Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

7 Things Every Writer Needs to Become an Author (Part 2)

This is the second part of the post I wrote as a guest blogger on Lulu.com. If you want to know the first three in the list you can read those here.   

#4 Advice along the way

The fourth thing you’re going to need as you work toward your goal of publishing is advice. As I suggested, a plan is like GPS, and if you think about it, GPS gives you instructions along the way to make sure you reach your goal.

Turn left.

Take this exit.

Recalculating.

The right information at the right time assures you will reach your destination. The same thing is true on your publishing journey. You will come to points where expert advice and encouragement will keep you on the right track and help you keep moving forward.

Writing and publishing and marketing are learned skills, so finding people and resources that can serve as the voice in your GPS is vital. Identify people and sources you can trust and listen to them. Seek out a small, trusted few rather than the opinion of the masses.

There are websites where you can seek out the opinion of the crowd, but I question how valuable that type of feedback can be. You could put your manuscript out there and have a hundred people comment. Fifty of them may think it’s great and fifty may think it’s terrible, but that doesn’t really help you. So find a small, trusted group rather than the unvetted crowd.

Now, you can accomplish this a number of different ways. Depending on what community you’re in, there might be local writing groups you can join. The Author Learning Center also gives you that opportunity to get feedback through your Author Circle if you have a book project. No matter how you do it, just don’t try to take this journey alone.

#5 Persistence

The fifth thing you need to become an author is persistence. As the saying goes, it takes years to become an overnight success so persistence is really, really important. You will meet challenges and even face discouragement and rejection along the way, but you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you have something important to share with others. In fact, throughout history there are numerous of examples of well-known and successful authors being rejected multiple times before they were published.

Take L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables for example. Her series of books has been a must read for young people for decades. It’s inspired by her own story growing up on Prince Edward Island. A number of years ago, I had a chance to visit the place where Anne of Green Gables was set.

In fact, Canada has turned the site into a national park. I was extremely impressed with how they created an experience for visitors, but one thing that really struck me was in her biography. She said she would have never been published had the post office not been in her uncle’s home where she lived.

The reason why is because back then you would send a manuscript to a publisher, and if the publisher declined, they would send it back wrapped up in brown paper and tied in string. So Montgomery said that if she would have had to go into town and walk down the street holding that package, she would have been very embarrassed. However because the package came back to her uncle’s house, it gave her the courage to continue to send it out. Eventually a publisher picked up her books, and since then, they have gone on to sell millions of copies around the world.

She was persistent and it paid off.

More recent examples include Lisa Genova, Louise Hay, and James Patterson. Lisa wrote a book called Still Alice but could not find a publisher who was interested so she self-published with iUniverse. It was subsequently discovered by Simon and Schuster, who picked it up and it became a best seller and eventually a movie for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Lisa’s persistence was demonstrated in that she self-published even when no publisher wanted it.

Louise Hay is another example. Louise founded the publisher Hay House when she was sixty years old. Sadly, Louise passed away in late 2017, but she has left a significant legacy in the life of people. She decided she had something to share that could really help people and largely helped create the category of Self Help. No publisher at the time would produce her books, so she first self-published and then started the company that continues on to this day.

Finally another great example of persistence is James Patterson. He’s arguably one of the more famous authors we have today, but many people don’t know he was actually rejected by thirty-one publishers.

He shared the details in an interview. “I worked my way through college. I had lots of night shifts, so I started reading like crazy. Then I started writing, and I found that I loved it. When I was twenty-six I wrote my first mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number, and it was turned down by, I don’t know, thirty-one publishers. Then it won the Edgar for the best first novel. Go figure.”

In each of these examples the authors believed in their work, and they were persistent. Now I don’t know if you are the next Lisa Genova or James Patterson; however, if you are not persistent and you don’t believe in your work, it will be tough for you to reach your goals.

#6 Accountability

A sixth thing every writer needs to become an author is accountability. This is an important one because without accountability most things don’t get done. John Di Lemme suggests, “Accountability separates the wishers in life from the action-takers that care enough about their future to account for their daily actions.”

