Monday, 25 August 2014

Writing A Book - What To Do & NOT To Do

A bit of a break from the piling up of bodies, but I have thought about this for a long time and now is the time to put it up.  I once did write a crime book, a memoir, but I eventually lost the deal, and looking back, I am glad because it was not very well written, and I would have come in for considerable criticism from other writers.  I did have the support of a couple of writers, one initially advised me on how to go about getting information, what accessories I would need, and what to expect when entering the world of book publishing.  Safe to say, that I was a complete novice, but this also led me into a false sense of security, which I will elaborate on shortly.  My first attempt at authorship, was a memoir of a man whom had been in and out of jail.  It remains for me to say that writers can have bad experiences when attempting this new career.  My experience turned into a nightmare.  The reason?  The man I was writing about.  You will see the problems I encountered with the subject, due to his massive ego and vanity.  I was the one trying to get publishers interested.  I was the one trying to get corroboration of stories he told.  I was the one learning all aspects of book publishing and companies, whilst he sat on his backside thinking he was a celebrity, and that publishers should have been fighting to get his story.  One big mistake you can make, and I did make, was be blind to things because of the chance you may get in print.

    If you decide on somebody`s memoirs, you should lay down ground rules that must be stuck to.  If your subject was in the Services, he should allow you access to his military records.  Any refusal means there is no corroboration, and more importantly, he has something to hide.  It is called the truth.  The same applies with a criminal record.  Any refusal, you walk away.  Again, it is hiding the truth.  Your subject should try to provide as much proof on what you discuss, not leave you to try and unearth it or have you believe everything he says.  Every question should be answered.  Replies like "I do not want to talk about that" or "I`m not talking about him" are indications that he wants to avoid talking about certain things, usually because he has nothing to say about it, but the reply may imply something criminal or sinister.

    You may decide to approach publishers yourself.  This is a minefield.  Publishers get hundreds of manuscripts every week, and nearly all end up in the "slush pile" - not bothered with!  Companies do not have to reply to you and it can take months just to get a response. If you get one.   First off, get a copy of the Writers & Artistes Yearbook, where you get the tips and pointers for different areas of writing, and it lists all the reputable companies.  I was lucky in that I built up a number of contacts in the game and learned enough to know how it works.  If your subject says things like "All the publishers in London do as they are told" or "I can walk into any publisher in London and get this done" or "So & so gives this company their orders" you just burst out laughing and walk away because that person lives in fantasyland.  Other favourites  that include "I am the most respected....." or "I am well known throughout...." mean nothing to publishers, as each deal they offer is a business deal, not a favour.  Also, being friendly with famous or notorious characters does NOT guarantee a deal.  It comes down to the book, or maybe the Editor or MD got out of bed the wrong way, or that particular day they hate people.  There could be a multitude of reasons why you get a knockback.  Be sure to check which companies specialise in crime books.

    If you approach a company and they ask for money, you back away immediately.  These are known as "Vanity Publishers" and are allowed to get away with ripping you off.  The only recourse you have would be to take them to a small claims court.  Mainstream companies do not ask for any payment, as they try to recoup their costs in sales.  Sales of books are not big.  Only established, well known authors make a living solely from writing.  The upsurge in manuscripts to companies is due to a certain Miss Rowling.  If she can make a fortune, so can they!  You will have gathered the stumbling blocks I encountered, but I was a total novice.  An experienced writer would have immediately walked away.  A novice can be manipulated.  Good luck if any of you attempt a book.