Writing a novel is easy compared to finding a publisher or an agent for your work. Here we’ll uncover a few tips and tricks that might help you get past the gatekeepers at the publishing house. A lot of books about writing have been written, most of them full of do’s and don’ts. We don’t think you have to obey every rule. It’s more important to write a compelling story that your reader can get into and will want to finish than ensuring that you have crossed all your t’s and dotted all of your i’s.
Of course if you don’t want to self-publish your work, then you’ll still have to meet some of those publisher requirements, at least for the first 5 pages of your book. Your job is to get them hooked to your book.
Adverbs can weaken your paragraphs. There is nothing inherently wrong with them, but the overuse of adverbs is not always met with excitement at publishing houses. Some publishers have a real dislike for words ending in -ly. If they don’t love your story from the first word, then seeing too many adverbs may tip the balance in favor of putting your manuscript in the trash pile. You don’t want it to go there.
The word ‘to be’ and all of its deviations (am, are, is, was, were, has been etc.) are perfectly fine to use. They make up a huge part of the English language, so it’s not surprising that they end up in your book thousands of times. But if you discover that one of your paragraphs doesn’t convey your meaning well enough, consider eliminating “to be” and replacing that with something else. It might actually help. But please don’t spend the rest of your life trying to eliminate ‘to be’ from your entire novel. It might just end up sounding stilted and still not get you published.
If you have ever read any writing advice, you’ll be familiar with the show-don’t-tell bit. Readers want to be part of the action and see it happen. Sometimes telling is necessary in order to condense your story and get the information across but in most cases showing is preferred. Here is an easy way to differentiate between the two: Can the camera see this? If a camera would capture what you’re conveying, then you’re showing and not telling. If you want to get your manuscript accepted, consider eliminating too much telling at least from the beginning of your story.
Some writers dislike the use of ‘said’ and ‘asked’ and will go to great lengths to replace them with fancy words nobody has heard of before. A better idea might be to eliminate the need for them by using descriptive sentences inside of your dialogue instead. Here is an example: “Yes” James sat down. “I think we should move forward with this.” Without using ‘said’ or ‘asked’, we know that James is talking. At the same time we know what he’s doing. That’s much better than browsing the thesaurus for synonyms of ‘said’ and ‘asked’, inevitably distracting the reader from the actual dialogue.
Most books encourage you to use a first or third person point of view, not an omniscient point of view, and definitely not a second person POV. Of course you can choose whatever POV you want, but if you want your manuscript to get published, sticking to first or third person POV is your safest bet. To ensure that you’re not accidentally using omniscient POV, you should use a deep POV: EVERYTHING that happens in your story should be seen through the eyes of your character’s viewpoint. By the way, it’s fine to switch the viewpoint to a different character for your next chapter, too, as long as you don’t confuse readers by adding too many of them.
Your reader wants to get lost in your book. They want to feel with your characters. In order to transport them, you have to write stuff that matters. If it matters to you, then you should write it. Don’t be afraid to explore your characters’ vulnerability. Don’t try to follow a lot of rules. Instead, you should stick to your own style of writing.
In the end, it’s your story. If you have to tell it from an omniscient POV, then that’s what you need to do. If you prefer telling over showing, that’s fine, too. Following these tips doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get published. Not following them doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never find a publisher, either.
Some publishers might ask you to change aspects of your book to publish it. Then you’ll have a choice to make. You don’t have to do what they ask you to do. It’s your story. Now is the time to tell it and tell it well.
So you’ve actually finished writing and editing your novel. You are extremely proud of yourself, and you should be! But now that you finally had the guts to send it to a publisher (or two), you received a rejection letter. They don’t want your book. They don’t want to have anything to do with the manuscript you slaved over for months on end. Now what?
Unfortunately, your work is far from over. If you really want your book to get published, you’re going to have to figure out why it was rejected. Most likely, it’s one of these 5 reasons below.
