Before I begin I want you to be courageous. Sit back in your seat and take a deep breath. Relax. Now focus your energy, and your thoughts, and choose to be courageous and strong. Have courage in your work, your passion. You’re allowed, and I want you, to be the best writer you can be.
Now the article:
Making your own book from woe-to-go runs its risks. There are so many targets you have to meet to get your book to quality standard. First you have to write the damn thing. Then you have to give to others and suffer the heartbreak when they give you feedback.
Once you’ve recovered from those bruises you have to punch it and pinch it and romance it and threaten it with a nosedive. Then you gotta get a cover for it somehow, figure out the best way to market your book, write a good sounding blurb…
I’m going to have a scotch after all that.
So what will convince your readers your book is good, possibly even great, quality?
Not kidding yourself.
Stop kidding yourself.
Stop kissing your own ass.
You are not allowed to look at your work and think it’s the best thing God’s ever seen. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s not.
Why am I being so harsh? Because your friends and family will be kind and unjust to you. Unjust? Pfft! Being kind is very justified! No, not if your story can be better. It is not fair on you, or your work, to let it linger in limbo instead of supporting it and encouraging you to do better. I’m fighting for you, not against you.
Convince your audience you are a traditionally published author. Demonstrate your skills and expertise that is as refined and professional as those at Random House, Penguin, and Harper Collins.
How to produce a good book part 1:
Begin saving your money.
Publishing is a business and you’ve crossed the line from hobbyist to professional. Support your business by investing and saving for the best you can afford. Start saving 10% at a time. Whatever money comes in, put away 10%. Even if it is $2. Even if it’s $200. 10% will grow much faster than you think, and when you’re ready to hire an editor or a designer or an artist or pay for advertising you’ll be ready. If you’ve never saved before or you think you don’t have enough to save because it all goes to bills- do it anyway. 10% is the perfect amount that you’ll find does not have a detrimental effect on your budget, and still gathers enough speed to grow abundantly.
If you didn’t want to make a profit off your work you’d make it free. And if you do I commend you, it’s an incredibly humbling experience- one I hope to have myself prior to my death. But until then I work at my writing, I want to share my writing, I want to pay my bills so that I can keep writing.
How to produce a good book part 2:
Write a good story!
What’s going to make your book readable? A good story. A beginning, middle and end. Two characters, one main, the other impact. Conflict and resolution. If you don’t have this nothing else matters.
Remember: HAVE A GOOD STORY.
How to produce a good book part 3:
Revise your book to THE BEST of your ability.
No bullshit. Start reading good books and analyse how they do what they do. Be a student of writing and story telling. How do I know you’re not good enough? Because you’re not a professional editor. You haven’t had studious, full time, years of training in how to revise a book. So start with these:
Do not be afraid of knowledge! It wants you. Are you scared? Do you feel overwhelmed? Don’t think you can do it?
Does feeling any of that help your writing? No. Do any of your readers care you’re scared? I’m sorry to say, but no. You’ve spent this much time on your craft, and remember this is your business, your profession, I encourage you to really devote yourself. Have those feelings of fear and anxiety and do it anyway!
How to produce a good book part 4:
Get feedback from the right sources.
It hurts. I don’t know how much it hurts you so I’ll tell you how much it hurts me: A lot. I feel so much shame with feedback sometimes it locks me down and I can’t function. Pure paralysis. And I consider myself good at taking feedback. I know when my feeling of shame is happening, I’m aware of my mental lock down, and I let it happen and move on.
But you have to have it. Artists are blind to their own current work, not their past work. You can pick up an old piece of writing and instantly spot the things that need to be improved, but not everything. You’re too close to see that your main character needs his conflict refined, or your entire middle section has to be rewritten because their plane should have crashed instead of landing safely.
So what do I mean by ‘the right source‘?
Don’t give it to your mother, your best friend or your significant other unless it’s their job to edit, and they have proved themselves to be worthy of critiquing. Be brave enough to seek feedback from someone you know will be honest.