In fact, the likelihood that you will transform your desires into reality increases tremendously if you share your written goals with a friend who believes in your ability to succeed. One author calls it having “a partner in believing.” I think that is such a great phrase because that’s what you need—someone who believes in your idea as much as you do.

Someone who believes you have something to say or share that is worth preserving and telling.

That’s why, along with persistence, you need to be accountable and you need someone to keep you accountable. That way when you get discouraged or stuck, there is someone to help you stay focused on your milestones and goals.

#7 Encouragement

Writing a book takes time and can also include periods of self-doubt or discouragement. That’s why you need someone to help you stay motivated when you may be ready to give up.

Even prolific authors like Stan Lee needed encouragement. Stan started Marvel Comics and has helped create some of the most well-known superheroes. At one point before he had made a name for himself, he was ready to give up. Like most salaried employees, he had bills and a mortgage, but at age forty writing action scenes became unfulfilling, and he wanted to quit. His wife told him to create a script that he found meaningful, and the rest is history.

So do not ever underestimate a well-timed word of encouragement. We all need them.

Information alone is not enough.

This truly is the best time to be an author because there is more opportunity to get published and more information for authors than ever before. But information alone is not enough to help you get to your goal. You need these seven things to transition from just writing to publishing:

  1. an idea
  2. a deadline
  3. a plan,
  4. timely, expert advice
  5. persistence,
  6. accountability
  7. encouragement

A GPS for your publishing journey

If you are looking for an easy way to have these elements available at your fingertips, I invite you to visit the Author Learning Center. There you will find a unique combination of expert advice, author-inspired tools, and a community to help you reach your publishing goals. www.authorlearningcenter.com

Standard
Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

7 Things Every Writer Needs to Become an Author (Part 1)

This is reposted from the Lulu.com blog where I was a guest blogger. Part 2 is coming soon.

ALC-icon

The ALC is a GPS for your publishing journey.

Researchers have estimated that 200 million people have an idea for a book, and yet most aspiring authors never get published. Why is that? That’s because having an idea for a book is easy. Starting to write a book is easy. Finishing the book is a much more difficult task. Not to mention marketing the book once it’s finished. So what does it take to turn a writer into an author? From my personal and professional experience, plus conversations with thousands of aspiring and accomplished authors, I have identified seven key things writers need if they are going to reach their publishing goals.

 

#1 An idea

Having an idea may seem obvious, but there is a big difference between an idea and a well-thought-out idea. The idea is the foundation for the book, yet many writers don’t take the time to really think about their ideas.

The five key elements of a great story

If you are writing a fiction book, there are five key elements of a great story you need to make sure are part of your book.

  1. An inciting action—This is the action near the beginning that kicks off the story. A dead body is found or a car chase ensues or two people kiss. Something needs to set the story in motion.
  2. A protagonist—This is often the main character who you want readers to cheer for and care about.
  3. An antagonist—This is the person who is working against the protagonist and putting up obstacles or making it difficult for the protagonist to accomplish whatever is set before him or her.
  4. A conflict or challenge—This is whatever must be overcome for the protagonist to succeed. What happens if your protagonist doesn’t stop the asteroid from hitting the earth? What happens if someone takes over the world and inserts a virus into computers? What happens if the murderer isn’t caught? Too often, writers start out with a really good idea, but they don’t draw the reader in by making it clear what’s at stake. It sounds simple, but surprisingly many writers don’t make this easy to spot when this is what typically propels the story forward and gives context to the characters.
  5. A resolution—A story without closure isn’t really a story. Readers don’t want to be left hanging. So even if you are writing a series, you want to provide a satisfying ending. All good stories do.

Both traditional publishers and Hollywood executives look for these elements in a story, which is why you will see them in most successful books and movies. However, what I have found is most first-time authors are missing one or more of these key elements in their stories so the book fails to satisfy. I encourage you to take a hard look at your book and ask yourself if you have these elements clearly defined. If not, make sure you add them to your story. It seems like a short list, but it is critical if you are writing a fiction book.

