Scottish indie author Wendy H Jones has a reputation for being a bit of a whirlwind – you never quite know where she's going to turn up next, or quite what she'll be up to. Now a full-time author, she's mastered the art of taking advantage of every opportunity that comes her way to build a multi-faceted writing career. Today she explains how she does it, to help you spot opportunities to exploit in your own writing life.
When Opportunity Knocks…
Opportunity comes calling when you least expect it. My life as a writer started out the same way as anyone else's. I wrote a crime book, approached publishers and wondered what I should do.
Through podcasts and blogs, I heard a great deal about independent publishing, and, after weighing up the options and the pros and cons, I decided to give it a whirl.
Several edits and a professional cover later, I was in business.
The success of Killer’s Countdown took me completely by surprise, and all the books in the series have gone down a similar path.
However, the surprise was backed up by a lot of hard work and accepting any opportunities which came up.
People say to me, “Wendy, you are everywhere”, and they are right.
I have done events at international, national and local conferences, libraries, women’s institutes, writing groups, reading groups, pubs, cafes, restaurants, historic ships, castles and even banks.
Yes, banks. I do book signings at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Dundee, spending a day entertaining the queues. Early in my career I made a deliberate policy to say yes wherever possible.
This means that I often say yes and worry about the practicalities afterwards.
Diversifying into Children's Books
When Books to Treasure, a children’s publisher, asked me if I had a young adult series in mind, I said yes. Saying that, the answer was true, but I firmed it up and pitched it. This led to a three-book contract for a series of Young Adult Mysteries about a couple of teenagers named Fergus and Flora.
An opportunity came knocking, and I said yes.
From Crime Writing to Buffaloes
So, what of the buffaloes? Last December a wee water buffalo escaped from Boglilly Farm in Fife, Scotland. This is a true story. What is extraordinary is that the wee fella evaded capture for thirteen days. He roamed the countryside, completely alone. By this point the air patrol were involved, as was the BBC, who promptly called him Bert. Every child I knew was hanging on Bert’s story and wanted a book about him. Because I am everywhere, the Buffalo Farm heard about me and asked me to write a picture book about his story.
Another opportunity came knocking, and I said yes.
For this one I needed a publisher, so I approached some which led to me signing a contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing. The first Bertie the Buffalo book, Bertie’s Great Escape, will be out at the end of October 2018. Exciting times.
How to Build Opportunities – and Not Be Swamped
These opportunities did not come without a lot of hard work and a steep learning curve.
Yes, I am everywhere, but being everywhere can be a time suck. I needed to pace myself to ensure I still had time to write.
With three series on the go, and another brand new series I am writing that means a lot of writing. I also had to learn how to write Young Adult and Children’s books. Again, a steep learning curve and a lot of hard work.
During this time, I was also asked to take up the position of President of the Scottish Association of Writers, an honour I was proud to accept. Knocking on the door of Glamis, Scotland’s most haunted castle led me to founding Crime at the Castle, Scotland’s newest Crime Festival.
Key to the process is being friendly, professional and helpful to others.
Approaching venues and groups can be daunting, but I’ve found most people are receptive. If I am asked to speak at a group, I say yes, and provide them with a top-range experience. I do this whether I am being paid the going rate for authors, or less money because the group doesn’t have a budget. Having stories to tell, especially humorous ones also helps. Having stories to tell about escaped Baby Buffalo is priceless.
My advice to all authors is to grab the bull (or the buffalo) by the horns and have a go. This can lead to extraordinary opportunities and a wild ride as an author. I have certainly found it to be so thus far. I do not envisage this changing in the future.
OVER TO YOU What opportunities have you seized as an enterprising indie author and how have they helped build your writing career? What top tips would you add to Wendy's advice?
OTHER WAYS TO BUILD YOUR WRITING CAREER
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive