Don’t Publish Your Book Before it is Ready

These days anyone can write a book. The rapid growth of self-publishing means that seeing your book in print is no longer dependent on months, or years, of waiting for a publisher or agent to make you an offer. The publishing process can happen a lot more quickly but that doesn’t mean that it should be rushed into.

If you have invested time and effort in your manuscript and it is the best it can be, faster publication can only be a good thing. However, many new writers seem to believe that they can not only write a great novel, but do it at speed.

The rise of NaNoWriMo and writing boot camps have inspired many would-be writers to churn out a novel as quickly as possible but the point of these events is not to pen a perfect book in the shortest possible time, but to rough out the basics of a story that can be moulded into something worth reading. This takes persistence and effort.

Editing is not just for editors. All successful writers make several revisions of their manuscripts and edit their own work many times before they even think about publishing. Authors will then hand over to professional editors and proofreaders to help them to perfect and polish their books. Best-sellers take time in the making; they do not tumble print-ready from brain to page.

I am always happy to help authors with revisions and to advise them on ways to improve their writing but many novice writers have unrealistic expectations of how long it takes to turn rough copy into a book of publishable standard. The best books are revised many times to eradicate inconsistencies, ineffectual characters, boring plotlines, loopholes and cliché-ridden, stodgy writing. Not to mention correcting spelling and grammar, of course!

Stick with it. Develop your storylines and make sure that everything has a satisfactory resolution including any backstories. If you are writing non-fiction, check your facts and re-check them across a variety of sources. If something is not working, don’t be afraid to try a different approach. Delete scenes and add new ones where necessary. Keep copies of all your versions as you edit and continue to revise until you know that you have done as much as you can.

Then give your book to other people to read (beta readers) and be guided by their advice. Are your characters believable? Are there any passages that are confusing or just don’t work? Is everything successfully concluded at the end of the book? Take note of any comments and, if necessary, revise again.

Take your time. Writing is not a race (unless you are a deadline driven news journalist). Achieving good results requires staying power and endurance but for those who are prepared to put in the extra effort, the rewards will be far greater.

Readers don’t take long to make up their minds about an author, so make sure that you don’t put them off by rushing to publish your book before it is ready.

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Judging a Book by its Cover

There is a well-known saying, ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Sound advice but we all make snap decisions. How many times have you passed over a book because the cover was unappealing or the blurb on the back was boring? First impressions count and you need to grab a potential reader’s attention if you want your book to be successful.

If you are lucky enough to have a publishing contract, you will receive help with these important details, but for all those self-publishers, it is essential to make your book stand out from the rest. Unless you are an established writer with a string of best-sellers to your name, you have just a few short moments to capture your audience’s imagination, so make them count.

I have often repeated the fact that it is essential for self-published writers to have their manuscripts professionally edited and proofread. However, as well as ensuring that the content of your book is polished and error-free, it is essential to give some thought to the cover and blurb (the short summary on the back) to entice readers to buy.

Unless you are a designer, you will struggle to create a decent cover for your book and I would strongly recommend seeking the services of a professional. Research online or post your project on a freelance site such as Elance and choose a shortlist of around six potential designers. Then provide your favourites with more detail to find out what they can do for you. Choose the one that most closely matches your vision and budget and work with them to create the perfect cover for your book.

Furthermore, many people believe that writing a punchy blurb will be easy. They have written a book after all, so summarising the story in a few lines should be relatively simple but it’s not as straightforward as that. Capturing the essence of your book in a few lines takes careful crafting and knowing what words to use to attract the right audience requires skill. Draft your blurb until you have it exactly right and ask other people to read it and give you feedback. I would also consider employing the services of a specialised copy-writer or editor to help you make sure that your blurb makes the necessary impact.

Having invested a considerable amount of time into writing your book, it will be a wasted effort if no one ever gets to read it. Once your manuscript is as good as it can be, take time to ensure that you have an eye-catching cover and a gripping blurb. That way, your book will be the one that readers choose over the thousands of others on the market.

 

 

 

 

 

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Make Writing a Priority

“I just don’t have the time to write,” is a phrase that I have often heard repeated.

My answer is, “Oh, but you do.”

If there is something that you want to do badly enough, you will find the time somehow and writing is no different.

These days we all lead fantastically busy lives with work and family commitments leaving little energy to do much else than collapse in front of the TV every evening. However, with enough motivation you can squeeze in the time to pen your story, blog or novel. A few minutes here, half an hour there, it all adds up, you just need to be a little bit inventive.