We hate to be blunt, but if your manuscript got rejected, there is a chance that it just plain sucks. The good news is that you don’t have to chuck it in the bin like the publisher did. Of course, there are a lot of reasons why your manuscript might not be worth reading:
Your point of view is a mess
Your story is lacking substance
Your characters are flawless
Your story doesn’t have enough conflict
Your opening chapter is boring or vague
Your characters’ motives are missing or unclear
Your story is not original
Your manuscript is full of spelling and grammar errors
Your story doesn’t flow
We’ll explore each of these manuscript problems in more detail shortly to try to help you fix them. But if you want to make sure that your manuscript doesn’t suck, then you need to get other people to read it and provide you with feedback. One of these people should be an editor to eliminate spelling and grammar errors. Even if only a couple of people read your book, you’ll most likely get some valuable pointers that will help you tell your story better. Of course, the more beta readers you have, the better.
Your manuscript is actually pretty good, but the publisher never got around to looking at it because your query letter sucks. If you call your manuscript a ‘fiction novel’ in your query letter and use flowery writing to prove to them how good you are at writing, nobody will be interested in your story. Your query letter should give them a reason to read your manuscript. This means you need to pitch your story in an exciting way.
Think about books you’ve seen at the bookstore. Before you decide to read or purchase a book, you always read the description on the back or inside the jacket. Is it compelling enough to make you read the story? If not, then it sucks. Your query letter is the same. It’s like the cover letter for your resume. Employers don’t look at your resume if they don’t like the cover letter. And if you can’t entice the publisher to look at your manuscript with a kick-ass query letter, you’ll get a rejection letter. Scroll down just a little and we’ll help you fix that query letter.
Of course you know better than to submit a romance novel to a publisher of children’s books. But there’s more to selecting the right publisher than matching up your genre and theirs. Some publishers only look for books that fit into a certain niche. For example, the publisher might be looking for a space-opera novel with a romantic twist. Or they may be looking for a transgender shape shifter story set in the 15th century.
Your publisher might also have a hard word count requirement. If they’re looking to publish a novel with 100,000 words or less, then your 120,000-word manuscript won’t get looked at. Research the publisher before you spend time on sending your query letter and manuscript to a publisher. And make sure that you follow their manuscript submission requirements to the letter. It would be a shame if your work got thrown out because you didn’t upload it in the right format.
You really have no influence over what your publisher is looking for. They may be looking for something very specific, and your story just doesn’t fit the bill. It’s also possible that your publisher is in a cash crunch, has too many books in your genre, or the publisher doesn’t believe people are buying that type of book. It’s possible that the publisher (and a lot of other publishers) hate your agent. Or maybe the boss has an irrational bias towards your story because it reminds them of their ex.
There are a lot of reasons publishers reject manuscripts. It’s a tough job. There are lots of manuscripts, but most of them don’t get published. Even the ones that do don’t necessarily pay the bills for the publishing house. If the publishers think that your book is going to lose them money, they’ll send you a rejection letter real fast. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your manuscript sucks. It’s just that the publisher doesn’t think they have the readership to make money with your story.
J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, and John Grisham have all had their fair share of rejection letters. And their stories don’t suck, at least not according to the millions of people who have read them. In J.K. Rowling’s case, the publishers just thought that Harry Potter was too big of a book for a children’s book. But kids (and adults) all over the world devoured not only one but several of these fat books. And the publishers who rejected her are probably kicking themselves now…..
The moral of the story is you just have to keep trying. Don’t take rejection personally. Deciding which story to publish and which story to reject is a very personal, biased process. Unfortunately, there is no better process. Sometimes publishers don’t exercise good judgement. Some people will love your book, and some people will hate it.
Send your manuscript to at least 10 publishers and send your queries off all at once. If you don’t get a favorable response from any of them, then you may want to work on your manuscript, your query letter, or both. But don’t give up. And in the meantime, keep writing books. Your next book is going to be even better than your last one!
You’ve written the best book ever, and you’re ready to get it published. The good news is that you’re really close. The bad news is that you are also really far away from reaching your goal of finding an agent or a publisher. In order to get published, you need to do more than write a great book. You have to create an awesome query letter AND send it to the right person.
It’s not a good idea to send your manuscript to only one agent. It’s probably best if you send it to a handful of different people. But if you don’t hear back from anyone, then there may be something wrong with your query letter.