- Your writing colleagues
- Your crit groups
- Strangers at your local library
- Professional editors
- People who can be comfortable making you uncomfortable.
How to produce a good book part 5:
Hire a professional artist/designer.
Are you considering doing your own cover? Unless you’re a professional designer- don’t. Most readers of traditional books won’t give your book a second glance if it looks self-published.
Imagine you sat down with a friend of yours and they gave you a dvd. They tell you,
“I made this! I made this movie, I think it’s really good.”
Which movie would you prefer to see? And I don’t want to hear “Well, horror isn’t my thing anyway so neither of them.” Just work with me. Based on appearance which one would you be more inclined toward?
Brushing your hair and having a shower gives the impression you take good care of yourself. Driving a sports car gives the impression you’re rich and confident.
Having a well designed front cover gives the impression the book is of high quality.
You can’t get around it. In the time you are editing and revising your book, head over and read up on how to find a book cover designer. Don’t be daunted, it’s much easier than you think. And it can be fun. Save your money, work hard and save it. Don’t just go for the cheapest designer you can find- organize a savings plan and invest in your book. Find out in the article ‘How much does a book cover cost?‘ about what makes up the cost, and what direction you should take.
I repeat: Publishing is a business and you’ve crossed the line from hobbyist to professional. Support your business by investing and saving for the best you can afford.
How to produce a good book part 5:
Hire a professional editor.
If you’re published by a traditional publishing house your book goes through the machine. The editing and proofing machine with editors who do this for a living, do it every day, 8 hours a day, and know what the industry wants. It’ll eat up your manuscript and spit out the good stuff. You hope to God you get most of it back!
Unfortunately the self-publishing industry doesn’t help itself by producing some pretty low quality work, but there will always be duds in the traditional field as well.
It’s an editors job to check:
- Inconsistent spelling of names and places
- Conflicting elements of your book
- Correct word usage
- Overused words
- The flow of your story
- What scenes can be cut if the word count needs reducing
- Elements that needs clarification; and
Just to be clear: it is also your job as a writer to already have done all this in your revision.
If you haven’t then you haven’t done the best you can and you need to go back to part 3. You should have ticked off all these points in your own editing schedule, and once they’re done (and more) that’s when you’re ready to hire an editor.
Hiring an editor can be pricey, just like hiring a designer. But I won’t go through it all again, I know you get the point.
How to produce a good book part 6:
Imagine you’ve been offered a huge contract and a $50,000 advance from a reputable publishing house. They provide editors, designers, and market your book on your behalf. Now think about how that would make you feel. I bet you’d be grateful, and thank the Universe that you got this opportunity. You might believe you’re lucky, you might believe your hard work has paid off. But I think, somewhere in there, there was definitely a thank you thank you thank you thank you!
Have that appreciation and respect for the service of self-publishing. Just because every man and his dog can now publish a book doesn’t mean the system should be abused. The book is an artform. It deserves to be approached with great thought, consideration, and respect. Be grateful you now have all these tools at your hands and use them with skill, and humility.
You now have the opportunity to be great. To say great things and speak with an astounding, powerful voice. Don’t let your confidence or ego get in the way, to tell you ‘This is good enough. People will read it.’ More likely than not it’s not good enough and you have much, much more to learn.
Saying it’s good enough is putting that limit on your abilities, and your dreams.
Saying it’s good enough means you’re accepting that there are parts that could be improved, if only you gave a shit.
I want you to be proud of your work, and believe in your abilities. And also know when the end has come. You will always want to tweak things but you will know when you’ve arrived at the end, and done everything you can. It’s then you need to give your book to the world and prepare yourself for the next adventure.
Take from this article what is important to you and leave the rest. I trust you to know if part 1-5 works for you, or doesn’t.
You have the great honour of being a writer. Own it. Some of us choose to be writers and others don’t.
Either way it’s up to you to produce a book from your soul- and that’s a recipe of creativity, patience, perseverance, analysis, heartbreak and bliss. It’s not about just using one half of your brain but all of it. Don’t let average, or good enough, stop you.
Fight for your best story.