It’s a lovely sunny day here in the west of Scotland but we’re all still stuck indoors aren’t we? So here’s the second part of my series on writing a novel. Enjoy! Part 1 is HERE if you haven’t read it yet.
Right, you’ve finished your book and think it’s bloody great. Don’t you? Well here’s another of my biggest tips – BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING. If you think your book is just okay, or even worse, don’t think it’s very good at all, you’re not likely to give it the push it deserves. You must believe that you’ve created something really good, that readers will thoroughly enjoy, and you must want as many people as possible to read it and do whatever you can to make it so.
Too often when I was starting out I saw new authors posting on social media saying they didn’t really mind how many copies their book sold, they just loved writing. That’s great, I love writing too, but from the start I was convinced my debut novel was really good and I did whatever I could to sell as many copies as possible. If YOU don’t believe in your creation, why the hell should anyone else? Now that doesn’t mean tweeting continuously about it with sales links, that’s just a pain in the arse for everyone, but you should go to bed every night believing your new book will garner good reviews, build up some buzz, and go on to sell thousands of copies. Why not? There’s plenty of really shitty books that have made millions for their authors. You want to make a career from writing, don’t you? That means sales, so don’t be ashamed to go after them.
But, with that in mind, you must have something of quality to stand behind, and that means honing your book until it’s the best it can be. Start by finding beta readers – you can ask people on Facebook groups or Twitter, or reach out to readers of your genre through other online forums (Reddit might be good). The idea is to find people who enjoy similar books to yours and will give you useful feedback. Once you have this, you can either take it on board or not – it’s your book after all, so be true to your own vision, BUT if a few people all tell you the ending is rubbish or one character is too annoying, perhaps you should look at it.
I expect you to be quite surprised by some of the suggestions you’ll get, but once you reflect on the readers’ opinions, and act on them, you’ll realise your book is much stronger than before.
(At this stage you might plan on looking for an agent. I will mention my own experiences with agents in a much later post. For now, we’ll focus on self-publishing.)
Next, you’ll hire an editor – if you can afford this, I HIGHLY recommend you do it – and, if they’re any good, you’ll be astonished by their feedback. After I’d written a few novels and novellas I started to think maybe I knew what I was doing, and wondering if I really needed my editor. And then she looked over my new story and made some suggestions that truly elevated it to another level. It had been fine before, but the money I spent hiring her – on that occasion and every other – possibly made each book worth another star within Amazon or Goodread’s rating system. Priceless.
If you can’t afford an editor, that’s fine – try to find a couple more trusted beta readers instead and listen to their opinions. But if you have any spare money, and bearing in mind your book is going to be the next Big Thing (you believe in it right?!) I would really suggest you spend it on a) an editor and b) a cover designer.
I’m not going to post examples of terrible Kindle covers for us all to point and laugh, because it’s nasty, but you all know exactly what I mean. You’ve seen them. You’ve probably wondered what kind of drugs the authors were on when they knocked them up in thirty seconds in Paint. Now, I must admit, I’ve seen some books like that, with their awful covers – even at times a full series with the same exact crappy cover, just different titles or even numbers on them – selling very well. It amazes me. But that is rare – usually a bad cover is going to really hinder your book’s chances of getting up the charts, so, unless you’re great at design, HIRE someone. If it costs you £200, you will make it back in sales eventually.
Again though, if you can’t afford it, that’s okay, don’t let it put you off publishing, just try and come up with your own cover that looks professional, using simple fonts and images. Study the cover art of other, bestselling books in your genre. Writing historical fiction like me? Check out Bernard Cornwell or Matthew Harffy’s books.
That kind of art, and the bold fonts, draw a reader’s eye. And bear in mind you might be launching a single novel, but you are looking at creating a BRAND. Don’t name your Facebook page or website after a book, name it after yourself or you’ll regret it when you write something new. And when that time comes, make sure the cover art and fonts are in the same style as book 1 (assuming you’re writing a series). Having a trilogy of novels, all using different colours, different fonts, different styles of image just doesn’t look professional and will make readers suspect the writing contained within the cover will be similarly unfocused.
Now you have your completed manuscript and cover art, all you need now is a blurb for the back cover/ description page. Most of us hate trying to write eye-catching, interesting blurbs, including me, so I recommend you give this book a try. There’s one short section within here that I’ve been using to help me for the past few years, it’s excellent.
And that’s it! You are just about ready to go. It’s advisable to setup a pre-order within Amazon’s KDP system, rather than just making it available straight away, especially if you’re doing a paperback version (and there’s no reason not to). A pre-order gives Amazon’s system time to set everything up for you, so, when the book goes live in a week or two, the product pages look good, your Author Central page (you should set one of these up at least in the UK and USA) will link to your name, and the different editions (paperback/Kindle and audio if you have it) will all be meshed together.
Well done, you’re almost there! Now, as you wait on the pre-order period to end and your awesome debut novel to be published, there’s some other things to be doing and thinking about. I’ll cover those in the next installment, see you then!
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