Did you address your letter to a specific person? If you use a standard “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern”, it’s quite possible that the recipient just threw it into the trash without reading the rest of it. Why would they do that?
For one, you didn’t do your research. If you didn’t want to take the time to figure out their name, then you probably didn’t read the submission guidelines, either. Or worse, maybe you’re sending your manuscript to every agent in the phone book. That’s not a good strategy.
Personalizing your query letter requires you to address it to a specific person. But you should also find out something about them. Why are you sending your novel to them and not someone else? Obviously, you need to do your research to make sure you found a good fit for your manuscript. An agent looking for surreal young adult books will probably not be interested in your Christian romance novel. And that’s why you shouldn’t send it to them in the first place.
So you gave them a short outline of your story and a way to reach you. But you forgot to give them the stats about your novel. If you don’t let them know what type of book they’re dealing with, they have no idea whether they should read it or not. Most agents and publishers have very specific criteria. They look for books in a specific genre, but they also need to adhere to a certain word count. So you need to let them know these things about your book. And don’t forget to mention your book’s title and subtitle.
Your query letter should let the reader know what your book is all about. But if you write a summary of your book that’s less thrilling than sliced bread, your manuscript will land in the garbage. That’s why you need to create a hook for your book. Don’t forget the bait. If you read the description on the back of a book at the bookstore, would you want to read the entire book to see what happens? If not, then it’s not good enough. Ideally, you should ask a few other people to read your hook to make sure it’s really up to snuff.
If an agent or a publisher accepted your manuscript, you’d be ecstatic. But it’s not like you’re doing them a favor. After all, they’re in it to make money. So don’t grovel and beg in your query letter. The recipient is busy, but reading manuscripts is part of their job description. The challenge is that they can only read so many of them. Therefore, you need to make yours stand out from the rest of the crowd. Write an excellent query letter and don’t beg for a review of your book. It’s demeaning.
Your query letter should be well written. And while it’s necessary to send a query letter in order to get your manuscript into the right hands, you don’t need more than one page for your letter. There’ll be plenty of pages for the recipient to read should they decide to ask for your manuscript. But your query letter should be short, sweet, and to the point. If your biography takes up too much space, then you should only include the things that are relevant. Agents and publishers don’t care about how many dogs you have, but they may be interested to know if you already have a following on Twitter, Facebook, or your personal blog.
Some writers use their query letters to talk up their work. They gush over how much friends and family love their book. They talk about how long they’ve worked on the book. Don’t give in to the temptation. Agents and publishers don’t care about your personal life. They want to know if your book is worth reading. The fact that your friends and family certainly think so proves nothing at all.
We’ve already mentioned this a few paragraphs earlier, but it’s so important that we need to mention it again. You need to target the right person. Agents and publishers don’t generally accept any type of genre. Most of them are selective about what they publish. This means you need to do you research and find the one that’s the right fit for you. It’s quite possible that there is another agent at the same place you send your query to who may be interested in your genre, but you can’t count on the recipient to pass your manuscript along for you. Send it to the proper person in the first place!
Writers aren’t always rule-followers. And that’s fine. But agents and publishers post guidelines that you should pay attention to if you want your novel to get published. These guidelines can be really annoying and detailed, such as specifying what type of font you should use for your manuscript. But it’s not going to be that difficult to comply with, is it? If you don’t, your manuscript won’t get read. If you do, you’re already one tiny step ahead of the people who didn’t read the guidelines.
Are you still getting rejections from agents and publishers? Maybe your manuscript isn’t as good as you think it is.
You finally got your novel written, but when you read it over you realize that your manuscript sucks. Or maybe you thought your manuscript was great, but it keeps getting rejected by agents and publishers. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that your manuscript just plain sucks. In this article, we’ll cover 9 possible reasons why your manuscript might not be as great as you think it is along with a few suggestions on how to fix them.
You should probably think about which point of view to use before you start working on your novel. Since the point of view flows throughout your entire book, it’s extremely annoying to fix during the editing process. If your point of view is a bit of a mess, then it might be easier for your publisher to toss your manuscript into the bin than to ask you to revise it.
