Like any other product, if you want to sell something, you need to have something that people want to buy. So, the obvious question is: how you create write a book that sells?
Here are five steps to follow, which sadly, many new writers ignore.
Read before you write
This may be the most important step in the list. Read other writers. Read anything and everything to find out what you think is good and what isn’t. Read different genres and multiple authors, both established and new. Learn and absorb what you think makes certain writers “good”. Reading the works of these writers will provide you with the skills to write well. Reading published books (especially best-sellers) will inform you of what’s working for specific audiences (including your proposed target audience). That way you can figure out how to write for those readers.
Read carefully. Look at a writer’s content, style, and technique. Read to gain an understanding of what’s already in the marketplace, and determine whether what you want to write will fit in. If you need to, read particular books more than once. Use these second readings for further analysis of structure, organization, and presentation.
But bottom line: Learn, don’t imitate.
Write for your target market
If you’re going to write books that sell, you need to choose, learn about, and write for a target market. Likewise, if you have a particular publisher in mind, you need to know what’s on that publisher’s book list in your genre. Learn what’s selling, who the authors are, and read those books. Then, your writing needs be consistent with those authors, and needs to fit that publisher’s guidelines.
Write for yourself
This may sound like a contradiction of Step 2, but it isn’t. For commercial success, you certainly have to write for your target market. But for personal satisfaction, you need to write for yourself. Believe it or not, the demands or requirements of these two “markets” can actually be complimentary.
If you write solely for the marketplace, your work may seem like a knockoff. However, when you write from within (including having learned from Step 2), you’ll usually add personal touches or experiences that make the book more alive—and make it yours alone.
Bottom line: Don’t try to fake it. Write for a genre or niche that you know about, understand, love, or love reading about. It’ll show. And then, keep writing.
If you don’t know how to write, learn
Just because you’re an avid reader doesn’t mean that you’ll be a publishable writer, especially the first time out. Learning how to write well isn’t something that happens overnight or in a vacuum.
There are now so many resources available for aspiring writers. There are dozens and dozens of how-to books and online sources that cover almost every aspect of writing. There are also a wide variety of magazines and newsletters available.
You can sign up for workshops, seminars, and adult education courses at community colleges. There are also more-formal degree programs at universities that you can enroll in. In addition to the education you get through any of these, you’ll also get to mingle with other aspiring authors, with whom you can share critiques and start a support group.
There are also specific writers conferences and support groups, which may be useful for meeting other writers, as well as potential agents and editors. You’ll also usually get to hear about various writing techniques and learn about other writers’ successes and failures.
Bottom line: The above are certainly good investments in your writing, but nothing beats actually putting down words in your own voice (not a modeled one) and getting critiqued by professionals (like agents, editors and publishers)—at the right time.
Perfect your product
Okay. You’ve dotted your last ‘i’, crossed your last ‘t’, and inserted your last period. It’s now time to publish your masterpiece, right? Sorry, that’s a No.
Yes, it’s been a lot of work (e.g., research) and taken a lot of time (maybe even “blood, sweat and tears”). But writing is only one step in this challenging process. Like any good manufactured product, your manuscript needs to go through Quality Assurance before it goes to market. Skip this step and you may be a very disappointed aspiring author.
This next step is called self-editing. Your first draft will almost always be nothing more than a rough draft. Like a piece of wood, it needs to be honed and polished before it’s called furniture.
Never, never, never send an agent or a publisher a rough draft. That immediately marks you as an amateur.
Set aside your first (or previous) draft for at least a few weeks. Each time you pick it up, you’ll find typos, poor grammar, inconsistent flow, needs for improved structural or organization design, etc. Fix those before ever thinking about sending your work to someone. That includes an editor, agent, or publisher.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to writing a book that sells. The return on your investment in reading a few how-to books, taking a few classes, attending a few appropriate conferences, and/or joining a support group to get a manuscript critiqued, will be well worth it.
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