Interview with Mark Gottlieb, New York Literary Agent

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What are literary agents really after? Do they want first-time authors who’ve already built a huge platform … or simply a great book?

New York agent Mark Gottlieb, who’s currently building his list, has been kind enough to answer some questions about his job and the state of publishing in general.

If you’ve been reading Aliventures for a while, you’ll know I’m very much a fan of self-publishing … but I also think traditional publishing still has a huge amount to offer. Mark argues the case for going down the agent and publisher route here.

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A Quick Guide to Formatting Your Microsoft Word Manuscript for Amazon’s Kindle

 

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One daunting task for many self-publishing authors is how to get their finished book up for sale on Amazon as an ebook. It’s not as simple as just uploading your manuscript … right?

Well, it can be!

Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service gets easier to use every year. If you have a fairly straightforward manuscript – like a novel, collection of short stories, or text-only non-fiction book – you can upload your Microsoft Word document, preview it, and have a finished ebook in minutes.

In this post, I’ll explain how.

Quick note to Writers’ Huddle members – you have a much fuller version of this now available as a video seminar, with detailed step-by-step instructions. There’s also a transcript with screenshots.

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Should You Be More Business-Like About Your Writing?

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One piece of common advice in the world of writing is “treat your writing as a business”.

But like the idea of striving to write faster and faster … is it really such an equivocally good idea after all?

I have a writing business: for eight years now, my income has come from my writing and from my work with writers. And I’ll readily admit that adopting some “business-like” practices can help most writers.

But sometimes, treating your writing as a hobby – or an artistic pursuit, or an avocation – is better than trying to be super-serious and business-like about it.

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How to Get Back On Track When Your Writing Plans Go Awry

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So you’ve made a plan for the next seven months.

For a month or two, everything goes fine. You’re writing regularly, hitting your targets, and feeling great about your progress.

And then something happens. You’re knocked off-course. You’re understandably discouraged, perhaps ready to give up.

Plans do go awry, more often than not. That’s not your fault, and it’s not necessarily a problem. You just need to be prepared in advance to deal with things not going quite according to plan.

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Are You Planning Your Writing Career … or Winging It?

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If you’re a novelist, you’ve probably come across two different camps of people: the “plotters” and the “pantsers” (seat-of-the-pants writers).

While there’s no right way to approach a novel, I’ve definitely started moving from the “pantser” to the “plotter” end of the spectrum over the past few years. I like plenty of room for exploration and spontaneity … but I don’t like having no clue where I’m going.

In your writing life, too, having a plan makes it much easier to actually get somewhere.

I got lucky in the early stages of my writing career. I got into blogging on a whim, then started freelance blogging entirely by accident.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me … but I realise now how fortunate I was to be in the right place at the right time.

These days, I’m a lot more strategic. I don’t plan in obsessive detail, but I do set goals and take conscious steps towards them.

If, like me, you want to do a bit more planning and a bit less winging it, here’s how.

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How (and When) to Develop Multiple Streams of Writing Income

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How many different sources of writing income do you have, right now?

Maybe you’ve got a novel up for sale on Amazon.

Maybe you’ve got a blog that brings in a little bit of advertising or affiliate revenue.

Maybe you write occasional articles for a magazine.

Maybe you’re a full-time freelancer with a couple of major clients.

One big danger in the writing life is only having one or two sources of income. If all your money comes from one particular client, you’ll really struggle if that client suddenly no longer needs your services.

(If you have a day job, then only having one source of writing income is obviously less of a problem, but it can still make it difficult for you to build towards a writing career.)

I’ve been writing for a living (ie. without a day job!) for nearly eight years now, and one of the ways in which I’ve made it work – particularly during the past three years of motherhood! – is to develop multiple different streams of income.

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The Getting Things Done (GTD) System … and Why Writers Need It

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Do you ever feel swamped by way too many different things to do … and to keep track of until you can actually do them?

Do you find yourself forgetting important commitments or struggling to make progress on the projects that really matter to you?

Getting Things Done could be what you need. It’s both the title of a book, Getting Things Done, and the actual system presented in the book.

