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Author, Speaker & Mentor


Recently an author friend of mine suggested I start an Agony Aunt column as he decided he was always asking me the odd question, either about his forthcoming book, or the writing process. I had to laugh because that in effect is what I have been doing for some time, albeit not via a specific column, although I do a small Q & A section at the end of the Mentoring Writers Newsletter. No, it’s more that people pop the odd question, either in my email box, or via social media. It’s not that I mind as I enjoy sharing my number of years’ experience of what I have learnt, and am still learning, about this crazy writing world of ours. Actually, if I am truthful I enjoy chatting to people and helping them where I can.

Anyway, his comment got me thinking? So, rather than just respond to these odd questions direct I thought I would utilise the Mentoring Writers Resource Box podcasts to occasionally share some of them with you. After all, you may well have been asking the same sort of questions. So here goes.

So having asked the author I have mentioned about the images for his new book and what the arrangement is with his illustrator he came back with the following question:

Q: Err…We have never had a discussion about ownership or royalties, it has simply been a case of me paying her for the artwork. To date I have paid her x number of pounds and have yet to receive her final invoice which will probably be another couple of hundred. So, what do you think, this is not an area I have a clue about. Once again I need your advice.

A: Mmm… I wish I had known this before he committed to the work. The one thing any author should do before taking on an illustrator is to get the deal organised. And, of course, this is also in the best interest of the illustrator as well. You cannot assume that he or she is doing your illustrations for a one off fee. In my case with the Little Friends Adventure Picture Book images I purchased out-right full copyright ownership of all the images. That’s 18 books worth of illustrations. Seems a lot. However, what it meant was that I could use those images anywhere I wanted. And I did. I could even sell them if or lease them on sites such as Adobe Stock, if I so choose.

What you must do is make sure both you and your illustrator are singing from the same hymn sheet. Are you buying the images outright or, are you going to have a Royalty share contract? This means any payments you receive in the way of royalties will be shared on a pro-rata basis to be determined prior to the work being undertaken. Give it a thought folks before agreeing to any illustration work otherwise you could come unstuck at a later date.

NB: I do have copies of contracts for both royalty share or outright purchase of any illustrations which I am willing to share upon request. Email details available at the end of the podcast.

Q: Why is the paper quality different in some of my picture books?

A: Well this happens as it depends where the book is originally printed. These days most books are printed POD which means printed on demand. Obviously the aim is to get the book printed quickly, and sold for as little cost as possible. The standard printing format for POD tends to be Standard Colour on 50 or 70gm weight white paper, although you can go for Premium Colour. What you have to bear in mind is that long gone are the days when a book was printed on a printing press. These days everything is done digitally, which means the printing process is different. So, the better the pdf you upload the better the quality of print. When it comes to illustrations the printing machine is looking for coloured images in CMYK 300 pixels and B&W in 150 pixels. The process can be very confusing for uninitiated, although systems such as Amazon, Lulu, Bookbub etc., do their best to make it easy. If, however, you want your images to be printed on glossy paper then its off to the good old fashioned printers not the POD ones. But, I am afraid that costs money. I have learnt that publishing can and cannot be easy, depending on the type of book and, if it does have illustrations, the quality of them.

Q: Should I get a coach or a mentor to improve my writing?

A: Principally, writing improves, as in all things, with practice. The more you do it the better you get at it. However, it doesn’t harm to have some help. But you need to know which is the right type of assistance for you. Now, unless you understand the difference between the two how will you know who suits you best? So, let’s compare the coach to a mentor.

Coaches often structure their time. For example: 1 to 2 hour sessions a number of times a week for a period of say 10 weeks. Mentorship, on the other hand is less formal. Mentors and proteges (although I call mine mentees) meet only as and when needed.

Coaches always charge for their time. Yes, they will offer a free introductory meet or call, just to see if you and them are a good match. To be honest there is nothing wrong in taking advantage of a free call from a coach if available, so you can see what is on offer.

In contrast it is rare for a mentor to request payment for their advice. Okay, they may require payment for additional services such as say reviewing and editing a full draft manuscript, after all you would pay an editor to that anyway. However, often, in the main, they don’t. If a mentor starts pushing the boundaries, then discuss a way for transitioning the relationship into more of a paid consultation role. There is nothing wrong with this.

With a coach they will set out clear and concise goals and outcomes. You will find a coach can provide wider knowledge to your business challenges. And remember, as an author you are a business.

With mentorship it tends to be peer to peer discussions and storytelling. Often a mentor will explain your journey by telling you about their experiences and how they overcame any similar situations they have that relate to you. In other words they are guiding you to becoming the business. After all unless you write your first book, you aren’t an author in business are you?

In summary: Meeting with a coach tends to be structured and very business-like. Whilst dealing with a mentor is much more relaxed. More of a journey into the writing world. One you know that they have experienced and which they are willing to share, warts and all.

Q: I want to know if I have the talent to be a real writer?

A. Mmm… Well, if you put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and start adding words that make a story then you are writing. Remember, if you are writing you are not wasting your time. Writing is about organising your thoughts. As my favourite criminal investigator Poirot often says, ‘It is the brain, the little grey cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within - not without,’ and the same can be said about writing. Keeping those little grey cells well exercised is like a gym workout for the brain.

As for being a ‘real writer’ – well, if you are writing, and you’re not a puppet carved by an old Italian guy named Geppetto, then you are a real writer. A writer is someone who writes, full stop. However, please remember it is a long learning curve, but one I believe anybody can learn, if… they’ve got the drive. So, I ask you… are you a real writer or someone who either pretends to be or just talks about being? Only you know the answer to that question.

And that’s it folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to today’s Q & A’s. If you have a question that you would like answered on our next Q & A podcast or in our Newsletter then email us, details to follow.

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