One of the greatest joys of being an author is holding a copy of your book in your hands for the first time. These authors share what that was like and hopefully will serve as motivation for you to finish your manuscript this year. Enjoy and let’s get writing!
This is the time when people set goals and make resolutions for the coming year. If publish a book is on your list, here are some suggestions to help you make sure 2015 is the year you become a published author.
Set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. In all the years I have worked with self-published authors, I have found that picking a date for when you want your book available is absolutely critical. If an author works with a traditional publisher, there is always a release date set by the publisher. That determines when the manuscript needs to be finished by. When you self-publish, you need to set your own “release date”. Otherwise I find too many other distractions get in the way of actually finishing the manuscript. Now this date can be an actual event such as a speaking engagement or a book signing or you can just pick a day. But without a day circled on the calendar, it is likely you will never get to your goal.
When you self-publish, you need to set your own “release date”.
Build a timeline to get your goal. Once you have a date when you want to hold a copy of your book in your hand, you then need to build a realistic timeline to get your manuscript to published book. Start with that date and work backwards with these key milestones in mind.
- Complete the manuscript.
- Time for editing.
- Time for revisions based on editor suggestions.
- Illustration or image creation if applicable.
- Cover and page design.
- Review and approval of cover and galleys.
- Distribution to online and e-book retailers.
If you are familiar with the publishing process, you can probably build this timeline on your own. If you are not, then you will likely need help from a publishing consultant or supported self publishing company.
Put writing appointments on your calendar. Most every author I have spoken with confirms there is a best time during the day for them to write. In other words, they are more productive when they write at certain times than others. For you it may be early in the morning or late at night. It doesn’t much matter when, but it does make a difference if you block that time on your calendar and keep it as an appointment.
Make yourself accountable. As with most goals in life, support is a key factor to success. Publishing a book is no different. So once you pick a date and build a timeline, make sure others help you stay on track. Share your milestones and ask them to check in and see how you are doing. You may already have someone in mind who can help you in this way, but you may also want to look for a local writing group or online group. The Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) is a great example of a local writers group that can provide excellent support if you live in Southern California. The Author Learning Center is an example place to create an online group.
Make an investment. That in which we invest is usually what grows. So when it comes to publishing a book, you are going to invest both time and money to get it done. Sometimes putting money toward a project even before the manuscript is done can provide extra incentive to get the job done.
Plan your book launch event. Many people have ideas for books and even start writing, but it is a rare few who actually become published authors. So when you make it to your goal, you need to celebrate. Throw a book launch party to commemorate your achievement. Be creative. The location does not have to be a book store. I know authors who tie the location to something relevant in their book. It could be a restaurant or a church or a library. Just put it on the calendar and it will serve as additional motivation.
If you have any other helpful suggestions that keep you motivated, please use the comment section to share those.
Many people have ideas for books and even start writing, but it is a rare few who actually become published authors. So when you make it to your goal, you need to celebrate.
Recently, I had Kathy Ide write a guest post for this blog titled: LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The importance of proofreading. I interviewed Kathy for the Author Learning Center and found her to be quite insightful on a range of topics. She is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker. Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a volume I would recommend to every aspiring author.
What follows is a second guest post from Kathy that was originally published with the title, How to Uphold Your Reputation as an Author. As with her first post, I think you will find her points to be very helpful. Enjoy.
The buzz word in publishing is platform. But did you know that having mistakes in your manuscript can affect your reputation and platform?
Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
Even if your manuscript has already been accepted by a traditional publishing house, if their in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.
Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house but to the author.
Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
I once saw a published article with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.
Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students . . . unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.
Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.
If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that doesn’t proofread carefully, your book may go out to the public with several typos, inconsistencies, or PUGS (punctuation, usage, or grammar) errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may consider you an amateur.
For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules and you don’t, that’s not going to make you look very good.
Lucy Silag, community and engagement manager at Book Country, has written a very helpful whitepaper outlining the benefits of including beta-readers in your writing process. Book Country is an online writing and publishing community that is a division of Penguin Random House. Lucy is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is also the author of the Beautiful Americans novels for young adults (Penguin/Razorbill) and has written nonfiction for magazines and blogs. What follows is an excerpt from her whitepaper, which you can obtain when you register on the Book Country site.
What Is a “Beta-Reader”?
The idea of a “beta-reader” comes from the parlance of start-up companies. Before a company launches a new website, they will ask web-savvy “beta-users” to use their site and give feedback on it. The company then has a chance to improve their site before they make it widely available to the public, which helps them to make a better product and avoid bad publicity.
A “beta-reader,” then, is someone who reads your book and gives you feedback on it before you begin the publishing process. This helps you to see how readers would react to your book if you tried to sell your current version to them.
How do beta-readers help writers?
Beta-readers help writers to figure out which parts of their books are working and which parts need to be revised. Often, writers can’t see what’s not working in a manuscript unless someone points it out to them. Additionally, a beta-reader can make suggestions for how to improve your book’s cover, marketing copy, and even your author bio.
Who Is the Right Beta-Reader for You?
Here are a few things to look for in your ideal beta-readers:
- Do they read a lot of books, especially contemporary books? Are they aware of current publishing trends and bestselling writers?
- Are they well-read in the genre that you are writing in? For example, if you are writing romance, you’ll want a beta-reader who has read many romance novels. They’ll be able to tell you how your book measures up against other writers of the genre.
- Do they write too? A writer will be able to analyze your book in a way that goes beyond what the average reader will offer in terms of feedback. A beta-reader who is also a writer can tell you not just where you have made typos or copyediting mistakes but can also offer suggestions for how to improve voice, character development, plot, setting, and pacing.
