I started the first writing course and agency ten years ago and focused only on novels. Almost all the writers who found me saw 'writing a book' as 'writing a novel' so my work was to get writers to plot, plan and craft their novels. Publishing and writers have changed dramatically. Not many writers send queries about wanting to write a novel any more. Most writers who find me want to write their own story - either as a memoir or a non-fiction book.
I get asked this so often. There is only one answer to this question (in my view). YES of course you should plan a book!
I believe in writing with intent if you want to get published.
Ever wonder how many books get sold in SA every year? What SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells? Ever wonder how many books get sold in SA every year? What SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells?
Pour yourself a drink, this is going to hurt like hell. By Paige Nick
You may have written (or want to write) a non-fiction book that is based on your professional expertise. Or a memoir (also a non-fiction by the way). Or perhaps it's an illustrated children’s book, a cookbook or a photographic travel book. Enough? Not quite. If you want to get a publisher or agent you are not going to send them your whole book.
You need to drill down your entire book into a shorter document that captures its essence. Most books are commissioned by publishers or agents on a proposal basis. (I am going to use the terms publisher / agent interchangeably). You don't send them the actual book on first contact.
This means that writing a proposal is actually a Pretty Big Deal. They are long and they take a whole lotta work. But they will easily weed out the serious writer (that’s you) from the ‘don’t care enough’ to an experienced publisher. Don’t rush the process of the book proposal and don’t underestimate how carefully crafted this needs to be.
This is what is going to get your book sold....
(This is the latest version of this - I regularly update this article based on market trends)
Your book needs a theme. A theme is closely aligned to your plot and often the words are used interchangably. I see them as different however. A theme is more of a feeling your book has, a message, or a arc your character will undergo. Your plot is the step by step way in which you are going to tell story. Of course they are closely aligned. But building a plot takes a more practical method of working out how your character is going to move from A to B.
The list below is from 20 Master Plots & How to Build Them (Ronald Tobias 1993). See if you can identify your plot in one of these. It may give you focus. It may give clarity to a story goal you are battling to lock down.
So many writers get stuck at the very start. They simply cannot get off the starting block. Either they get stuck with the very idea of their book, continually thinking about writing, plotting and planning, but not able to actually sit down and write the book. Or they do actually start the book and then just can’t get beyond the first few chapters (or few thousand words).
So here are my tips to avoid getting stuck before you even start:
Are there... in fact, writing and marketing tips specific to YA fiction. The elements of what makes a great story are the same across genres, aren’t they? And marketing tips such as you might find here on the blog apply to all types of fiction books, don’t they?
After pondering for quite some time, my answer to these questions is yes – and no. There is a difference between a YA novel and a novel written for adults.
YA author Natalie Wright gives us some tips on writing and marketing in the genre.
Have you ever wondered how literary agents make money? Or how much commission a literary agent makes on the sale of a book or novel? The answer is: It varies! Here’s a brief overview of standard literary agent commissions and percentages of sales.
A query letter is pasted into the body of an email. It is the first thing an agent or publisher is going to see. You are going to send then a pitch that grips the reader and makes them want to read your book. This is also the answer you are going to give when someone says... what is your book ABOUT?
This is an older version of my post. Please read the updated one HERE rather
You may want to write a non-fiction book that is based on your professional expertise. Or perhaps it's an illustrated children’s book, a cookbook or a photographic travel book. The good news is that you don’t have to write your entire book first. You can submit a proposal. In fact these books are generally commissioned by publishers on a proposal basis. (I am going to use the terms publisher / agent interchangeably).
This means that writing a proposal is actually a Pretty Big Deal. They are long and they take a whole lotta work. But they will easily weed out the serious writer (that’s you) from the ‘don’t care enough’ to an experienced publisher. Don’t rush the process of the book proposal and don’t underestimate how carefully crafted this needs to be. This is what is going to get your book sold.
How many copies do you think your book will sell? A publisher wants to know what your expected sales are. But how do you work that out? Well the numbers are possibly less than you think. Wince. Ready?
This is a brilliant insider view of how many books actually get sold.
In a non-fiction proposal you need to be specific. Who did you write this book for? Who is most likely to buy it, and why?
Sending off a manuscript is terrifying. It is adrenalin inducing, heart-stopping stuff for any writer. But so many writers bail or fail at this critical point. You send your book off to a publisher and get a rejection letter. Then you put it in a bottom drawer and don’t send it again. This is not called submitting a book! Submitting a book is a long process that requires work and persistence.
This is NOT the time to be shy or hold back.
Do you believe in this book?
Did you invest your time in it?
I have been coaching writers for some years now and I wanted to address some of the most common reasons queries or questions that I get. Naturally most of these crop up during the Write a Book in 100 Days course. But they are universal questions and ones that any writer may encounter. Let’s tackle some of them in a Q&A format. Apologies if you recognise any of these questions as ones you sent me. They are just good illustrations of common problems or questions.
Choosing a genre is the starting point in all fiction writing. It 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.
Genre is a funny thing. Ask most writers what they HATE and they will tell you ‘generic fiction’. Just the word ‘generic’ will strike fear in the heart of a creative being. It sounds so cardboard cutout. It feels as if it is the antithesis of creativity - as if you are writing off a template and simply have to fill in the details. But I am a genre FANATIC and I have to impress that this is your very first choice when you start to write 'a book'.
Here are some strong openers for memoirs that kick the reader straight into the story. Do you have a favourite one? Share it in the comments below
I love this below list of plots and they do ring true. Find your own plot below: The list below is from 20 Master Plots & How to Build Them (Ronald Tobias 1993). See if you can identify your plot in one of these. It may give you focus. It may give clarity to a story goal you are battling to lock down.
All books need to have a professional editor to take them from manuscript to finished product.
First, these are the variables that determine an editor’s fee:Find out the costs here.
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, literary agent and book editor. She coaches writers on how to become authors and how to write to get published.