In case you don't know him (and I know many of you do), Nik is a writer, and occasional teacher of writing, from the north west of England. His acclaimed short stories have been published widely in places including SmokeLong Quarterly, 3:AM and Word Riot. They’ve also been read at events and on radio, printed on fliers and used as part of a high school distance learning course in the US.
Nik’s debut collection of short stories, Not So Perfect is published by Roast Books, is out now, and is just so perfect). He blogs here and his website is here.
This isn't a proper interview because if it were I'd be asking questions. This time I just gave Nik some topics and asked him to busk about them. I knew he'd come up with the goods.
So, once again, over to Nik.
Nik’s thoughts on...
Things that might surprise an aspiring writer about being published
It is really, really, really hard work. And exhausting. I mean, writing the thing’s difficult enough (and that’s after all that time spent learning how to write well, after all those stories we’ve given up on) and then the submitting, the editing. But once you’ve signed that contract it’s as though, to a point, you’re starting from the beginning again. You have to work hard to promote your book. Your publisher will do what they can but, really, the hard work’s down to you. And that’s as it should be because it’s YOUR book and you should want to get out there and show it off. Books don’t sell themselves, and that’s especially true if you’re an author that few people have heard of. Which is most of us!
Don’t expect any favours. From friends or from reviewers. Of course some are lovely and only too pleased to have a look at your book and tell their readers what they think of it – but when you consider just how many books there are out there and how much time a reviewer has to read (or can choose to read and then choose to review), you should be truly grateful for any publicity. (I should mention that I’ve been incredibly fortunate that Not So Perfect has been really well received and has had lots and lots of positive reviews – thanks so much to those who’ve taken the time to do them.)
Something I’ve only realised recently is how efficient a "friend-filter" having this book come out has been. I’ve heard from people I’d not heard from in years and years and, in contrast, some of the people I’d have thought would have been the most pleased for me have shown little or no interest at all. And, I suppose, why should they? Which brings me back to the previous point and leads efficiently on to the next... as a writer, published or none, you’re not owed anything. If you’re doing it for the money or for the recognition or for the fame (ha!) you’ll most likely be pretty disappointed. You should, I think, do it for the love of it and consider yourself privileged if you’re able to do it as a job. (I should also add that ‘doing it as a job’ means writing and being able to give talks, run workshops etc etc...!)
A friend of mine, the brilliant novelist Caroline Smailes, calls me the Willy Wonka of short stories and that seems to be the most accurate – not everything I try comes out as I’d have hoped it would.
But I love it. It’s an honour and a privilege.
But underneath all of that, it was rather different.
My point (and worry), and I make this every time I teach, is that an awful lot of good and serious aspiring writers are too concerned with Being Published. And my message to them is: DON’T BE! Don’t give it too much thought.
What you should be concentrating on is writing the best book you can. That’s essential. If you write a good book then there’s a very good chance it’ll be published.
Which leads me on to...
So, yes, publishers like good books. So, in theory, all you have to do is write one – just don’t be surprised if that takes a few attempts.
Be hopeful but be self-critical. It’s a high standard you have to reach and make no mistake, you ARE competing with the best in the business. And what makes it harder is that they’re known – by readers who buy their books and by publishers who know they’ll sell the books. But they were unpublished writers too once, you know! And they got to be where they are now by working very hard and by not giving up. And probably, by trying and failing a few times too. Remember: nothing’s lost.
My last piece of advice though, is this: enjoy your writing. It won’t be fun all the time, but you should do it because you enjoy it. It should be, mostly (even if it’s well hidden) - fun.
Now, any of you who love a beautifully crafted story, especially when wrapped between gorgeous covers, and / or who want to see how to write beautiful short stories, do buy Not So Perfect. I did and I'm tantalising myself by only allowing myself one story a night. I don't know why he called it Not So Perfect. It is perfect.