The Drought was published in paperback!
I'm certainly no expert by any stretch of the imagination when it
comes to writing and publishing a novel. I am still learning with
each step I take, but here are some tips that helped me along the way and things that I have learned as an indie author that you might find useful.
Think before you write
an idea before you start hammering away at the laptop! Sit down and
write down on a piece of paper what your story looks like - the start,
the middle, and the end. Who are the characters and how do they all link
together? Where does the story happen? It doesn't matter if this
changes or takes a different shape when you actually start writing, but
it will give you some sort of direction.
you are lucky enough to write for a living then you are going to have
to give up a lot of your free time to write a novel. For three months
solid I wrote every day after work and as much as I could at weekends.
It was not easy at the start (and my girlfriend must have thought have dumping me several times!) but slowly you create a routine. Constantly
working on your novel not only improves your writing skills, but it will
help you develop characters and create new stories.
Don't burn yourself out
this will sound slightly contradictory after my last point, but allow
yourself a break from time to time. Take an evening off, or allow
yourself a weekend when you don't switch the laptop on. As long as you
are ready to get back into the saddle after a day or two then this will
help recharge the batteries, especially if you are working a full-time
job and trying to write a novel at the same time.
Always carry a notepad
time you think of an idea, write it down. I find the best ideas always
come to me when I'm not sitting in front of the laptop. Every idea I
think of, I write everything down. After I completed my first draft I
still had 10,000 words worth of ideas that I hadn't even used. Referring
back to your notes is a great help when you hit a wall or have writers
block. In The Drought
there is a whole chapter about how much the main character hates going
clothes shopping with girls. The majority of this chapter was written on
the notepad on my iPhone while my girlfriend was dragging me around Top
Shop in Oxford Street!
Try to pick a
soundtrack to your book. Like a film, choose songs that represent the
tone of your book and create a playlist and listen to it. Let your
imagination wander. Some of my best ideas came when I was listening to
my iPod on the way home, or when I was out jogging. Music can also jog
your memory of real-life events that have happened in your past and can
help you come up with ideas for your novel.
Write what you know
can only advise from a personal experience, and writing about something
you have not researched or have little knowledge of is clearly going to be bloody difficult! Even if you manage to
write a complete manuscript, chances are your reader won't believe in
the story because it won't seem real. It is no surprise that John
Grisham practiced criminal law for a decade - his writing clearly
demonstrates an author who knows his way around a courtroom. Writing
skills aside, that is a major reason why he has been so successful. If
you are blessed with a fantastic imagination like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R.
Tolkien, then all the power to you!
Don't be too critical
you have decided to write a novel, you are starting out on a process
which can easily take over a year before you will be fully satisfied
with your work. Mike Gayle,
best-selling author of My Legendary Girlfriend, offers some great
advice on his website. He says the first draft doesn't have to be
perfect, and that the proudest moment of his career was completing that
first draft. Your first draft will always be the one that needs the most
work, but as Mike Gayle says, by finishing that first draft you have
done something that most people only ever talk about. I finished my
first draft in September 2009, and I was still making changes right up
until it got published as an eBook in August 2011!
Give your novel to friends... and their friends, and their friends...
people who you trust will give you an honest opinion. Take their
comments on board and then go back and start the second draft of the
novel. Ask your friends to give it to their friends, and to their
friends, and so on and so forth. The more feedback you can get the
better. You will be surprised how similar the feedback is, and this can
be invaluable in terms of telling you what works and what doesn't.
Get your book proof-read and copy-edited
checked, re-read, and re-wrote my manuscript dozens of times, and I
still could believe how many mistakes I had missed when I had my
manuscript proofed. It can be a costly exercise but it is well worth it
in the long run. You can find proof-reading and copy-editing services in
the Writers & Artists Yearbook with NUJ rates starting at £24 per 2,000 words.
Do your research on self-publishing
you have sent your manuscript out and tried to secure a literary agent
without much luck. If you are like me, you have decided to go down the indie author route. Do your research because the hard work has only just
begun. All of the responsibilities a literary agent would take on board
are now your responsibilities! This means getting costs to
self-publish, choosing and designing a front cover, speaking to book
shops to try and get them to stock your novel, sending out press
releases and dealing with the local media. The list is endless. The more
work you put in, the greater chance your book will stand of gaining
exposure, and hopefully increasing sales.
Get by with a little help from your friends
are going to need all the help you can get to help you along the way. I
was lucky enough that I happened to work on the sales team for a
magazine serving the print industry, and that the online editor agreed
to let me write a blog. That opened doors for me. It helped me make
contact with Lynn Ashman, the MD at Pen Press.
I was also lucky enough through friends to be put in contact with
national newspaper journalists, a television producer, and television
presenters. Each one has helped me in some way or another, whether it is
by agreeing to read my novel and supply me with reviews, to helping me
create a promo video. Think about where you work,
the people you work with, your friends and family. Don't ever be afraid
to ask for help - the worst someone can say is no.
Keep it local to begin with
every author wants to see their book reviewed in national newspapers
and magazines, and stocked on the shelves of all the major bookstores.
But as a self-published author you need to take baby steps. Start by
sending your press releases out to local media, and approach local
bookstores to see if they are willing to stock your book. Local
newspapers love to hear about the achievements of local people, and if
you are lucky, gaining enough positive local press reviews might, just
might, one day see your novel end up reviewed in the Sunday Times.
Posters, flyers, business cards
in marketing material to help promote the book. If you have asked a
local library or bookstore to stock your book, it would be great to have
a poster hanging on the wall, or flyers sitting at the counter. Carry
business cards and anyone who seems interested in your novel, hand them a
business card with your details and details of where they can find your
book online. I used a company called Authors Essentials, who specialise in marketing and promotional services for authors.
Create a website or a blog
you have gone to all the trouble of self-publishing your work,
marketing your novel, and sending out press releases to promote your
book, then it is crucial to have an area where you point people back to.
Think about how you buy things as a consumer. In this day and age, most
people will refer to the internet now for more information before they
buy. Your website should include details about the book (such as a
sample chapter), contact information for the media, and most
importantly, where people can buy your book.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to name just a few of the social networking tools
you have at your disposal completely free of charge. Set-up a Facebook
fan page, Tweet details about your novel, and blog as often as you can
to raise your profile online. The more you can get people talking about
your novel, the better. Check out my previous blog post The social media opportunity for more information. Another fantastic tool is Hootsuite.com, which allows you to schedule and manage all of your social media posts.
Immerse yourself into the book reading community
Go beyond the social media giants like Facebook and find those niche book communities online. I have found lots of great sites that bring book lovers together, and allow indie authors to promote themselves. Goodreads is a fantastic social media site that allows book readers to share and discuss their favourite books. And make sure you are talking to readers in book forums like Kindle Boards or the Book Club Forum, as nothing beats speaking to readers directly.
Invest into an eBook version of your novel
have revolutionised publishing across the world. Amazon now sell more
eBooks than physical books for its top 1,000 titles, and there are 115
eBooks sold for every paperback. The figures don't lie, so creating an
eBook version of your novel makes sense.
Ask readers to write reviews
will buy from sites such as Amazon based on positive reviews. So if you
have had friends read your book and tell you they like it, then ask
them to post a review up on Amazon. It won't cost them anything, but it
could be priceless for you. And then when you start to engage with readers on social media or in the forums, ask them to write reviews if they are kind enough to give your book a chance!
you don't enjoy the whole process, then maybe writing and
self-publishing a novel is not for you. You have to have a real passion
for writing, and you more than anyone must believe in yourself. Writing
and self-publishing a novel should fill you with a huge sense of
achievement. That is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.
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