Writing a book? Here are 5 Lessons in success from the Rugby World Cup

Let’s be honest here, sport and creativity generally share an awkward relationship similar to that of chalk and cheese. Peaceful as it may be, it is a coexistence that typically shares little in terms of common values. Few writers would disagree. And yet, when you step back and look at things from a different perspective, there is actually a lot that you can take from the sport if you are planning to publish a book. Here are five lessons that every writer can benefit from.

1. It’s a game of strategy

Strategy is crucial to success in any sport, although it matters a whole lot more in some than in others. When it comes to rugby, for example, it takes a serious amount of strategy (not to mention brute force) to overcome the competition and emerge victorious. And it is essential to be dynamic too. Simply developing a model of play and sticking with it is a recipe for failure – the strategy needs to constantly develop and evolve, as well as be able to adapt to each opponent on a match by match basis. There will be elements of play that work exceptionally well, and these can be retained, but there will also be things that simply don’t work, which need to be corrected. Unless you are at a level far superior to even your nearest rival, there is little to be gained from repeating the exact same tactics and expecting different results.

If you are struggling to finish your manuscript, take some time to analyse your approach to writing and understand what is working for you and what is not, then look at how you can adjust things to improve your productivity. Consider when and where you write, as well as more complex issues such as how you develop plots, characters, timelines, etc. Read around the craft to discover new techniques that you could potentially add to your strategy and give them a go. If they work, great; if they don’t, cross them off and move on.

2. Persistence pays

Just as with any sport, there is no doubt that luck can play a part in success as a writer. But the reality is, it is persistence that wins games and tournaments and few sports serve to illustrate this better than rugby. The sheer persistence required to simply hold one’s position and not relinquish the lead is impressive – and a highly accurate metaphor for the world of writing. In such an incredibly saturated marketplace, it is harder than ever for writers not just to complete their manuscript, but to overcome the noise, stand out from the crowd and get their work in front of the right people. 

However, with enough tenacity, it is still possible to get fantastic results. Combine persistence with strategy as described in the previous point to get your work out there and build momentum.

3. Never underestimate the power of the underdog

One of the most exciting aspects of rugby is its unpredictability. It really is a game where the unexpected can happen and the underdog can overcome the odds to come out on top. Not by chance, but by applying the principles of strategy and persistence. Because of the unique nature of creativity, the same is equally true of writing. 

Now that social media and self publishing have removed the barrier to entry, with the right book there is every chance that you can succeed as an independent author and reach the big time – without the need for a major publisher to pick up your work. Of course, that’s not to say it’s easy. In order to succeed as an indie author, it is still essential to create something of exceptional quality and mass appeal, as well as to be willing to put in many, many hours of hard graft when it comes to marketing. Get it right, though, and it will all be worth the effort.

4. Communication is king

So let’s make sure that you are up to speed with the basics of rugby. You pass backward and kick forward. Seems simple, right? Now imagine that you are on a pitch with your fourteen fellow players and up against stiff competition. You win possession of the ball and… without communication, who on earth will be able to anticipate your next move to ensure the ball stays in the right hands? 

Just as it is true to rugby, communication is king when it comes to book marketing. Don’t fall into the ‘please buy me’ trap. Of course, traditional advertising (often akin to begging) is important – but this is only part of the marketing equation. What really builds loyal audiences (read, people who will buy your book) is marketing activities that create conversation, which leads to people wanting to buy your book. Social media is a great tool for this, but do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Look for every opportunity to get you and your work in front of interested audiences and interact with them as you would normal human beings. Resist the temptation to go in with a hard sell.

5. Creativity counts

When there are fifteen of the heaviest, most muscular men you are ever likely to encounter ready and waiting to jump on you, it takes more than just strategy to succeed – it also takes a certain amount of creativity, and the teams that do best in rugby are those that foster a culture of creativity, where thinking outside the box and coming up with original approaches to gameplay within the limitations of the game is actively encouraged. 

Book Marketing has a lot in common. Of course, all of the traditional book marketing methods should be explored, but look for the uncommon too – see if you can come up with novel (pun intended) ways to market your book that put you in the limelight and get you in front of untapped audiences. If you can be as creative about your approach to marketing as you are to your work itself, the likelihood of success is far greater.

Not sure where to start with book marketing? Struggling to complete your book? Get in touch today to talk to one of our experts and discover how wordworx can help you take your project to the next level.


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Thomas Keneally

Born on this day: Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) – A prolific Australian novelist, playwright, and essayist best known for writing Schindler’s Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982 which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor and which went on to be adapted to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Phantom of the Opera

On this day in 1909: the novel The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) by French writer Gaston Leroux was first published. It ran as a serialization in Le Gaulois from 23 September 1909, to 8 January 1910, before later being published in volume form in late March 1910 by Pierre Lafitte and directed by Aluel Malinao. The novel is partly inspired by historical events at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century and an apocryphal tale concerning the use of a former ballet pupil’s skeleton in Carl Maria von Weber’s 1841 production of Der Freischütz.


One of the five watercolours by André Castaigne illustrating the first American edition of Ghost of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1911).

It has been successfully adapted into various stage and film adaptations, most notable of which are the 1925 film depiction featuring Lon Chaney, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical. More recently, in 2004 The Phantom of the Opera was made into a British–American musical drama film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical. The film was produced and co-written by Lloyd Webber.

