Writing a book would be easy, I thought. I had a good idea, I could write a good sentence, and I had some nice stories. More than two years later, my manuscript is completed, but my book still isn’t out. By the time my book is available in bookstores in February 2011, the journey will have taken more than two-and-a-half years! The sad part? I think I could have cut my time to market in half. Here are some things I wish I had known before writing a book.
- Get some advice and understand structure before starting with chapter 1. I hate to admit how naïve I was when I first started. My book, Cycling, Wine, and Men: A Midlife Tour de France, is a story of post-divorce dating and a bicycle trip across France. I thought I could string all my dating stories together and then move on to telling about my France adventures, just like it happened in real life. WRONG! Through a talented writing coach, Theo Nestor, and by reading a fabulous book she recommended called Your Life as Story, I finally understood how to structure the book. I wasted months of time and went through three major rewrites because I didn’t know this.
- Don’t work on edits when you’re working on the structure. I presented my early edition work on a writing website called Authonomy.com. While the edits suggested were useful in most cases and I met a lot of wonderful writers, spending time on edits at an early stage was ridiculous. DON’T DO THIS! Also, be careful of whose edits you are incorporating. Are they really knowledgeable enough to give you solid advice? In the end I discovered that I paid for my best counsel. Three different editors helped me craft my final manuscript.
- Don’t write about topics that no one is interested in…and don’t write about topics that you are not interested in. While these two concepts may seem to contradict each other, they don’t. Your book should be a place where your passions and the market intersect. If you aren’t passionate about the topic, writing and promoting your book will be hell. As an example, I have an MBA and work at as a bank vice president. I would be a naturally credible source to write on business and financial topics—and there’s a market. I don’t want to write about such things, at least not in a book format. Write about what you are passionate about.
- Build your following. Last October, I sat in the audience at the 21st Century Book Marketing Event when I first heard the concept of building an author platform. Huh? What does that mean? I didn’t have business cards or a website. I hadn’t even logged on to facebook, Twitter or youtube. I felt like such an utter fool sitting there with all of these sophisticated authors-in-the-making. If you don’t have a following, you won’t have anyone who wants to buy your book. Without potential readers, why would publishers take a chance on nobody you? They won’t. Start building your fans and your mailing list now, before you’ve written your book.
- Your book will cost more time and money than you could imagine. If you’ve never written a book, you will have a learning curve, just as anyone starting something new. You’ll think you’re done, and really you have a first draft. Then you’ll think it’s well edited, and an expert will point out all the flaws you missed along the way. Even after you find a publisher, it’s an arduous waiting process for the final books to be printed and distributed. And then there’s the money. Count on spending money for writing and editing help. You’ll need a good book proposal and a tight manuscript BEFORE you start querying agents. Trust me: don’t do this before you’re ready because you’ll just waste a lot of time and postage. Also, plan to invest in marketing. Contact managers, shopping carts, lists of media contacts, marketing training, publicity assistance, city tours: all of these things cost money. And if you are a no name author, guess who’s paying? That’s right. You are.