What I learnt from 7 authors & 1 publisher

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a APSS meeting thanks to Karen Leong, who is a really brilliant speaker cum inspiring friend of mine. I wouldn’t normally be found at a meeting targeted at nurturing speakers but this particular one had several published authors who were there to give valuable insights on the art of writing and publishing so Karen asked me along. =3 If you guys get the opportunity to attend such events, you should really go for it. You don’t just learn, you also meet people who could help you on your way!

Here are the esteemed authors who made their appearance at the meeting:

  • David Goldwich: Author of Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Win-Win Negotiation Skills, and Getting into Singapore
  • Eric Feng: Author of Get to the Point!
  • Christian Chua: Author of How to be a Success Magnet, From Singlish to English, The Essential Teenage Handbook (and more)
  • Mukul Deva: One of the pioneers of the Indian thriller novel, and Author of three bestsellers in three years.
  • Shirley Taylor: Author of 8 books and Series Editor of 8 books in the STTS Success Skills Series
  • Tremaine Du Preez: Author of Think Smart, Work Smarter in the STTS Success Skills Series (Korean translation rights bought within 5 days of publishing!)
  • Michael Podolinsky CSP, Pearson Prentice Hall author of 13 books

Now, only 1 of the 7 authors present was a fiction writer. The rest were all motivational speakers/authors but hey, the tips are valuable nonetheless so I shall share what I learned here. All you aspiring mangaka and writers who want to get started on your Great Novel/Manga had better sit up and take notes! =3

1) It is possible to complete a book within 20 days: According to Michael Podolinsky, all you have to do is block out 90 minutes every day to write. It doesn’t matter when you do it as long as you devote 90 minutes to just pure writing. Tremaine Du Preez did it by switching off all internet access and her handphone.

2) There is no such thing as a writer’s block: If you know your subject, if you have a life full of personal stories, if you have an outline that details what goes into your book, you shouldn’t even be complaining about a writer’s block at all. If you don’t know enough about your subject, then research research and research!

3) Make a contract with yourself or your friends and family to complete your project: Many of us procrastinate. I know I do so I end up not completing my Rainy Skies project as I should. =x BUT! If you make a solemn promise to yourself or your friends/family to deliver by a certain date, you can do it! As Mukul Deva mentioned during his talk, “Any fool can have a dream, unless you put a date to it.”

4) Give your readers what they want: A few questions that publishers will frequently ask aspiring writers/mangaka: will your book sell? Will it appeal to your target audience? Does it fill in a lack in the current market? While you’re penning your great work, do it with these questions in mind because according to the statistics compiled by Bowker, publisher of Books in Print®, an average of 336,814 books were published worldwide each year from 2002 to 2008. So to sum it up…how can your book stand out as a drop in the ocean?

5) Books sell best in series: What does JK Rowling, Laurell K Hamilton, Tite Kudo and Masashi Kishimoto have in common? They’re all bestselling creators with wildly popular series.

6) Come up with a plan: Shirley Taylor, who is another great speaker, showed us a template she used for her books. Since she’s a communication specialist, her books are more of the how-to variety. She divided her chapters into manageable sections that people can easily digest in an instant. Of course, we can’t do the same for fiction books or manga but at least come up with a plan. It’ll get you going when you run out of juice while writing or drawing. =3

7) Social media is your best friend: We’re now living in an age of social media. Involve your readers in your creation. Get them to run votes on the type of product they’ll like to see. Like what Eric Feng would say, “don’t just bake a cake, ask people what type of cake they want to eat.” Sounds logical hoh. He also mentioned that readers who get involved in your product are more likely to buy your book. Makes sense, doesn’t it? =3

8 ) Self publishing vs published by a publisher? Both have their plus points: We had this really handsome dude from Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) come in to talk to us about being published by a publisher such as MC. Chris Newson, who is the GM of MC told us that being published by a published is vastly different from being self-published because the publisher takes on the unenviable task of marketing. They will put your books in the bookstores, arrange for book signings etc etc. Oh, one thing he mentioned: bookstores are the worst places to launch a book because the general public don’t really give a damn about your book unless you are James Lee or JK Rowling or Tite Kudo. Chris then went on to recall how heartrending it was to organise book signings but no one turned up. =x

And if your book is launched at the same time as MM Lee’s book? Good luck, pal. =x Hence, social medial such as blogs are very very important in pushing your book into the public awareness. =3

Christian Chua is a self-publisher, but then again he owns a printing company of his own. While publishers sell in bulk, he sells his books by first doing a small print run, then sending free samples to his target audience. For example, Christian first printed 450 copies of a book before sending them as free samples to ALL the primary schools in Singapore along with an order form. Only after receiving orders did Christian run another bigger print run. =3

Another self-publishing benefit that Christian mentioned was the ability to cut side deals, like sponsorships if you happen to mention a particular brand/company (several times) in your book. =3

9) Work with the publisher you’re most comfortable with: Someone asked how to choose a publisher during a meeting and the general consensus among the guest speakers was this: work with someone you can click with.So what if Publisher A can give you 10 times as much upfront as compared to Publisher B, which makes a more affable partner? A long-term working relationship is what gives you the best opportunities and least headaches. =3

10) A book is really judged by its cover: I’ve said this before and I will say it again. Books are judged by their covers so do invest in a good designer or artist to do your cover or you will regret it. =x Go to the bookstore and sit there for a few hours like Eric Feng to find out what are the type of covers that attract people. Or run votes on your Facebook page to garner opinions. Trust me, a cover can really make or break your book sales. It’s just like how a pretty girl will catch your eye first before the average one will, right? =3

AND SO! The top 10 gems that I managed to glean from the meeting. It has been a really wonderful experience because everyone is such a good speaker! NO ONE, and I repeat, NO ONE stumbles over their words (like moi). T.T

And everyone was so energised, I felt thoroughly exhausted after the session. LOL. But hey…you guys should really go for such sessions if you can coz it’s really galvanising and inspiring. =3

In fact, I’m going to wake up earlier every day to write for 90 minutes! Girl Guide Promise! >.<

moon

Image: domdeen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net