Ten tips for freelance authors

I am a professional author who has been freelance for eleven years, and today I’m going to share with you a few of the things that I have learned over the years.

1. When an editor asks you to change something, you have two options. You can open up a furious comment thread protesting that your artistic vision is being compromised, or you can just change it. The latter is almost always the better approach.

2. Don’t hold stuff back. Always do the very best on whatever project you are working on, no matter how lowly it feels. If you hold stuff back for a future project, you may never get it. If you can’t think of new ideas for each project, you’re in for a long slog.

3. Don’t self-censor. Your first draft is your opportunity to be daring. If you don’t take risks then, you never will. Every author has the right to be wrong sometimes.

4. Tell people when you are ill or when you are on holiday. It doesn’t matter if the project slips by a few days because usually the in-house team are under as much pressure as you are. They love being able to say “we’re a bit behind because the author’s been off sunning himself in Tahiti…”

5. Don’t work 24/7 to meet an unfeasible deadline. Actually, that’s good advice for any field of work. You’ll just set an impossible precedent for everybody else.

6. Learn the law. We all borrow and adapt from everybody else, just make sure you do so in the proper way. A basic rule (which lies behind all churnalism) is that you can’t copyright a fact. Knowledge such as “the moon orbits the earth” belongs to everyone.

7. Get out! Writing is lonely work and you need inspiration from other people. Having said that, my friends know they can’t tell me anything because it’ll all end up in a book …

8. Develop a network of fellow freelancers. See these people as your friends, not your competition. There’s plenty of work to go around, and if not, it’s probably not worth freelancing in the first place.

9. Always do a sample at the outset of the project, whether it be a chapter or just a few pages. Then discuss it with your editor in a skype call or face to face. This is the most important part of the project and it should end with you both having a very clear idea of what the final product should look like. Never write the whole book before you have had any feedback. That way disaster lies.

10. Concentrate on quality, not deadlines. Yes, deadlines are important, but when the book is published, it will be there forever. No one will care that the author only had three weeks to write it.

And finally, quit whining. You’re not fooling anyone. They all know you’re living the life of Riley!