What about a nonfiction book?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you still need to have a framework, but it is different from a fiction book. One big question you want to ask yourself is how will readers be impacted by reading the book?

  1. What outcome can I expect after I read your book?—Will I quit smoking? Will I be a better parent? Will I invest my money more wisely? Will I lose weight? Will I have better health? There is any number of outcomes that can come from reading a nonfiction book, but you need to be clear what your book offers.
  2. Are you going to give me a process that is repeatable?—Just because something worked for you doesn’t mean I will find it interesting if there is nothing I can apply from your experience. So you need to consider how others can use what you have learned. Give readers a process they can implement.
  3. Are you simply going to inspire me?—If you’re writing a memoir, yours might be a story that inspires and motivates a reader. That can be the power of a true story, but if that is your goal, do consider how you tell the story. A series of facts is not nearly as interesting as a book that includes the five elements of a great story—even if it is a memoir. Just because it happened chronologically doesn’t mean you have to tell the story in that order or even include every detail.
  4. Serve them PIE—As you start to develop your chapters, think about structuring them around the acronym PIE, which stands for Principal, Illustration, and Example. In other words, as you begin to write, try to include the principal you want to convey, but then couple that with an illustration of how it might work. Finally, offer an example of someone who has applied the principal in a real-world setting. This simple, proven structure can help readers more easily grasp the key points you are trying to make.

With an idea established for your book, you can start doing the real work of creating your book; the writing, editing, and developing.

#2 A deadline

The second thing that every writer needs to become an author is a deadline.

You must pick a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. With no deadline, you will probably never have a book.

If you work with a traditional publisher, they will set a date for you because your publisher or your editor will give you a deadline for when you need to turn in your manuscript. If you are self-publishing, you need to set that date for yourself because, without it, you most likely will never get to your goal. So make sure that you set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book.

And writing that date down makes a difference. Research shows you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studied the art and science of goal-setting, and she concluded those who wrote down their goals achieved them at a significantly higher rate than those who did not.

If you want to increase the odds of becoming an author, set a deadline for finishing your book and write it down.

#3 A plan

You’ve got an idea and you’ve set yourself a deadline to complete that idea. How do you take steps to meet that deadline? A plan of course.

A plan is like GPS. Once you set your destination, you need a path with the steps to get to your goal. It’s also helpful to have milestones along the way to mark your progress. Think of the milestones a mini-deadlines.

If you are a writer and you want to become an author, these are some key milestones you want to mark on your journey.

  • manuscript complete
  • editing complete
  • submission for production
  • design
  • final revisions
  • printing

With the proper support and information, you can achieve these interim goals, and most importantly, celebrate success along the way. The key to remember is no date, no book; no plan, no book. In short, without a date and a plan, it is very unlikely you will get your goal.

Stay Tuned…

We’ll be back with the four remaining pieces to transforming yourself into an author, along with Keith’s conclusion!

 

Standard
Author Learning Center, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

6 Tips on How to Fulfill Your Publishing Resolution

It’s that time of year when many people make resolutions and set goals they want to accomplish in the coming year. For some, that includes writing and publishing a book, but they are not sure where to begin or how to realize their dream.  Simply put, many people don’t have an idea or plan on how to get from idea to manuscript to holding a copy of their book.

From my own experience and from the thousands of conversations I have had with authors at book fairs, trade shows, and writer’s conferences, I’ve found that there are six things that successful authors do to get published. So if publishing a book is on your resolution list, here are six tips to help you get that manuscript off your computer and into the hands of readers.

“The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book.”

  • Set a date when you want to hold the first copy of your book. The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. That’s because research shows that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them. Your date can be just a point in the future you choose, but it may also be an important event, such as a speaking engagement, holiday, or even birthday party. In fact, one author I worked with had the goal of getting his book done by his 50th birthday so he could give a copy to everyone who attended the party. That date became one of the key motivations for him to finish his book.
  • Create a timeline with the milestones you need to pass to reach your publishing goal. The second thing you need to do is create a schedule with the tasks that must be completed to meet your deadline. In other words, you need to understand what is needed to get from where you are to where you want to be and set appropriate milestones along the way. If you already understand how to get a book published, you may be able to do this on your own, but most authors need to work with someone who knows the publishing process to make this happen. Your timeline should include important steps like completing your manuscript, editing your manuscript, submitting your manuscript, and allowing time for both the cover and interior design. Of course, the timeline for the book will depend on the type of book you are writing. For example, a children’s book will take less time to edit than a lengthy historical fiction novel, but you would need to make sure you allocate the appropriate time for illustrations.