Finding Beta-Readers through Online Workshopping
Online workshopping has become a convenient, low-risk, and free way for writers to get feedback on their work. Often called “online writing communities,” these sites are like social networks for writers and no-commitment writing classes all in one. Simply join the online writing community and exchange feedback with writers from the comfort of your own home.
What should you look for in an online writing community?
- The community should have a fair system for making sure that members are actually reviewing one another, rather than just posting their own books for review.
- Make sure the community has writers in your genre.
- Writers reviewing manuscripts in a community should be exchanging detailed, honest feedback, and offering suggestions on how to make your book better.
- You should be able to post new drafts of your book and archive previous versions of the manuscript so that you can access them as you revise.
- The community should have credible ties to the publishing industry, so that you can trust the opinions and advice of the site’s content.
- The community should be open to traditional publishing and self-publishing.
- The community should be focused on helping one another.
What Kind of Feedback Makes Your Book Better?
A writer needs honest, detailed feedback about these writing issues:
- character development
- point of view
- clarity in specific lines or passages of the prose
Since so much of finding an audience and selling a book is about how a book is positioned in the marketplace, it’s also important to get feedback about how your book compares to other books in its genre, and whether the way it’s presented (for example, the book’s cover and title) makes sense to a reader. A writer should get feedback on his or her synopsis too.
Workshopping your book with beta-readers can be the difference between a great idea and a great book. Follow the example of successful start-up companies, and find beta-readers to help you launch your book successfully.
A few months ago, I interviewed Mark Eckel after he published his first book, I Just Need Time to Think. That manuscript was a compilation of posts Mark has written for his Warp and Woof blog. I was interested in offering insights from him because I speak to a number of bloggers, but few actually get to the goal of publishing a book. I thought it would be helpful to share what Mark had done and learned from his experience to help others who want to turn their blog into a book.
Now Mark has released another book, When the Lights Go Down. Once again, he has done something few authors accomplish. He has published a second book. So I thought it would be helpful to learn what he did to reach the goal of publishing another book and hear what advice he would give to aspiring authors. What follows are answers to questions I posed to Mark about his experience as an author so far. I think you will find his comments to be very helpful.
This is the second book you have self-published recently. What prompted you to write a this book?
I love movies, so I wrote a book! J For over 30 years I have been watching, discussing, and interpreting movies with my students. The book is full of stories from these encounters. But there is another reason: I have a large backlog of writing which needs the organization a book can provide. If one has a large amount of written material, writing a book becomes much easier.
What did you learn from writing you first book that helped you when you wrote your second book?
Cover design: Instead of choosing a photo for the cover as I did for the first book I let Westbow’s design group create the book’s appearance. Everyone remarks about how good the cover looks.
Editing: I had the Westbow editors do the edits for the first book and was so impressed I used them again this time. Even with the costs involved the book looks so much better ‘punched up’ by a good set of eyes who know the market.
Organization: Many people had commented about how much they liked my layout of short essays for the first book. I used the same approach for the second book with similar responses.
What did you learn about marketing your first book that you are using as you market your second book?
Professors. I sent a galley copy to a colleague who immediately adopted it for a class. I am using the same approach this time.
Students. Often the people I teach will want a copy of the book.
Conferences. When I speak to large audiences, the emcee is grateful to be able to hold up a copy of a book I have written.
Reviewers. I asked a good number of people to write reviews for the first book. In the second book I asked 16 people to contribute interviews which provides a built-in promotional-audience.
Foreword. I desire to have high-profile leaders create publicity for the book. The first book foreword was written by a college president, the second by a famous film festival founder. In both cases, all I had to do was ask.
What has been the most surprising thing you have found as a published author?
I never cease to be amazed at the response people have to holding a book with my name on it. There is an immediate attitude of respect folks give authors. My response is always the same: humble gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and the humbled by the possibility that the writing could benefit others for good.
One of my favorite events of the year is always the Miami Book Fair, which is held the week before Thanksgiving. It is one of the premier venues where authors and book lovers gather to meet, mingle and discover new books. Along with the usual schedule of activities and outstanding street fair, this year included an interesting community event called #6wordsmiami. The premise was really simple. People submit a six-word Miami-influenced story and the Fair published the best from among the 4,000+ entries.
Six words does not sound like a lot, but as the list below shows, a writer can express significant meaning in a mere half-dozen words. Here are some of my favorites.
- You: Category 5 hurricane. Me: shutters
- Tie that mattress down good, bro
- Without Castro, there is no me
- T’was a dark and stormy party
- Liquor smell. Like home. Like Dad.
- He came. He saw. Date over.
Now why is something like #6wordsmiami helpful for writers to know about? Three reasons immediately come to mind.
- Sometimes you can say more by actually saying less.
- The right words, even if only a few, can create a powerful image that engages all the senses
- It is a reminder of how important it is for writers to choose their words carefully
So as you write and rewrite and rewrite again, ask your self these two questions.
- Could I say what I just said with fewer words?
- Could I use a different word or sentence structure to create a more powerful image for the reader?
Chances are if you take an honest appraisal of your work, you will find places where you can improve it by simply remembering to use fewer words or using an even better word than the one you have chosen so far.
Remember no one buys a book based on the number of words or page count. They buy it because it is good writing that impacts them.
One of the great things about the Indie revolution is the only path to traditional publishing used to be work through an agent and have the book acquired. That has obviously changed as evidenced by this video. Virginia Castleman had a manuscript that bounced around among agents and publishing houses for years. Publishers were interested, but then they left the imprint and so she had to start over.
Finally, she decided to self-publish her book Strays with Archway Publishing and that’s how Simon and Schuster found her. Her book was acquired by Aladdin books and slated for release next year. Listen to what Virginia has to say about her experience.