I’d recommend getting hold of a copy of Getting Things Done, but if you want the in-a-nutshell version (and one with examples geared for writers), here it is!

The key principles of Getting Things Done (GTD) are:

  • Keeping everything in your head is a bad idea: it’s stressful and inefficient. If something has your attention in any way, write it down.
  • You need an “inbox” – one single place to collect all the incoming “stuff” in your life (this is NOT the same thing as your email inbox).
  • You should process this inbox on a regular basis, deciding what to do with the stuff in it.
  • Professional and personal actions all matter, and all need to be tracked in (ideally) the same system.
  • Projects often get stuck because you’ve not identified your “next action”. What do you physically need to do next in order to make progress? (This could be almost anything from “get that book from the library” to “spend 15 minutes brainstorming”.)
  • Separate your calendar and your to-do list. This was the hardest thing for me to get to grips with because I’d integrated mine years before, and was used to managing tasks by assigning them to a specific date.

Unlike some systems, GTD doesn’t begin with setting ultimate goals or objectives: David Allen feels (and I think at least somewhat rightly) that it’s very difficult to focus on your ultimate vision when your day-to-day life is in chaos.

Here’s how it works, assuming you’re implementing it from scratch.

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Ten Ways to Enjoy Networking With Other Writers (However Shy You Are)

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I don’t think I’ve ever come across a writer who was a full-on extrovert. Most of us tend towards the introvert end of the spectrum. And many of us struggle with networking.

Let’s face it, anyone who wants to spend lots of time alone with their thoughts, and who prefers to communicate those thoughts by words on a page (or screen), is going to find social interaction at least occasionally challenging.

I’m certainly no exception. While I’m not painfully shy, I’m not a naturally outgoing person. I feel awkward about meeting new people and striking up conversations.

I get on OK with more structured situations, like speaking in front of an audience, but I find more casual one-on-one chit chat with strangers a bit of a challenge.

When I do get out and about to meet other writers, I find it enjoyable, but also tiring: I need time alone to recover.

And yet – I want to get to know lots of fellow writers! It’s great fun, and really encouraging, to chat to other people who love what I love. It’s also useful to know people to pass clients on to, people who might beta-read for me, and so on.

A quick note on “networking”: I know the word “networking” can seem cold, like you’re playing some sort of numbers game. (I think for us Brits, it can also feel a bit American.) To me, networking just means getting to know people who you can help, and people who might want to help you in return. It’s not about amassing a collection of business cards, or “working the room”.

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Why You Should Be Blogging … and Why You Shouldn’t

why-blogging

If you’re not already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether you should be.

If you are already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s a waste of time.

As you might guess from the very existence of the Aliventures blog, I’m a fan of blogging. But I don’t think it’s right for every writer.

Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s take a quick look at what I mean when I say “blog”.

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Nine Different Ways Writers Can Make Money by Writing

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Do you sometimes despair of ever making any money from your writing?

Perhaps it’s not your main goal – like most writers, you probably write because you love to – but you’d really love to have the opportunity to actually do what you love for a living.

In my early years as a writer, as a teenager and into my twenties, I wrote several novels (and read a ton of books about creative writing). I was focused on making money as a novelist – and I had no interest in writing non-fiction … or so I thought.

Then I came across blogging. Not just the “me and my life” sort of blogging that I’d dabbled in for a couple of years – but blogs that were collections of articles on a particular topic. Blogs that made money.

I was quickly hooked – and, surprisingly quickly, got into freelance blogging and quit my day job. Today, I get to make money doing what I love: writing and working with writers.

If you’re very focused on one type of writing, you might want to look at some other options. Don’t automatically dismiss anything as “not for me” or “not proper writing”.

You may also find that adding variety to your writing life helps invigorate other projects, or helps you make the best use of your time. I don’t think I could write fiction all day, every day – even if it was profitable. I like the balance that comes from working on a variety of projects.

Even if you’re not interested in making a living from your writing, making some money could give you the ability to take your writing further by paying for help.

Here are nine ways you can get paid to write – some of which you may not have considered before:

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