By Allison Tait.
Unless you’re planning to write just one amazing book and disappear (hello, Harper Lee), chances are you’re hoping to establish and build a long-term career as an author. But just what does that take?
One person who has insider insights on that question is Sophie Hamley, currently non-fiction publisher at Hachette Australia, and also an international bestselling author, writing as Sophie Green. Sophie has also worked as a literary agent and bookseller, amongst other things, so she’s seen author careers from every angle.
In a recent interview, I asked Sophie to name her top three secrets for establishing and building a long term author career.
These are her tips.
1. Know your motivation
“The first thing is to sort out why you might want [a long-term career]. Who are you as a writer?
“Do you want to be a storyteller, communicating stories to other people, or do you just want to make money? That’s totally valid. Or it could be about ego.
“It’s really important to know what your motivation is, though, because that’s going to be your motivation throughout (or, at least, part of your bigger motivation). And you need to know that it’s enough to sustain you when the going gets rough – because it will.
“Sitting down to write anything you are going to have many moments of doubt and there will be many moments when you think ‘I don’t want to do this’, but if you’re going to have a long-term career, you’re going to have to show up and stick with it.
“So whatever your motivation is, it does have to be enough to sustain you.”
2. Keep reading
“If you’re in a particular pattern, producing regularly, it can be really tempting to think ‘I just want to focus on this’ – but never lose track of the fact that you probably wanted to be a writer because you loved being a reader first.
“So keep reading, for your own entertainment and for helping the [creative] field lie fallow. Reading someone else’s story can be a really good way of giving your brain a rest when you’re working on something.”
3. Figure out what works for you
“Sort out your nature to help you develop habits. If you’re living in a city, with a household to run, and children to look after – there are many, many things that are going to get in the way of your time and rhythm for what you’re doing.
“I write in very short spurts, on public transport, most of the time. During the pandemic, I had to write at home and I had to come up with a different rhythm. So I found that structure and stuck to it. Try to find a way that works for you, but be flexible enough to change it if you have to.
“Other people’s tips are great but what’s even better is to find out your own nature and what works for you. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you need to have endless amounts of time and a special location and special candles and that sort of stuff in order to write.
Bonus tip: Keep your story with you
“As I discovered from a recent documentary, Jackie Collins used to write at traffic lights, driving her children to school. A couple of minutes maximum, and she would have been handwriting. If your story is always with you, then that’s possible. You just dive in.”
The Bellbird River Country Choir by Sophie Green is out now. Find out more here.
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently reading a lot of other people’s work. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.