The Craft – Part Two: The Business
This is the second in a series of articles talking with fantasy authors about the craft. You can see last week’s article, Breaking In, here.
Being a published writer these days is about more than just writing books. Writers are working harder than ever to promote and publicise their work. Especially within fantasy, there are a whole host of book events and conventions authors can attend, meet with fans, give readings and appear on panels. Social media has also given writers new avenues to get word out about their books. At the same time it has meant that readers have unprecedented access to their favourite writers. But all this comes at a cost – time.
Today, we will continue our talk with a number of fantasy authors on the process of writing books and dealing with the day to day activities involved with being a professional author. Specifically we’ll look into the aspect of time management, how they juggle the demands from readers and publishers with the need to write further books.
As you might expect when asking an author how they manage their time, the first answer is to joke about alcohol.
“With gin,” jokes Lou Morgan, author of the urban fantasy novel, Blood & Feathers. Published by Solaris, the book concerns the war between angels and the fallen, and a young woman called Alice, caught in the middle.
“No,” she corrects herself, “that’s a bit flippant, even for me. It’s just meant that some things have had to give.”
“I haven’t had to do too much business administration just yet,” says Laura Lam. Her debut young adult novel, Pantomime, is due out from Strange Chemistry in February 2013. The book concerns a young runaway called Micah Grey who joins R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, the greatest circus in the whole of Ellada.
“I have had to do more marketing and things like sending blurb requests and what not,” she admits, “which does cut into my writing time a little bit.”
Sam Sykes is the author of the Aeon’s Gate novels from Gollancz. His most recent book, The Skybound Sea, was just released in September. He doesn’t see the business side of his career as too much of a distraction.
“The business administration, actually, is not as big a deal as it’s sometimes made out to be,” he says. “I can only speak from the traditionally published route (I’m sure the independently published authors have a harder time of it), but most of the business administration involves either things dealing with money (in which case, my agent handles it) or networking and maintaining an online presence, which I’d be doing anyway.”
M.D. Lachlan’s series of Viking werewolf novels from Gollancz, starting with Wolfsangel, have drawn considerable praise. The third in the series, Lord of Slaughter, has just been released. Prior to transferring to fantasy, he was a successful author in the ‘lad lit’ market with books such as Girlfriend 44 and Lucky Dog.
“I waste time on Twitter and Facebook,” he says, “because it’s like a global water cooler. I have two programmes to limit my access – Self Control and Freedom.”
“I’ve had to step away from things I was previously involved in,” says Morgan, “which is a shame – but there’s only so many hours in a day, and if you’re overstretched, nothing’s going to come out particularly well.”
“I actually enjoy getting out to cons and meeting people,” says Lachlan, “so I don’t regard that as a drain on my time.”
For Lam, it’s about balancing priorities. “I’ve always had to work pretty smart though,” she says, “considering I work full time and for a while I was also studying part-time. I write whenever I get a chance, whether that’s seven in the morning or midnight.”
However, for Lachlan, there are some priorities he is unable to juggle. “The biggest challenge to my writing is children. Before I had kids I could write seven days a week, twelve hours a day if I wanted to – which I occasionally did coming up to deadlines. No chance of that now!”
Morgan sums it well when she says, “It’s all a part of the job, though, and while it is a job, and should be approached with a degree of professionalism, it’s also a pretty bloody fantastic one to have, so you can’t complain too much.”
Check back next week for the latest instalment in our series.