So many people have thought about writing a book at some point in their life—starting with some glimmer of an idea that they thought would make a good story. They may have pondered it off and on for years but, for one reason or another, never acted on it. Does that sound like you? If so, I hope that after reading this book you haven’t been scared off; rather, I hope you feel that now is the time to begin writing.
Anyone can write a book. It could be the worst book ever written, but it’s still a book. The difference between a good book and a bad one is usually the level of effort put into it. I made many painful mistakes during the course of writing novels, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned from each one of them. I wrote How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Novel based on (in part) what I learned from my mistakes.
It bears repeating: The vast majority of first-time authors will sell fewer than 100 copies of their book (mostly to family and friends), not even recouping expenses let alone making a profit. But creating a well-written, professionally edited, marketable book that is vigorously promoted increases the odds of meeting reasonable goals. Keep this in mind as you develop your goals and objectives for writing a book.
I like this article annhandley.com/9-qualities-of-good-writing/ by Ann Handley in which she talks about nine qualities of good writing. If you’re a first-time writer, it’s definitely worth the read. The insight that most resonates with me is her statement that good writing:
serves the reader, not the writer,
has credible content,
has likely gone through many rewrites,
has structure and logic, and
is simple but not simplistic.
Just as it’s hard to condense an entire novel into a 500-word synopsis, it is difficult for me to summarize what I’ve written in How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Novel. But I’ll try. Each bullet point represents what from my experience is an essential aspect of publishing a successful novel.
Understand your reason and motivation for writing a book.
Know the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
Set reasonable goals and a realistic budget.
Know whom you are targeting to read your book.
Understand the basic elements of writing fiction—character, plot, setting, point of view, conflict, and theme.
Realize the importance of a professional editor and cover designer.
Create effective advertising blurbs.
Consider creating your own website, blog, and/or newsletter.
Be aware of industry scams.
Learn what makes a book highly marketable.
Know all the avenues for promoting, distributing and selling your book.
I can’t guaranty that if you follow the advice in this book that you’ll be a successful author, but I can guaranty that if you do, your chances will be better than if you had done nothing. Ultimately, it all falls on you—how much time and money you are willing to invest.
Hopefully, I have given you enough fundamental information to write the book that’s been inside of you just yearning to get out and haven’t discouraged you with some of these eye-opening facts. I trust that after reading this book, you realize there is no secret that allows you to skip over the hard parts. (See Appendix A for a comprehensive list of things to do before, during, and after the writing of your book.)
I want to end this book with a list of self-publishing success stories— stories about people like you and me who love to write but weren’t taken seriously by traditional publishers. Some of their stories seem fictional in themselves…but they’re not.
Twentieth-century poet Edward Estlin Cummings had to rely on his own finances (and, at times, his mother’s) to publish his work, as traditional publishers just weren’t interested in him due to his unconventional style. After self-publishing for much of his career, he eventually found the fame he deserved when he published No Thanks, a volume of poetry financed by his mother. On the half-title page, he listed the thirteen publishers that had rejected the book, which later became one of his classics.
In 2007, neuroscientist Lisa Genova began her writing career by self-publishing Still Alice, the story of a woman who slowly loses her thoughts and memories to Alzheimer’s disease. To get exposure, she went as far as selling copies out of the trunk of her car for the first two years. The book was later picked up by Simon & Schuster, made the New York Times best-seller list, and was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore. Still Alice has sold millions of copies in more than twenty-five languages.
One can’t talk about self-publishing success stories without mentioning Amanda Hocking. After years of seeing her urban fantasy and paranormal romance books get rejected by agents and publishing houses, she self-published one of them in e-book format on Amazon in the hope of selling at least enough copies to finance a trip to Chicago to see her beloved Muppets on exhibit there. She managed to raise not just the $300 needed for the trip but an additional $20,000. St. Martin’s Press later bought the rights to her first three novels for $2 million…and the rest is history. Hocking has published more than twenty-five novels, including the New York Times best-selling series the Trylle Trilogy and The Kanin Chronicles, along with the Watersong, My Blood Approves, and The Hollows series.
E. L. James
While her Fifty Shades trilogy is controversial due to the books’ sexual content and lack of literary merit, one has to give E. L. James credit for being right in her insistence that there was a large audience for this type of literature. She sold more than 100 million copies of her books, making her a poster child for self-publishing.
Michael J. Sullivan
Author Michael Sullivan started writing books to teach his dyslexic daughter to read. After spending more than ten years writing thirteen novels, he couldn’t find a publisher. His wife, who believed in him and supported his work, formed her own publishing company and helped him become the successful sci-fi and fantasy writer that he is today. Sullivan has published one stand-alone novel, Hollow World, and three series: The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and Legends of the First Empire.
When Weir failed to find a publisher for his first book, The Martian, he began posting free chapters of it on his website. Later, he put a ninety-nine cent version of it on Kindle. By 2013, the book had become so popular that Weir received an offer from Crown Publishing to buy the book for $100,000.
William P. Young
After having written a story with a strong Christian message, William Young wanted to present it to his children in book form for Christmas. He made fifteen copies, which he gave to his kids and a few friends. When they encouraged him to get it published for wider distribution, he polished up The Shack and sent it to twenty-six publishers, all of whom rejected it. So he formed his own publishing house, published it himself, went on to sell millions of copies, and wound up on the New York Times best-seller list.
Follow your dreams and make them happen. Have realistic expectations, work hard, and it will pay off—that’s what I believe.
I wish you every success with your book, and I hope it becomes a best seller!