As you’ve probably figured out by now, writing and publishing a book is not a speedy process. Though the first Author spoke just a handful of words—“let there be…” and complete, perfect creations popped into existence, we human authors must take time to develop our skills and refine our masterpieces. So, how do we go about the developing and refining?
What I’ve done to enhance my writing skills is read every how-to-write book I can get my hands on (writersdigest.com is a great source) plus lots of other books in a variety of genres, subscribe to writing magazines, e-zines and newsletters, take classes at my local community center, college and university, attend seminars and conferences, join writers’ groups (local and national), and follow blogs and websites that teach writing skills.
Here are some of the newsletters I subscribe to by e-mail: C.S. Lakin @ http://www.livewritethrive.com/; http://www.novelrocket.com/; Randy Ingermanson @ advancedfictionwriting.com; Larry Brooks @ Storyfix.com; Gail Gaymer Martin @ http://writingright-martin.blogspot.com; and Christian Fiction Online Magazine @ http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/MonthlyNewsletter.html.
The most valuable asset to a person’s writing career is just that—writing. Write every day, whether it’s a journal entry, an email to your grandma, or a funny blog about your first kiss from your boyfriend. In addition, add a page or twenty to the book you’re writing. A good way to prime the pump each day is to review and revise what you wrote the day before.
Despite all that revising, and despite the thrill of typing “The End,” your final product won’t be perfect. As mentioned earlier, only one Author’s work is without blemish. But don’t let your fallibility discourage you. This is where the fun begins, where we hone those masterpieces.
The best writing is rewriting (according to EB White), and that’s what makes our work shine. If you need revision/self-editing guidance, search the Internet and read books like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. You’ll find plenty of helpful advice is available for writers these days.
When you feel like your book is the best you can make it, ask for beta-reader feedback from your writing group and/or critique partner or critique group. Put aside your ego, ask for honest opinions, and accept input, whether or positive or negative, with gratitude. Although you may not use all of your readers’ suggestions, and some of it may be painful, their advice will strengthen and focus your final product. I’ve found beta-reader suggestions to be invaluable with each book I’ve written. Be a sponge, not a brick wall, when it comes to critiques. Listen and learn.
Once you’ve thought through your pre-reader comments and made appropriate changes, hire a professional editor for an overall look at the structure and mechanics of the book content. Polish your work according to that expert’s advice and then find a copy editor or a friend who’s a proofreading whiz to search for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. mistakes. I ask several people to perform this service for me. Although I’m a freelance editor, I often overlook my own errors because my mind reads what I intended to say/write, not what I actually wrote.
Finally, you’re ready to begin querying literary agents and/or publishers—or to jump into the self-publishing pond. No matter what route you go, you’ll stay busy, whether it’s with further edits, design choices or marketing duties. If you opt to self-publish, here are some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself—and answer.
- Do you want to publish a print book or an electronic book or both?
- Will you use copy-shop reproduction, a local printer, a printer in another state or country, or an online supplier?
- Do you have the ability to convert your book to electronic formats? Or do you need to hire someone to do that for you? If so, search the Internet for such experts or ask other authors for referrals.
- Where do you want to distribute your book? At the next family reunion? Or to fellow historical society members? On the back table when you speak at churches or conventions or training sessions?
- If you’re planning a print version of your book, how many copies do you need? (The more you order, the less each book costs.) [Ed. note: at createspace the cost per book is the same no matter how many copies you order.]
- Do you want to make your book available to the world through online sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
Some details you’ll need to consider:
- A catchy but descriptive title is crucial for book sales. Brainstorm with friends and family, other authors, beta readers and editors to find just the right title for your book.
- A quality cover may be even more important than the title and worth paying a talented cover artist to design an appealing front—and back. Again, search online for cover designers or ask other authors for referrals. You could even contact the designers of covers you like.
- Interior design is also vital. Use the same methods to find a quality interior designer as you would a cover artist. Some designers will contract for both exterior and interior design.
- Depending on how you go about the self-pub process, you may need to purchase an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to place on the back cover for sales purposes.
- You may also want to register your book with the U.S. Copyright Office.
- Make every effort to produce a quality book you can be proud of, inside and out—no matter how long the process takes.
After you’ve made your story available to the public, the marketing fun begins. Other blogs on this site will cover marketing more extensively, but here are some aspects to consider:
- If you plan to sell copies of your book yourself, obtain appropriate sales tax licenses.
- Invest in quality business cards, postcards, bookmarks and posters.
- Set up author pages on social media and online sales sites.
- Start a blog, create a website, participate in social media. Add appropriate links to your sites.
- Take advantage of speaking and guest appearances as well as blogging opportunities whenever possible, whether for an interview, a panel discussion, a book review, a book signing, visiting a school or a book discussion group or teaching at a writers’ conference.
- Most of all, enjoy the journey!
Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the inspiration for her first novel, Winds of Wyoming. Her nonfiction titles, both available online, are It’s a God Thing! Inspiring Stories of Life-Changing Friendships and On a Wing and a Prayer–Stories from Freedom Fellowship, a Prison Ministry. She and her husband, Steve, live in Idaho, where she enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp, snowshoe and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. Currently, she’s working through edits for a Winds of Wyoming sequel titled Winds of Freedom.
Facebook: Rebecca Carey Lyles