How to become an author mentor?

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I’ve been thinking more recently about trying to use what I know about writing and publishing to help other authors write, publish and market their books. This is often called author mentoring, but for me also includes creative writing teaching. I’m doing research to figure out how to get into this field. As far as I can see, there are two parallel tracks – this is what they look like:

TRADITIONAL ROUTE

  • Get trade published (ie – not self-published). Get an MA in Creative Writing. Maybe get a PhD.
  • Possibly some courses on editing?
  • Leads to university lectureships, work at The Literary Consultancy doing book appraisals/editing, various part-time teaching/editing gigs.

I’ve always known that getting into a university position requires gatekeeper approval. You need to be traditionally published to get there. From what I’ve seen talkng to fellow members of the Society of Authors, you don’t need to be mega succesful or with a major publisher to achieve these positions. Good money can be made, and more than that, you get access to molding all these young, motivated minds.

That’s what I’m after. The parts of my current job, as an Academic Writing skills teacher at foundation school before university, that I enjoy the most revolve around workshopping students’ essays and teaching them ‘how to think’ in logical, evidence-supported ways.

I don’t think it can be that different from running creative writing workshops. My methodology and pedagogy is pretty much all set up. Teach something, as much as you can teach various creative writing skills, then see what they come up with and steer where possible. That sounds like great fun.

First is publication. Although I could start getting my MA now. And taking editing courses, taking on odd editing jobs.

Relevant links:

  • The Literary Consultancy – Offers a range of manuscript assessment, mentoring and editing services to authors, provided by a wide, stellar cast of bestseller authors.
  • City Lit – Offers a range of creative writing courses, run by published authors.

INDIE ROUTE

  • Have visible success as an indie, win prizes, make cash and achieve bestseller status.
  • Write a book on some aspect of indie writing.
  • Make an online course on same.
  • Set out your mentor shingle on a personal website and start soliciting mentees. Probably word of mouth and personal connections is a good way to get clients.

I know a couple of people through my Alliance of Independant Authors marketing group who do mentoring in various shades. One friend is designing a course. Another mentors writers. Again, as with the TRAD route, you don’t need overwhelming success it seems to have a crack at this. Writers who are further down the ladder will look at writers with modest but good achievements and want to get a leg up from them.

This mentoring gig seems pretty different from the TRAD route, in that it’s more bespoke. You bring all your knowledge to the table, whether that’s in writing, editing or marketing, and help the mentee where they need it most. The mentee pays a set fee and can expect a certain number of hours per week/month of your time.

Relevant links:

  • Shelfhelp – A one-man mentoring service run by Ben Galley, whose book cover for The Written I saw when he was first getting feedback on it on the kboards Writer’s Cafe. Professional-looking, 2 online courses, charges by the minute in phone calls. Mostly focuses on the marketing side.
  • Helena Halme – A friend in the ALLI marketing group, Helena has been doing mentoring for a while, with strong testimonials from several Baronesses from the House of Lords! She seems to follow the Create Think Do method of mentoring.

Other links I’m stumbling along that are useful for general networking:

  • BytetheBook – Loads of networking opportunities in London, including occasional speed-pitching with agents sessions.
  • London Writer’s Cafe – Meetup group that meets once a week, run by Lisa Goll who also started Create Think Do
  • Spread the Word – I don’t really know what these guys are, but maybe they are like Byte the Book and organize various networking events for writers in London. They’ve got an event discussing mentoring for writers coming up on Nov 15, I think I will go.
  • First Monday Crime – I learned about this from the Society of Authors introductory party (showing the value of networking!) – a place for crime/thriller writers to get together and listen to panels of succesful writers, and network. I’m going to the next one.
  • ALLI – Alliance for Independant Authors. Founded by Orna Ross, who also started the Meetup marketing group I’m no co-organizer of.
  • Society of Authors – What it says on the tin – they advocate for authors, vet contracts, and run some events. I’m going to a regular meetup of Novelists in London these days.

It’s fascinating what worlds open up when you look outside the realm of self-publishing. I’ve been exclusively on that side of the fence for four years now, and opportunities for networking were pretty limited. Now I’m looking at trad publishing again, there are so many things to do!

Anyway.

Back to evaluating the INDIE ROUTE – I like this approach too. The chances of getting an actual ‘job’ seem far more remote – there are no organisations I know of hiring mentors. You’re freelance, a sole trader really, but that sits quite nicely alongside being a writer. I’ve done something like this in the past, when I taught English to private students in Japan.

In fact I used to have a very cobbled together English-teaching schedule – every week 3 or 4 private students, 2 or 3 company gigs with a business client, 6 hours at one uni and 6 hours at another. 20-odd hours in total, adding up to a nice full-time income.

I haven’t done anything like that here (in the UK) because there are fewer opportunities to teach Academic skills in that way. Maybe though I can look harder at moving onto a cobbled together schedule, incorporating mentoring work. It sounds like fun. Next time I’m with folks on both routes I’ll dig a little deeper, and in the meantime think more about adding a mentoring option to my website. Get in line now!

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