For Writers: What to do with writing advice | Financial Times Numbers | Covers

Over on Substack, I post my thoughts on writing, publishing, & storytelling. Here are some recent highlights:

What to do with all that writing advice?

There’s a lot of writing advice out there. Some good. Some okay. Some bad.

I sometimes wonder if well meaning “writing instructors” aren’t a little bit like Homer Simpson, at least when it comes to giving advice.

Homer famously said: “And I gave that man directions, even though I didn’t know the way, because that’s the kind of guy I am this week.” (That might not be the exact quote, but it seems accurate to me. I got it from here.)

There is a lot of writing advice out there.

Some of it’s good. Some of it’s okay.

And some of it might send you down the wrong path, costing you years. 

Some advice might also be bad for you, but good advice for somebody else. One of the reasons why it’s hard to understand whether or not writing advice is any good is because something that works for one might not work for another.

How can you tell the difference between what’s worthwhile and what’s not?

There isn’t a simple way to answer this question, but here are some questions to ask:

  1. Does it seem right to you?
  2. Does it seem like it will work for you?
  3. What are other authors doing?
  4. Do you know of a successful author who does what’s being recommended?
  5. How much time will it take?
  6. How much will it cost?
  7. Is the person giving the advice an actual author?
  8. Can you try it out without it costing a lot of time and/or money?

An Interesting Article from the Financial Times

Authors Guild members experienced a 42% decline in revenue in 2019.

I was going to share a quote from an article in the Financial Times, The online tactics that help novels go viral, but when I pasted the quote there was a threatening message about copying articles.

I assume a single quoted sentence would have been fine, but out of deference to them, I’ll summarize the point. Authors Guild members experienced a 42% decline in revenue in 2019. (Note: I wasn’t able to verify the number anywhere but the Financial Times, but I’ll accept it as accurate.) The implication is that online publishing has changed things for many traditionally published authors.


That’s a significant drop. What will the 2022 numbers will look like for the Authors Guild members? Particularly in light of recent reports about the increased cost of paper?

Paper price increase puts pressure on publishers

Book prices set to rise as production costs soar, say UK publishers

Do covers have to be good?

Or is memorable enough?

Read this last night from Bob Eckstein: The Nine Lives of a Cat (Book Cover).

A few interesting quotes and some insight into the creative process of a book cover:

My last book was published by Countryman Press of W. W. Norton & Company and I believe everyone involved followed my own first rule of thumb when we met. My one demand was, “Let’s have fun.” Below are the rejects and some inside baseball commentary, for the cover geeks (and anyone else curious about how the sausage gets made).

Eckstein shows some of the iterations they went through for the cover. In my experience too, it takes many different versions before I settle on something.


Covers do not have to be good, they need to be memorable.

The last statement stuck with me.

Is it enough to just be memorable or do you want to strive for good as well? I didn’t have a ready answer. I’m still thinking about that question. It seems to me I’d want to do both. I can think of memorable things I remember for the wrong reasons.

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