“….most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write.”

  • Determine the best time for you to write and make an appointment on your calendar for that time. My third tip is to determine the best time for you to write and block out that time on your calendar. What I’ve learned from my own experience and conversations with multiple authors is that most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write. I recall one conversation with an author who has published more than twenty books, some traditionally and some self-published. I was having lunch with she and her husband and I asked her if there was a time that was better than others for her to write. Before I could finish the sentence, her husband blurted out, “five thirty in the morning.” By his own observation he had noticed that was the most productive time for his wife to write. If you want to get work done, it’s very important to know what time of the day you write most productively and make sure that time stays available for you to work on your manuscript.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone. The fourth recommendation I have is to be accountable to someone. Share your goal and milestones with someone who will encourage you and help you stay on task. It could be a friend, a spouse, an editor, an agent, or a publishing consultant. Fact is, most of us work better when we have someone checking in and reminding us of our deadlines and research proves that out. In the same study I cited earlier, the researchers also concluded if you share your goals with another you increase your odds of reaching them. They call it having a “partner in believing”.

    pexels-photo-273011.jpeg

    Setting a date when you want to hold a copy of your book is a key to getting to your goal.

  • Start planning your promotion before you finish your manuscript. Now, this may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but with the advent of social media and the other opportunities we have to communicate, you can have people anticipating the launch of your book long before you finish your manuscript. One of the key things you must do to promote your book successfully is identify your audience. For whom is your book intended, and who might actually enjoy reading it? This is a seemingly small thing, but it’s very important, because it lays the foundation for promoting your book. I asked an author one time who the audience was for his book, and he very seriously looked at me and said, “Every man, woman, and child living on this planet.” While his ambition is admirable, he is setting a completely unrealistic goal. Defining your audience is the foundation to a good promotional plan.
  • Plan an event to celebrate the publication of your book. Many people start writing a book, but far fewer get to the goal of publishing, so when you do, it is time to celebrate. It’s actually quite fun to think about it when you’re doing the hard work of editing and revisions and proofreading. You might want to mark the occasion by holding a book signing at a bookstore, but you can also be creative. Depending on your book, you may want to host it at a kitchen store if you have a cookbook, or a church if you have a spiritual book, or a school if you have a children’s book. Just be sure you take time to celebrate your accomplishment no matter the venue.

If you found this information helpful, I would suggest you also look at The Author Learning Center to help you on your journey. There are tools and expert advice at your fingertips to help make 2018 the year you become a published author.

Standard
Author Solutions, authors, creativity, helpful hints, self publishing, writing

Writing advice –“First you buy a wood burning stove.”

A few weeks ago my wife and I paid a visit to an Amish craftsman who is known for building unique dining room tables. We have always wanted one of his tables since we first enjoyed a dinner around one of his masterpieces a number of years ago. However, he does not have a web site or even email so if you want to order one, you have to schedule an appointment and pay him and his bride of nearly 60 years a visit.

It is more than a two-hour drive from our home, but it was well worth the trip. When w we arrived,  I was surprised to learn he was 80 years old and is still building tables and clearly enjoys it.  He explained that by saying, “I would rather wear out than rust out”. Our conversation also caused me to see writers could learn from him.

I confess I love spending time with craftsman of all types.  I mean people who are really good at what they do and are clearly passionate about it. So when I have a chance to spend time with people like that, I take advantage of the opportunity to learn what they do to be so good and what keeps them motivated.

Writers can learn from wood working

Wood burning stove

Who knew a visit to an Amish craftsman would inspire a blog post to help you in your writing journey

Once we went through the details of ordering the table, I asked him a few questions to see what I might learn from him. The first thing that became clear is writing is a lot like wood working. It is a craft that requires practice and you will make mistakes, but that’s OK.

