10 practical gifts for writers
With the silly season fast approaching it’s time to start thinking gifts. I’m not sure about other writers, but I've had my fill of journals. My desk drawers are fit to bursting with them. Worse still, most are never used. While I tap away at my laptop, they collect dust, awaiting the day I decide to take up paper mache.
In the defence of pen and paper, I do use one hard copy journal. I've had it for about eight years, and it serves to jot down notes at writers’ groups. That’s it. That exquisite notebook gifted last birthday? It’s serving as a shopping list in the kitchen, back soaking in cooking juices, pages torn out in ghastly chunks. Sure, it’s getting used, but probably not in the way intended.
So, if you're hunting for a gift for a writer friend or family member, here’s a quick list of ideas that will mean more to them than yet another journal.
1. Read our stories
Buy our books, read our blogs, engage with the words we have spent days/years/lifetimes crafting. Not everyone shares the same literary tastes, we get that, but if you do, a show of support will mean more to us than you’ll ever know.
2. Write a review
Following on from buying our work, leaving a review—even if it is just a short “I liked it” on Amazon and Goodreads—is hugely valuable to us. Reviews help spread word of mouth about our work and in the case of Amazon, can boost a book’s visibility on the site.
3. Give us time to write
A good gift idea for kids to give to a writer parent(s). Think of it as a voucher: “Use me to get 1/2/3 hours of uninterrupted writing time.” You can get creative with it too—some coloured paper, decorative pens. Failing that, I’ve designed one for you below.
4. Bookshop voucher
These will never go unappreciated. As writers, we read. A lot. And if we haven’t already given you a list of books we’d like, a bookshop voucher is the next best option. And before you run off to Amazon, why not check out your local indie bookshops and publishers first?
5. Audiobook voucher/subscription
I’m a big fan of audiobooks. I listen to them while I drive, when I walk, when I cook, clean, run and gym. They are a great way for me to squeeze in more “reading” time—and it seems other readers have cottoned on to this too. In 2016 and 2017, the number of audiobook sales rose 25 per cent, then 30 per cent respectively.
Audible and Google Play are two big players in audiobook distribution, but they’re not the only ones. A bit of surreptitious research into your writer friend’s preferences may be required. On a side note: There are also a few free audiobook apps available that offer stories available in the public domain. Libraries also offer a good range of audiobooks through apps such as Libby and BorrowBox. If you're writer friend/family member struggles with technology, perhaps set this up for them as part of your gift.
6. Literary magazine subscription
From genre to general fiction, literary magazine subscriptions make great gifts for writers. The short stories and articles in literary magazines are ideal for a busy writer who doesn’t have time to sit down and digest a full novel but still wants to read.
But literary magazines are also great for writers looking to sell their own short stories. For many of us, part of our querying process involves buying previous issues of magazines to get an idea of what the editor(s) like and whether our stories and style would suit said magazine. Unfortunately, the cost of doing this can start to add up if you’re submitting several stories on the go. By giving us a literary magazine subscription, you’re not just giving us bite-sized stories to read on our lunch breaks but also helping us research potential markets for our own work.
7. Tools of trade
A writer might only need a computer and word processor to do their job (or a notebook and pen if they’re old school), but they still have to pay for those tools of the trade. Why not show your support with a gift of Scrivener or a subscription to an editing app such as ProWritingAid? It might seem unexciting, but these tools are hugely useful for writers—especially when it comes to planning and polishing our work.
A few options include:
Office 365 (MS Word for word processing and MS Publisher – a useful tool for self-publishing)
Pages (word processor, MAC only)
Scrivener (word processor, productivity tool)
Scapple (productivity tool)
Ommwriter (productivity tool)
Grammarly Premium (editing software)
ProWritingAid (editing software)
AutoCrit (editing software).
8. Seminars, courses and workshops
As a writer, I’ll jump at any opportunity to grow my craft—and I’m not alone in that. Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received have come from writing courses.
Check with your local writers’ centre to see what workshops and seminars are coming up that might appeal to your writer friend/family member.
University extension programmes are also another good place to look.
While many courses are expensive—often floating between several hundred to several thousand dollars—some short courses can be quite affordable. For example, the AWC runs a 2 Hours to Scrivener Power course for under A$100. Failing that, a voucher or cash towards a course is always appreciated.
9. Professional assessments and editing
If your writer friend/family member has just finished their first manuscript, a manuscript assessment from an industry professional can provide valuable feedback on:
point of view
An assessment may also offer advice on what the writer needs to focus on to take the piece to the next level. This is usually delivered in a report, rather than as notes on the manuscript. It’s not as rigorous (or expensive) as a professional edit, but the insights can be invaluable.
If your writer friend has a few manuscripts under their belt or has a manuscript that’s gone through several rounds of revisions already, a professional edit may be more appropriate. However, there are several different kinds of editing a manuscript will go through, but two key stages are:
The structural edit: also known as a developmental edit, this edit will look at the same elements as a manuscript assessment, but in far more depth. If you want to know more, read this great post from Lauren Keegan about her experience hiring a structural editor.
The proofread: this is ideal if your writer friend/family member is in the final stages of preparing a manuscript for submission to an agent or publisher.
Note: editing is expensive and I, for one, would never expect anyone to pay for it in full. Simply chipping in is enough to show your support.
10. Tickets to a writing conference
If you really feel like spoiling a special writer someone, a writers’ conference could be the gift you need. Conferences are a great place for writers to network and learn. Bear in mind, if you live outside the major writing hubs, there’s transport and accommodation to consider too.
While national conferences are likely to draw a crowd of best selling authors—especially those from overseas—don’t dismiss events run local writers centres. These conferences might be smaller, but they can still offer excellent insights and are a great way to connect with the local writing community.
A small warning: if you send your special writer someone to a conference, they may return with renewed enthusiasm and bury themselves in a project for weeks, even months, afterwards. The promise of coffee and/or tea may help coax them back towards social interaction.
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