I am always writing in my head. I carry a notebook everywhere so that I can jot down ideas as soon as they occur to me. I also keep a current copy of my latest project in the car so that I don’t waste that precious time while I picking up one of my children and, inevitably, waiting for them to come out of the party, college or whatever. Drip, drip, drip, little by little.

The trick is to prioritise. If you make writing your number one priority, you will find the time, in the same way that someone who wants to keep fit manages to go to the gym. Maybe you could get up an hour earlier, go to bed later, write on the train journey home or stop watching so much television. Personally, I find that I write much better in the morning, so I often get up before everyone else at weekends and work for a couple of hours before the chaos of family life kicks in.

If you write fiction, joining a writing group and entering competitions are both good ways to get used to writing to deadline. When you have to produce a piece of work by a certain date, you invariably find that you do.

The trouble with writing a full length book is that it is a big commitment and takes a lot of time to get it right. The trick is to break it down into achievable chunks. Aim to write an outline, a chapter of even a set number of words and your book will start to grow.

Of course, there will always be something waiting in the shadows to throw you off track; a sick child or relative who needs looking after, a demanding client at work or simply a friend who needs your ear. When you really don’t have a spare moment, use the experience to feed into your next creative project so that when you do next sit down to write, you will have new material.

Writing isn’t easy but the more you do it, the easier it will become. The same applies to getting down to it in the first place; the more you look for ways to find the time to write, the more time you will find you have.

 

 

  

 

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Is There a Book in You?

We’ve all heard people say that they could write a book. Some people do eventually get around to it, but the majority never do. With the self-publishing market booming it is easier than ever to see your name in print so what’s holding you back?

The most frequently cited reason for not penning that novel or business book is lack of time. There is no getting away from the fact that writing is a big commitment but if you are determined, you will find a way. Get up an hour early, go to bed later or dedicate part of the weekend to writing and you will be surprised at how quickly the wordcount ramps up. Just 500 words a day adds up to 3,500 words a week and that’s 14,000 a month. At that rate, in six months you will have an 84,000 word manuscript. That sounds achievable, doesn’t it?

Lack of inspiration is another reason for not starting a novel but ideas are everywhere and come from the most unexpected sources. I advise my writing group to carry a notebook so that when something occurs to them, they can jot it down. I have notebooks everywhere; in my car, in my handbag and especially beside my bed. I have lost count of the number of times I have settled down to go to sleep, only to have a gem of an idea pop into my head.

Poor English skills or a lack of confidence in spelling and grammar may be another barrier to getting started on your book but there are people who can help. A ghostwriter will take your ideas and bring them to life on the page or you could draft your manuscript and employ the services of an editor to help perfect your writing and iron out any mistakes and inconsistencies. A proofreader will pick up any final errors that may have been missed.

So, if you have always wanted to tell your life story, write a novel or share your expertise with others,
there is no better time than the present.

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Polished to Perfection

The question that I am most frequently asked by new authors is, “How can I make my book stand out?” Now, if there were a simple formula that I could pass on to guarantee publishing success, I would be a very rich woman. However, there is no one sure-fire way to ensure that your, often self-published, book will be the one to grab the public’s attention and propel you to literary superstardom.

However, there are ways to give your book a fighting chance against the competition and the most obvious is to make sure that it is free from errors. You may have penned a really good novel, but potential readers are put off by bad reviews and poor grammar, incorrect spelling and badly punctuated books tend to attract negative feedback.

I recently received a book to proofread, via a publisher, with the assurance that is was a virtually clean copy and would need little more than a ‘quick read through’. Apparently, several people had ‘checked’ the manuscript and it was just about print-ready. This was far from the case and book, in fact, contained many mistakes, which would have reflected badly on the author if the book had gone to print in that condition.

During my time as a magazine editor, several people would check the proofs, again and again. It is very difficult for one person to pick up every single error and practically impossible for the author or writer. You should never attempt to proofread your own work, and by that last statement I mean for the final copy, I would assume that all writers will check their own work to make sure that it is as good as it can be before handing it to someone to proofread.

