Meeting Stephanie Hale
arranged by our tutor Julia at Worcester university.
Julia and Stephanie met working for the BBC. Stephanie Hale was the former Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Diploma at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education and is now the director of Oxford Writers literacy consultancy.
Stephanie’s advice for new authors is primarily to research your market. even if you are doing a genre-based novel.
Also stories must always escalate from the beginning. “In the last 10 years of my experience readers don’t like to wait, especially in literary fiction. They wanted to move fast and they wanted all set up being done within the first chapter.” Stephanie warns us.
What is the worst misconception authors have? “The one thing I’d don’t want an author to be is negative and expecting things to just drop in their lap.” Stephanie often finds that rebranding or re-titling the book can sometimes help an author who has been struggling.
When asked why she wanted to be a publisher Stephanie answered “mostly because people kept asking me. I was quite good at marketing and a lot of people wanted to go from part-time to full-time and I could help with that. I was able to bridge the business to the literacy writers gap and back either way.
How many authors make the cut this year? “out of thousands there is only about 90”
why do people often choose to self-publish?
“I’m not against people self-publishing. As self-published authors you get most of the profit. if you go to the mainstream publishers you only get around 8%. If there was any type of publishing I’m against its vanity publishing where you pay to be published.
If you’re going to self-publish you need to learn marketing skills. Don’t hand the book over and just think it’s going to be okay. When you read about anybody who goes from destitute to millionaire, you find that they have had to put in a lot of hard work and have had to know the subject well in order to sell it.” publishers expect 3000 to 5000 followers on a social media site before they’ll even look at publishing you after you have self-published your own work.
For Stephanie the business side often produces her books. for example, clients wanted to know how to sell 1 million books so that’s what she wrote and that’s exactly what she called it “How to sell 1 million books” she always says to keep going and keep learning.
What are the things you look for in an author?
“The character of the best kind of author is resilience. writing is a business you need to be up to doing this for hours and hours of a day. secondly is marketing. you’ve got to be okay about it; talk about your work, why you love your characters and what inspired you to write. You need to know that you will need even more hours spent researching your book than when you are writing that book. Lastly the perfect type of author understands their reader. They look at what that reader is looking at, they read what that reader is reading, then and only then did they make a story for them.”
Stephanie’s top tips
- Don’t outsource. Instead find out what your readers like about your work. Respond to them yourself whenever possible.
- Plot is so important. Grammar can be sorted out, but if you don’t have a good story it isn’t even worth the paper its on.
- Your first chapter must be a wow! Personal experience and lots of research always help to do this
- Get on social media and exploit it. Find out now who is doing similar work to yours and have a look at it. Market research is very valuable.
- Sometimes you are the story when it comes to selling your work. Things like what inspired you to make this story or what’s it about these are facts only you can say with passion and be believed.
- Bulk sell your book. Get your book into a reading group or on a popular reader’s blogger by sending them free copies for a review. It often works well.
I have to say it was a shock at how high the bar is set for new authors, but I’m glad I took the time to talk with a brilliant mentor and publisher. Now I won’t be wasting so much of my time and energy. Stephanie’s talk has motivated me to really aim my writing and do a lot more research before starting a story.
Thank you Stephanie Hale.