The Author Handbook is exactly what it sounds like – a directory of advice and info on every aspect of being an author.
Ours is a wonderful business, but it’s also nerve-racking, anxiety-inducing and confounding even for the experienced. The Author Handbook will ensure none of us need fear driving our agents, editors and writer friends nuts with questions about everything under the sun – instead we’ll be able to look up solutions to our simpler, less individual problems so we can save discussion-time for more important matters.
What’s normal for copy-edits? What do I do if my publisher promised an audiobook but it’s all gone hideously quiet on that front? How do I ask if marketing would make me some bookmarks without sounding demanding? So many of us are asking each other the same questions. Wouldn’t it be great to have a first-port-of-call for all the answers?
By pooling our knowledge and experience, the Handbook will provide examples of things going beautifully, a view on what’s normal, solutions for when it all goes wrong, and lots of example emails to help you get the phrasing just right.
We’re still figuring out how to make it all work financially but the bottom-line is that we’re not looking to turn a profit: we just need a way of raising enough money to sustain the Handbook and some outreach activities. We won’t be able to pay contributors but if hundreds of us contribute a little material each, the Handbook we produce will be a fabulous resource even for experienced authors – and we’ll hopefully have enough money to continue our schools outreach: the key to a more accessible and diverse publishing industry.
How long should contributions be?
How long is a piece of string? We’ll try to make our request criteria specific enough to help everyone keep things concise and focused. Most will probably be in the 200-1000 word range, with the bulk towards the lower end of the scale.
Is there a preferred style?
No! Be you. If you can make some or all of your contribution funny, that’s great. A bit of personality and humour will generally be a good thing. But remember that the key purpose of the Handbook is as a resource for authors to learn what’s normal, how best to work towards the ideal outcome, and what to do to improve the situation when it all goes wrong.
Can I be critical?
Yes! It’s really important that we cover the pros and cons, the ways things go right, and the ways it all goes belly up. Please avoid any direct criticism of named individuals or companies. If you want to tell a true story about a problem as an example, please change ALL the names and enough of the details that no one who isn’t already in the know can work it out. Those types of stories are important and valuable, so do send them in – but let us know it’s a true story so we can tease out whether it needs further disguising. If you have a happy, praise-filled story, do send us those as is so long as none of its confidential for any reason.
What sort of stuff are you looking for precisely?
A range of material: stories, tips, example emails, advice, recommendations, etc.
We want true stories of how specific things worked out well: how did you reach the perfect cover design, who did what to make the editing process so effective, what magic made reviewing your proofs a dream? We also want stories about the reverse – how did things go wrong, why, how could it have been avoided, and how did you and others try to rescue the situation?
We’d love some examples of emails that worked wonders for you – whether they’re pretty standard things like how to word a nice email about the fact that you think your early cover design stinks, to how to ask in a non-pushy way for marketing to produce some bookmarks for you, etc.
We’re looking for concrete, practical detail – stuff people can learn from to get the same great results, to ameliorate bad situations, or to avoid disasters. But we want to cover the whole range so that the Handbook is a resource we can all turn to in order to get a rounded view of the industry and whatever issue we’re concerned about, big or small.