Advice For Writers
Here’s a list of some do’s and don’ts, plus most of the resources I’ve used over the years. I’ll try to keep everything basic so as to not overwhelm you. It’s best to take baby steps at this stage and concentrate on mastering one thing at a time. Otherwise you’ll have a panic attack like I almost did.
So first, check out all the books in your genre. See how many pages they average, and what types of covers and titles they have. I hate comparing my work to other authors, but in the end it is a business and you want to make sure you stand out amongst the crowd.
When it comes to the actually writing process, draft, draft, draft. And remember, LESS IS MORE. This is the one thing I’ve learned from being a video editor for almost twenty seven years. Learn to pare down your story and eliminate any unnecessary words or prose.
Once you’ve tightened everything up, have someone read it who will tell you what they really think. If more than one person agrees with them, make sure to listen and adjust accordingly. Don’t hesitate to kill off a part of your work if everyone says it isn’t working. And look for the bad reviews; they’ll teach you far more than the good ones.
Once you’ve finished the drafting process, hire an editor. Don’t cheap out here. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but a the investment goes a long way. One of my editors was expensive, but very experienced, with several NY Times bestsellers under his belt. And I’m not bragging or anything - I pay a lot more for my edits than most other writers I see on the message boards. An experienced editor will run about 3 cents a word for a developmental edit - this means they’ll not only do a copyedit where they fix most grammar and punctuation errors, but they’ll help you with the flow and structure of the story. This is invaluable.
But you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great copyedit of your work. A lot of editors also charge flat rates online. Usually they cost anywhere from $300 - $500 for an 80,000 word book. But MAKE SURE YOU GET A REAL EDITOR! No Fiver editors or someone with zero background. Try to look at what they’ve done in the past, and don’t be afraid to ask them for samples of their work.
Once that’s done, you’ll need to format the book for ebook and paperback. Vellum is the best software around for this. It’s about $299 but you own it permanently and it practically does everything for you. It will also convert your book into all of the different formats that other none-Amazon tablets use. THIS IS THE BEST PIECE OF SOFTWARE I’VE EVER USED FOR MY WRITING WHEN IT COMES TO PREPPING IT FOR READERS. It will do paperback and hardcover formatting as well, and it really looks beautiful. But keep in mind, readers who will buy your book (or any self-published author’s work) own e-readers. Digital books are cheaper and the customer’s are usually more willing to sift through online offerings to find buried gems.
Focus on e-books when it comes to sales. Plus they are a lot easier to gift to fans and friends. But don't ignore hardcover and paperback sales.
Next you’ll need a cover. Professionally designed covers range anywhere from $150 to $1,000. Don’t pay a grand, though. All of my original covers cost about $450 and were done from scratch over seas by an incredibly talented artist. 99designs is a great web-service for finding the artists for your covers. You basically pay to start a contest where anywhere from 5 to 20 artists compete to bring your cover to life. This was how I found my artist.
If you prefer to have more control over the design, though, I highly recommend using the AI program called Midjourney. It's what I used for all of my latest covers and it's incredibly cheap and powerful.
Once you’ve designed the book cover and ebook copies, the hard work begins: getting people to care. Don’t expect most people to get too excited that you wrote a book. Most people could care less. My wife never read a single copy of my books, so it doesn’t surprise me when it’s difficult to get friends and associates to check them out. But it’s normal and don’t let it get you down. And if you do have a strong network of friends and advance readers, more power to you.
Just be patient and keep in mind that it will take time to find an audience. I’m still building mine. Build yourself a website, start a mailing list on the site Mail Chimp, and don’t be bashful about giving your first book away for free. This is called a reader magnet and it gives people a taste of your work, so it’s very important. It’s the best and only real way to build a mailing list, too. I give my first book away for free on all platforms and it’s been the best way to find new readers. And it has landed me quite a few reviews.
If you want to read some AMAZING and much more detailed information about everything I just mentioned above, check out this online course. I did and it helped me exponentially. Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing formula. https://selfpublishingformula.com/courses/ . It is such a great reservoir of information and it’s easily digestible if you just take your time and learn one thing at a time. It’s really the best course for any new author, but especially us indie authors. You’ll learn how to do everything through it, including newsletter setup, website design, Facebook and Amazon ads - your best bet to get your work in front of readers.
And, no, I don’t work for the company, lol. It’s just a great, one-stop shop for everything you need to learn.
More important than anything else, just keep writing. Build your catalogue. That’s what I’m doing, albeit slowly. I write about a book a year, so it will take me some time to really make the kind of money I would like. I see a lot of indie writers who can crank out a book a month, but that is a tough pace to keep up. Just take your time and learn the craft. And when you think you have something worth publishing, that’s when you can begin utilizing a lot of the info listed above.
Sorry if this seems like a lot of information. And I hope I don’t come across as preachy. I just wish someone had told me all of this when I first set out. It would have saved me a ton of grief (not to mention a ton of money.)
Best wishes and I hope this helps. I think it will, though.
Chris R. Sendrowski