When you write your novel in first person, you’re most likely doing things the right way. Of course, if you switch the point of view for different characters, you need to make sure that you’re not switching in the middle of a scene. It should be easy for the reader to figure out who is telling the story.
If you’re writing in third person, then you need to be extra careful about what you’re writing. For example, you may be mixing up the omniscient point of view with head hopping.
Every story needs some meat in order to make someone want to read it. You have probably read books that are lacking substance before. They’re either full of fluff, unbelievable, boring, and/or difficult to get through. Your story doesn’t have to have big moral lessons in it, but it should have some substance to keep readers engaged and wanting to read the rest of it. All the flowery writing in the world isn’t going to keep your readers engaged if nothing happens in your story.
To move things along, you might need to add additional conflicts or create some barriers for your main character they can’t easily get over.
Sometimes it can be tempting to create perfect characters in a fairy tale world. But if your characters have no flaws (physical or otherwise), it will be difficult for readers to identify with them and cheer for them. Character flaws make your characters more realistic and more likable at the same time. Of course, the trick is to make the reader fall in love with the characters even though they have annoying mannerisms or unsightly habits.
If your character just goes through life without a struggle, your readers are going to be bored. Your novel needs conflicts, big and small, in every chapter. A conflict arises when your character wants something but something else stands in the way of them getting it. Conflicts make books interesting. How does your character solve the conflict? And how do they change because of it? You have the power to make it happen, now make it worth reading!
Apart from your query letter, the opening chapter is one of the first things agents and publishers look at. If your opening scene doesn’t grab and hold their attention, then your manuscript is going into the bin. This means you should avoid being boring or vague. The reader needs to know what’s going on, but you don’t need to use the first chapter to unleash a lot of background information. Instead, you should make something happen in the first scene.
Have you ever watched the scary movies where the protagonist walks into the haunted house or basement even though the vampires, ghosts, or monsters are behind the closed door? It’s stupid and unbelievable. Those movies are bad movies, because the characters’ motives are missing entirely. After all, they didn’t have to go into the house. They could have stayed away.
If your characters get into trouble without a clear motive or reason, then your story is in trouble, too. The protagonist needs to have something personal at stake in order to do risky things, whether that’s a kidnapped child or the risk of financial ruin. Otherwise, your readers will wonder why they didn’t just turn around and go home.
Technically, every story has already been told. There are no ‘new’ stories. But you can tell a story that hasn’t been told by adding your own personal style and your own personal twist. Before you send your manuscript off to a publisher, you should figure out what’s unique about your story. What makes your novel different from other novels in its genre? If you can’t think of anything special, then you might still have some work to do.
You don’t have to be perfect, but your manuscript should be as close to error-free as humanly possible. If you’re not great with spelling and grammar rules, then you might want to consider hiring an editor. You could also use an online editing program to weed out the worst offenses. Grammarly is a free tool that should eliminate the worst spelling and grammar offenses. You may also want to ask a few select people to proofread it for you.
If you’re concerned about the cost of editing a manuscript, you could hire an editor to edit a few pages for you. You can use the feedback to look over the rest of your manuscript yourself. You could also try a tool like ProWritingAid.
Writing a story that somehow just doesn’t flow is probably the most frustrating problem to deal with. If it’s really bad, you might even be tempted to throw it into the bin yourself. But don’t give up just yet. You can improve the flow of your story yourself. You just have to carve out some time to work on editing it. You probably need to start at the beginning and look at it with new eyes. Ask yourself if the transitions between your scenes and chapters make sense. Is your character progressing through the story in a meaningful way, or are you jumping around too much? Do the events inside of your story connect, or are they just like short stories that have nothing to do with each other?
Leave it alone for a month or longer. Start working on the next novel in the meantime.
Proofread it at least twice. Once for flow, once for spelling and grammar.
Give it to a handful of friends to review.
Did your book get accepted by an agent or publisher? Congratulations! Now it’s time to sell some copies. Learn how to sell the first 100 copies of your book.
