I’d been a bit of a drama nerd, acting in a few plays and even writing one (it was our Year 12 production and it was terrible…but hey, I was 16! Or 17. I think. It gets harder to remember as you get older).
I was really thankful that I had that background to draw on when heading out on the promotional trail. I used my experience on the stage to help channel my stage fright, to project my voice, and to keep the audience’s attention.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to learn…and still do! As with many things in life, you only learn through doing, and you only get better through experience. As it stands now, I still get nervous before an event, and think of all the things I should have said afterwards.
But as it turns out, the in-between part? Where you’re actually onstage, interacting with the audience? It can be a lot of fun.
So if you’re looking to be a professional author, there are a few things you’ll have to make peace with now. Unless you’re very lucky, your contract won’t be of the “Rich and Famous” variety. They reserve that for high-profile non-fiction writers (aka celebrities), self-published authors with phenomenal sales numbers to back them up, and vunderkind [vunderkinds?].
The rest of us will be published almost anonymously, and you’ll have to fight to get people’s attention. In doing that, you should say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity you’re offered to go out into the world and talk about your book. And you’re going to have to work out for yourself how to do that in a way that’s both entertaining and informative.
The first step in developing those skills (short of attending a public-speaking course) is to go see other authors and pick what works best. Discard the rest.
It may not be what you imagined the life of a writer to be, but I promise you that it’s essential. And along the way, you may even have fun.
I’ve been meaning to write a new post for some time now, and while my usual excuse has to do with ‘Life’, this time it has to do with writing. Unexpectedly, I’m about a quarter of a way into writing a new book that I hadn’t planned to tackle at this stage. I’m still very much in that honeymoon period, where the ideas are rushing out of you and the whole endeavour is proving strangely enjoyable (I say strangely because I still vividly remember the painful process of getting both War Zone and Wild Card out into the world). Fingers crossed that the words continue to stream out of me and this becomes a story I can share with you all before too long.
The Goodreads competition for War Zone has now closed – congratulations to those who won and thanks to everybody who entered! In case you haven’t seen it yet, the first review has gone up on Goodreads, though be warned that it contains some mild spoilers. If you don’t want to know one of the main mysteries of the book, I suggest waiting until after you’ve read it yourself before checking it out.
Listening: Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes.
Watching: ER Season 2.
Reading: Railsea by China Mieville.