Special Guest Star Week: Writing.ie Founder Vanessa O’Loughlin

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Today our guest poster is Vanessa O’Loughlin, who has a few words of wisdom for would-be e-publishers. (And I’ll forgive her in advance for use of the word “gatekeepers”!)

One of the things I love about ePublishing is that, as an author, you have full control over your work. This has its obvious downside. Without the gatekeepers – editors and agents – vetting new writers, there are manuscripts being published that need a critical eye cast over them – and a lot more work. But there is something liberating for an author about having an idea, writing a book, playing around with formatting and then pressing a button, and hey presto, having their book on the virtual shelf.

I recently wrote an article for Irish Publishing News about the effects of ePublishing on authors. I called it Finding Opportunity in Change, because I believe that the ePublishing revolution is a major opportunity for writers. Just like when paperbacks were introduced by Penguin in the 1935, bringing affordable fiction to the masses, ePublishing allows readers to access books easily and cheaply (although pricing is another debate) whenever, and wherever they want. In today’s fast paced society of instant gratification, an eBook fulfils a need. And as the CEO’s of Google, Bloomsbury, Harper Collins and O’Reilly Media pointed out at a seminar at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, if readers like an eBook, they are very likely to buy it in print. But let’s not get into the debate about how eBooks will affect the publishing industry – we’re focusing on writers here, and what ePublishing can mean to them.

In the current climate mainstream publishing houses are cautious about taking on new talent, are instead sourcing work from established writers with established track records. But is it all doom and gloom for new writers? Not at all.  As Julian Gough said on his blog “The only area where Irish writing is thriving in Ireland itself is on the internet, because it’s a direct connection, writer-to-reader.” He’s right that Irish writing is thriving on the Internet, right about that direct connection – but it’s not just through blog posts.

Wherever there is change there is opportunity – and today the opportunities are there for writers all over the Internet. And this is the key thing to remember – as a writer, ePublishing gives you immediate access to a global market – that’s not just Ireland or the UK, but the entire world.

I set up Inkwell in 2006, determined to improve my own writing  –  I wanted to learn the tricks of the trade from best selling authors, and I wanted one day workshops that I fitted into my lifestyle.

Inkwell’s focus is on getting authors published, through workshops, critiquing and editorial services and I know for sure if there had been an Inkwell around when I started writing, I could have saved myself at least three years crawling up a steep learning curve.

I’m constantly asked for advice by new authors – advice I’m is only too willing to give, but increasingly, with my launch of the new Irish national writing resources website www.writing.ie, finding the time to do this is becoming difficult. E-publishing presented the perfect answer – Writing to Get Published: Bringing the Dream Alive is less than the price of a cup of coffee and packed full with essential fiction writing tips from the best selling authors who have facilitated for Inkwell over the years. It’s a roundup of the key points all fiction writers need to make their work really sing, the points I cover when talking to new writers.

As a scout for several major literary agents and publishers, I speak to agents and editors regularly and have a good feel for what they’re looking for. It’s a fact that the vast majority of manuscripts are rejected simply because they are sent out too raw. The ink is barely dry on the last word, and the writer dashes off to buy a pile of padded envelopes to get their work out into the world.

Writing is re-writing and the difference between published and unpublished writers, is, as best selling author Sarah Webb puts it so well, bum glue.  The problem is, knowing what you need to fix in your first draft is a major problem for new writers. Writing to Get Published addresses the key techniques you need to master in order to move your manuscript from good to great. So many new writers make the same fixable errors – they just need someone to point them out. Covering everything from plotting and planning to developing character, Writing to Get Published includes information on winning short story competitions and vitally in today’s market, developing your author profile.

So time poor but information rich, I followed Catherine’s brilliant blog post, and formatted my Writing to Get Published manuscript for Smashwords, put it onto the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and recently signed with Collca in the UK to produce Writing to Get Published as an App in the Apple iStore for iPhone and iPad. Collca are traditionally a history publisher, producing the phenomenally successful History in an Hour series and this is their first non-history project – but ePublishing is all about breaking the mold and following the market.

I’m delighted to have been instrumental in many many writers getting publishing deals, whether placing articles, short stories or full length novels, and have successfully introduced many more to agents. I present regularly at literary events and festivals around the country talking about Getting Published – but not everyone can get to an event. E Publishing gives me a chance to pass the tips and advice I’ve picked up to new authors, in one place and in print. In the same way, it will enable you to get your work out to readers when the time is right.

Do I have any recommendations for writers wanting to E Publish? Get beta readers to help you get your work to the highest level. Use a professional editor if you can afford it. Get a really good cover designed. You’ll find cover designers and editors in the Services for Writers section of the Writers Toolbox on Writing.ie. Create a marketing strategy that includes online and local exposure – to coin a cliché (strictly forbidden in fiction writing!) your book is a small fish in a big sea and it won’t sell itself. You have to wear many hats to write and sell your eBook successfully, or have a team of friends around you who can offer their expertise – it isn’t a route that suits everyone, but in today’s ePublishing world, you are the boss. Be the boss, manage well and go for it!

Thanks Vanessa! Click here to visit Writing.ie, or here to find Writing to Get Published on the Amazon.co.uk Kindle store.

3 thoughts on “Special Guest Star Week: Writing.ie Founder Vanessa O’Loughlin

  1. Sally Clements says:

    Great post, Vanessa! I think the thing that I wasn’t aware of before I was published, was the amount of polishing and editing that goes on after the book is supposedly finished. The inkwell workshops are great, I’ve been on loads, as you know. But if you can’t make one, this book seems to be an excellent resource for every writer, packed full of useful information!

  2. Tahir says:

    Excellent advice. The same goes for nonfiction and technical works too: a good bulk of the work is in the many iterations of editing and polishing, making everything consistent, removing the flaws, putting yourself in the shoes of the reader. When I have written down the last word of a draft I know that now the “real work” begins. When I am training students, they are at first shocked to get a manuscript back that barely has any white showing through the red ink but eventually they get to the point when they actually get worried when they get a manuscript back with almost no red showing: “Did you even read it?” Software developers say similar things: the bulk of the work is in fixing the bugs and getting everything to work flawlessly.

Ah, go on. Tell me what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s