A little while ago, I started a series posting advice and other tidbits to aspiring authors. I find that many readers are, in fact, aspiring authors – every author you know was a reader before they were a writer. It’s true! Me included. What did/do I like to read, you ask? Other than Medieval romance or Medieval Historical Fiction (Bernard Cornwell and Alison Weir), I love adventures books like those from Clive Cussler. He’s one of my favorites. I also love history books. Yes, I know, I’m crazy. I love ghost stories. Oddly enough, what I don’t read are contemporary romances. I write them on occasion, but I don’t read them. I will make a deep, dark confession here – I hate chick flicks and chick lit. My husband loves that stuff (chick flicks!) but I hate them. I want to see things like war movies, Godzilla, Star Trek (sounds like I’ve got a dude’s tastes, eh?), but don’t take me to a chick flick. I will cut you and leave you for dead.
So on with advice to aspiring authors. The best piece of advice I can give you is to educate yourself on three things:
1. The genre you want to write in (understand what it is, how it is written, and who the big authors are in it)
2. The written English language. Nothing is worse than an author who does not have a grasp of the nuances of the written English language, so do yourself a favor and understand HOW to write proper English.
3. The business of writing in general.
Yes, writing is a business. True, it’s a passion, a hobby, whatever you want to call it, but ultimately, it’s a business and should be treated like one. Understand about different ebook platforms – understand about marketing like blog tours and book ads – understand how readers find you. As with any field you intend to enter, you need to understand what you’re getting into and you need to prepare. You’d be staggered to know that some of the top authors make 100k a month. Yes, a month. Some make 50k a month. The gal that wrote Fifty Shades of Gray? She made 93 million in ONE YEAR. So, you see, writing is definitely a business. Want to succeed? Don’t just write a book and throw it out there because it will get buried. You need to find out how to give it, and consequently yourself, visibility.
Unfortunately, there are too many people writing books out there (notice I didn’t say writers?) that are trying to cash in on the self-publishing wave just to make a buck. Not that it’s all bad; people have a right to do whatever they want to do, including uploading awful material onto Amazon and other platforms and trying to sell it. I’m all for aspiring writers who are serious about getting published and getting their work out – you can tell those people right away. They have a decent cover and have made a genuine attempt at a storyline. Some are excellent. And then you have the odd duck who just wants to be that person in the office who can tell his/her friends “I’ve published a book!!”. I say this because I came across one the other day that was, uh, pretty questionable. Someone had made a cover with Word (not bad in of itself, but this cover looked like a 5th grader did it) and the first chapter of the book looked like that same 5th grader wrote it. All I’m saying is that if you want to be taken seriously, and you want to truly be a writer, then you need to prepare for it and you need to understand what it is you’re doing. It took me 25 years to learn everything I know – and the past two years have been a crash course. But I didn’t publish until I knew I was ready for it. Thank God I waited. For me, it was the right thing to do.
Now, all that being said, I’m not telling you not to take that chance. You MUST. If you have an idea, write it down. Write that book. But write in it such a way that it looks and reads as good as you can possibly make it. Want to figure out HOW to write a book? Then read your favorite author. See how they do it. I’m not saying plagiarize – I’m saying look at their style. Learn from it. Take a class at the local college on writing. Go to one of the hundreds of readers conferences in the U.S. because many of them have classes on writing. I know because I taught one. And once you’re confident enough to take that first step and stick your neck out there, do it with some foundation. Trust me, it ‘ll make you a lot more confident in your work and your abilities if you do.
If you have any questions about your writing career, or if you want a copy of the Powerpoint presentation I do for aspiring writers, I’m always happy to help. Simply email me. Because, for me, writing is the best thing I’ve ever done and I want to encourage you – and prepare you – to do it, too, but do it RIGHT.