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20 Tips for Writers

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Twenty Things Writers Need to Know

1.    Do You Have An Audience? Are you going to spend three years or more producing your literary masterpiece on a subject or genre which would have at best a very limited audience?  If so, perhaps you should rethink your project.  It is only sensible that you feel confident that there is a broad audience with a known interest in the subject that you have chosen.

2.    Do Your Research. With the advantages of Google, Wikipedia, and the broad Internet, there is no reason why a writer should not be able to research historical, scientific, or political facts in great detail.  A writer should take advantage of all these modern sources, and if extensive enough, can employ help in this area, so as these facts, figures, or whatever can be folded into the narrative of either fact or fiction.

3.    Create Realistic Characters. A successful book needs to have characters that are familiar in the reader’s mind and with which the reader can identify.  It is essential that the writer puts a lot of effort into building the characters, their background, personality, physical appearance, and behavior.  A reader, who cares about the characters, is more likely to be engrossed and captivated by the content of the writer’s work.

4.    Keeping The Intensity Of The Plot Going. One of the more difficult challenges for the writer is to keep the intensity of the plot moving at a fast pace throughout the narrative.  This can be a challenge because the writer is also working on his characters, and their backgrounds.  Ending each chapter with an unanswered question is a well-known method of keeping the reader’s interest.

5.    The End Of The Story. The writer has a choice in ending his book.  Do all the pieces fall into place?  Are there twists and turns right until the last page?  Does the story end with a “happily ever after” final page?  Or, is the audience left up in the air with a lot of unanswered questions.  If the reader has had to understand complications and twists and turns throughout the book, then a similarly complicated ending will perhaps add to the readers’ enjoyment.

6.    Getting An Agent. Although it is possible to go directly to a publisher, it is more usual and beneficial to the author to find a good literary agent.  Agents will often specialize in various subjects and genres.  Thus, you may find that an agent will work on memoirs or children’s books, or “how to” books, or fiction, which may be broken down into historical fiction, murder, suspense, espionage, etc.  Although there are hundreds of agents to choose from and published lists will help an author seeking the right agent, it is often personal contacts that provide the best results.

7.    Soliciting An Agent Or Publisher. Literary agents are bombarded with material on a daily basis.  There are approximately 800 books published every day in the U.S.  Although the U.S. provides a gigantic market, it is extremely difficult to penetrate and achieve success.  The right agent will help you achieve this, but will often have their own rules and regulations.  This may include no emails, or applications only by emails.  It may require a “query letter” of one or two pages, a synopsis, or in some cases, two or three sample chapters.  It appears each literary agent has their own methods when it comes to reviewing an author’s work.  The author will probably receive lots of negative responses.  These again may vary from the return of the synopsis, chapters, etc., that have been submitted together with a rejection letter, a rejection post-card, or an email with the big “NO.”  However, one should never be discouraged and indeed be inspired by the fact that J.K. Rowling had her “HARRY POTTER” manuscript turned down more than twenty times before she found success.

8.     Choosing The Right Agent For You. If and when you find an agent that is suitably impressed with your work and wishes to represent you, it is essential that, before you sign on the dotted line, you find out what the agent can do for you.  An agent may pledge their undying love for your work and, assure you of all his important connections and the publishers that he works with, but then presents you with a terrible contract. This may reward the agent at too high a level, or you find out that the agent has not up to now, represented an author who is producing the type of work that you’ve completed.  Finally, of course, you have to have a good personal rapport with the person who is going to guide you through the “jungle” of publisher contracts, and ultimately influence the success of your book.

9.    When You Find A Publisher. When and if your agent provides you with a publisher who is willing to invest the time, effort, and money in your work, it is essential that you feel confident that the publisher can do the job, has represented authors who’ve done similar work to yours, works with the major distributors, e.g., Ingram, and can provide you with distribution through national book sellers, independents, libraries and universities, etc.  You will need legal advice on the terms of the contract, the advance you’re going to receive from the publisher, and who is going to be responsible for all the future expenses.

