Essential Advice for a First-Time Author

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Welcome to the first post in our new “Expert Voices” series! Expert Voices is where I ask my smart author friends and colleagues to answer your questions about writing, publishing, book marketing and more.

I’m working on my next book (number 14 for me), and while I may be considered a veteran author by now, I still encounter blocks and issues many first-time authors face. So today I’ve asked these experts…

“Pretend I’m a newbie writing my first book… What one piece of advice would you give me?”

Of course, asking one piece of advice from a group of writers means you’ll get way more than one… so enjoy what they have to say and take these successful authors’ words to heart!

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Slattery-FeliciaFelicia Slattery, M.A., author of 21 Ways to Make Money Speaking says:

One of the easiest ways to get started on writing your book is to talk about it. Yes, out loud to actual people who might want to read your book!

Here are 3 ways to talk and get your book done:

  1. Tell everyone you know in real life and on social media that you are working on your book and then give them an expected finish date. Nothing like a little public accountability with the possibility of public shaming to get something done!
  2. Talk your book into some software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, or record your voice and have it transcribed. It won’t be ready-to-publish in that form, but you can then edit it yourself or hire a professional editor to clean it up.

Do a talk about your book. Hold a teleseminar or webinar or ask a local organization if they might be interested in hearing about the topic of your book. I call this your Signature Speech™ for Authors, and writing and then delivering the speech first will help you focus on important content you want to share, get some audience feedback about ideas you had never even though of, and will in general fire you up for your getting your book done!

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Koenig-FaydraFaydra Koenig, America’s Divorce Coach & author of Divorce: No-Nonsense Practical Advice for Men/Women and In the Meantime – 10 Habits to Develop While You Reinvent Yourself says:

As a first time author, I was intimidated by other authors on social media sites. I saw the question and answer forums and sometimes felt I wasn’t qualified to be a part of what was going on. After all, I didn’t have a best-seller, I barely had a book that was more than a dream in my head at the time. The seasoned authors seemed to have a lot to say about what justified best-seller status and how to get it. I saw authors raking other authors that I liked over the coals and I recall thinking to myself, there will be a balance between being acclaimed by my peers and using marketing techniques to sell my books and sometimes the two may not mix.

What I encourage new authors to do is focus on their book. There is a reason you want to tell this story, whether it be a novel or a manual. Don’t worry too much about the aspects of the task you don’t know because most things you can’t do, you can hire a virtual assistant to help with at very affordable costs. Just try to write, don’t overload yourself with trying to learn everything at once. Marketing, networking and all of that can wait until you have your book in your hand or online.

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Coats-CarlaCarla Lindgren Coates, author of Through Thorns I Thrive says:

Don’t worry about the how, just worry about the what. Get your thoughts and ideas down, once its down you will edit it several times yourself, then hire a professional editor to finalize it.

Join author groups on Facebook like this one, not only do you get the encouragement and support you need, but also experts in the field of book writing who will help you along the way.

Also, the voice recorder on my phone was my best friend. If I was out somewhere and had an idea, I recorded it so that I could put it in my book later… I could go on and on… lol. So much I have learned!

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Caron-SusieSusie Caron, author of Twee says:

Yes! I have a lot to say about that, Kristen.

First, write, write, write… anything… just do it.

Next. Get familiar with Facebook and Twitter and post nicely… no junk… no downers…

Third RESEARCH to discover as much as possible about publishing. This last step is necessary so you can make an informed decision, acceptable to your hopes, dreams and pocketbook!

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Miller-KimKim Miller, author of Shoot to Sell: Make Money Producing Special Interest Videos says:

To start the book I co-wrote with my husband, I did a basic outline—like what you learn to do in school—of the key areas we needed to cover. Then I expanded it and expanded it and those were my chapters! I also have to say that what actually got us to write was landing a book deal first… we had a strict deadline to follow. To be honest, we might still be writing it if that didn’t happen. Now I know what to expect so that I can put my own deadlines in place and get our next one out!

Another piece of advice is to get many resources to help you with grammar and punctuation. This is especially important if you are going to self-publish or don’t have the resources to hire a copy editor.

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Sue Knott, author of TwiLITE A Parody says:

For first-time writers who want their books to sell, I’d advise writing about topics readers are actually searching for. It’s very difficult for readers to discover a book. Just look at J.K. Rowling’s recent sales using a pen name: Under 10,000 even though the book was released by a major publisher and was well reviewed. I tend to believe her identity was leaked by her publisher because they wanted to make some real money.

While writing about what readers want is a no-brainer, refining the topic takes some time. I use Google Analytics to help me determine what keywords are performing better than others. My first book, “TwiLITE A Parody,” has been on the Kindle Top 100 Parodies List most days since within a few months of it being published (except during the summers… apparently teens don’t spend much of their vacation at the bookstore). I think that’s because all-things “Twilight” are (or were) oft-searched. I did NO PUBLICITY for this book for over a year, and even now I do very little (hoping to change that…I’ll have time someday, right?).

