Consider sponsoring a local event

This week I am pleased to help sponsor an annual race event at my local BMX club. The intention was to help a family friend and support the good work done by this and similar organisations in the community. I belatedly realised that it was an opportunity to promote myself and my writing to a new audience. Marketing isn’t my strong point, but it is something that all writers need to consider.

The relative ease of publication has dramatically increased the number of available books at a time when people generally are reading less. This makes it more challenging for writers, particularly new writers, to gain a following. Those who are self-published can spend up to 80% of their time on promotion not writing. The pressure intensifies for those who rely on the income from sales with most authors earning less than the minimum wage.

If you want to succeed financially as a writer, you need to find readers. There may be some at a community event near you.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

The myth of The Five

This week I borrowed a book from my local library. I refused to buy The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, because of concerns about the way it was marketed. The unique selling point, an untenable suggestion that the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper were not prostitutes, was presented as a fact and those with differing views criticized on social media. This follows Bruce Robinson and Patricia Cornwell, two other respected authors who also promoted their work by attacking others. A similar approach is used by politicians laughing at the ideas of their opponents whilst failing to put forward a viable alternative.

Rubenhold chose to ignore or misquote evidence that contracted her idea. This is a great shame for two reasons. Firstly, the occupation and status of the victims is irrelevant. They should be remembered, honoured and respected as innocent people killed by a maniac. Secondly it detracts from the considerable achievement of documenting their lives in a very readable narrative. Although it is not the first such biography, or the most accurate, it is the longest and packed with fascinating information about the world they lived in. Through it we come to understand that they were victims of society long before they met their awful fate. Wisely Rubenhold refrains from describing that fate. She is right to complain about the industry surrounding Jack the Ripper but seems to have exploited it to boost sales.

This is not a book about Jack the Ripper or even true crime. It is a good piece of social history sitting in the wrong section of the library.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

Tax Deductions for Writers

This week I submitted my tax return.

Each year I always check what expenses I can or cannot claim against my writing income in case there have been changes. The following summary only applies to those based in Australia. If you live elsewhere check with your own tax authority or authorised tax agent.

To claim an expense it must have been paid by you,  related to your work and not been reimbursed. You must also have a record such as a receipt. The ATO provides an ap that allows you to record deductions on your mobile device. I haven’t downloaded this yet but it looks like a useful tool.

If you work from home, which most writers do, you can claim some occupancy and running expenses. Should you be fortunate enough to write full-time with a designated office at home then you might also be able to include a percentage of rent, mortgage interest, rates or insurance.

For equipment you can generally claim up to $1000 and depreciation on capital items that cost more than $1000. Don’t forget subscription fees to magazines or online publications that you use only for writing, membership of any relevant organisation, and the costs of maintaining a website. Travel costs are standard, remembering the rule about reimbursement. If someone pays your expenses to attend an event then you can’t double dip.

If in doubt consult a tax agent, remembering that their fees are usually deductible too.

Being different

My reading material this year has largely been from the same author, who shall remain nameless, after being presented with a box containing many of his best works. I’ve reached saturation point. Different titles. Characters with different names who behave the same. Same structure and formula. Boredom has crept in.

That’s because the books were not designed to be read in sequence, some were written twenty years apart. In isolation they stand out from others in their year. Together they’re too similar. Very few prolific writers, if any, can consistently create different material.

Earlier today I listened to Steve Guggenheimer talk about technological change in the last twenty years. For writers, change has opened up digital platforms, reenergised audio, allowed independent publishers to compete with established ones and facilitated repeat viewings on demand. It means that audiences can pick their favourite writer, binge on everything that he or she has done and then move on when they’re bored.

Our next challenge is in finding ways to diversify our output and attract a new audience, without alienating current supporters.

Paul Williams is an author of fiction and non-fiction including Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia. During July, he is donating royalties from copies sold in Australia to The Black Dog Institute.

Thanks for the reviews

This week I want to pay tribute to those readers who take the time to write reviews. Good or bad, their comments provide useful feedback to writers and help us improve. This week I was sent a link to this fabulous review of Futuristic Canada, an anthology containing my short story “Her Last Walk.” The review is balanced and comprehensive with comments on each story.

Also, this week my review of Doctor Who: The Crusade appeared on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide. As I watch each episode of the program in order, I have been writing quick reviews and sending them for publication in this immense database of opinions. This one was too quick. Who fans will spot the error and the concise comments do not, with hindsight, do justice to the best story in the second series.

I have taken a learning point to improve the quality of my reviews, with a new benchmark. Reviews matter, so please keep writing and sharing them.

Paul Williams is an author of fiction and non-fiction including Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia. During June and July, he will be donating royalties from copies sold in Australia to The Black Dog Institute

Dealing with rejections

This week, in addition to the ongoing Mary Kelly research, I have been busy revising a couple of fiction pieces. Revision is an important part of a writer’s workload. Sometimes it is polishing drafts until they are ready for submission and sometimes it is making changes to a rejected piece so that it can be sent somewhere else. Rejections tend to outnumber acceptances and the key to dealing with them is to not dwell on the reasons.

A rejection is not a binding assessment of your work, merely the constructive opinion of someone who has more submissions than they need and must decide which ones best suit their audience. Sometimes they are kind enough to provide feedback. Consider that carefully, bearing in mind that a different editor might appreciate the piece without changes.

You can improve your acceptance rate by trying to understand the editor’s needs. Be familiar with the material that he or she likes and has published before. A horror specialist will reject the finest romance. You should also follow the guidelines explicitly, even when that means reformatting your manuscript. Editors will always look more favourably on writers who can follow instructions.

Paul Williams is an author of fiction and non-fiction including Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia. During June and July, he will be donating royalties from copies sold in Australia to The Black Dog Institute.

Holiday Inspiration

This week writing took a back seat due to a family holiday at Ayres Rock. It was refreshing not to use the computer whilst seeking inspiration from the surroundings. Ian Fleming said that he never wrote about a place that he hadn’t visited, and this familiarity adds a touch of veracity to otherwise implausible plots. Today writers can research most locations in detail without travelling there, at the risk of losing local knowledge.

The first Australians rely on oral history, so the only way to experience their unique culture and stories is by listening to them. Conflicting views on the pathway to reconciliation, the forthcoming ban on climbing Ayres Rock, and the impact of tourism are just some of the debates that may influence my fiction in the future.

If anyone is interested in reviewing Futuristic Canada, a speculative fiction anthology from Dark Helix Press, featuring my story “Her Last Walk”, please let me know.

Paul Williams is an author of fiction and non-fiction including Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia. During June and July, he will be donating royalties from copies sold in Australia to The Black Dog Institute.