Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Third time's the charm...? by Cathy Ace

Most of us - most writers everywhere - do something else first, or do something else alongside. What bits of your other career(s) have you found useful in the business of writing and what bits have you had to ditch?

Some sort of corporate "do" 1992...
I think I must be looking shocked because of the suit!
I’m on my third career. Yes, I know, that means I’m either greedy, or I just can’t make up my mind! Do I get bored easily? Yes. Do I constantly feel the need to take on a new challenge? Yes.

Career #1: I left university to work in advertising and public relations. Did that for other people for seven years, then decided to set up on my own. Don’t laugh. I know! Silly girl. But it went alright. I sold the business ten years later, having built it up to be the biggest of its type in Europe. Career #1. Retired at 39. Result!

Career #2: academia. I was imported to Canada like a parcel, to teach marketing on the MBA course at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Husband and I bought a house (partly with the proceeds from career #1) that was too far from UBC for me to commute, so I took up a teaching role at Simon Fraser University. I retired from this career in 2013, when my second Cait Morgan Mystery was published. Career #2. Retired at 53. Result!
Ready, set, The New Connaught Rooms, London when running my training company 1997-ish
Career #3: crime writing. YAY! Love it. First book published in 2012, so I reckon I have a few years left in me yet LOL! 

All three careers have required me to write for a living. I know that writing advertising and public relations copy differs from fiction writing (sometimes not too much!) and that writing marketing training courses and textbooks also differs from crime writing (sometimes not too much!) but writing is writing is writing, and I find the discipline I learned when writing to a client’s needs and tight deadlines are lessons I apply within career #3. I can’t wait for “the muse” to visit, nor can I wait for characters to walk into my office and introduce themselves, fully formed…I have deadlines, I have a work schedule, and I have to write to a timetable. I learned that during careers #1 and #2, now I live it in career #3. 
Proud to become a Freeman of the City of London, recognizing my marketing life 2000
The other aspect of my previous lives I apply to this one is my knowledge of marketing. Yes, I did literally “write the book” on marketing and brand building (nine of them, to be exact) before I began this new career. Writing fiction is – as the question this week acknowledges – a BUSINESS. I have always understood that I am writing for a target audience, within a target market, and that I, and my characters, will create a set of “brand expectations” in the minds of my readers…though this is not the sort of language most authors employ. My specialism in marketing was marketing communications, which includes brand building and every type of promotional activity. I have done my best to put what I learned into practice within this new career, though have to admit that being my own client leads to some incredibly annoying client/agency meetings. I’ve also tried to pass on my marketing and promotional experience in various ways eg: when I was Chair of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) I initiated the Member Marketing Memos that are now a part of our membership offering, and to write sponsorship proposals for CWC etc. 
My sister (L) and me in 2000, when I was honoured to become a Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Marketors
Since I decided to become my own publisher, I have found this background in marketing to be even more useful. I have a new book coming out in June and am facing the “you’re on your own, girl” situation for the fourth time. It’s no easier the fourth than the first time, let me tell you that. But I shall persist!

So I’m using a LOT from my first and second careers. What have I given up? My first career was in London, UK. It required a great deal of networking which I don’t do any more, other than when I’m online or at conventions, and I sat on literally dozens of boards and committees, and belonged to any number of professional bodies...all of which was an honour, but a LOT of work!

My second career required a great deal of student meetings, faculty meetings and grading, which I don’t do any more. I have managed to retain the aspects I enjoyed of those two careers, while being able to dump the bits I hated (yes, hate is the word I still use when I even think about grading papers, and I have endowed Cait Morgan with this trait!).

Oh, and I've been able to kill off advertising agency and academic types in my books. Just sayin'! 

If you'd like to find out more about me and my work, please check out my website by clicking here. 

And you can find out more about my forthcoming book...the first Cait Morgan Mystery to be published since clicking here.


Paul D. Marks said...

As you say, Cathy, writing is a business and I think people forget that sometimes. But I remember when I was working in another aspect of the writing business some people would remind me it's show 'business' and not to forget that second word. I try not to, but sometimes it's hard.

Susan C Shea said...

Cathy, we have trod a lot of the same paths as we wended our way to becoming full time mystery writers, and I can see how your marketing experience, not linked as mine was to non-profits, has been a real value to you. Congratulations and onward!

catriona said...

It's like looking in a mirror! At a fairground where the mirrors are not to be trusted. You rock, Cx

Cathy Ace said...

Yes, Paul, it's a business, and I think we're all in a place where we realise how critical each part of the supply chain between writer and reader is. At the moment, we're all using "work arounds" as best we can, and who knows what the "new normal" we be for our business. So much can be done online and direct these days, but the human interaction factor is what remains to be somehow realigned and reestablished in the near future.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan - I have to say that some clients ended up being closer to not-for-profit than they might have liked (!!!), and many of the organisations for whom I worked as a director were, indeed, not-for-profits or charities. But strategic marketing planning and marketing communications planning is what I did for thirty years, and it's impossible to leave that mind-set behind. Better to apply it :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Catriona - all I can say is that I'm so glad people didn't carry a camera with them everywhere, every day, unlike now. Dear heavens, some of the outfits I wore. Little Miss Corporate, or what!? LOL!

Janet Rudolph said...

Love hearing more about your 'other' careers.. and, of course, how they led you (or not) to where you are now. Glad you're writing and sharing with all of us. xoxo

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Janet - glad it was entertaining. So glad I am where I am now...and I mean that about where I actually am, as well as what I do now ;-)