Writing a book is difficult. It can take hours, days, weeks, months, and years of hard work. But writing a book is easy as pie compared to actually selling your book. Besides, you have Novelize to help you write your book. But how do you sell your first 100 copies after you’re ready to publish?
There are lots of different strategies for selling books. Many successful authors claim that they were able to sell lots of books by building a following early on. This means you need to publish early and often. Whether you publish your book in excerpts on your blog or another platform doesn’t really matter. If the story is good, people are going to want to know what happens next. That means they’ll come back to read your next chapter.
Of course, you may have already finished your book, so it’s a little late to follow this advice. Don’t worry. There’s still hope for you.
Good writing is subjective. One person may love your style, and the next person may hate it. But if you want to sell books, your writing should be good. That goes without saying. How will you know whether your writing is good enough?
The easiest (but not cheapest) thing you can do is hire an editor to proofread your work. You could also try to find some beta readers. Beta readers can help you determine whether your book is fun to read, but they probably won’t pick up on all of your spelling and grammar errors. Of course, you should also spend some time on editing the book yourself before you send it to a beta reader or editor.
Giving books away is advice that seems to be counterproductive, but it can actually be beneficial for you. Who should get free copies of your book?
Friends and family members: Ask them to read the book and tell others about it. They definitely deserve to get a free copy since they had to put up with you writing the book. They’ll also be extremely proud of you and happy to display your work.
Beta readers and reviewers: Ask them to read, share it with others, and most importantly, review it online for you. The sooner you work on finding beta readers and potential reviewers, the better. Your beta readers can be your biggest supporters. They’ll help you find your flaws in the story to make it better, and they’ll give you reviews once you publish. They shouldn’t have to buy a copy of the book on top of that.
Book bloggers: They’ll review your book and reach a wider audience than you can. Just make sure you send it to the right people. Someone who reviews Fantasy books won’t be interested in your romance novel, so don’t bother them.
Giving books away can get expensive quickly. The good news is that most people are happy with an eBook copy that costs you exactly nothing. However, you should make sure you give them the format they want since turning your document into a Kindle or ePub version isn’t that tricky. And while creating a PDF is even easier, this format looks terrible on small screens.
Customers just don’t like buying books that haven’t received any reviews. Having a lot of reviews won’t guarantee that you sell a lot of books, but it’ll surely increase your odds. The algorithm for book rankings is complicated. It includes number of books sold as well as number of positive book reviews. You obviously need both, but it helps to start somewhere.
There are lots of fiction writers. But there are not as many fiction writers who have published a lot of books. One of the best ways to get faithful readers is to keep writing books. And in order to attract a new reader, you may want to consider giving one of your books away for free. For example, it might be a good idea to give away the first book of your trilogy. If it’s well written, your customers will buy the second and third book. But this strategy could also work well with other stand-alone books.
The great thing about giving books away for free is that your free readers still help you increase your rankings in the online bookstore. You may also get a review or two out of it. But most importantly, it’s a risk-free way for readers to see that your books are worth their time.
Okay, you’re not a web developer, you’re an author. But you still need a website. A website gives readers more information about you, your books, and why they should read them. It should be the first place people go. And then you have a choice about what you do with those visitors.
Some people recommend creating an email list and asking people to sign up. Others maintain that email lists are a thing of the past. And if you think about it, how many emails do you ever pay attention to? But if you’re looking for something, you’ll read information you find on a website.
So a website is a must. And it should look good, too.
An empty website is not useful to anyone. So you’re going to have to write a lot of content for it. You should keep it updated and let your followers know what you’re doing. And no, that doesn’t mean you need to talk about what you had for breakfast. But you can talk about your story. Where is your heroine going next? If you write nonfiction, then your website should include lots of information on your topic because that’s how people will find you.
You should never judge a book by its cover, but inevitably that’s what all readers do. Therefore, your cover needs to be amazing and get their attention. It’s a good idea to invest some time and money into your cover art. You can hire a freelancer to do the work for you if design work is not your strength (and it’s probably not considering you’re a writer). But you should definitely spend the money on high-quality images. Make sure the cover looks good on your book and on the Internet, too.