While I write parodies and popular fiction, I’m sure this maxim applies to other genres. I heard a piece on NPR about an author of literary fiction who experienced negligible sales (but was lucky enough to have a publisher who believed in him). For his third book, he included zombies in the story and it became a best seller. The good news is, I think you may be able to get away with writing what YOU want to write about after that first book. I find my “TwiLITE A Parody” readers go on to buy my subsequent books. The aforementioned zombie-includer’s previous books started to sell well after his zombie book took off. Of course, non-fiction may be different. I could be extremely difficult for a nonfiction that’s not about a topic readers are actively seeking information on.

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Eckstein-KristenAnd my (Kristen’s) advice?

Like so many of these experts said—start. Just. Start. If your book stays locked up in your brain, it’s not doing anyone any good. If you believe your message will help one person, entertain one person, or change one single life, that alone should be worth it to finish your book.

Starting, and keeping, writing can be the hardest part of the process of getting your words out of your head and onto paper. Writing a book can be a huge undertaking, especially if you’re writing 100% new content from scratch.

One way you can speed up your writing is to use sources of content you may not realize you already have. Here are my top picks for places to find content collecting virtual dust that can easily be turned into a book:

  • Blog posts and articles (including guest posts written for other blogs you have permission to repurpose)
  • Transcriptions of interviews
  • Webinars
  • Teleseminars
  • Partially started books hidden in the crevices of an old hard drive you completely forgot about until you stumbled upon them by accident (not kidding, that’s what happened to content I found for my next book!)

If you want to find out how you can turn your content into a book—fast—check out my newly released e-book Turn Your Content into a Book in Only 3 Days. (Hint: this e-book was created using a transcription of a webinar I taught.) Then join the 3 Day challenge at WriteMyBookIn3Days.com to get motivated to get your book done!

Enjoy!

~Kristen

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Speak up!

Are you published? If so, what advice would you impart on a newbie author? If you’re a newbie, what advice would you seek? Speak up in the comments below!

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  • Phil Simon
    September 2, 2013

    Action Grammar: Fast, No-Hassle Answers on Everyday Usage and Punctuation by Joanne Feierman should be required reading for every non-fiction author.

    It has informed a great deal of my own communications style. Because of it, I am a clearer writer. Period.
    Phil Simon recently posted…Netflix, Big Data, and the Big Leap of FaithMy Profile

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  • Kristen Eckstein
    August 29, 2013

    Hi Gale,

    I’m guessing you’re getting sales calls from vanity publishers who want your money? If you’re getting calls from traditional publishers wanting to pay you an advance, that’s a harder question to answer. However, if these are self-publishing companies it’s an easy answer: weed out all of them.

    The reason they keep calling you is only because they want your money, nothing more. Vanity publishers do not actually guide, coach and help authors. They produce your book and then take a cut of every book that’s sold – after you’ve already paid them for the production. This is what I call a “pay now, pay later” scenario.

    If you want to self-publish, consider indie publishing. That’s where you literally start your own publishing company (which may or may not be right for your goals).

    The bottom line is, you need to know what goals you want to accomplish with your book before you choose a publisher, otherwise you’ll jump into something that may be difficult to get out of when things turn sour later. Here’s an article I wrote that should help you with clarifying your goals and choosing the right publishing option for you: http://ultimatebookcoach.com/your-publishing-options-in-plain-english/

    You can also click the header on this website and download a free PDF copy of my book that outlines many other ways to be published and when they might be right for you.

    ~Kristen 🙂
    Kristen Eckstein recently posted…Important Lessons Authorpreneurs Can Learn from a Snail: Part 1My Profile

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  • Gale Duran
    August 28, 2013

    I am overwhelmed with book publishers calling me to choose them.
    How do I weed out the best publisher for my book? Title? Help

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  • Karen Rittenhouse
    August 8, 2013

    And, don’t be intimidated by thinking you have to sit down and write a “book”.

    Most of us get flashes of inspiration – something we want to write or to share. When that happens, jot it down. It will happen more than once and, every time you write a paragraph or a story, you’re writing TOWARD your book.

    Be willing to write something down consistently – once a day, once a week, even once a month – and, eventually, you’ll have enough to bring together for your completed book.

    Most importantly, start. You don’t have to be brilliant, you just have to write.

    Wishing you tremendous writing success!

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  • Linda Ursin
    August 8, 2013

    A lot of good advice here. I finally started putting my book together this spring, and now its finished. Cover, layout, and everything. The only thing I’m waiting for, is to get it back from those who are helping me edit it. I went over it 4 times myself, but I bet I missed something 🙂 I hope to publish it on Kindle on the 15th.
    Linda Ursin recently posted…Sassy Sayings Onwards from 100My Profile

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  • Sheryl Siler
    July 30, 2013

    Kristen your words ” If you believe your message will help one person, entertain one person, or change one single life, that alone should be worth it to finish your book.” is exactly it. You are an inspiration for me and I’m going to finish my book.
    Sheryl Siler recently posted…I Believe Just a Fun Linky LoveMy Profile

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  • Kim Miller
    July 30, 2013

    Thanks for adding me to this post! Lots of good advice here. I agree with you about finding material for your book…we were blogging first (one of the big reasons our publisher took a chance on us!) and had so many past articles to use in our book. I also used the scripts from two videos we had produced a few years ago along with the outline of a presentation we had done at some conferences.

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