Tag Archives: writers

We Write. Are We Professional?

 

Writers lead exciting lives. We can sit in the safety of our homes or cafes or wherever we choose to write and have amazing adventures through our words. As George R. R. Martin wrote in one of his novels,

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads lives only one.”

A writer lives those thousand lives as well.

Who are we who call ourselves writers?

We are ethnically diverse, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but share a passion for writing. We publish, some of us are highly successful, some not. Many published authors would refer to themselves as professional writers. The question is, are we?

 

What is a Professional?

 

Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.

The attributes of a professional:

  • Appearance
  • Demeanor
  • Reliability
  • Competence
  • Ethics
  • Maintaining Poise
  • Phone Etiquette
  • Written correspondence
  • Organizational Skills
  • Accountability

These attributes should be self-explanatory. We should in all circumstances be neat in appearance, calm and respectful, reliable in completing tasks or arriving for meetings, and all the other skills listed. All are important, but competence requires considerable study and experience in our chosen profession. Whether accountant, nurse, musician, or writer, this behavior should be our norm.

 

The Pathway to Writing.

Words are an author’s musical notes, brush strokes, or accounting formulas, surgical techniques, grammar rules, or any other skill required to become successful in a profession. If, as writers, we consider ourselves artists, then we need to gain competency in our art and develop the attributes that represent professionalism.

Perhaps as a child, you exhibited a talent for playing an instrument, for singing, or for drawing. While not all children with demonstrated talent will become professional musicians, singers, or artists, the training for those who do invariably begins at an early age.

The path for artists is an arduous one. Countless hours of instruction and practice, learning not only the instrument, steps, or shapes but how to perform with others. Years of preparation, mentoring, and often formal study at a university is required for a career in music or art. Higher education is not required for either a career in music or the arts, but the additional training only increases expertise. Also, artists often have another hurdle before they can perform. They may be required to audition to join an orchestra or dance company.

But what about writers? In truth, writers also begin training at an early age. Primary and secondary education provides the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and creative writing. Some may continue on to college where they can major in creative writing or journalism.

Those who choose not to pursue an academic path to writing can find a myriad of articles and lessons on the Internet. Enter ‘how to write dialogue’ into a search engine, and the number of articles offered is staggering. The issue becomes which of those articles are credible and which ones are not. With the voluminous amount of material available, sorting through it to find what works for you can be daunting and confusing but necessary.

 

The Impact of Self-Publishing on Professionalism

 

With the advent of self-publishing, the number of authors choosing that route has reached an all-time high. An article by Dan Balow, from The Steve Laube Agency website, states, “Traditional and self-publishing generate over one million new books every year in the U.S. alone, according to RR Bowker. Two-thirds are self-published.”

That’s a lot of authors, and the question is how many of them have taken the time and effort to hone their craft and learn how to write. Unfortunately, not as many as should have. The areas of greatest impact on the level of quality for published books according to Barlow are:

 

  • Collegial control. A give and take relationship between publisher and author where negotiation is required to produce a satisfactory agreement for both.
  • Traditional publishing can take as long as eighteen months. Self-publishing can happen soon after “The End” is typed onto the manuscript.
  • Quality of the manuscript. Editing a manuscript is never completed, but all efforts should be made to create a flawless Often, self-published authors do little editing.
  • Length of manuscript. There are industry standards based on what readers expect that the self-publishing world often ignores. This alone can create dissatisfied readers.
  • Book cover. One of the most important components of a novel, the cover attracts the reader to pick up the book, read the blurb, and be interested enough to purchase. Too many self-published authors do not take proper care with the creation of their cover and shortchange themselves.

 

These are all important issues that all authors need to be cognizant of even with the assistance of a traditional publishing house. To be a professional as a writer, these are all issues that you must address as part of the competency attribute.

There is one aspect of publishing that many authors, traditionally published or not, have to deal with and it can be the most important task they undertake. Marketing their book.

