Our interview series continues with a discussion with Harry Bingham from The Writers’ Workshop.
Harry is a best selling, prize-nominated author. He also runs The Writers’ Workshop providing a variety of courses and services for other writers. We met Harry early on in the development of iWriteReadRate and have been delighted by his support for what we’re doing.
Harry has some alternative viewpoints to most of the other people that we’ve interviewed so far – it’s great to get another angle from someone within the publishing industry. Read his thoughts here…
Q1: For the benefit of the members of iWriteReadRate.com can you tell us a little more about what you do, your team, and your expertise?
A1: I’m a novelist and non-fiction author – and I stil think of those things as my primary job, my day job, if you like. But I also run The Writers’ Workshop, which offers help and advice to first time writers. We offer rigorous editorial advice aimed at helping writers bring their work to publication standard, and can then also help with finding literary agents if and when their work is strong enough to sell. We’ve had a load of successes, including prizewinners and bestsellers.
Q2: From your experience, what advice would you give an aspiring author about how they should go about self-editing their work in the first instance?
A2: Being perfectionist. That’s it. You just have to be perfectionist about every single aspect of your work. If you let yourself off the hook at all, your work just won’t reach the required standard. It’s amazing how many layers self-editing needs to work at. (Oh, and by the way, we run a totally amazing self-editing course.)
Q3: In your opinion, what challenges do unpublished/indie writers face in their dream of becoming published?
A3: Reaching the right quality standard. That’s all. If a book is good enough – and if you’re not a complete numpty when it comes to approaching agents – then it will sell. It’s simply a myth that the publishing industry is closed to new work. It isn’t. New, unknown authors are taken on and published all the time.
Q4: How do you think the publishing industry will adapt to new and emerging technology over the next five years?
A4: A big question – and no one really knows the answer. There are currently about 250 Waterstones stores up and down the country. In five years time I’d guess there’ll be more like 50. Clearly ebooks will play a far larger role than they used to, but browsing technologies are still limited. No one has yet found the e-equivalent to wandering round a bookshop.
Q5: What are your thoughts around the new community for writers’ unpublished work being launched by iWriteReadRate.com?
A5: It’s an interesting concept. The issues are always (a) can you get the right level of traffic? (b) does the cream really rise to the surface? I’ve not yet seen a site that convincingly answers those questions … but iWriteReadRate.com may well be the exception. I’m sure that there will one day be an exception.
Q6: What top writing tips can you give the aspiring authors on iWriteReadRate.com?
A6: Well, we’ve already dealt with perfectionism. Aside from that, you need to know your market. You need to know the major historical landmarks, for sure, but you also need a strong background in current fiction in your area – that means reading recent successful debut novels by new authors. Those are the books editors are buying today.
Q7: If you could change anything about the traditional way that writers get their work published through Agents/Editors/Publishers – what would you change and why?
A7: Honestly? Not much. I think the industry gets it about right. It’s not often that a really good book slips through the cracks. I guess I wish that literary fiction were a little more open to experimental / speculative work, but that’s a fairly minor gripe.
Q8: In your opinion, can aspiring writers and authors afford not to engage with readers in this age of Social Media? What are your top tips for these interactions?
A8: Actually I think aspiring writers CAN afford not to engage with readers via the social media. If a book is good enough, it’s good enough and publishers can still launch it with plenty of wellie in the traditional way. I think social media is at most additive to that basic effort, it doesn’t substitute for it or replace it.
Q9: Any final thoughts for the members of iWriteReadRate.com?
A9: It’s back to that perfectionism point. Most writers give up or self-publish or whatever before their manuscript has reached the right level of excellence – and in this hyper-competitive market you can’t expect to succeed that way. The Writers’ Workshop has been running for six years now. In that time we’ve received thousands and thousands of manuscripts, and not once have we had a manuscript that was in publishable condition when it came to us. We had one that almost was. Aside from that, we’ve had manuscripts which to a greater or lesser degree needed help. Getting that help won’t turn rubbish into a bestseller, but pretty much every manuscript will improve a lot if you get good professional advice and then work honestly and rigorously with that advice. And the proof’s in the pudding: we’ve had a fair few clients who went on to become bestsellers and/or prizewinners, and many others who got agents and got published. So it can be done …
Thank you for your tips, insight and time, Harry. We very much appreciate your continued support of what we’re doing and look forward to working with you further in the future.
Have you seen our other interviews?
Happy writing, reading and rating!
The iWriteReadRate Team