Andrew Wynford Davies

Born on this day: Andrew Wynford Davies (20 September 1936). Welsh writer of screenplays and novels, best known for House of Cards and A Very Peculiar Practice, and his adaptations of Vanity FairPride and PrejudiceMiddlemarch, and War & Peace. He was made a BAFTA Fellow in 2002.

an image of the original cover page of Pride and Prejudice (public domain)

He was hailed by the Guardian as “Britain’s greatest transformer of literary classics” for his BBC One adaptation of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables. In 2001 he was photographed by Stephen Poole for the National Portrait Gallery.

William Golding

Born on this day: Sir William Gerald Golding, CBE (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993), a British novelist, playwright, and poet best known for his debut novel Lord of the Flies (1954). He subsequently went on to write over a dozen novels in his lifetime. In 1980, he was awarded the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage, the first novel in what became his sea trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983.

A photograph of William Golding from the Dutch National Archives.
Image: Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989

As a result of his contributions to literature, Golding was knighted in 1988. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2008, The Times ranked Golding third on their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.

Lord of the Flies

On September 17th 1954 Lord of the Flies, a novel by Nobel Prize–winning British author William Golding, was first published. The book follows a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves. The book has ranked in many literature polls, most noticeably one cinducted by Time magazine in 2005 which named it as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

An image of a desert island with low hanging cloud.

Despite going on to reach widespread success, the book was not initially a best seller. In fact, it went out of print in the United States during 1955 after selling selling fewer than three thousand copies.

H. A. Rey

Born on this day: Hans Augusto Rey (born Hans Augusto Reyersbach; September 16, 1898 – August 26, 1977). A German-born American illustrator and author, best known for the Curious George series of children’s picture books that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. George was a chimpanzee who was brought from his home in Africa by “The Man with The Yellow Hat”, who became best friends and lived together in a giant city.

a photograph of H. A. Rey reading to children

Word of the Week

This week our word of the week is one that all writers, both aspiring and established, should be extremly cautious of – unless of course it is intentional.

Trope: Noun. A common or overused theme or device CLICHÉ the usual horror movie tropes

an image containing a definition of the word trope

Words of the Web

This week marks the 28th anniversary of the public release of the World Wide Web, invented by English scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. He wrote the first web browser in 1990 while employed at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. It was a huge success and within a year had become available to the general public, making its public debut on August 6th 1991.

The World Wide Web has played a central role in the development of the Information Age and is today is used by billions of people worldwide – often as their primary tool for interaction with others. Not only has the World Wide Web transformed the way we live our lives, it has also brought into existence a whole new language. Let’s take a closer look at some of the words and phrases that have been born out of this momentous occasion.

The Web

There was a time when the word ‘web’ meant ‘a network of fine threads constructed by a spider from fluid secreted by its spinnerets, used to catch its prey.’ Then, in 1991, everything changed. The following chart from Google says the rest:

Source: Google

The Internet

The word Internet is a portmanteau of ‘interconnected network’. Did you know that in correct usage, it should always be capitalised if used as a proper noun? Consider yourself informed! In speaking, the internet and the web are generally used synonymously, although technically the world wide web actually refers just to one particular internet service. Today, the word internet is often shortened in speech to simply ‘the net’, for example in the common phrase ‘surfing the net’.

Random fact: The word ‘internetted’ was used as an adjective as early as 1849, meaning interconnected or interwoven. The designers of early computer networks used internet both as a noun and as a verb in shorthand form of internetwork or internetworking, meaning interconnecting computer networks.

Hyperlink

Imagine a world without hyperlinks. Unthinkable isn’t it? It may feel like we’ve used them forever, but before the late 1980’s nobody had ever heard of them, and even then, you would have had to be working at CERN to have encountered the term. Over time, the term has become shortened to simply ‘link’, used as both a noun and a verb. To give things a sense of scale, as of January 2019 there were over 1.94 billion websites on the Internet. When you include the navigation menu, the average page typically has anything from 10 to 100 links. We’ll leave it to you to do the maths…

Browser

A web browser (commonly referred to simply as a browser) is a software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web. Each individual web page, image, and video is identified by a distinct Uniform Resource Locator (URL), enabling browsers to retrieve these resources from a web server and display them on a user’s device.

Interestingly, one of the most common mistakes in English usage related to the internet is the confusion between ‘browser’ and ‘search engine’, which are two very different things. From an end user perspective, a search engine is simply a website, such as google.com, that stores searchable data about other websites. In order to connect to a website’s server and display its web pages, a user must have a web browser installed on their device.

The waters have become even cloudier these days, with the introduction of the Google Chrome Browser, which, alongside the Android operating system, has led to everything blending together. Which leads us nicely on to our next word…


The Google search engine, in the Google browser… on the Google operating system…

Google

Is it a verb? Is it a noun? No, it’s… Google. Just sit back for a moment, and imagine your life without Google. Ok, stop there, we wouldn’t want to cause any distress. It’s hard to believe that before 1998 there was no such thing as Google.

Today, Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. That translates into at least 2 trillion searches per year, 3.8 million searches per minute, 228 million searches per hour, and 5.6 billion searches per day. And guess how we found that out? Yep, we Googled it.

Born on this Day – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron TennysonFRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was a British poet. Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign, Tennyson remains one of the most popular British poets. In 1829, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Gold Medal at Cambridge for one of his first pieces, “Timbuktu”. His first solo collection of poems, Poems Chiefly Lyrical was published in 1830. The volume included “Claribel” and “Mariana”, which remain some of Tennyson’s most celebrated poems. Despite some critics describing the work as overly sentimental, his verse nonetheless proved popular and brought him to the attention of several well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tennyson’s early poetry, with its medievalism and powerful visual imagery, was a major influence on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson by George Frederic Watts
Alfred Tennyson

Many phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplaces of the English language, most notably “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all” and “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die.” He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.