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!
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:
- 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!
- 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!
Faydra 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.
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!
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!
Kim 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.
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.
And 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
- 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!
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!