5 Things I Learnt At The 'How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing' Masterclass

 Click on the picture to buy Joanna's book, How To Make A Living With Your Writing

Click on the picture to buy Joanna's book, How To Make A Living With Your Writing

Although I've recently been totally absorbed in illustration as I work on my second picture book, my first love has always been writing. Over the years I have started writing various women's fiction novels but didn't quite find the impetus to finish one until I switched genre and found myself writing a children's novel for 8 - 12 year olds. I was over the moon when I typed the words 'The End'. But the truth is, the manuscript is now sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to decide what to do with it next. Should I send it to agents? Should I get a professional editor? Should I self publish?

Which is why when my friend asked me if I wanted to go along to a writing masterclass with her I knew it was just what I needed to prompt me to take the next step. The class, How To Make A Living (and a Life) From Writing, was run by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn and Orna Ross, Founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors who both have glowing reputations in the world of independent publishing. You can read lots about the brilliant work they both do by clicking the links on their names.

The day was absolutely jam packed with helpful insights which left me feeling really inspired and motivated. If you are interested in self publishing / independent publishing I would highly recommend attending one of Joanna and Orna's courses. Here are just 5 pieces of wisdom that I learnt from them.

1. The world is your bookshop
With the dawn of the digital age, the writer's ambition of having their book on sale in their local bookshop now has so much more potential. Using online sales routes you can have your book on sale around the world within moments. If your products are as appealing and professional as those of traditional publishers there is no reason they can't compete in the marketplace.

2. You don't have to wait to be picked
I think that traditional publishing is a really wonderful thing and their expertise and knowledge of the industry is, of course, incredibly valuable. But as a creative, the process of sending your beloved manuscript off into the ether only to be rejected months later and then once it is accepted losing your creative control can be hard to cope with. Publishing independently is very appealing as you can be totally proactive about your projects. I have already really enjoyed this process with my book Angel's Great Escape and am really looking forward to doing the same with my new picture book.

3. Think of yourself as a creative entrepreneur rather than 'just' a writer
This really struck a chord with me. I love getting my teeth into a good project. It's not just about the writing or drawing for me. It's every step of the project. As well as the sense of achievement, it's just really good fun!

4. Work with professionals to fill the gaps
To be able to compete in the marketplace, it's important that your book looks the part. Although there are lots of things you can do, it doesn't mean you have to do everything. If your time is better spent writing or marketing and you have no idea how to design a book cover or have gone cross-eyed with trying to proofread your own work, call in the professionals.

5. Your attitude to money is as important as your talent and tenacity
Writing only happens if you sit down and do it. Talent helps. But if you forever think of yourself as a starving artist, you will be a starving artist. Orna spoke a lot about our relationship with money and how this impacts on our success. Money is a tricky subject for a lot of us but thinking about it honestly helps to unpick any 'blocks' you may have, to ensure you can make money from your creativity. Money to allow you the time to create even more. It really reminded me of this wonderful article about Jim Henson's attitude to art and money on Brainpickings.org. It's a great read. Also, Orna is publishing a workbook on the subject soon so sign up to her newsletter to hear more.

So where does this leave my children's novel? It's time to dust it off and take the next step. After the masterclass I am more motivated than ever to publish it independently but in order to make sure it's the best it can be it first needs to be professionally edited. And I'll be using the resources I learnt about in the course to start my search!