It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s fun. Your first book enters a world in which there is no shortage of advice and plenty of doom and gloom stories. Your book should, above all else, be an enjoyable experience for you. If it isn’t it will quickly become overwhelming and burdensome. Even so, you can’t just attack those blank sheets without some kind of thought and structure, and knowledge how it might be published.
Start by thinking
The first step in writing is not to write. In fact it’s to think. You might, for example, be thinking of a single book, but maybe it’s worth considering multiplication. Think series. If you want a career as a writer don’t look at your first book as a one-time, one-title affair. View it as the beginning of your successful author journey. No harm in thinking big at the outset.
You’ll also need to think about your target audience. Are you writing for teenagers, young adults or a specialist market? Then, you can choose a topic you want to base your writing on. Are you interested in educating your readers, or do want to excite them with a story they will find irresistible? Finding your niche is important.
Thought: Do you already write for the web or maintain your own blog? If you’re stuck for ideas why not collate your most successful blogs into a book?
Research your topic
Another aspect of writing is research. Whether you choose to write a work of fiction, a book of recipes, or a self-help book, your book has to convince the reader. They need to feel safe in your hands. A work of fiction may not necessarily need to be fully factual but it does need to be plausible. Therefore if you’re writing about the feel of a gun that’s already out there (i.e. not a fantasy gun) you’ll need to get your facts straight. How heavy is it? What’s the recoil like? How noisy is it when fired? It’s the details that build up the narrative and make your story both gripping and realistic.
Use short sentences. Slash your sentences to around 15-17 words. The danger with long sentences is they contain more than one idea. Multiple phrases slow your reader’s comprehension. Make it easy. Get to the point.
- Write compelling copy. Write for the 8-10 grade level, unless you’re specifically targeting a more cerebral audience. Clear, simple to comprehend copy, encourages your readership to stick with your book to the end.
- Write with specific details. Do away with generalities. Let reader’s use their senses so they experience size, color, smell, shape, sounds. Some forms of writing are designed to pull people in and reveal the benefits of purchasing your book. If yours is in this category think about the pitch:
Complete this course and improve your income.
Or Complete this course and improve your income, health, lifestyle (and other benefits you specify).
Those extra few words may make the difference between being overlooked and being purchased. Never underestimate the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor.
- Slash adverbs within your book. Go through your draft (several times) and cut words like suddenly, very, openly, etc. Remove ‘very’ words, get out your thesaurus and replace them with words that reveal emotions or describe more fully.
Is your book logical? Start the process by making sure it sounds natural. Read it aloud. if you stumble over a sentence or find you don’t understand something, your reader will definitely misunderstand. Once you feel it has passed the self-editing process, pass it on to trusted friends or colleagues who will offer accurate feedback.
Check, Double-Check and Check Again
There are different views by expert writers on how many times a book should be subject to proofreading. Editing and proofreading your work is something that you should not take on yourself. It is too easy to overlook mistakes because you just don’t see them. I mentioned previously that trusted friends or relatives can be helpful, but they are never the same as a professional editor and proofreader. A person who knows nothing about you will judge your work purely on its merits. Their feedback may be brutally honest, but they are really only protecting you from the potential bruising coming your way if you ignore their advice.
Publishing vs Self-Publishing
Two publishing platforms exist for aspiring writers. Traditional publishing is notoriously difficult to access. Many highly regarded authors will attest to the huge difficulties they encountered finding a publisher willing to take them on. Some publishing houses only consider authors if the manuscript comes to them via a literary agent. The internet is full of agents but be warned it’s no easy job finding an agent.
Case in point. Peter May is an international best-selling writer, having sold millions of books. His attempts at finding a publisher in the United Kingdom came to nothing. In the end he was picked up by a French publisher. The rest, as they say, is history.
The benefit of traditional publishing is that once on board you have some real muscle behind you. Your work will be professionally edited, prepared and marketed. The downside is that your cut of the money will be quite modest. In fact you may typically receive just 10% of the sales price per book.
Self-publishing is the popular alternative. There are no gatekeepers and this leaves you free to upload your script and market it in the way you choose, or avail yourself of the services offered. Unless you establish a niche for yourself you could easily find your book gathering dust on the virtual bookshelf.
So, in order to avoid bad reviews, make sure your book is good quality and be prepared to invest time and energy promoting it on social media. The financial benefits of self-publishing can be good with authors on Amazon securing up to 70% of the sales price. Self publishers can also enable their work to be added to lending libraries.
This has been a short, sharp and somewhat haphazard overview of issues to consider when writing your first book. Although some of my comments may appear stumbling blocks they are not meant to be. If you approach your writing project with your eyes open it can be hugely rewarding. The financial side of things is a bonus, but writers will frequently say they just enjoy the writing. Many just ‘have’ to write. Whatever your motives I wish you well.