This article has some good ideas for marketing your book, but not all of them will work for everyone. That’s why it’s important to measure what works. If listing your book for free decreases your sales and doesn’t boost your rank significantly, then maybe that’s not a good option for you. If your beta readers are excited about buying a paperback book from you, then you don’t need to talk them into accepting a free eBook. If you only want to write one book and have no desire to establish a huge readership, then maybe you don’t want to do anything to market your book.
Beta readers are important helpers for most authors. Beta readers give you honest feedback without hurting your sales ranking with bad reviews. Beta readers give you the opportunity to make your story better before you make it available to the public. And beta readers can be your greatest fans and shower you with great reviews once all is said and done.
That being said, we can think of lots of reasons why you shouldn’t always listen to your beta readers.
Some beta readers are more ‘helpful’ than others. There are some that like to point out every tiny and big mistake you make in your novel. And while it’s helpful to receive feedback, getting 100-page document with things you need to fix in your story is anything but motivating.
The thing is those beta readers aren’t necessarily English majors. They could be wrong. And do you really care whether that one sentence on page 59 needs a comma or a semicolon?
Apart from spelling or grammar (things you can look up and verify), beta readers can only give you their opinion of your novel. That’s great. After all, you asked for it. But whether they tell you that your book needs additional sex scenes or less backstory, then that’s still their opinion.
You should definitely take what they say into consideration. Maybe you did go overboard on the backstory. Maybe there are some dry parts in your book. And maybe it would help if the protagonist got naked once or twice. But in the end, it’s up to you. It’s your story.
It’s quite possible that your beta readers don’t represent the rest of the population well. Maybe they’re the only ones that think it’s weird to set your story in the Middle East. And if you give Grandma your Sci-Fi novel, she may not like it. But that’s not an indicator of what the rest of the population thinks about your book.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t have beta readers. In fact, it’s probably a bad idea to write a book and publish it without showing it to anyone else first. The trick to benefitting from your beta readers is to take advantage of what they can offer you.
Many authors just ask their friends to read their book before they publish it. That’s a big mistake. First of all, your friends may not be honest with you. They like you (for some reason), and they don’t want to hurt your feelings. It will be hard for them to tell you that your story sucks.
Second of all, you may not have a diversified group of friends. If all of your buddies think the way you do, then they won’t pick up on the obnoxious ideas in your book. That’s probably because you’re like that in real life, too. Just kidding.
Anyway, to avoid not getting enough input and not getting useful input, you should aim to have a large group of beta readers. You can ask your friends and family members, but you should also ask people you’re not as intimate with.
As you’re reading or listening and writing down what your beta readers think about your book, pay attention to the things that everyone is saying. If everyone thinks that your book is a little too out there to be classified as juvenile fiction, then you may have to rethink the book or the targeted reader group.
Of course your beta readers aren’t all going to use the same wording to give you similar feedback. One might say that your book needs more subplots or an exciting turn of events. The next beta reader might just say your book is boring, and they fell asleep on page 32. It’s your to use their feedback in a constructive way for your story.
Your beta readers should be your biggest fans. If you take their feedback into consideration during your rewrite and editing phases, then they’ll be excited to see how you changed the story. They may not have written it themselves but they’ll feel instrumental in how it came along.
That’s why beta readers are great people to ask for reviews. Of course you should probably not ask the one that said your book sucks without giving any helpful input as to how it sucked. But the rest of the group who enjoyed reading your 1st, 4th, and 29th draft of your book might be happy to write up a good review for you.
At any rate, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You should never give your beta readers a crappy 1st draft. That’s plain disrespectful. You should read the book you wrote at least a handful of times before you make anyone else do it. That way you eliminate the worst spelling and grammar mistakes. You don’t want your readers to get distracted because you can’t differentiate between “your” and “you’re”. Instead, you want them to focus on the story you have to tell so that you can make it better.
Nobody earns any money for being a beta reader. That’s because if you paid them to read your book, they’re either an editor or they are inclined to say only nice things about your work. The point is that you just don’t pay beta readers. They read your manuscripts because they want to help you. And they’re doing it for you. So be sure to thank them for their help.
