I self-published my first book, a memoir, ‘The Fourteenth Wife’ - A Search for Belonging’ in October 2020. While I’m not professing to be a fountain of knowledge on all things ‘ self-publishing,’ and most certainly still have a lot to learn, I feel I have been taught some valuable lessons over the last six months. Please read on for practical tips, where I hope to prepare you emotionally, and save you money.
Ten lessons from self-publishing romance novels
Francine Beaton writes romance novels. We asked to help us out by sharing some of the lessons she has learned.
As a self-publishing author, I’m often asked whether it’s worthwhile doing everything yourself. Let me tell you, self-publishing is not for everyone. It requires dedication, determination and self-discipline. I’ve learned so many lessons along the way. Some of them were hard lessons, having lost money and valuable time by making stupid mistakes.
As the media giant gets bigger and bigger and occupies more of your free time, we are finding books (and authors) are having to adapt and adjust with reader demands. That means you have to get tighter on delivering a book that is ‘on point’ with modern readers.
But this comes more into play in the packaging and selling
Writing your own story is sometimes not an option - it is something you have to do. I'd Iike you to do it well.
These tips are to take into account when you are at the editing or rewriting phase. During the first phase of writing, you are simply telling the story. So just write it all, and then we can work on making it better.
What books have been important to you in your life?
Which books do you keep on your shelf, no matter how many times you move and box and then unbox them?
How have they changed as you moved through the decades and phases of your life?
How may your book be important to someone?
And what life phase may they be in when they need it?
People are devouring books in lockdown and stories that capture imaginations are rising. We did a talk recently on what books are being published but I have listed the key points below. The great news is that it seems reading is SO back in fashion. Last year had the single highest book sales recorded in the UK in the last eight years. Sales exceeded 200 million print books - and yes, we are talking real paper books! Ridiculously exciting for authors (that's you).
As a writer there is often a big gap between what you want to write, and what is actually getting published. If you can close that gap you have a stronger chance of getting into print.
We are all stuck at home. Life is slower and smaller. Is this not the place all writers want to find? A quiet, empty place to allow the stories in your head to finally pour onto paper? But so many of you are telling me it is so hard to write in this listless, confusing time. Many of you have joined our online writing sessions and shared how hard it is to do ANYTHING right now.
Here are some reasons why...
When is it a good time to share your story? And..... should you share it at all? I always encourage writer to WRITE their stories. There is a huge power in recording your life, or someone else's. But should you publish it? That is another question all together. The answer is, not always. Read why here.
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.