Looking for some sound advice about starting out as a writer! Well, my Guest Blogger for the week is here to share the essential basics of where to begin. A warm welcome to you, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, and thank you for your user-friendly guidance.
People ask me for writing advice all the time. After all, I used to work for a publishing house and I am now an indie author of six titles. I don’t mind giving advice, I really don’t. I do mind repeating myself. So for the sake of all perpetuity, I’m going to share the key steps to getting started as a writer.
Below, I’m going to share everything you need to consider if you want to be published. “Everything” as in the beginning steps you’ll need to take. If you want to know more, consider my book So You Want to Sell a Million Copies? Or others like it that offer more in-depth guidelines, links, and information.
Write a book. Yes, I know this might seem slightly obvious but you’d be amazed how many people seem to miss this crucial step in their rush to get into print. They have a great idea, a story that will leap at readers, and they can’t wait to sell it. Well, last time I checked, you can’t sell something that doesn’t exist (well, people on Wall Street try all the time and look where that got the global economy). Get yourself an office, a café, or even a clear space of desk and get to writing. There is no skipping this step.
Find beta readers. These are people who will tell you what they think about the book’s contents. They will say that a character doesn’t seem real or that the language is kitsch. You are not allowed to hate them for it because are providing you an invaluable service: prevention from public humiliation when your book goes worldwide. Treat them like gold. Do not ask your mother or Aunt Mildred, nor your father if his thing is to be overly critical. Find a writing group, online or in person, join, and return the favor to receive good critiques.
Think through your publishing options carefully. Do you want to go the commercial route and wait a year or longer for an agent to show interest in you? Because that’s if all goes smoothly; the agent then needs to sell to an editor and conversely a publishing house on your behalf, first, and then your idea. If you don’t have the heart for form rejections or time to bite your nails as you wait for replies, consider self-publishing. Smashwords, Kindle, iBooks – the options seem to be multiplying by the day. Consider which meets your needs and what budget you have for publicity, marketing, etc. Even if you go commercial, you’ll still be expected to promote your book. The days of company led marketing campaigns are all but nil, and those only for the repeat best sellers.
Build a fan base, not by spamming everyone you know, but creating a good product and establishing connections with other people who are either interested in your story or in the same genre you’re in. I recently published a contemporary romance novel. It borderlines literary fiction but in order to establish a niche, I’m reaching out to the romance set. They are friendly, they want reviews, and they’re looking to exchange guest posts, Tweets, Facebook likes, you name it. Once you do agree how you’ll benefit each other, make sure you hold up your part of the bargain. The internet makes the social media sphere a small world and you don’t want to be that uppity writer who angered a book reviewer.
Persist, be patient, and helpful. Just like you did in the writing phase, marketing and publicity may get cumbersome. See you can get on your team. There are plenty of reasonably priced groups and individuals out there looking to support authors of all stripes. Find them, join them, become one of them. Many of these opportunities are free, like Goodreads or Facebook interest groups. Remember: you need to give before you can get, so give as much as you can and build up these relationships with people so that they will be excited about promoting you and your project.
The irony behind headlines that say someone was a ‘overnight success’ is that they rarely are. Jodi Picoult, who has been on more bestseller lists than most of have pairs of shoes, once said that her overnight success was nine years in the making.
Ask yourself if you are willing to put in that kind of dedication. If the answer is no, then maybe you’d rather do something else. Like learn how to play tennis. I hear the Brits are trying to find someone to make it to the finals next year.