Beta readers are busy people. They often have a long list of books to read. So they might forget about yours for a while. Or they may read it and forget to tell you what they thought about. It’s okay to follow up with them and ask them. Just don’t do it every day of the week.
So do you have your beta readers lined up yet?
Have you already finished a book? Congratulations! That makes you officially an author. Now it’s time to move on to the next book. You may ask yourself why you should keep writing books if you’ve already finished one. We’re so glad you asked. We came up with 5 reasons to write a lot of books.
What makes you a better writer? You guessed it: writing more. Over time, you’ll find out what works for you and what you’re good at. Maybe you’ll realize that you’re better at writing in first person than in third person. Maybe you’ll figure out the best way to grab your readers’ attention from the start. Chances are you’ll evolve as a writer. In fact, we’re pretty sure that you’ll notice a significant difference between your 1st and 5th book. Even famous authors sometimes admit that their first books are not that good.
In order to make a living as writer, you’ll have to build up a loyal fan base. But in order for people to follow you and buy your books, you have to write more of them. Fortunately, the more books you publish, the easier it will be to spread the word. Generally, people who read a lot will often read more books by the same author if they like another one of their books. This is especially true if you write a series.
Technically, it only takes one book to live forever. Everybody knows Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” even though that’s the only title she ever published. However, if you write and publish more books, you’ll increase your chances of being remembered by more people for many years to come.
A really good reason to write more books is the fact that you can’t stop yourself from writing. Once you get the hang of it and get a book finished, you’ll be excited to start another one. And another one. And another one after that.
While making money may not be your most important consideration when you’re writing a book, it’s certainly a valid one. The more books you have available for purchase, the more you can sell to your readers. It’s always possible to write one book and become an instant bestseller, but you shouldn’t expect to. The good news is that promoting your books will become easier over time.
Every writer dreams about writing books for a living. After all, it’s the perfect job. You can do it in your underwear or in your pajamas. You can still be writing at 3 a.m. if the muse strikes you. You actually don’t have to leave your house for as many days as you can live without going grocery shopping.
The best part of it all: You get to write. And write some more.
Now how do you accomplish this in real life? After all, before you can become a full-time writer, you need to make sure your bills are still getting paid.
Yes, there are some authors who become millionaires. Names like John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, and Stephen King come to mind. We hate to break it to you, but it’s not very likely that you’ll join their ranks. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t make a living as a writer.
While the term overnight success exists, we wonder if there is really such a thing. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll work hard, write a lot, edit more, and market your book. Then you repeat the process over and over again until you have several books available that have received some good feedback on major book-selling sites. But it’s quite possible that it will take you years to become an overnight success.
It’s not unheard of. Margaret Mitchell only published one book. Still, most authors earning good money from their novels have written several of them. You don’t have to write a series of 25 books or more. It’s okay to write several stand-alone novels or a trilogy or two. Most readers will look for additional books from the same author if they like the novel they just read. It’s much easier than trying to find a new author. But even if you find a publisher, you still have to do the legwork yourself (aka marketing).
One of the reasons why you can potentially earn more money when you write more books is that it makes you stand out. If your books take up an entire bookshelf at the bookstore, then it’s difficult for potential customers to ignore them.
If you self-publish, you still benefit from writing additional books because your loyal fan base will be ready to get the next book as soon as it’s hot off the press. Additionally, sites like Amazon do their best to encourage their customers to buy more books by showing them other titles they might like to buy (a.k.a. other titles by the same author – you!).
There’s no question about it, as a general rule, you have to be good at writing fiction in order to make a living as a novelist. At the very least, you have to make the majority of your readers think you’re good at writing in order to get them to buy your books. This brings us to the next criteria.
Since it’s not easy to make a living as a novel writer (much less become rich), you have to love writing in order to embark upon this career. In many other careers, you can be mediocre or truly bad at your job without going hungry. Writing is different.
There are lots of things you can do right now to keep bread on the table while you’re building up your career as a serious fiction writer. These suggestions are not in any particular order of preference nor are they meant as serious career or lifestyle advice.