Ideally, a manuscript should be passed to an editor, or proofreader, or possibly both before publication and preferably to a professional. Whilst it is perfectly possible for your mum or great aunt Mabel to read your manuscript and even to correct errors, I would always recommend that the final check should be made by someone whose business it is to pick up on other people’s mistakes. A professional editor or proofreader will approach the job very differently from a layman (or woman) and be aware of all those tricky foibles of grammar, spelling and punctuation that writers routinely come unstuck over.

If time allows, I always proofread from hard (printed) copy rather than the computer screen, as lots of mistakes can be missed this way and if a text has become very familiar, I have even been known to read it ‘backwards’.

So, before you rush to publish your book, it is wise to invest time and, yes, money on making sure that your book is error-free. That way, you can be certain that if it your novel captures readers’ attention, it will be for all the right reasons.

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The Hard Sell

The publishing industry is changing. Would-be authors no longer have to wait in vain for their book to be plucked out of the slush pile by a publisher or agent. The opportunity to self-publish has unleashed a wealth of previously undiscovered talent. Worldwide, rookie novelists are putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Hundreds of new titles are being released every day. And the numbers are rising. This is a good thing but what many of these new authors don’t realise is that getting your book into print is only the first step, you then have to sell it.

Traditional book publishers have a team of people to support authors on the road to publication. They employ editors, proofreaders, designers and a marketing department whose sole purpose is to make sure that your book gets noticed. All too often, a book’s success has little to do with how good or not it is. We have all read bestsellers that failed to live up to the hype or eagerly awaited the release of a new novel by a favourite author only to find it is nowhere near as good as their last. Similarly, I have read some really excellent books that struggle to make the ratings. It all comes down to marketing.

Publicising a book, any book, takes time and money. For a new author, both are often in short supply and most first-time authors can’t afford costly advertising or even to buy sufficient copies of their book to sell on to family and friends. Social media and word of mouth have a part to play but you will be very lucky indeed if this is enough to encourage even a few people to buy your book.

I recently published an anthology, Write on the Coast, with Westcliff-on-Sea WI (WoSWI) Writing Group. As the book is being sold in aid of charity, with fifty per cent of the monies raised helping to buy pioneering, life-saving, cancer treatment equipment, I was fairly optimistic about getting relevant coverage. Not so! I have had to beg, bully and cajole some publications even to mention it and as for all those people queuing up to order copies, well…

In all seriousness, without the mighty force of a dedicated marketing department, it is hard to draw attention to a self-published book and if no one knows that your book exists, even if it is the best book ever written, the sad truth is that no one will buy it and it can feel that all your hard work has been in vain.

To repeat my opening statement, the world of publishing is changing. More and more new self-published titles are flooding the market and seeing your book in print is no longer an impossible dream. However, generating publicity for your book and selling copies, remains as difficult as it ever was.

Discouraged? You should be but hopefully not enough to stop you from trying. Just remember that publication is only the beginning and it will take just as much willpower, determination and sleepless nights to market your book as it did to write it.

Write on the Coast is available from www.amazon.co.uk – in paperback (£5) and Kindle (£3.09) versions.

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Expanding Horizons

Welcome to my website and blog.

Some of you will already know me, for others it will be the first time you have heard my name but I hope you will all come back regularly to find out what I am up to.

The past few weeks have presented me with fresh challenges, some of which have meant a sharp learning curve, but it has nevertheless been an exciting time.

Firstly, putting together Write on the Coast with the inspirational members of Westcliff-on-Sea WI (WoSWI) writing group has meant grasping a whole new range of skills, mostly to do with the technicalities of self-publishing. I am happy to say that the book is now in the final stages of production and should be available to buy shortly. The members have all worked extremely hard to turn the dream of publishing an anthology into a reality. I am really proud of their achievement and the proceeds are going to help a very worthy cause.

The second test of my abilities has been putting together my website. I write for a living. I live, eat, breathe (yes, sometimes!) words. I edit and proofread them. I pride myself on providing an excellent service for my clients but when it came to penning my own website, I was literally struck dumb.

Several drafts, and redrafts, later and with a great deal of help and encouragement from Melissa (www.craftylilfox.com) whose services I cannot recommend highly enough, and this website is finally up and running. I hope it will give you some idea of the kind of thing I do but if you would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kim x

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  • About Kim

    Kim Kimber is an experienced writer, copy editor and proofreader who is passionate about the written word in all its forms and a stickler for getting it right. As the former editor of a parenting and lifestyle magazine, Kim knows what makes interesting copy and how to achieve it. Her features have been published in national and international publications on many subjects. Find out more
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