We welcome others buying our novels for enjoyment. To accomplish that goal, marketing is a requirement. If we are fortunate enough to have an agent or a traditional publishing house represent us, we might have help in offering our product to our readers.

The cold facts are that total marketing support is rare for today’s authors unless they are already proven revenue generators. Many writers turn to self-publishing or small independent publishers where marketing more than likely falls to the author, and few are qualified to promote their books. How we accomplish that task can define us a professional and establish how we are perceived in the marketplace.

 

The Interview

 

There are numerous avenues open to marketing books, but the most personal is the interview. From local papers and magazines to a written interview on the internet, podcasts, radio and television appearances, and book signings, the interview reveals the author behind the book. Being able to make the connection with the journalist or host is imperative.

The hosts of these media platforms offer their services, their expertise, and the most important commodity, their time. While some media organizations charge, the services are usually free for authors.

This provides tremendous opportunity to communicate with potential readers and one that can lead to repeat interviews, not only keeping the author in front of the public but also keeping their book and future books in the spotlight. An important tool for any author to utilize.

A common lament among these hosts is that authors do not respond to emails or messages, are not available at the time of the interview, or cancel at the last moment without a valid reason. Some answer the written interviews, returning the questions without bothering to edit. Some do not follow through on promoting the interview across social media. Not only a must for the author but also for the host who has provided the service.

However, the behavior that was the most disturbing to these hosts was how many authors they interviewed who never said thank you.

We discussed the attributes of professionals. Here are how those attributes relate to writers.

 

  • Appearance – Dress appropriately for a face to face interview or a book signing/reading.
  • Demeanor – Be respectful, considerate, pleasant, and have a good sense of humor.
  • Reliability – Be on time, provide materials requested
  • Competence – Learn your craft.
  • Ethics – Your reputation is at stake, always maintain integrity.
  • Maintaining Poise – Be prepared for uncomfortable questions by hosts or readers, stay calm.
  • Phone Etiquette – Interviewing by phone requires you to answer clearly and concisely, then pause, and wait for the host to speak so that you do not talk over them.
  • Written correspondence – Bios should be as short as possible and written in third Interview questions should be answered thoroughly and edited for good sentence structure and grammar.
  • Organizational Skills – Be prepared, have whatever notes you need with you and practice answers to questions that could arise about your book, your writing style, etc.
  • Accountability – You have agreed to submit answers to written questions or be available at a specified time for an interview or book signing and should honor those commitments.

And one last thing: A simple thank you to your host is respectful and will build a bond between you and a person who can be valuable to your future as a writer.

 

Are Writers Professional? We Can Be.

In this era of self-publishing, anyone can publish a book. Have a laptop and you, too, can be a published author. You don’t need a college degree, or an editor, or a book cover designer. You can do it all. But if you want to approach your writing as a professional, study your craft through an educational facility or study information available on the internet. Use an editor so your manuscript will be as error-free as possible, focus on a quality book cover, and be prepared to market your work. Most of all, be kind and say thank you to those who are helping to make you a success.

Article written by Deborah Ratliff

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Resources:

www.goodreads.com/quotes/georgerrmartin

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-characteristics-professionalism-greg

https://stevelaube.com/self-publishing-changed-authors/

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Joshua Mitchell-Taylor: Hiring an Illustrator

 

Our guest columnist today is children’s book illustrator and animator Joshua Mitchell-Taylor who is offering a guide for writers to understand the process of hiring an artist. His suggestions on what you need to know as a writer and how the creative process unfolds are invaluable for writers of any when searching for an illustrator.

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Hiring an Illustrator

By: Joshua Mitchell-Taylor

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(Illustration by Joshua Mitchell-Taylor)

I am a freelance children’s book illustrator and animator. During this past year collaborating with clients in various specialties of illustration, I have noticed that many potential clients struggle with finding the right illustrator for the job. Is it the amount of experience someone has, or their portfolio that speaks for them during the hiring process?

