Last week I watched Gok Wan on ‘The TV That Made Me’ show. I’m not normally an afternoon telly viewer, but I was sat with my husband as he recuperated from an accident the previous weekend….(it had been a very stressful week).
Enjoying the rare downtime, I listened to Gok’s ramble through his screen loves and hates without paying too much attention, until he talked about his ‘big break’, on the show ‘How To Look Good Naked’.
In his honest, straightforward manner, he acknowledged that his role on the show as a stylist wasn’t out of the realms of what any other person interested in fashion could do. It was just making people over – hardly rocket science.
The extra magic he brought, however, wasn’t focused on the now-trendy clothes, per se, but the boost his intervention gave his female subjects. Suddenly, they were no longer ‘frump woman’, but confident, stylish ladies. He’d given them confidence, and the tools to recreate this when dressing themselves at home.
You may wonder what the link is here, or why this hit such a nerve with me.
Lately, I’ve spent time defining my USP, as someone who helps authors self-publish their books. I’ll tell you here and now, it’s a burgeoning market; everyone and their dog is setting up as an author’s adviser, or someone who can project manage the production and printing of a self-published book.
14 million books. That’s how many are out there. 99% of authors sell fewer than 100 copies. With odds like that, the chances of an author writing a compelling, unique book is slim to start with, let alone finding readers to love it. DIY isn’t all that, in these scenarios. Sometimes, you need someone to help you stand out. Someone to give you the confidence you need to find and connect with your readers. Someone who’ll help you develop your style. Someone who has the necessary skills and talent.
Writing a book is a hell of a journey. There’s no wonder that some authors feel they’re qualified to advise others after going through the process. But what if their book wasn’t the greatest in the first place?
The studying I’ve done and the research I’ve carried out cover many years. The amount of books I’ve edited and developed, as well as the experience promoting and marketing titles, form the foundations of my developmental intervention. The help I know I bring authors when they work with me is hard to document, but it’s there. The confidence they feel about their writing is intangible, yet both the author and I can feel it. Clients leave me with focus, clarity, drive and inspiration – as did those ladies after Gok had been to work.
Books have been my life since…..well, forever. This is not my hobby. Being able to write is not beyond people; think about it – Gok’s ladies were perfectly able to dress themselves on a physical, basic level. But as for bringing that little ‘extra’, the sunshine and sparkle…sometimes you need the professionals’ help.
There’s no doubt that you could study your craft and find a longer route to goal, if you knew where you were headed and what you were looking for. We don’t know what we don’t know. I represent a shortcut, the informed voice from the other side of the fence. The mentor, the coach…someone to chivvy, critique, interpret, suggest. I imagine Gok wants everyone to feel good about their appearance, I want every author to feel confident that what they’ve produced is nothing short of brilliant. Can Joe Bloggs, author of ‘I only sold 20 copies’ do that? Does the hobbyist adviser know enough about the industry, different genres, readers’ preferences, commerciality, and more, if they’re only a part-time player?
If this post sounds like a rant, I guess it is. It’s like saying that just because I managed to change the tyre on my car, I’m now a fully-qualified mechanic. Of course, that would be rot, but it’s amazing what claims I see on my literary travels.
I acknowledge that writing is subjective, and that there are niche markets springing up everywhere. What one person hates, another loves. In a similar vein, there’s good advice and bad advice. Who would you rather listen to: a qualified editor and consultant with years of experience in the industry, or Joe Bloggs who’s only had his eBook up a fortnight?
The shoulder for the author to cry on, the board upon which to sound off….that’s me. The Gok Wan of the literary world.
Developmental editor and publishing consultant Diane Hall is the author of three books; she has also ghost-written books for others and created a plethora of content, on more subjects than you could care to imagine, for numerous clients since the beginning of her career. She is proud to have fundamentally shaped series of books and more than a hundred individual titles over the last decade with various authors, nationally and internationally.
Among her editing qualifications, she holds a linguistics diploma, which involves the study of language and speech. Diane employs this knowledge in the forensic linguistic work she sometimes undertakes.
Diane has seen the introduction and subsequent rise of self-publishing, and passionately keeps abreast of its disruption of the publishing industry. She is a thought leader when it comes to the future of book marketing, fuelled by the poor results authors see when employing traditional techniques.