Are You an Aspiring Author?
Wondering what to do next? How to promote? Or even how to write? Hopefully the books and suggestions I give below can set you on the right path. Clicking on any of the the book covers will take you to their Amazon sales pages.
Aspiring authors fly from the woodwork on a daily basis. I know this because I did the same! The writing bug bit, I flipped the computer on and began my search: how to be an author, how long should a novel be, where should I publish, what’s passive writing.
Where should we start?
The problem with these Google searches is the massive amounts of information thrown in your direction. I was a newbie! I had no idea what was right and what was wrong. The first six months of the learning process was simply a search for the truth.
Unfortunately, there is no single truth, no single way to make it to the top. If only somebody could have said, “Hey, Kirkus, if you went here and there, then read these books,” life would have been much easier. I admit, I avoid help from others as if it was the plague, but at that point, I needed direction.
That’s where my post comes in. Three to four times per day on Twitter, I’m asked if I have any advice for newbie, or aspiring authors. I do! Plenty of advice. Most people don’t have the time or patience to listen to all the advice they hear. In my case, I’m writing this post to save myself some time in the long run.
This post is a compilation of the suggestions I hand out when asked, which usually involves me suggesting an eBook on the subject. I would love to say something profound here, something to change the way you approach writing and life, but that’s not likely to happen. However, if you read the books I suggest first, then come on back and take a gander at a few suggestions I have, it may give you a nudge in the right direction.
Keep in mind they are only suggestions and based off my personal experiences. I’m a firm believer in reading to learn.
Where Should an Aspiring Author Start?
Suggestion One – Learn How to Write
The first order of business is to learn how to write. I’m not talking about basic grammar (though I have a problem with that myself), but about the art of writing a story. You’ll never learn everything, but you should have the basics down before beginning.
Like how changing sentence length can change pacing, how some writers believe “ly” adverbs are the devil, how your first book will be horrid! That last one isn’t necessarily true, but don’t expect to be the one in a million who get it right on the first try.
Hundreds of books have been written on the craft. My suggestion is to grab a couple and read them two or three times. I don’t have any particular suggestions here because most of what I learned came from writing itself.
Suggestion Two – Write!
Write, write, and write some more. Find a few critique partners, or better yet, a few critique groups. The key here is to find other aspiring or experienced authors who aren’t afraid of criticism, or to dish it out.
Be prepared to have your writing torn apart, it’s part of the business. If you can’t handle what people have to say about your writing you might as well pack it up now. Readers can tear you apart if you let them.
Don’t believe me? My debut novel, The Fall of Billy Hitchings (A John Reeves Novel) has forty-nine reviews as of today with an average of 4.6 stars. Quite good in my opinion, but check out the one and two star ratings. After reading the others, you wonder if they read the same book. This happens with every, and I mean EVERY, novel. You might as well get used to it.
Suggestion Three – Learn the Business
Learn about the business. One of the biggest decisions authors face today is whether to go the traditional route, or the self-publishing route. Run a Google search on either subject and you’re sure to find plenty of arguments for both sides.
His information is unique in that he took the traditional route first, had moderate success, and then decided on self-publishing where he’s had amazing success. The book is filled with information regarding writing itself, marketing, self-promotion, and the current state of the publishing field. A great first book to get an idea of how things work.
Suggestion Four – Where do I Start?
Where do I start? What’s next? Two popular questions among aspiring authors. If you’ve read The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing you should have an idea by now.
If you go the traditional route, expect to write between five and ten books before signing with a publisher. If you haven’t made it by that point, you may not. Just remember to keep a realistic outlook.
The first step will be to find an agent. I suggest checking out Chuck Sambuchino’s blog, Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents. Besides being filled with great information for any writer, they publish an updated book on current literary agents, what they’re looking for, and what to expect.
He guides the new Indie author along each step he personally took to make it as a self-published author. Hicks is down to Earth and it shows in his writing. I attribute a large portion of my success to his how-to book.
Much of the information in his book can also be found on his blog here.
In my opinion, if you plan to self-publish, The Path to Self-Publishing Success is a must read.
Suggestion Five – Self-Promotion and Marketing
You’ll soon learn that self-publishing (traditional publishing as well) involves tons of self-promotion and marketing.
Bennington is another down to Earth individual and has an accurate view of the Indie literary field. His book hits many aspects of the life of an Indie author but I put it here because of the information he shares about the new Amazon program named KDP Select. While Bennington’s upbeat, yet realistic, attitude lifts the reader up; the information about KDP Select is invaluable to any Indie Author looking for unique marketing opportunities.
Bennington also runs multiple websites, one specifically dedicated to Indie authors named, The Kindle Book Review. He offers advertisement opportunities at affordable prices, and if you couldn’t guess by the name, book reviews for Indie authors. It’s definitely worth the wait to put your book on this site. They’re now considered a top 500 reviewer on Amazon!
Another short eBook I’d like to mention here is Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything by bestselling author, Toby Neal. It’s short yet packed with simple information on how to build an author platform.
Another worthwhile book is Get Known before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform by Christina Katz. She goes into depth about ways to improve your author platform with a focus on using the Internet and blogs to drive traffic to your sales page.
If you’ve read all the books I suggested, you should have a tight grasp on what it means to be an aspiring author and the many facets of the field we’re expected to know. You should know how to write (better), how to edit, how to promote, and how to keep a realistic perspective while chasing your dream.
One book I need to mention is, On Writing, by Stephen King. It’s a combination how-to and biography. If you’d like a few tips from one of the most prolific authors of our time and see what he went through to get there, this is definitely worth the read. I consider this one to be my favorite non-fiction book.
I can’t write a blog post about successful Indie authors without mentioning John Locke and his how-to book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. While not your typical Indie author experience, it’s not too bad of a book. The first half is primarily about John Locke’s life and experiences, but the last half shares some good points about his attitude toward self-promotion and his path to success.
A few things to keep in mind during this whole learning process.
1. Stay realistic. Your dreams may come true but you have to be willing to put in the work. Nobody will do it for you.
2. Support your fellow authors and they’re likely to do the same.
3. Just keep writing. The only way to improve is with practice. I can’t remember the exact number, but many places say a writer needs around two-million written words before they’re ready to publish.
4. Hire professionals to do your editing and proofreading. Even if you’re a professional yourself, you NEED another set of eyes to go over your work. As authors, we’re too close to our work to do it alone.
5. I don’t remember the exact words by Joe Konrath, but it’s something along these lines. “There’s one word to describe an author who doesn’t give up. Published.”
6. Continue reading. Not only how-to books like I mentioned above, but also books in the genre you plan to write. It keeps you on your toes as an author, gives you an idea about what readers are currently enjoying. There may be some subconscious learning going on as well.
7. Continue learning. You can keep buying books to read about the craft, but what I mean here is to keep your eyes and ears open. If your readers continuously complain about a particular aspect of your writing, don’t ignore them. Find an author who excels in the area you’re lacking. Read their work. Learn!
8. Perhaps the most important quote I’ve read over the years concerning an author’s way of thinking comes from Joe Konrath. Again, I don’t have the exact words, but you’ll get the idea. “Writing is a marathon. Not a sprint.” You had better be ready for the long run if you plan on success. We’re not talking months, but years to establish a reader base and get your name known.
There it is. I hope you find as much worth in these books as I have. Most of the authors above can be found on Twitter or their personal blogs. Most, like myself, will listen to your questions and help out if and when they have time.
If you’ve read these books and have any specific questions, I’m happy to oblige. Time is a rare commodity these days so it may take a bit to get back with you, but I’ll do my best.