Thursday, 20 January 2011

I've seen the future and it might just work

One of the first recommendations at today's Working as a Writer in the 21st Century conference at the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh was to keep your websites up to date, so, as you see, I've taken that one on board at least.

It was a day that gave me an enormous amount to think about and increased my confidence that it is actually possible to make a long term living from writing, even in these gloomy times of dwindling advances, closing libraries and smaller publishers' lists.

It started off with a talk from Julian Westaby of Dunning/Creating Sparks who gave the forty or so assembled writers and agents a crash course in how to combine Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr into one big powerful marketing tool for their books and themselves. I'd never considered that either my books or, more importantly, me, lent themselves to video promotions, but by the end of his talk I was thinking how I could combine my love of Roman sites in Scotland with passages from the books to create something that people might be interested in.

Jenny Todd, from Canongate, gave us an insight into how e-books and the internet are changing the publishing industry's whole approach to marketing, with the emphasis on the above video promos, but independent bookseller Rosamund de la Hey and Birlin marketing boss Jan Rutherford made the case for the old-fashioned virtues of getting out there and meeting your customers.

Authors Sara Sheridan, Barry Hutchison and Janet Paisley used their own experiences to prove that there are a host of opportunities for writers beyond books if they'd only get out there and look for them. Everything from writing for TV, radio, the theatre, ghost-writing and hosting individual corporate events with a unique twist.

And finally, Aly Barr from Creative Scotland, Caitrin Armstrong, of the SBT and Borders Book Festival and Booknation boss Alistair Moffat talked about how help and support for writers is just an e-mail away.

So what did I learn? Firstly that its not just enough to write. You have to be proactive, both in your self-promotion and seeking out opportunities. Secondly that you have to be innovative and use every technological tool at your disposal. And thirdly, that with all the dynamism, energy and talent on display it's clear that Scotland's literary world is in good health, good heart and in pretty good shape to take on the challenges of the 21st century.


Nicola Morgan said...

Doug, that's a really positve message and it sounds like a great day. As you know, I was supposed to be there chairing and event but was prevented by illness. Thanks for sharing this!

Gregory House said...

Sounds like you had a very interesting time. I strongly agree with the improved web presence, I've been looking at Youtube and Facebook tp work out the potentials applications and have got a few artists already sketching up graphic arts applications for my work.
ps Thanks for the link to Lexi, she is very impressive and has inspired me to get on amazon kindle within weeks.

Regards Greg

Sara Sheridan said...

Hi Doug. I'm so glad we gave you ideas! Thanks for posting this. Sara x