Thinking of writing a book? Congratulations. It’s a noble cause, writing a book.
Here are six things you absolutely must do, before putting fingers to keyboard.
Know your ‘why’
Writing is great. Writing a book is amazing. You get to share your experience/expertise (if you’re writing non-fiction), tell your stories to people (that’s if you’re writing fiction), and even better, they pay you (buy your book, that is), for the privilege of doing this.
What’s not to love about that?
Absolutely nothing. It’s just that when you actually start writing, your reason for writing the book in the first place is what will get you to the finish line.
So yes, your reason matters.
Who are you writing for?
In writing, much like in life, nothing happens in a vacuum. If you want to write a book, you need to think about who is going to read it.
It is no good saying that your book is for anyone who loves reading, because, theoretically, that means everyone in the world who likes reading. That doesn’t mean that everyone who loves reading will like your book.
Let me explain.
I like reading, but I prefer reading cozy mysteries, suspense and contemporary books, especially ones with a strong, female character. So, it stands to reason that I will be interested in books with those elements, only.
The more targeted your readership, the more likelihood your book has of gaining traction with your intended readers, when it’s published.
So, double down; try and nail down your target readers as much as you can BEFORE starting your book. It will help keep you focussed when writing the book itself and when planning the marketing as well (more on this, later).
Outline your book
If you’re reading this, odds are that this is your first book, which is why it is so important to keep things on track. Outlining your book can help you do this.
There are many ways of outlining your book. Some people do plot, character and chapter outlines (if it’s a novel), while others do chapter outlines only.
If it is a non-fiction book, you would still need plot and chapter outlines (the basic structure of a book).
As this is your first book, it is advisable to outline the structure in as much detail as possible.
You do not have to follow the outline to the letter, however, it will help to keep you on track when you eventually start writing the book.
The editorial process
Many budding writers fear the editing process, because they think it means that their literary masterpiece will be whittled down to a ghost of its intended self.
To date, I’ve written nine books, and I can tell you that the editorial process is nothing to be fearful of.
Editing is nothing more than a pruning, if you will, of your book, so that it reads and communicates better to your intended audience. And that’s the job of a good editor – to polish a rough diamond (your original manuscript), and turn it into a precious jewel (a book that people will want to buy and read).
Publishing isn’t the end goal of every one who completes a manuscript. But if it’s something that you would like to pursue, i.e., get your book out to the buying public, then, you’ll need to know the two basic ways of getting published:
- Self-publishing: in which you, the author, project-manage the whole publishing process yourself, from writing to publishing to marketing. However, you get to keep 100% of the sales from your book. Self-published authors do suffer from credibility issues in the publishing industry, due in part to the glut in low-quality books that have flooded the market. So, if you decide to take this path to publication, make your book the best it can possibly be by:
- getting a good editor
- investing in a good designer, to help you with the book cover (this is important, because your book cover is the first thing that your target readers will see. A bad book cover will not reflect well on you, the author, so invest in an experienced designer – it’s worth the investment)
- Traditional publishing: in which you get a literary agent, and the agent (who has the publishing contacts and who also takes a percentage of your earnings) shops your manuscript around to publishing houses.
If your manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes on the costs of publishing the book (you pay nothing, nada, towards these costs), you get an advance (think of it as a down payment on your future earnings), and a percentage of future sales from your book.
Yes, there is some snobbery in the publishing world and being a traditionally-published author is the dream for many writers. It’s like getting a golden pass into a privileged club of A-list writers, chiefly because while getting a literary agent is a feat in itself, the traditional publishing contract is the sign that you have made the grade as a writer, because it’s so hard to get one.
If the traditional publishing model sounds like a lot of twaddle and you would go rather go it alone, via the self-publishing route, then by all means, do that.
Whatever your preferred path to publication, think about it before you actually start writing your book.
How are you going to market it?
The easiest part of writing a book is the writing. The hard bit is the marketing. You can write the most amazing book in the world, but if you don’t market it, it won’t sell, and nobody is going to find out how amazing your book is.
I get that writing a book is an all-engrossing task. But, equally important is the marketing. If possible, try and develop a marketing plan while writing your book. That way, by the time it’s finished, you have a fully developed plan, all ready to go and to be deployed, at least two weeks before publication day.
Many authors shy away from marketing, because they think that their book should speak for itself. That’s true, but the book won’t speak for itself until it’s put into the hands of readers, and that won’t happen unless it’s marketed.
If you haven’t got a website, you should get one, now. Like, immediately. It’s the first thing that people will search for when they hear about you/your book. Your website should also be the destination point of all your marketing materials. And start building your mailing list, as your subscribers will be your first point of contact for all things YOU.
Writing a book can seem like a daunting task, but with these six steps, your writing journey should be easier.
Also published on Medium.