Freelance writer, journalist and author Deborah Durbin has taken time out from her busy schedule to chat to 'Strictly' about her career and her new book So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer, which is out today (March 29)
Q: WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A FREELANCE WRITER?
A: Up until I had my second daughter I pretty much flitted from one job to another – I don’t much like working for other people because it’s always in the back of my head that they are earning more money than me! When my second daughter was born I decided I wanted to work for myself, so enrolled with the London College of Journalism and took a diploma with them. Once I had qualified I started out submitting articles to local newspapers and then to magazines. That was almost 17 years ago and I haven’t stopped.
Q: YOU ALSO WRITE NOVELS, SO WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TYPE OF WRITING?
A: Because I trained as a journalist, journalism writing is what I’m best at. I love the whole process of researching a subject that I know nothing about, interviewing people and submitting. I also love pitching to editors. It’s almost like having a challenge every day – will they accept, won’t they? Having said that I have had two novels published which have both been in the Amazon top ten and I enjoyed writing these enormously. It’s a lot harder for a non-fiction writer to change their style to fiction, because in journalism every word must count and you’re trained to write short and sharp copy to tight deadlines. You have more space and time to work on a novel, but this can often be more of a hindrance.
Q: WHY THE FREELANCE BOOK?
A: So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer is based on my years and experience of working in the industry and details not only what to do, but most importantly, what not to do if you want to become a freelance writer. The reason I wrote it was because so many people have asked me for advice on what to do when they start out, that I thought I would jot down what I had learned in the form of a blog. This was then picked up by Compass Books and turned into a handy pop-in-the-handbag paperback.
Q: IS THE BOOK SUITABLE FOR SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT?
A: It certainly is. So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer covers everything from starting with the basics such as writing reader’s letters to learning how to pitch correctly and how to get a book deal. All the information has come from my own experience, whether it’s submitting an article to a magazine or persuading a publisher to publish your book. It also details the mysterious world that is the publishing industry.
Q: WHY ARE YOU QUALIFIED TO WRITE SUCH A BOOK?
A: I’ve written for most of the women’s national magazines and newspapers in the UK and the States – from The Sun to The New Scientist and everything in between. I have also had 13 books traditionally published and although I have had agents, I have secured all my own publishing contracts, including foreign rights. Writing is my full time job.
Q: WILL THE BOOK HELP PEOPLE GET PUBLISHED?
A: Yes. Everything within the book is from my own experience, so if you follow the advice in the book you stand every chance of getting published, whether that be in newspapers, magazines or books. I explain in the book that getting paid for your writing depends on a lot of different factors, such as an editor might have already run a similar piece, or be holding one in stock etc, and that very often it is a numbers game, but if you know how to approach a commissioning editor, you’ve won half the battle.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BIG BREAK?
A: My first published piece was a reader’s letter for a parenting magazine. This led to me being commissioned for an article with the same magazine and then my first book. Once I had something to show editors that I could write to a publishable standard, my career really took off.
Q: WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
A: In the attic! It’s not as bad as it sounds! Our attic is a fully functioning bedroom and office. I have to have either the TV or the radio on when I work. I don’t like to work in silence. I have two white regency style desks; one with my laptop on and the other with magazines, newspapers, clippings, printer, a tub of Twiglets and a tin of Quality Street on it. I also have a mini fridge in the corner of the room, filled with chocolate and soft drinks – it’s a long way down to the kitchen!
Q: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
A: All sorts of places. I tend to specialise in mind, body and spirit or health and wellbeing features because those subjects interest me, so I’m always reading about them. Having said that, one day I had written features about cell regeneration, white magic, the function of the kidney and dating for the over 50’s, so there are a lot of subjects that interest me and if I think I can make them interesting to a reader and get a commission then I will write about them.
Deborah Durbin’s new book, So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer, is out on 29th March. You can find her at www.deborahdurbin.com or blogging at http://soyouwanttobeafreelancewriter.blogspot.co.uk/
We have one copy to give away to one blog reader - all you have to do is leave a comment below and we will pick one at random.