Sunday, 7 March 2010

If you diversify they can’t break your writer's heart - Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce had two key words for us - diversification and independence. We were at the East Midlands Writing Industries Conference, this was the keynote speech and we were looking to Graham for answers. How were we to survive the end of the print age?

Graham talked of the concern rumbling through the publishing industry. Just as monks lost out to the printing press, was the industry about to lose out to Kinderbooks? More to the point, what about us writers? Graham once believed that all writers wore smoking jackets, chewed on cheroots and ate kedgeree for breakfast. He now knows that he was wrong. Writing is hard work and making money at it is becoming increasingly harder so what can we do?

Instead of dreaming about that massive advance we should micro-stream our writing skills, maintain our independence as a writer and get a website to show that we are following our road and not someone else’s. With a rallying cry of, ‘Don’t be fossilised in one area - diversify!’ Graham provided a list of points to guide us through.

1. The advance: This once prized income source has been shrinking over the last few years.

2. Digital streaming: Why not cut out the publishers, distributors and retailers, run our own website and keep 100% of the profits from books sold.

3. Teaching: Some people say that creative writing can’t be taught but substitute the word ‘music’ for ‘creative writing’ and see how unconvincing that sounds.

4. Performance and the Live Spoken Word: This area is growing rapidly in popularity.

5. Lectures and talks: People always want to know about writers, where their ideas come from, how they work so, especially for those who can add humour to their talks, there’s money to be made on the after-dinner speech circuit.
[Graham suggests you turn up in a smoking jacket!]

6. Non-fiction writing: You can write. Don’t be strait-jacketed into one genre.

7. Screen development: If you’ve written a play, a novel or a short story then why not develop it for the screen.

8. On-line drama: Start out by working with a group from a youth club or school to develop your own written material. Using a site like Bebo can spread your work and your name overnight.

9. Computer games: The standard of graphics is high but there’s room for improvement in the narrative. Last year the sale of computer games was neck and neck with the sale of film and music DVDs combined. There’s money to be made.

10. Graham left No. 10 blank for us to fill in... or so he said. It could have been in response to the gesticulations from the organiser, Damien Walter, winding him up from the wings. So, not wanting to disappoint Graham, does anyone have a No. 10 idea? If so, please share it in the Comments below.

The day was packed with talks, panels, people and opportunities to network... or should that be gossip? There’s something special about being part of a like-minded group. We are social beings and working within a group can raise awareness, enthusiasm, confidence, determination and inspiration... and it’s always a joy to meet up with other writers, so thank you to Damien Walter and all the team for a most successful East Midlands Writing Industries Conference.


  1. Great post & some good ideas from Graham. I met someone at a writer's workshop yesterday who is working with the elderly in a care home to record their memories and stories. This seemed such a great project, although it can also be upsetting at times for those taking part. But it is wonderful that memories, stories and anecdotes about life are recorded and preserved for future generations and, as with just about everything, it is potentially a fantastic resource for a writer to mine or have spark ideas for one's own writing.

  2. Wow - really interesting stuff! Lots to think about :)

  3. No.10 Print out your manuscript and selotape it together. Then bash someone over the head with it and steal their wallet. This could be a regular income source if you target the right people and don't get caught. It could also lead to an interesting story, probably better than the manuscript which publishers keep rejecting...

  4. Hi Kath, I have worked with people on a memories project (see my blog Memory Project 26.11.09)and was initially concerned that I would find it upsetting but I never once did. Everyone appreciated the attention and the opportunity to share their stories.

    Thanks for the comment, Jemi. His talk was really inspiring.

    Thank you for the suggestion Anonymous. Possibly not quite what Graham Joyce had in mind but then again... ;-)

  5. Regular blogging - I say 'regular' because having a self-imposed deadline is important for keeping up the writing habit, even if you don't have a paying deadline.
    I started my blog a few months ago, when two of my regular clients lost their freelance budget - and they were a big part of my income.
    Now things have picked up a bit again, but in the meantime the discipline of finding ideas and writing at least twice a week kept me in practice and has turned into an enjoyable 'gig'.

  6. Sounds like a great conference, Rosalind, and thanks for sharing his speech! It's always nice to get an insider's view!

  7. A really inspring post and a great defence of the occupation of writing for those who might never make the front table at Waterstones. Has made me feel a lot better about Monday!

  8. I agree, Ann. The blogging discipline is good for me.

    Talli and Ali many apologies for only just posting up your comments. Comments usually come into my email inbox but these hung on the Blogger dashboard waiting for me and I just didn't notice them. I'm so glad you both enjoyed the blog and thank you both for commenting.