I don’t claim to be an expert on all things writing, not by any means. However, I’ve been published since 2009 and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’d like to think the books I write now are not necessarily better than my first ones, but definitely more polished. As writers, we grow with every book we write, every edit we tackle, and every new book that enters the wild. We learn things not only about the craft of writing, but about marketing, cover art, and so many other things. I think it’s safe to say that while writing may be a very old profession, it is constantly changing.
As writers, we are generally also readers. Most of us started out as voracious readers who decided we had a story to tell. I’ve been devouring books since elementary school. Even way back then, you would often find me with my nose in a book, even at the dinner table. My mother eventually gave up on trying to pry me away, and instead she fed my addiction. She introduced me to used bookstores, where I would greedily grab about ten books at a time.
Now that we’ve established writers are typically readers as well, show of hands as to how many of you have picked up a book because the description sounded intriguing. Now, how many of you read the first few chapters only to be sorely let down? I think we can all agree that if you don’t hook your reader from the very beginning, it’s doubtful they’ll stay with you through to the end, much less buy your next book. But what hooks the reader? What compels them to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next? There’s obviously no set formula for that, but as a reader, I’m drawn to the books that start with some sort of action. A woman coming home to find her husband cheating on her. A woman on the run from her crazy ex and she’s barreling down the highway. Maybe a man drawing his weapon to protect those he loves.
Regardless of how you start your book, I think there’s one sure way to lose your readers. Telling vs. Showing. What do I mean by that? Don’t tell me your heroine had lunch with her hunky new boss, they laughed and had a good time, then returned to the office. Show me that they did all that. I want to know what the restaurant looked like, or what type of cuisine they were dining on, maybe some witty conversation. I’ve run across quite a few newer authors who write stories that are: A happened, then B happened, then C happened. Admit it, most of us have been there with our first books, whether we wrote them in high school or last month. If you have a good editor, something like that shouldn’t make it into your final draft. And yet I’ve seen it happen again and again.
If you’re new to writing, the best thing you can do for your career is hire a good editor. Not just someone will do a line edit. You’re going to need a good content edit too. Yes, I’m sure your book is fabulous and you may even think it’s the next Fifty Shades or Twilight, but if it’s not edited your readers are not going to be happy.
I’m afraid I don’t have a magic formula for success. Every book is different. Just because a specific marketing plan works for one author, doesn’t mean it will work for you too. I’m not saying you can’t learn from them, but don’t expect to have instant success just because you followed their plan. It’s probably not going to work that way. Quite honestly, I think a lot success in this business is due to luck a large advertising budget. I’ve read the blogs and checked out the YouTube videos of very successful authors who shared their tips and tricks. And most of them spent more on advertising than I make in a month. I think one of your number one goals, besides creating a fantastic book that’s been thoroughly edited, is to get your book out there in front of readers. Do blog or newsletter swaps with fellow authors. It doesn’t cost very much for a release blitz or cover reveal if you want to try one of those. I believe I once read that a reader has to see a book about twenty times before they’ll commit to buy it (unless it’s from an author they know and love).
And whatever you do, don’t give up! Not everyone can sell thousands of copies, or hundreds of thousands, with their first book. You may sell five copies. But that’s five readers who didn’t know you existed before now, and if they like your work, they’ll come back for more. So, whatever you do, just keep writing. Let inspiration be your guide, follow your heart, and write because it’s something you love. If you’re only writing because you think you can make a quick buck, this probably isn’t the career for you.
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