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Monday, 16 June 2014

Nicola Soloman

Leigh Russell talks to Nicola Soloman

Nicola Solomon is General Secretary of the Society of Authors.
Her role includes protecting authors' interests in negotiations/disputes with publishers and agents, advising on tax, privacy etc.
Campaigning for authors’ rights, including copyright, e-book rights, Public Lending Right, defamation reforms and freedom of speech.
Liaison with the Management Committee and Council on setting and implementing
policy and managing finance.

Leigh: You work tirelessly to support authors. What drew you to this career path?
Nicola: I am an avid reader and feel passionately about the importance of reading for information and pleasure. I had been an intellectual property solicitor for 26 years and was excited at the chance to use my skills and legal knowledge to support individuals and to further such an important cause. It is also exciting to get to meet all my heroes!

Leigh: Should authors build an online presence, or is merely it a distraction from writing? 
Nicola: Developing an online presence can be a useful marketing tool, but isn’t the work itself, so authors need to get the balance right and resist the tendency to play with the website at the expense of actual writing.

Mere self-promotion is never very appealing, but writing material that you suspect your readers will want to find out about can be satisfying and even whet appetites for the next book... A good website should offer something to interested readers than they cannot find elsewhere, so consider including thoughts on previous books, or ideas about the craft of writing in your genre, and a list of forthcoming speaking engagements. 

A good website can be an excellent shop-window for your work and – if you get it noticed – can lead to contracts as well as commissions for magazines or journals.

Leigh: What advice would you offer to authors, both new and established? 
Nicola: There’s no getting away from the oldest lesson of all: know your market. Authors should be aware of trends within their genre, what’s selling, what’s popular, what’s being talked about. I’m certainly not advocating that one should slavishly follow the fashions of the moment, but being aware of them and reacting as one’s inclinations and abilities prompt can only be an advantage.

As to practical matters, I’m still amazed how many authors accept contracts that are less favourable to them than need be, or do not know who turn to when they have questions or problems. Often just some simple and unbiased advice, such as the Society provides, can result in a revised contract that is much more favourable to the author, or the solution to a disagreement,  

Leigh: How do you see the future for self-published authors, and for the traditionally published?
Nicola: No-one knows what the future will bring but the world of publishing will continue to take advantage of advances in new technology, and authors will be able to target specialist audiences as never before. Self – published, traditionally published and all variants in between look set to continue side by side for the foreseeable future. .Authors need to consider all options and see what is best for them. Self-publication is clearly a growing trend which will continue, though possibly at a slower rate. However, self-publishing is time-consuming and can be expensive.  Marketing and distribution are generally held to be by far the most difficult areas of publishing, and this is particularly true of self-publishing. Fortunately the Society has a ‘Quick Guide to Marketing Your Book’ available to members from our website and we are running a seminar on this subject in June. With one or two rare exceptions self-published works will never sell anything like the number that a traditionally published book will; so if you think you can make a million by cutting out the middleman, you may wish to think again. A traditional publishing deal will still be better for most authors but do ensure you know exactly what is being offered and what rights you are giving. Traditional publishers are cutting their lists and offering lower advances but are demanding greater rights from authors. Many contracts which look traditional are only offering print on demand or ebooksand we are seeing increasing numbers of deals which look bona fide but amount to little more than the old vanity contracts. The trick is to be informed, to take impartial advice and not to be discouraged.

Leigh: I have seen serious discussions online about whether all writers are insane. What do you think?
Nicola:  It’s not just online discussions “The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact” as Shakespeare had it. I wouldn’t myself say all writers are insane, particularly not Society of Authors members, but some do exhibit the same dogged obsession and never-ending love of a topic that a mad person also might. Fortunately they can often harness it to wonderful effect.

Leigh: Finally, in one sentence, what does the Society of Authors offer its members?
Nicola: Our aim is to protect the rights and further the interests of authors, and within that short phrase nestles a host of services - contract vetting, advice on copyright, agents, publishers, free copies of the Quick Guide series, our own information-packed magazine The Author, invitations to talks, free ALCS membership, discounts on books from major retailers – and that’s just a start.

Leigh Russell is the author of seven books Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed and Stop Dead, published May 2013. Cold Sacrifice the first in a new series featuring Ian Peterson was published September 2013. Her latest book is Fatal Act. Cut Short (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Leigh studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. A secondary school teacher, specializing in supporting pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties as well as teaching English. The Geraldine Steel series and Ian Peterson spin off series have been optioned by Avalon Television Ltd to be made into a TV series., Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

1 comment:

  1. Great pointers! In my opinion, writers in this day and age should use all the tools that they can, especially the ones that are most within their reach. There's a kind of totalizing aspect to technology, or how we tend to interpret it, that is like a wand that waves away all our pressures and all our previous stresses and woes. Keep it up! I know your advocacy will live through!

    Michelle Pittman @ Maverick Web Marketing