Alternatively, I wanted to title this post, How To Write A Bestseller, but there’s a maxim that I’m wary of: those who can do; those who can’t, teach. Well, I haven’t written a bestseller, so who am I to tell you what to do? But there’s another bit of wisdom that suggests that while every success is different, failures share some characteristics. Not that my books or me are failures! However, there’s no reason for you to stumble from mistake to mistake with this writing and publishing business before you find your path. So here are my lessons.
- Know why you’re writing. Really and truly, don’t be silly about this or skip too quickly over the basics of starting any new endeavour. Be honest about your motivations. Are you writing for yourself or for publication? If you’re writing for publication, what sort of sales do you want? Will you be self-publishing or submitting to a publisher? Which publisher? It is never too early to do your research and hammer out clear goals. Put a timeframe against them and have measurable stages.
- Know what you’re writing. Who is your audience? What genre and subgenre are you writing in? What are the demands of it? What will your audience expect? What do the covers of the books in your genre look like? What do the blurbs say? How are the successful authors in your genre reaching their audience (the same audience you want), and what are they promising those readers? What is the expected length? Have you looked at publishers’ guidelines and blogs? Yes, even if you intend to self-publish, you might learn something about genre expectations.
- Study the craft. You can write. You can always write better.
- Have a strategy. Without your book, you’ll have nothing to sell. But without a marketing strategy, your book will float around, and unless you’re super-lucky, flop. Yep, flop. Fall like a stone. Vanish in the avalanche of new books. Your book is vital and it needs 95% of your attention. But that other 5% is vital, too. What you’re writing has to have a position in the marketplace. Do you intend it to standalone or as part of a series? How quickly will you add to your published works? There is crazy competition out there and one of the strategies is multiple releases and mega-promotion. There are other strategies though, so craft one. Respect all the other demands on your time and make sure you can deliver what you strategise. Plan well, and allow for surprises.
- Resilience is vital. There will be times you hate the book you’re working on. Later on, after publication, some readers will hate it, too. How will you cope? Research actions you can take, and form a support network. You’re not alone, and that’s vital to resilience.
- Keep up with the publishing industry. Things change fast. Other things change less than you might think from all the noise of people trying to seize new opportunities. Good books sell, if they can find their audience. As the publishing landscape changes, finding that audience might require new tactics. Promotion is not a dirty word. Effective promotion is harder than we’d like to believe.
- There is an exception to every rule, but if you want to make money at this writing gig, you have the greatest chance of doing so if you study and, to some degree, emulate those who are successful. Publishing is a gamble, but a calculated one.
My latest book is a collection of my five sweet short romances, The Texas Kisses Collection.