I have just finished writing my 11th book in 15 years (three are my own books and the other eight I ghostwrote for clients over the last few years). You'd think that there are some shortcuts I had learned, or that it would faster? It's not. Sure, I have some tricks up my sleeve (and I can type fast). But crafting a story that is worthy of readers? That is the deep, hard work of a writer. No real shortcuts.
That's why so many writers give up before the job is done. They expect a sprint and what really happens is more like a leisurely hike - and one that takes far longer than you ever imagined. A hike that has many stops along the way. I find that slow and deliberate pace that a book demands a quiet antidote to the frantic rush of productivity most pursuits demand of us.
I have learned these four essential lessons about writing if you want a book published.
Author blog? Author brand? Do you even need one? I can answer this in one simple word. Yes. Oh yes! If you are writing any form of non-fiction you need a blog - or at least a FB page, an Instagram page, a website or an email database. You don't need them all, but the days you just needed a typewriter and a great story are gone.
You want to write a book and your brain goes. …PING! ‘I will start with a children’s book’. Enid Blyton did it. Who hasn’t read Charlotte’s Web? Where The Wild Things Are? All the Dr Seuss books?
It should be easy right?
Well it may be easier to write (which is debatable), but it may not be as easy to get that book published. Writing is simply one part of this genre. You will give yourself a far better chance if you know the market and write into it.
South African authors have drawn a short straw from Amazon for years as we have been unable to link a bank account for royalty payments. But we have found a solution thanks to our publishing partner Clare-Rose Julius of Booklingo. Here is a step by step process for the author to open an account with a credit card facility for authors to receive direct payments from International sources.
Choosing a genre is the starting point in all fiction writing. I cannot stress this enough. Please do not start your book until you are 100% clear on where your book will sit on the shelf. Genre is also a place that many writers get stuck. I found this list about 10 years ago somewhere and I have added to it and adapted it over the years.
I update this list regularly.
I want to first disqualify myself by saying I have not had Covid-19. At least not that I know of. Or not yet. But I have ‘had’ cancer. In 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My cancer credentials are more robust however. My husband died of brain cancer when he was 41. I have also known, very personally, what it is like not to breathe. There are a few differences between cancer and corona that I see.
There is no right or wrong way to write a book, but after working with writers for over 15 years to get them published, I do have some rules that I know work. Rules are here to guide you way. These ones are deal-breakers. I have a pdf you can download and print. Read them! Stick them up! Use them!
Book publishing is an old and complex industry. It is both timeless and on-trend. I have been contacted this week by a few publishers looking for ‘new books that speak to the new climate’. They want books that can come out fast and that help people to navigate or find a new way (after lockdown).
Publishers do love to move fast and capture the zeitgeist. They are all looking for the wildfire book that sells 100,000 copies in a few months and pays all the bills.
But, truly, deeply, most publishers are looking for books that can sit on a shelf for many years. They want timeless over trendy. Or at least they want a good mix in their imprint.
They want books that sell and sell and sell. Big sales accrue over time. Look at the '20 bestselling books ever' list below. Some of these books have been selling for hundreds of years – and they still sell.
Writing your synopsis can be even tougher than writing your entire novel. Or it certainly feels that way. The reason is that it is often done after the fact when you just want the book over and done with.
But there’s no escape – to send off your book you HAVE to write one. And you have to nail it. In fact, a good synopsis sells your book. This is what you will send a publisher.
Here is a guideline to help and I have included a synopsis of The Hunger Games at the end of this.
Think of your back cover blurb like a movie trailer. There is a good reason movie trailers are not made by the writer.
It’s so hard as writer to think of your book as a product. It feel like an oversell and a bit awkward to hype it so much right?
Not true. This tight piece of writing needs to be SO crafted and SO clever. It also needs to make your book seem dramatic and desperately exciting (far more than it really is). Look, no book – or movie – can sustain that level of excitement for the entire length and readers get that.
But, unlike the movies, nobody is going to write this but you. Think of it as a technical exercise in copywriting.
I recommend you write this at any point – even before you start – because a good blurb means you have a tight story idea. Write a few and get friends to give you feedback.
Here are your 6 essential steps and some examples of how to pull it all together, by writing coach Sarah Bullen.
I make no secret of being a romance addict. I love the genre and consider myself a bit of an expert. Of course the best expert is one that reads and reads and reads. So I scoured my laden shelves, I paged through my extensive Kindle library. These were the ones that stand out as the hottest, sexiest books out there. They vary from Level 2 heat factor to erotica, BDSM and all sorts of deliciously naughty stuff. Here is my top list of seriously sexy books that any self-respecting romance author must read.
A book wouldn't be very readable if everything went your hero’s way would it? Imagine a romance where the hero and romantic interest met and BOOM fall in love. It would be short read and not a very good one. It is seldom anyone wants to read about a character who wins, and easily. Particularly if that character is you. Desperate struggles, fights, bad decisions, disagreeable people, wrong turns, red herrings, darn bad luck and thwarted desire. This is the domain of story. Happy times? Hmmmm keep that for the family album.
But how do you plan this in your writing? Doesn’t it just happen? Hell no. You make sure it happens and that is called plotting.
Readers want to live and breathe your characters in a novel. They want to walk in your shoes in a memoir. But how do you make your characters become living, breathing people? Even if they only live on the page? Here are some tricks.
You've experienced or done things that can interest others. These things don't have to be earth shattering -- just incidents that others can relate to or may find meaningful. Of course, if the experience changed your life in a profound way, all the better for this type of article. Here's how to to write one.
If you do want to get published, a good idea is to look at what are publishers are actually looking for in their 2021 booklists. (pssst..... 2020 is already full).Here’s my take on it after a recent trip pitching some of my author’s books to publishers.
As an author you need to take a look at the current publishing market, and the climate. See if you can write one that is on-trend and you have a better chance of a publishing deal.
Do you actually have a clear goal? And if you do have a goal, then are you any closer to it?
Because I don’t want you to hang about too long before taking some action. You may be hanging around for years. So you need to mix the dream with some really practical steps to get your book down on paper and to start the journey to getting published.
What is an advance, royalties, a platform, self-publishing? Some concepts explained.
Structure is the architecture of your book. It is the way you are going to organise your information in a way that is entertaining and logical for the reader. What kind of structure you are going to hang your story on? Here are some of the larger ones for non-fiction books.
You all know I am a bit fan of lists and rules. So here are some of my own from years of working on books and placing books to be published. You may see this as a bit of a rant... probably true. But you know I love you all and just want you to end up with your BEST book.
Rule 1: Write with intent
So let me clarify something here... these Rules are for writers who want to get published. I have nothing against journaling and diary work. But I am talking to writers who want to end up with a book or a talk or a blog. That means you need to write with your end goal in mind. All pieces of writing need to have a view to be used in your book. I am not a personal fan of morning pages for serious writers. Morning pages are for therapeutic stuff. Write with intent and you end up with a book.
Intent also means you need to know WHAT you are writing.
Everyone has a book in them - or so they think. But what does it take to turn that killer idea into a publishable manuscript. Writing coach and literary agent Sarah Bullen gives us some tips on how to write a book that actually has a shot at a publishing deal.