Party politics - and not in the way you think

An arts hole?
I'm a fan of Jeff Bridges (especially Starman and The Big Lebowski) and a fan of Simon Pegg (especially Spaced and Shaun of the Dead), so the film How to Lose Friends and Alienate People was a natural choice as it featured both of them. I awarded it a bonus point awarded because it is also a film about a writer

There's a line in it, which I won't bother to quote accurately (well, this is a blog...), about acerbic writers being that way because they don't have an invite to the party. It's a bit of a cliche, but like most cliches there is a vein of truth in it. 

The reality, however, is that we all have our faces pressed at the window of the next party, the next inner circle, or the next opportunity that will somehow change our trajectory as writers.

Since Standpoint was published approximately 12 months ago I have been on a literary rollercoaster. twisting and turning through the contract, the edits, the final proof, publication, and promotions. For a short while I enjoyed the perspective of a published writer and then plunged back into a follow-up novel to start the whole process again with Line of Sight, and after that Cause & Effect came out as the third book in the series. 

All of which is lovely, but there are still parties beyond the glass. Some of them are small affairs - getting more sales and especially more reviews (the order sounds counter-intuitive but many writers would agree with me), and being invited as a guest on other people's blogs. Other parties seem exclusive to the point of impossibility - selling the rights for TV or film (and not just so that Sarah Campbell can become an extra!), doing a book tour, being invited to attend a writing conference as a speaker, or having a book reviewed by a national newspaper. 

This month marks the end of my first full year as a published author. It's a party that I know others are keen to get an invite to, even as I'm gazing at the next glass wall. Along the way I've been asked some pointed and challenging questions, so my next blog will tackle those in a warts-and-all Q&A. There's still time to add a question to the list, by:
a) Commenting here.
b) Contacting me on Twitter - @DerekWriteLines
c) Contacting me via Facebook - /professionalwriter1

I chose the above image because I saw it on my travels in Penzance, and also because it reminded me of Marcel Duchamp, who shocked the art world by presenting a urinal out of context as art. Except, as we now know, he actually appropriated the idea from Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven - which was really taking the piss.

How to win at the freelancing game

How to win at the freelancing game 

Seven counter-intuitive ideas that actually work.

1.  Be unavailable
When you first start out you want to spend as much time as possible on your computer. After all, the Internet doesn't keep office hours, so why should you? Surely all clients will be grateful for that? Not necessarily. Same may see it as desperation and price your work accordingly. (I speak from experience here.)

However, if you allocate blocks of time to clients, along with the best times to contact you, you're letting them know that even if their projects rock your world they're not the centre of it. 

When you build up a relationship with a client, based on trust and economics, it will make good business sense to re-prioritise if the job calls for it. Until then, schedule your work as if you were an employee. Set time aside for marketing, lunch, pitching, accounts and all the other mission critical tasks that your business depends upon.

2. Over-deliver
You can add value by improving upon an agreed deadline, or providing more content - or more detailed content - than they were prepared to pay for (but still asked for in the original price!). It shows you are capable and, once you've ably demonstrated your capabilities, you're in a good position to negotiate a better price next time. 

NB If you exceed the agreed expectations, make sure they're aware of it.

3. Offer a discount
Before you run to the hills, screaming, hear me out. Under the right circumstances a discount can work in your favour.

- Your base rate remains but there's a 20% discount on extra work ordered the same week.
- A 20% discount if you pay for five pieces in advance.
- A 20% discount to the client on all work that month if someone they you to buys £300 of work in advance.

In each case the discount is dependent upon you getting something extra in return.

4. Give content for free
I know. Sometimes this one hurts. Again, use judiciously.

-  Four pieces for the price of three, if bought in advance.
- A second rights piece (with your byline and back link) to accompany the piece they bought.
- A review copy of an ebook, for which you'd really appreciate an online review.
- A white paper that relates to their business and references your own.

Similar to discounts, a freebie needs to be more than an act of generosity (they're okay too from time to time though) if it's a business decision.

5. Make yourself indispensable
This is not the same as being available 24/7. You can become indispensable by offering other services, once you understand the client's business. 

Writing copy is closely associated with marketing and promotions, or proofreading existing literature, or editing website content.

6. Become an ambassador
Most freelancers I know have an active online presence. They are happy to share content attributed to their name and spread the word to their followers and contacts. This represents free advertising to clients and access to new potential markets, and they'll love you for it.

7. Cross-pollinate
Although comparison sites have revolutionised consumer behaviour, often we're just as happy to go with a personal recommendation. As a freelancer you will likely encounter fellow writers, web designers, graphic designers, marketeers, sales teams, etc. Sometimes, for example when you are busy but you don't want to disappoint a client, you can even recommend a competitor (ideally, one you have a reciprocal relationship with) to handle the work in your place. This is always better than trying some sneaky subcontracting sleight of hand.

When you can wholeheartedly recommend another professional (whether there they offer a discount for it or not!), you are able to solve another of your client's problems. Who wouldn't want to do business with someone like that again?

* * *  
So there you have it. A little creative thinking, intelligently applied, that can elevate your reputation and set you apart from the competition.

Which is the perfect opportunity to all of you a free comedy ebook (100 gags - a quick read!) in return for a review on Amazon. 

Send me a DM on Twitter - @DerekWriteLines - if you're interested

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Writers in films

I was watching a film noir classic on MUBI last week and it got me thinking about all the films that have writers in the spotlight. Some offer a sliver of insight into the writing process, some perpetuate myths, and some are just entertaining.

Here are the ones I could recall at the kitchen table that I have seen, and would recommend:

Her Alibi - Tom Selleck's murder mystery author takes unusual steps to overcome writer's block, vouching for a murder suspect he barely knows. We've all been there, desperate for inspiration.

In a Lonely Place - Humphrey Bogart's washed-up screenwriter prefers the bottle to a pen, until he meets a mysterious neighbour. It's bad timing that a woman is murdered, he's the last known person to see her alive, and the police see him as the prime (only!) suspect. Writers are naturally suspicious and curious - not a good combination if you're the one under scrutiny.

Adaptation - Nicholas Cage plays twins, a seasoned scriptwriter struggling with an adaptation (see what they did there...) of a well-known and tricksy novel, and his down-to-earth brother who decides to write his own film script. The film explores the writer's internal process and what artistic rivalry looks like up close and personal. Perfect viewing for any author who lamest that their artistic creation gets less airtime in cyberspace than the latest slasher / thriller / bodice ripper.

My House in Umbria - Dame Maggie Smith is a prolific romantic novelist, projecting on to the page a life very different from her own. When tragedy strikes she finds new meaning in the people around her and accidentally hears what one reader really thinks of her prose. That scene could be sponsored by Amazon!

Misery - James Caan learns that his biggest fan can also be his biggest nightmare. On the plus side, his novelist is a great example of working to a deadline and writing / rewriting to order. Fear is a greater motivator.

Iris - Dame Judi Dench shows the side of writers that's rarely appreciated by readers. Experimental, far from perfect, and challenging to be around, sometimes the closest writers can get to truth is in our fiction. It can be hard for friends and partners. Here's a quote from the film that speaks volumes: I should feel like a deprived animal if I can't write.

Murder, She Wrote - Angela Lansbury's sleuth and novelist epitomises the writer's curiosity and her time management skills (solving murders, writing novels and doing the promo work) set a high benchmark. You could say that she writes some killer prose.  

Anyway, that's my selection. Which films would you have chosen?