We’re delighted to bring back our Interview Series for 2012 with a conversation with Ruth from Five Stop Story, a digital publisher of short stories. Ruth shares her experience with us in this interview. Read more…
A: I run Five Stop Story, a digital publisher of short stories. A “Five Stop Story” can be read in five stops on the London Underground. We run monthly short story competitions for new writers and publish the winning entries on our website and iPhone and iPad app. There is a monthly cash prize for the winner of each of our competitions and a £150 prize for the overall winner of our 2012 league table. We have recently released Five Stop Story’s first short story collection on the Kindle.
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?
A: It’s important for you to put your work aside for a short while after you’ve written the first draft, before you come back to it and edit. This is particularly relevant to novelists. As a writer, you become attached to your characters and your plot and after the initial rush of writing “the end,” it’s important to let your work rest for a period. When you do come back to it, you should first look at a structural edit, looking for plot holes and characters that are not fully developed. When you are happy with the book, you should consult “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. The editing “guide” is rather dry but it does provide you with enough tools to self-edit in the first instance. When you are happy with the edit you should consider giving your to friends and family to get feedback, or put it on a website like iWriteReadRate to get the feedback of others. Personally I find the editing process much more time-consuming than the writing!
Q3: In your opinion, what challenges do unpublished/indie writers face in their dream of becoming published?
A: On the one hand, it’s a better time than ever to become a writer. You can self-publish on the Kindle at a click of a button and have access to a wide audience of readers instantly. At least that’s the theory. In reality the ease of entry into the hallowed realms of Amazon, means that there are many, many self-published writers out there. Some are very good, some are exceptional, but some could do with some improvement. With no barriers to entry into publishing, it’s very difficult for the reader to know the difference without purchasing the book. So there are two big challenges for new writer. The first is making your writing the best it possibly can be, by the editing process described above. The second challenge is marketing; getting your name out there and reaching a wider audience than just friends and family. Even if you are talented and lucky enough to land a deal with a traditional publisher, they may not have much of a marketing budget for you.
Q4: How do you think the publishing industry will adapt to new and emerging technology over the next five years?
A: Emerging technology is exciting, but it presents challenges for the traditional publishing industry. Kindles and other e-readers have fundamentally changed the role of publishers. Whereas the industry was previously a closed shop, and an author had to rely on a publisher to edit, market and distribute his book, now all these functions can be achieved by the author on his own, or with the help of freelancers. In many cases the publisher’s logo is like a stamp of approval; it adds the brand to a book, signalling to readers that this book has beaten the slush pile and the book is worth reading. So I think the publishing industry will have to adapt. I think we will see the rise of smaller, more agile publishers, and the demise of some of the bigger brand names. It will be the smaller publishers that will be able to react quickly enough to make the most of the opportunities offered by technological change. In addition, technology companies like Amazon and Google will continue to encroach on the traditional publishers’ space.
Q5: What are your thoughts around the new community for writers’unpublished work being launched by iWriteReadRate.com?
A: Writing is a lonely business and being part of a community is important. After a long slog at the keyboard, with nothing more than your iPod or Spotify for company, it’s good to talk with other writers. It’s also important to receive critiques of your work. Feedback from strangers is often more valuable than feedback from friends and family, as they are more likely to be honest. I’m excited by the opportunities the community at iWriteReadRate gives to new writers. A loyal following on iWriteReadRate should translate into more book sales for new writers and that can only be a good thing.
Q6: What top writing tips can you give the aspiring authors on iWriteReadRate.com?
A: Make sure your story or novel has an enthralling beginning. It’s very easy to lose your reader at the beginning, but if they stick with you for the first 3-5 chapters, they will probably keep reading to the end. The first few pages are particularly important, as this is when you will hook your reader. You should also ensure that the reader isn’t left with too many questions at the end of your novel or short story. You should make sure you conclude all plots and leave your reader feeling satisfied.
Q7: 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?
A: It’s a commonly held belief that writers are introverts or even hermits. The writer goes off on their own, spends a lot of time staring into space, takes lonely walks in fields, occasionally sits at a computer, and comes out with a masterpiece. This is a slightly romanticised view of writing, but it’s one that a lot of writers subscribe too. Unfortunately, in the age of self-promotion, this model of writing is a difficult one. As I mentioned before, marketing has become one of the biggest challenges for writers, and marketing involves interacting with people on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, but it is important. Sometimes, it feels like going into a crowded room where you don’t know anyone and having to introduce yourself again andagain. But lots of people find social media invaluable. Once you lose the wallflower complex, and engage with people and be yourself, you can find yourself making some useful contacts, and even friends.
Q8: Any final thoughts for the members of iWriteReadRate.com?
A: I think iWriteReadRate is a great idea and the site is really well executed. I’m really excited about seeing how it develops and reading the books by the new writers you discover. I can’t wait for the site to move out of beta and to see what Project Prometheus has in store for users.
Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to talk with us and share your knowledge and thoughts.
Like this? Read more articles from our Interview Series.