Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Pen Factor Q&A Part 3:

Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown and Deborah Arnander, both Words And Women members, Guin from Cambridge and Deborah from Norwich, had success recently with The Literary Consultancy’s  Pen Factor competition which was awarded at this year’s Digital Age Conference. Both were shortlisted and Guin went on to win first prize!

Over this week on the blog we’ve  been posting our Q&A with Guin and Deborah about the competition. Here is the final part. You can read parts 1 & 2 by scrolling down. Many thanks to Guin and Deborah for their informative and open responses!

Part 3:

What did you learn from the TLC Digital Age Conference in general?

Guin reading at Words And Women's Cambridge event
Guin: The conference turned my head inside out. I loved it! It really made me think about independent publishing as a hybrid model, something that can augment being 'traditionally' published, as a means to grow a readership. It has made me hugely ambitious for my work, and I know that I am a key part of making that happen.

Deborah: The conference was brilliant and although the ticket price is high I would recommend it to anyone interested in writing and the new possibilities for writers.  It was fascinating to see the difference between the traditional agents and publishers, who were predominantly male, interested in stats, and pretty much all doom and gloom (the market is narrowing, kids don’t read, what will happen if the supermarkets decide to stop stocking books, with literary fiction you have to kiss a lot of frogs (!) etc.) and the ‘independent’ or self-published writers (an all-female panel) who were full of enthusiasm about the new possibilities for reaching readers, were achieving good sales, could sell their books cheaply and therefore reach people all over the world, and were emboldened by their autonomy to write the kind of books they wanted to, rather than being forced by traditional publishers into a pre-established pigeonhole.  The man from Nielsen on the previous day had shown that there was a big hike in sales of self-published books last year.  The caveat: you have to become an expert in marketing and publicity to successfully self-publish.  But as one of the panel pointed out, you will have to do that with a traditional publishing house anyway if you want your books to be read.  I recommend anyone interested in self-publishing checks out the Alliance of independent authors website.  Also Kobo writing life, and Unbound, among others.

From the conference I learned that the market for writers is changing enormously at the moment, and we really need to keep ourselves informed about it.  Knowing not to tick the box that gives Amazon or whoever your Digital Rights Management for life, for example.  I don’t feel nearly as depressed as I did about the demise of publishing. I have reversed my position on self-publishing too.  I’m now seriously considering it. There was a woman among the shortlisted writers who was older than the rest of us and had an abiding interest in psychoanalysis; she’d written a book that sounded fascinating to me about a woman's inner journey with a cast of archetypal characters. Her pitch was received with blank faces by the agents, but I bet it’s great.  She self-published it.  She’s done something she’s proud of that may not fit on the shelves of Waterstones.  I think it’s good to ask yourself what success means for you and what you want from your writing career.  Is it money? Readers? The satisfaction of having made something good?  How much external affirmation do you require?

Would you recommend the competition to other writers?

Guin: Yes, absolutely. I had enormous fun pitching, and listening to the other pitches too. I came away from the event having made many new friends and with a slew of new ideas.

Deborah: I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  Not only did I learn a lot, but I made some friends. It was a room packed with interesting people.  The atmosphere among the delegates was one of encouragement and mutual support - the chair Rebecca Swift had a lot to do with that.  And she got together an extraordinary panel of speakers - I haven’t had time to talk about most of them here but they really were impressive.  So I’d recommend it even to people who feel reluctant to expose themselves to a world that’s potentially quite daunting.  Plus the East of England needs to hold on to its crown, so all you brilliant writers out there need to submit next year.

Finally Guin – Congratulations! - You won the competition – What does this mean for you and your work?

Guin: Thanks, it means a great deal to me. My novel has taken up the last two years of my life. At times this has been extraordinarily stressful, and more than once I thought, I can't do this, I can't write it. So it was fantastic to have the work validated in this way; to have complete strangers come up to me and tell me they loved it. I feel I have created something worthwhile, and that's great.

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