I have promoted my services as a children’s book illustrator for over a year now, and there are many questions that I receive from potential clients. Can you illustrate this style for me? How much do you charge for your services? Do you have a portfolio I can look at? How do I get in touch with you? Any illustrator would be able to answer all these questions. However, all these must be asked before a project can begin. That is where the negotiations take place and laying down the foundation to a successful working relationship.

The fields of specialty I can cover are character designs, graphics design, children’s picture books, comic books and many others.  Every project is unique in content and style. I remember my illustration tutor telling the class about developing your own style, and to an extent, I agree with this. What I also believe is that as an illustrator, you have to be ready to adapt to any style that comes to you. Allow an illustrator the chance to draw a character in the style you aim towards your project, as it will help you know if they are the right fit.

There can be arrangements made for how to tackle each task as the writer and illustrator. Communication is essential to any successful project. I talk with my clients via email about the projects we work on. Social media is another place that has grown more popular over the years to talk through, and I have recently discovered the potential of promoting my services there as well.

My recommendation to writers is thorough research into these aspects for your children’s books. Do you want an existing style of an artist that is already published? Do you prefer the artists’ personal style to tell your story? Is there a deadline needed for the book to be finished by the illustrator?  How is payment going to be sent to the various specialists to bring your book to life?  You won’t just have to think about hiring an illustrator, but also a publisher.

Once you have answered those questions, find out the process that the illustrator creates his/her work. Do they draw on paper and then use watercolours to give a more natural feel to the page? Is there a specific piece of software the illustrator works on? During my years studying Digital Animation with Illustration at Futureworks, Manchester, I began to piece together that the digital world was impacting more every day into the illustration and animation industries. Artists are exploring software such as Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk’s Maya for animation.

I utilise Adobe Photoshop to illustrate my ideas. However, before that I hand- draw my thoughts onto paper and scan the sketches in. It is very important to maintain regular communication between the illustrator/writer, during the developmental process. We collaborate and generate the best possible way to illustrate their idea, with a little constructive feedback. This will ensure achieving a successful outcome within the writer’s deadline.

There is something I read recently about the life of an artist “Who Pays Illustrators (And How Much), by Marianne Litman (25.10.2017)  It opened my eyes to what art should be valued at for producing children’s books. I understand that for a writer, the fees can get expensive. As an illustrator, calculating the man-hours for completing the client’s work, and settling on a final price, is done during the negotiations. The illustrator has to be able to change their prices but values their work to what they feel it is worth as well. On average I can achieve two pages of a children’s book, from sketch to digital, in one week.  The fees will also depend on the style the illustrator needs to work in. I can spend around 15 to 20 hours illustrating, sketching and any changes made on one page. Depending on the number of pages needed, it can take around 1 to 3 months per book to complete. It is always best to be realistic and work with the illustrator, in terms of the amount of work needed, to complete your project.

Personal Note:

I love to illustrate and bring ideas to life. There is a feeling an artist gets when they see their work go from a simple idea on paper to the finished project. Teamwork is important, to make a successful story come to life. Without the writers, children’s books wouldn’t be possible, so the duties are equally as challenging as an illustrator.

Here are a few quick things to consider before you hire the illustrator:

Can they work with the style you want?

  • How long will it take to complete each page?
  • How can I reach you if I need to get in touch?
  • Have a price in mind for your project, but be ready to negotiate a price as well.
  • Let the illustrator know if they will be credited in your book.
  • After looking through their portfolio, give them a chance to illustrate something for you. The artist could adapt to your chosen style.
  • Do you charge per project, or per page?

Here are a few things the illustrator needs to know:

  • How many pages are needed?
  • What style do you want to have the book illustrated in?
  • Are there any deadlines?
  • Do you have any contact details to get in touch?
  • How will payment be sent to the illustrator?

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My contact details

Email: GigglemaniaStudios1@aol.co.uk

My portfolio: https://jmitchelltaylor.wixsite.com/mitchelltaylor

 

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