Author and ghostwriter Tom Bromley is one of our winners of The Unsung Heroes of Publishing 2018. We asked him a few questions about his approach to projects and the changes he has seen in the publishing industry since the beginning of his career. For a complete list of #UHoP18 winners please see more here.
Photo: Paul Clifton Photography
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I’ve worked in publishing for almost twenty years as a bookseller, copywriter, commissioning editor, publisher, author, ghostwriter, creative writing tutor, book reviewer and festival director. I’ve written and co-written eight books of my own, ghosted a further dozen and commissioned/edited close to a hundred titles.
How has your approach to writing changed as your career progressed?
There’s a definite learning-on-the-job element with writing – the more you do (hopefully) the better you get. The main way my approach has changed is learning to accept projects that you’re excited to do, rather than to take them on for the money.
Tell us a bit about your approach to your projects.
With my ghostwriting, the key is meeting the person you’ll be ghosting at the start to see if you’ll get on. If the chemistry isn’t there, you should walk away. If it is there, then you need to get stuck into the interviews before beginning the writing. With my own work, it tends to be a bit more organic: I try to keep that as fresh and non-routine as possible, so it doesn’t feel like work. Over the years, my wife has got used to the last few weeks of my finishing any book: I’ll tend to work round the clock for the final fortnight or so, disappearing until the project is done.
What are your favourite, and most challenging projects you’ve worked on to date?
Last year, I was director of the inaugural Salisbury Literary Festival, which was both hugely challenging and extremely rewarding. I’d never done anything like it before, so that was a big learning curve, especially on the planning and logistics side. Hopefully this year I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing when the festival returns in the autumn.
What have been the biggest changes in the publishing industry that you’ve witnessed over the course of your writing career?
Probably the rise of ebooks and self-publishing. That has changed from something which was looked down upon into a multi-million pound industry, with some of the biggest authors outselling their traditionally published counterparts. As a writer, that gives you more options, both in terms of routes to market and in terms of what you can publish.
You also teach creative writing. What is the best advice you give to up-and-coming writers?
I’ve taught for the Faber Academy for five years and my message is always the same: a good writer is a good reader. As much as someone like me can tell you what to do, books are always the best teachers. Analyse why your favourite books work and use those techniques in your own writing.
What are you reading at the moment and what’s next on your ‘to-read’ list?
I’ve just finished Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, which I thought was brilliant – she’s a great writer in complete control of her material. Top of my TBR pile is a proof of Killing It by Asia Mackay, one of my former Faber Academy students who Bonnier are publishing this summer.
You can find Tom Bromley on Twitter.
Tom is one of the authors of The Sebastopol Project’s On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders, which will be available on the 17th of May. Pre-order here.