3 lessons writers can learn from the music industry

This is a guest blog from Christopher Russell, author of Mockstars, a music novel inspired by his international tour diaries for rock/pop band The Lightyears.

As someone who has spent over a decade in the trenches of the music industry, when I migrated into the book world last year I was delighted to find that everyone in publishing is spectacularly nice to one another. By contrast, rock ’n’ roll is rather less cuddly – and in fact it’s largely for this reason that I think it has prepared me well for life as an aspiring writer.

With this in mind, here are a few of the transferable lessons:

1. The industry does not owe you success

There isn’t a great deal of justice in pop music. Great talents go unrecognised, ‘surefire hits’ sink without trace. In both industries, the rewards for the super-successful can be astronomical, but that’s only because there are risks to match, and while you know you’ve written the next Ulysses, you will have to fight tooth and nail to convince everyone else. You will be knocked back. You will be rejected. In fact, you’re not a proper writer until this has happened at least once. So grow a thick skin and, if you must weep at rejection, save your tears in a jar so one day in the future you can mail them to the idiots who turned you down.

2. The market is SATURATED: you have to stand out

The problem with the term ‘writer’ is that it not only encompasses people who, like your good selves, are hard-working, committed and professional, it also includes those moony, dreadlocked types who call themselves writers but in fact have simply read Shantaram on their gap year and found it really opened them up emotionally. To an agent or publisher you all look the same, and due to the insane restrictions on their time, they are, quite simply, looking for a reason to reject you. So don’t give them one. Not one. Make your submission slick, exciting and grammatically orgasmic, and you might just beat the odds.

3. Have more than one string to your bow

Publishing advances and sales revenues have shrunk rapidly in recent years, exactly as they have in music. For some time now, my band has performed at private events to keep the business ticking over, and to supplement my writing income I freelance as a blogger and album reviewer (I even once spent three months ghost-writing for a One Direction fan-club). Until my line of zombie erotica really takes off, I will need these multiple income streams to keep the wolf from the door, and unless you are lucky enough to be of independent means, you will be in the same boat. In short, plunge your fingers into a variety of pies – heck, sell the pies if you need to. Though you might want to take your fingers out first.

Mockstars is published by Red Button Publishing, and you can read the first chapter here.