I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to writing, after all everyone has their own unique style and writing process. However, valuable experience I have gained on my writing journey has helped me to develop a few habits that I have found very successful. For want of a better word, I will term these habits “writing tips”, which I will share in the hope of aiding and inspiring your writing journey.
After slaving away at your manuscript for hours on end, when you finally write that last sentence, and your book is complete, you are ready to do a victory dance. Am I right? By all means, celebrate your accomplishment. It is undoubtedly worthy of celebration. However, please don’t make the mistake of thinking your manuscript is ready for submission to publishers or to be self-published. This is a mistake I made more than once. I was so proud of completing my book that I couldn’t wait to start submitting it to publishers. Unfortunately, it never met with a favourable response. I learnt the hard way that my manuscript was finished but far from ready. The story was complete but the real work had just begun. So, my advice is that after you have celebrated completing your manuscript, put it away for a while. Don’t look at it again for at least a week. Then, when you read through it again you will be looking at it with a fresh perspective. Start chiselling away at it until you feel you have turned your work of art into a masterpiece. Then put it away for another two weeks or even more, a month is ideal. When you read through your manuscript again I guarantee you, you will tweak it a little more. Those seemingly insignificant tweaks could be the difference between a publishing offer and a rejection letter. Don’t miss this step. Even if you are self-publishing, you should do this to not only ensure your book is something you can be proud of but to give it the very best chance of success.
Whether you are following the traditional publishing or self-publishing route you will need an editor. This is an absolute must. For indie authors I recommend not only paying a qualified editor (with good reviews), but also enlisting the services of a proofreader. I skipped this step with one of my self-published books and it ended up being published with a spelling mistake. A very embarrassing, ‘egg on my face’, moment. Fortunately, thanks to Amazon’s author friendly Kindle Direct Publishing (Kdp), I was able to correct the spelling mistake. Save yourself the hassle and embarrassment and get a good editor and proofreader.
During the developmental stage of the editing process I advise you to be flexible. Work with the editor not against him/her. An editor is there to polish your masterpiece. To turn marvellous into magnificent. I’m not saying you should compromise your vision but rather give the editor the freedom to use his/her skill to far surpass your vision. There will be things you need to stand your ground on but pick your battles, don’t be unnecessarily stubborn. A really good book is a collaboration of talents (author, editor, illustrator, layout artist, proofreader, printers, etc.). Basically, what I am saying is allow each member of your team the freedom to fully utilize their skills and talents, you’ll be glad you did.
If your book requires illustrations you should put in the time and effort to find the right illustrator. I am a children’s author and I write picture books, so choosing the right illustrator is absolutely crucial for me. My advice is to find a couple of illustrators that are willing to work within your budget. Ask each of them to do a sample illustration of the same book page. This will quickly show you who best understands your vision for the book. You will also be able to assess who you will work best with. Avoid telling the illustrator exactly how you want them to depict a scene. Rather give them creative freedom. You will often be surprised by not only how well they bring the story to life but also how they skilfully add details that give another level of dimension. Yes, it does sometimes happen that they completely misunderstand your vision for a scene. If this happens, I patiently explain what I want the illustrations to convey and then I take another look at the text. If the illustrator got it that wrong it could be that I need to reword something so that it will be more easily understood. Producing a book is a process and there is a lot of fine tuning along the way.
Don’t cut corners on your book cover. Pay to have it professionally done, it will be worth the investment. Why? Because first impressions last. So you need a spectacular book cover that attracts attention and peaks interest. If your book cover doesn’t arouse interest, people won’t even read your book description. It’s a bit like fishing. Think of your book cover as the worm and your book description as the hook. The hook won’t catch a sale without the worm. The cover lures potential readers in and the book description is meant to get them hooked.
Which brings me to my next very important point, make sure that your book description is catchy.
Avoid giving away too much. Don’t tell the whole story and definitely don’t ruin the ending. Rather, wet their appetite. Your book description is meant to inform people what your book is about but it should also give them a reason to want to read it. You don’t want it to be too long winded but rather to pack a punch. Instead of being like a book summary it should be like a advertisement. Your book description is your marketing pitch. It should be intriguing and leave the reader wanting more.
Whether your books are traditionally published or you are an indie author you will still need to market your book and create a following. The best way to do this is by using social media. Have an author account/page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Claim author pages on platforms like Goodreads, Amazon etc.
If possible commission a professional to create an author website for you. This can be very pricey but again, it’s worth the investment.
Lastly keep writing. To create a following you need to keep producing new books for your fans to read. Don’t forget that quantity without quality is futile. If you rush to get the next book out you could end up with disappointed readers which no one can afford. A disappointed reader rarely gives you another chance, unless you are already a household name.
Above all believe in yourself, roll with the punches and never ever give up!
I wish you the utmost success in all your writing endeavours.