Encourage your spouse to pick a “rewarding” (well-paying) career
Moonlight as a waiter/waitress
Get a rich relative to name you in their will
Live frugally to keep costs down
Spend your vacation time writing
Become an expert at marketing your novels
Learn to like Ramon noodles
Let’s assume that you manage to do what many people won’t: you write a novel. You should be proud of yourself. That’s a huge accomplishment. This is especially true if you get your work edited and published, too. But one thing you shouldn’t expect: becoming a bestselling author.
“Nielson Bookscan reported in 2004 that of 1.2 million books tracked, only 25,000 — barely more than 2 percent — sold more than 5,000 copies.” Those are pretty dismal odds. But if you look at it from a different perspective; at least you still have a higher chance of becoming a bestselling author than of winning the lottery. So stop buying lottery tickets and get back to writing!
Even though it’s difficult to become a bestselling author, it’s certainly not impossible. And there are things you can do to improve the odds that your books will sell thousands or millions of copies. For example, you can write a lot of books, start with a plan and stick to it, and write what you’d like to read. Of course, you need to improve your craft along the way and stay away from people who’ll promise you the stars.
Most bestselling and successful authors have written and published more than one book. This is especially true for fiction writers. If a reader likes your book, they’re pretty likely to get another one of your books. So the more books you have, the more books you’re likely to sell. The bad news is that this means you’re going to have to write a lot.
Of course you don’t have to write all of your books at once, but you definitely shouldn’t wait too long in between. If you want to increase the odds of readers buying another one of your books, then you may want to consider writing a series, too.
On your quest to fame you have probably come across a few sites that promise to turn you into a bestselling author. Some sites promise that they can help you get on the bestseller list for Amazon or another major retailer. Don’t fall for it. Being a bestseller on Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean anything, especially not in terms of real revenue. And it’s certainly not something you should pay anyone for. It’s along the lines of paying people to clean up your credit report for you. There is no guarantee that it will work, and there is a risk of making things worse than they already are.
If you’re writing a book just to become a bestselling author, then you might as well stop now and find a new hobby. If you’re only writing to achieve fame, then you haven’t picked the quickest way to get there. Writing should be something you want to do. And you should definitely write about something you’d like to read.
There are two reasons for this: If you don’t like reading what you wrote, then why would anyone else do so? And if you don’t enjoy reading the genre you’re writing for, then you probably don’t know if your writing is any good.
Is there a story that you wish you could read? If there is a book that you’d like to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you need to start typing. The more you like your story, the more likely you are to finish it.
Sitting down to write every day can be difficult. Staring at a blank screen won’t make the words come no matter how hard you stare at it (but it might give you a headache). So it’s best to start with a plan for your book. You should probably come up with a general outline for your story first.
One of the hardest parts of writing a book is to actually write the book. Profound, isn’t it? If you want to get your book done, then you need to stick to your writing schedule. You’ll have some difficult days where you feel like you’re stuck with your story, but there will be even more of those days when you just don’t feel like writing. Serious writers don’t wait for inspiration to strike them, just as serious athletes don’t wait to go running when the mood strikes them. So quit whining and write your book!
If your only goal for writing books is to earn a lot of money, then you might want to become a freelance writer instead. You can definitely earn a good living with writing, but most writers don’t make a lot of money from publishing books. So don’t write your novel for the money, but write it for yourself instead. You can let other people enjoy what you’re written, too. And even if you only get one enthusiastic review, that will make your day and could be worth months of slaving away at your desk. Writing brings its own rewards, and they’re not always monetary.
If you want people to read what you’ve written, then your books should be well written. It goes without saying that your book should be free of spelling errors and typos, but using correct grammar is important, too. Sometimes the only way to get better at writing is to have someone else help you improve. Whether that means taking a writing course, hiring an editor (highly recommended), or getting lots of Beta readers, you should always be working on improving your craft.
Incidentally, one of the ways to get better at writing is to keep writing more. Over the years, you’ll probably look back at some of your early works and ask yourself why you thought it was good at the time. But to get there, you need to write.