Friday, April 29, 2016

You've decided to write a book, now what?

You wake up in the middle of the night with a story burning in your mind.  You try to go back to sleep, but you can't because the plot of this wonderful story continues to play out in your mind.  You toss and turn, fluffing your pillow until you finally give up and get out of bed before you wake up your sleeping spouse.

Many of us have had this happen.  A story will pop into our minds and hold us hostage until we make it into a novel.  The only problem is for the first-time writer is where to start?  Now, I'm not saying that it takes a college degree to write a good book, nor am I saying that everyone will have what it takes to do this challenging career choice.  Heck, the majority of Indie Authors don't make enough money to quit our jobs, let alone live in the lap of luxury, but that really doesn't matter.  We write because it's a passion.  We write because we love to take an idea and turn it into something that will make the readers want more.  Now, I'm not saying there aren't those out there who aren't enjoying nice royalty checks from their book sales, but you need to understand that didn't happen overnight.  It takes dedication and a willingness to put yourself out there in a way that may not always be loads of fun.

I spent nearly 4 years writing my debut novel.  I had no idea what I was doing, so I'm sure some of the famous authors would cringe at my writing routine.  I didn't use charts or plot boards with notes and pins.  Heck, I didn't even have an organized idea of how the book was going to end.  I just sat down at my trusty laptop and started typing.  I did learn as time went on to keep notes of names, places, and other important things happening in the story.  Nothing is worse than having to dig through your manuscript, trying to find a character's name or some other important fact. Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing, I just typed my story until I came to the end.

One bit of advice I give all new writers; please do not put headers, page numbers, and such in you manuscript.  While those will need to be added to a print version of your book, they do not go in an ebook version.  Also, set your justification for left and single space.  Another no-no is to tab over instead of setting the auto-tab for the beginning of each paragraph.  If you do these little things it will make the formatting process MUCH easier. Oh yeah, please do not use the enter key to go to the next page.  Use the page break option.  There are so many things first time writers do, thinking they are helping when they are actually just making more work for the formatting process.

When I published my first book in 2011, I really had NO idea what I was doing.  I had written a book that I believed was something the reading public would enjoy, so I put it on Smashwords and Amazon then I sat back and waited.  Boy, was I surprised when nothing happened.  That was my first lesson; you must promote your book PRIOR to publishing.  Who knew? LOL

So, I went on Facebook and started making posts telling people about my book.  Now I have to confess that I was lucky to have published my debut book back then because there weren't the thousands upon thousands of other authors trying to be seen as well.  My debut book began to sell and I was feeling pretty dang good about myself.  I then learned one of the more important lessons a writer can ever learn... make sure your book is well edited and typo free.  I'm not saying that I didn't hire an editor because I did and I'm not saying she didn't do a good job because she did.  I made a fatal mistake (it's a long story) and learned after I did a Kindle Free Days with over 26,000 downloads that my book was loaded with typos.  Talk about a slap in the face when the 1 Star Reviews starting pouring in.  I have since cleaned up the book, but there will always be over 26,000 crappy copies out there on people's kindles.  Hopefully, they've deleted them, but I lost the potential for thousands of fans of my work.

So, to prevent this happening to you, I highly recommend setting you book aside for a while after getting it back from the editor and work on your next book.  Then after some time, go back and re-read it again BEFORE publishing it.  You'll be surprised at the sneaky typos that manage to get by even the most thorough editor and proofreader.  Proper editing is a must, so ask other writers for referrals and choose wisely.  You don't want to make my mistake because it's a tough one to swallow.

Once you know your book is as clean of problems as possible, it's time to format for ebook and print.  This is also an important step in preparing your book for the reading public.  You can choose to hire someone, or you can do it yourself.  Me, being the type of person that doesn't want to start out too far in the red when I publish my books, decided to learn how to do it myself.  I mean, it took me around 8 months to break even with my first book. Besides, I like to add little extras in my books, so by doing the formatting myself I'm able to offer my readers some special features.

I hope this will help you understand a bit of what you need to do when you finish your masterpiece.

Take care and feel free to add any comments or ideas you may have.

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