In fact, when I asked the table maker what he would he tell someone he was training, he quickly said, “buy a wood burning stove so you have somewhere to put your mistakes”. Writers can learn from that. You must work at it, but sometimes you will write something and realize it is not that good.  That is OK and is actually part of the process. However for some of us that feels like failure. Instead you should you look at it as a learning opportunity.  What did you not like about the current version that you would do differently with your next draft?

It is a craft that requires practice and you will make mistakes, but that’s OK.

Sometimes you can see it and admit it to yourself or sometimes it requires an editor to show you the rough edges. Either way, you may have to throw it in the “wood burning stove”, learn from the mistakes and get back to writing a better draft.

Standard
Author Solutions, authors, book selling, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

The 4 Paths to Publishing: Understanding your options for getting your book into the hands of readers.

Authors today have more ways to get published than ever before, and while that is exciting news, it can also be the source of much confusion. In fact, many authors are overwhelmed with the seemingly endless menu of options for publishing.   They are also not sure which is the best way to get their book to market.  To clarify the options that exist today and help authors make a discerning decision about their publishing choice, I wrote a white paper called, The Four Paths to Publishing. 

Here is an excerpt that lays out the premise for the paper.

The past four years have brought about more upheaval in the publishing industry than the previous 400 years combined. From the time Gutenberg invented the printing press until the introduction of the paperback about 70 years ago, there weren’t many groundbreaking innovations. However, in the last few years, the publishing world has undergone an indie revolution similar to what occurred in the film and music industries.

With the introduction of desktop publishing, print-on-demand technology, and the Internet as a direct-to-consumer distribution channel, publishing became a service consumers could purchase, instead of an industry solely dependent on middlemen (agents) and buyers (traditional publishers). In addition, the exponential growth of e-books and digital readers has accelerated change, because physical stores are no longer the only way for authors to connect with readers.

While these changes have made now the best time in history to be an author, they have also made it one of the most confusing times to be an author. Not that long ago, there was only one way to get published: find an agent; hope he or she would represent you; pray they sell your book proposal to a publisher; trust the publisher to get behind the book and believe in the project; and hope that readers would go to their local bookstore and buy your book. This description of traditional publishing (or what some now call legacy publishing) is still a viable path for authors today, but now there are three other distinct paths an author can pursue to get published: DIY, General Contractor, and Publishing Package. Each of these could be appropriately labeled as self publishing, but each offers distinct advantages.

It is available to download for free on the Author Solutions web site or by clicking here.  Use the comment section to let me know what you think. Do you agree with my assessment of the industry? Do you find the identification of the four paths helpful? I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the paper.

Standard
authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Imprecise punctuation (Part 6)

It’s not just about what you say but how you say it.  Punctuation defines your voice—your unique way of speaking to your reader. Which punctuation mark should you choose? Which one communicates the sentence to the reader the way you heard it in your head when you wrote it? Which one reflects your personal style and voice? A good editor should  polish your punctuation to reflect your voice. No matter your subject matter or whether your book is scholarly or casual, precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words and whispers in the reader’s ear, “Wow, this author really knows how to communicate exactly what they want to say.”. Good punctuation can bring emphasis to the right word or words and used properly, it can create a rhythm to the writing that takes the reader on a pleasant ride.

So which of these sentences uses the correct punctuation?

It was his best book , written with the greatest care.

It was his best book ; written with the greatest care.

It was his best book : written with the greatest care.

It was his best book — written with the greatest care

It was his best book written with the greatest care.

In different contexts any of these could be preferable. It depends on what you want to say and where you want the emphasis. They all “sound” different if read out loud  Th e comma, colon, and dash are the most likely candidates, but even among them, the choice becomes a matter of the way you express yourself. Your editor should “listen” for your voice in the text  and then adjusts the punctuation to you, your voice, and your story. That’s why having a competent editor look at manuscript can only make it better.

….precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words

Standard