Today’s software and platforms have made it easy for almost anyone to write and publish a book. But not everyone is a born writer. Here are some tips that may not make you a professional, but they may keep you from looking like a novice.
Don’t copy a popular formula
For a new writer, it’s so tempting to mimic the genre or style of the latest popular book. However, that’s not you writing. It’s not original. You might just as well use a photocopier and put your name on the cover. Far better to write from your own experiences and with your own passion.
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
As the graphic above implies, the first draft is never likely to be the final product. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, there are going to be gaps and bumps and extra words and so on. The solution is to finish the first draft, take a break, then read it from front to back. It may even help to read it aloud, to get a sense of the pace, sentence structure, flow, etc. Then rewrite to fix the problem areas. And then maybe do this all another time – until you’re satisfied that this is the best you can do. Skipping this step in an attempt to get published quickly is often the mark of an amateur writer.
Hire an editor
The old expression of not being able to see the forest for the trees applies directly to writing. After you’ve written, read, re-written, and read yet again, you become blind to errors – everything from typos to singular/plural errors, to run-on sentences, and the like. Every author needs an editor. And using a professional editor is far more effective than using a family member or friend, who not wanting to hurt your feelings will not be honest. A professional editor will not only correct the obvious grammar and punctuation errors, but can be writing coach, working with you on how to make your book more audience appealing and more marketable.
There’s a line that goes something like “It’s hard to make a great first impression the second time around.” And another one: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The idea is that, whether your potential readers see your book in print in a bookstore or see a thumbnail picture of it on a website, your cover design may be a draw or a turnoff. Just as it’s a good idea to hire a professional editor, it’s equally sound to use a professional graphic designer to design an attractive cover for your book, which represents you and your content. Likewise, you need to pay attention to the summary of your book, for the back cover, dust jacket, or online synopsis. It’s the honey that will attract the bees (readers) you want.
Find the platform that works best for you and your book
If you’re new to self-publishing, going through the process that most platforms present you with can be daunting. It’s a good idea to start with one of the better-known platforms (e.g., Amazon Kindle or createspace, or Apple iBooks). But don’t stop there. Figure out a way to measure sales performance. If the legalities allow, maybe publish on several platforms. Again, measure performance for each one. Or perhaps you might switch from one platform to another, especially if you’re not happy with results on the first one. Pricing is a big issue with self-publishing. You might have to try various price point in order to get the performance you’re after.
Promote, promote, promote
Hurray, you’ve got a final draft of your book, and you’ve self-published it on one of the great platforms. You’re now about halfway through this self-publication process. But the stark truth is that no one, at this point, knows what you did (other than a handful of family members, friends, and colleagues). You have to let people know that your book exists – by promoting it. The obvious questions are where? and how?
The where, today, is mostly on social networks. If you don’t already have a presence, you need to establish one. And if you’re reading this before your book is finished, it wouldn’t hurt to start early, so when your book is ready, you can alert your network right away. You can also write posts and comments on other websites, where you think your audience might look.
You should have your own website, even if it’s just for your new book. There, you can offer any number of promotions (e.g., free books; something else free, like a membership, if someone buys your book; a free subscription to your online magazine or newsletter).
The whole idea is to let the world know that you and your new book exist.
If you’re a new author, it’s important to remember that very few authors ever make real money publishing. These are the people whose names you know. This book you’re writing, or have just written, has to be something you really wanted to do – for the self-satisfaction it brings. Keep in mind that you’re not the only one doing this. So, if you’re lucky and your work becomes a good (best?) seller, that’s just added gravy.
The above are just a few ideas. There are lots more available in books and blogs. Read and research as much as you can before you start writing. And write as much as you can, if for no other reason than practice and a growth in self-confidence.
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