10.    Working With Your Editor. The publisher’s editor can play a crucial role in your success.  A good editor will review your book in detail and come up with suggestions for alterations and improvements.  This doesn’t mean that he will rewrite your work, but will get you to think in a positive manner of changes that can improve the final manuscript.  He will not only review your draft manuscript, but also subsequent manuscripts – discussing changes as you go along – until you reach a final manuscript for publication.

11.    Launching Your Book. The publisher will come up with suggestions as to how to launch your book.  By this time, of course you would have got your marketing in place, but the publisher may suggest a very public launch, or private launch, which may involve a reception, invitations to the Trade, members of the National and Magazine Press, and other personal connections that can help obtain initial sales.   Your publisher may wish you to pay a contribution towards the cost, depending how lavish the launch is going to be.

12.    Traditional Marketing. While your publisher will take responsibility for certain “marketing” costs, these days, it is quite likely that he will ask you, the author, to bear the costs and to appoint an outside marketing team.  If you choose an organization that can give you traditional marketing support, this will include a Press Release, printed media, press interviews, magazine interviews, and possibly radio and television appearances.  They will also help in setting up a program of talks, book signings, library and literary events.

13.    Online Marketing. Approximately 60% of books are now sold online.  Accordingly, publishers, authors and the industry are turning to online marketing as a source of promotion for the publisher, author, and his book.  Online marketing will revolve around the author’s website, obtaining reviews and interviews online, using social marketing networks, and email blasts around the internet, to drive your possible audience to your website where sales information would be available.

14.    Launching A Website. Many authors now believe that having a website for your book, is an essential part of marketing and, thus, success in reaching a wider audience.  The creation of the website might be undertaken by the publisher, possibly at additional cost to the author, or directly through the author’s contacts or marketing team.  The website normally would illustrate the cover of the book, and have sections which include a synopsis of the book, reviews, a bio on the author, and supportive blurbs.  It might also include a video clip, describing the action in the book.

15.    Video Clips. Incorporation of the video clip in the author’s website is becoming increasingly popular.  The video clip with sound and music can be simple or complicated, depending upon the investment that the author wishes to make.

16.    Hit The Road. The launch of the book by the publisher is not the end of the author’s work.  In fact for the most part, it’s only the beginning.  In order to promote the book, the author must be prepared to do an extensive “road trip,” with discussions and book signings at national and independent book stores, presentations and talks at public libraries, and depending upon the subject, visits to universities, book club groups, and groups with special interests.  Even the most well-known authors with national and international reputations, follow this path.  Of course, internationally-known authors and celebrity authors will always get a large audience.  For lesser mortals, it can be a daunting experience to be at a book signing at a Barnes & Noble on a windy and wet wintry night and only have five or six people attend, some of whom will not even buy the book.  But over all, this whole process is positive, helps spread the word, and create interest for the book.

17.    Reviews. Reviews are very important element of success.  Without good reviews, the author has an uphill struggle.  It is up to the publisher and the author’s marketing team to obtain reviews, preferably from nationally-known newspapers, but also through radio, magazine, and trade reviews such as Kirkus. Online marketing can also provide online reviews, which can also be useful.  The reviews can be posted to the author’s website and help “spread the word.”

18.    Follow-Up. A book has a longer life than, say, a successful movie.  Although the impact of the launch and initial distribution, reviews, and public support for the book will indicate success, it can often take months for the right review to appear or some other support group that can start sales exploding.  So the author must be prepared to follow-up both with the publisher, his marketing team, and through all his continuing contacts on “the road” for at least a year.

19.    Planning Your Next Book.
Agents and publishers want to know that their author has plans for more than one book.  A sequel to a successful book or book by the author on an entirely different subject will still provide support for the publisher’s efforts in establishing the author’s reputation.  A sequel or follow-up book can often prove more successful than the initial book, which is often reintroduced to the marketplace.  The “next book” is extremely important.

20.    Keep In Touch. Even though the book has been launched, sales have been achieved, and sales after a period start to decline, the author should keep in touch with publisher, marketing team and all personal contacts.  The book that continues to sell on a monthly basis “has legs” and should provide encouragement to the author and the promotional team.  Even when sales have really dried up, the author should still keep in touch with his contacts because he will be well into preparing his second project.

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