Interview with P. J. Aitken

Interview with P. J. Aitken

Tell us about your latest book.

The Online Writers Companion is a bible for online freelancing, written with aspiring writers and authors in mind, while also being accessible for anyone who wants to make a little money freelancing. Its a guidebook that will explain every step of the processthe same process that I used to earn a six-figure salary as a freelance writer, even while I was still juggling my job as a fiction and non-fiction author.

I wanted to create something that was comprehensive and covered every aspect, leaving no stone unturned, but to do it in a way that was very accessible. So, as well as advice on how to start a freelancing career and how to develop into a full-fledged 6-figure writer, there is also advice on how to start your own successful blog/website, how to invest wisely, how to deal with taxes, and pretty much everything else that you need to do as a freelancer.

The Online Writers Companion was published by Allworth Press and is available in paperback in all major online and offline retailers. It is also available as an eBook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
How was this book published? (traditional, small press, self pub, etcc...)  Why did you choose that particular publishing route?

I have gone down the self-publishing route in the past. I am originally a fiction author and after trying to make it for 10 years I eventually self-published my books. I did very well with those books and within 2 years I had sold them to a traditional publisher, who took the workload off my hands. By that point I had started to freelance and just didnt have the time or the desire to continue with the self-publishing. It was a relief to have the help of a traditional publisher.

The Online Writers Companion was proposed a year later, by which point I was freelancing full-time as I awaited the re-release of my books. So, while most of my books were self-published initially, this one was not. And Im glad for that, because it makes a huge difference having the support of a publishing house behind you. Not only do the editors, the designers, the sales team and the PR team help with the work, but you get the sense that youre all in it together, you all want to make the book a success and will do what it takes for that to happen.

When you self-publish, youre alone, youre overworked and its easy to feel pressured by all of that.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

They can visit It was created to market the book and to talk about freelancing in general. These days I dont get as much time to post on the site as I would like, but I have contracted some other freelance writers to fill in the gaps and offer some advice of their own. There is also a Facebook page for the website.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?

I think its going to be an eye opener for many aspiring writers out there. It would have changed my life if I had known this information a few years ago and thats the main reason I wrote it. I was a penniless writer for many years and I discovered freelancing after I had been a successful fiction author, so by that point I was no longer penniless. But I still went on to earn more as a freelancer than I ever did as an author and if I had known then what I know now, my life would be decidedly different.

This book is for writers who are struggling to make ends meet and want to be given the opportunities they deservebecause its not just about the money, freelancing also opens doors. It got me a nonfiction book deal, it introduced me to publishers and agents who have changed my life and my work, and I have also made great friends and business partners.

Who designed the cover?

I have been very lucky to work with an exceptional cover designer who created all of my fiction covers: Lilith C Graphics. She helped me when I was self-published. When I eventually sold my books to a traditional publisher, I asked if she could come along and pitch her ideas. In the end, my publisher loved her work just as much as I did and she has since designed all of my novel covers.

The Online Writers Companion was a little different. We sent some idea drafts in, but ultimately the publisher wanted something a little different. So, they took a basic theme from those ideas and hired their own designer to do the rest. Im still very happy with the cover, so it all worked out in the end.

What are you doing to market the book? 

I have been offering my services as a freelance writer in exchange for some marketing. Ive also worked with a few PR companies and have had a lot of help from Allworth Press. The book has featured in national newspapers, on freelancing blogs and in a few other places. I also created a video for the book and have been using Facebook ads as well.

I realized early on that I was at the mercy of websites with a lot of readers. They were charging a small fortune for me to feature my book on their website and I just didnt want to throw my money at them. I offered to do interviews and even to write some of their content and this worked to an extent, but some sites were only interested in money.

So I created a few websites of my own instead. As a freelancer I have worked a lot on SEO over the years and know what it takes to create a successful website. Its a slow process, but it means that in a few months I will no longer be at the mercy of those sites and will be able to advertise my book on my own sites, for free.

Do you believe in writers block?

This is something I never experienced until recently. I have always had a novel on the go and when I was still an aspiring novelist I would write every day. The irony is that when I was eventually published, when people were actually reading my novels and I was being paid to write them, I stopped writing and entered a dry spell.

For me, its all about creativity, or the lack of it. As an aspiring novelist I was living on the bread line. I didnt work and I gave it my all to be a writer. Poverty has a way of inspiring you to write, as does knowing that you have invested everything into being an author and that if you fail, you will have nothing.

As a full-time writer who is also trying to promote books across three pen names, I havent had time to write for myself. I still write every day (articles, content, promotional stuff) and pretty much every second of every day. I can also write non-fiction at the drop of a hat. But it has been a struggle going back to the mindset of a fiction novelist, which is essentially what I began my writing career as and what I still consider myself to be.

Last month was the first time I worked on a novel for over 2 years. In the end, it was just a case of finding some free time, trying to relax and zone out of the chaotic day-to-day, and knowing that I just had to write something creative, even if I deleted it a few seconds later.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

My next non-fiction project will be a book about how to build a successful website from scratch. This will actually be the first book that I have co-authored as I am working with a friend and online entrepreneur who owns many successful websites himself and has taught me a lot about the industry.

There are many similar books out there so we wanted to do something different. The Online Writers Companion offered a unique approach to an old industry and with this book we aim to do the same. One of the first things that we did was to create a brand new website and as we have been writing the book we have been applying the methods we discuss to that website. Its our way of saying, Do as we do, not as we say and of proving that these methods work even when you have a budget of less than $20.

Were currently about half-way through the book and already that site has made a substantial profit, so were very optimistic about this book and the good that it can do.

We decided to go down the self-publishing route with it because we both already have the network to market it and sell it, and the fact that we are two and not one means the work and the spend wont be as high.

If it was just me, it would have been traditional publishing or nothing at all, purely because the idea of delving back into the world of self-publishing (and the demands it brings) is too much. But its easier when you have the support of someone like that.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?

The thing that has helped to shape me the most as a writer is the fact that I have always enjoyed reading multiple genres. When it comes to fiction, my main influences are Philip K. Dick, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett, a combination that helps me to inject comedy, suspense and surreality into my work. My nonfiction influences include Bill Bryson, Danny Wallace and Jon Ronson.

There is usually an element of comedy to everything I read and I think this has influenced my own work as a writer. There is humor in everything I write. I think this is especially true of The Online Writers Companion. Its a reference book, a how-to, but its also a reflection of my journey as a freelancer so there are a few moments where I rant about clients and use humor as a way of making it a little less offensive and grumpy.

When youre not writing, how do you spend your time?

I dont have much of a social life anymore because Ive pretty much been working flat-out for the last 5 years. Theres always something that needs to be done, whether its working on a freelancing contract, a fiction/non-fiction book, promotional work, or one of my websites. Its 100+ hours a week, 52 weeks a year, but I still enjoy what I do, so I have managed to maintain my sanity.

On the rare occasions when I get a few hours spare, I play guitar, go to the cinema, read, and try to spend some time with my partner, who only knows me as the human shadow that sits in the corner of the room and is always accompanied by keyboard noises.


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