Advice to New Writers

Author Joanne Harris, via twitter, had a great theme for her #tenthings today. She does these regularly and I highly recommend them. Some people aren’t au fait with twitter and Harris herself doesn’t nest her tweets on purpose she says. I’ve taken the liberty to put her tips together here in one spot for reference. There’s a common theme to this list. If it sounds fishy or too good to be true – it is! Run away, run away fast, you coconuts clattering before you.

Joanne Harris’ Ten Things for New Writers to Avoid (annotated by me)

1. Dodgy editorial services. Freelance editors are not all equal. Check their credentials and their claims.

This is very important. For every legit person (see me:) advertising they’re editing services, there are sadly a dozen more who have no business in the business. Ask for references, ask for a sample, ask if they’re a member of a guild or society or employed by a publisher or agency, and never pay for work that isn’t complete or completed to the standard agreed upon. That last bit – be sure you know what you’re getting and that the editor you choose knows what you expect.

2. People who charge for reviews. Not all reviewers are equal, either. No-one believes a paid-for review.

3. People who try to charge authors to adapt their books for the screen. That’s NOT how adaptations work.

4. Dodgy “marketing packages”. There are lots of these about. Make sure you know what you’re paying for.

5. Dodgy online writing courses that guarantee publication. (No-one honest can *guarantee* you anything.)

For 5 and 6 note that no one can guarantee you publication and no one can make you rich with your self published book via their social media marketing scheme.

6. “Agents” who charge their authors reading or copying fees, postage, etc. (They’re not really agents.)

7. (a) Contracts that give universal rights to a single publisher.
7 (b). If you don’t have an agent who can help, run your contract past the before you sign.

The Society of Authors and Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – these are advocacy groups for authors not just for wine and cheese meetups.

8. Publishers who rely on “gentlemen’s agreements” rather than contracts. Most of these are NOT gentlemen.

Never ever agree to do anything or move forward with a project if you don’t have signed contracts. Meet, chat, lunch, exchange emails, sign an NDA, provide short samples, etc. But be absolutely certain your work and the rights to those hard won words stay in your lovely paws.

9. Literary festivals who expect you to pay them, and not the other way around.

10. Bloggers who expect you to pay them for interviewing you. These are NOT the bloggers you’re looking for.

There are a literally a million bloggers. Vet any blogger who comes to you about your work. Look for bloggers yourself! Ones you like and share common literary joy.

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