In the computer age, anyone can become an author, even YOU. There’s a difference between a writer and an author. A writer is someone who is actively writing, whereas an author is someone who has been published. You may have wanted to write a book for years, and never pursued the idea because it was daunting. Here is a list of steps to follow to transform your book idea into reality.
- State the purpose of your book. You should be able to state the purpose in one sentence. If you can’t state the purpose concisely you may be in writing trouble before you start. You may also “tweak” the purpose as you write the book. I write health and wellness books and state the purpose of the book in the introduction or preface. This helps the reader focus on this purpose as she or he reads.
- Determine the category. Print and electronic publishers need this early in the game for marketing. Each category can include many sub-categories, so choose the one that fits your book best. For example, I’ve written grief healing books and books for family caregivers. Instead of choosing spirituality or inspiration, at the suggestion of my publisher, I classified them as Self-Help. Visit https://www.bisg.org/complete-bisac-subject-headings-2014-edition for more information on categories.
- Identify your target market. Your target market shouldn’t be too broad. I just finished the fourth book in a caregiving series. Caregiving isn’t just a hot topic, it’s a huge topic, one that applies to millions of people. I narrowed my target market by writing books for family caregivers. You may want to write a book just for members of the family, and that’s okay.
- Brainstorm on titles. Some ideas surface at the same time, and the same is true of titles. To avoid getting into trouble with another author, publisher, or lawyer, make sure your book doesn’t have the same title as another book. Amazon has a comprehensive list of titles and you may search by specific titles or topics. You may come across some books with the same titles, but the sub-title differentiates them. Make your title memorable by choosing one word, or alliterative words, or surprising ones.
- Think about your cover. All of the books I’ve written in the past decade come from a royalty-free website, www.istockphoto.com. I looked at more than 2,000 before selecting one for a cover. Your publisher and/or graphic designer need to subscribe to this service in order to download photos. Don’t scrimp on your cover because it may well be your best marketing tool. Today, many publishers like their book covers to tell a story. You may find potential cover photos on www.freepik.com and www.gettyimages.com.
- Scope out the competition. Your book idea may already have competing titles in print. This makes sales more difficult. When you come across a competitive book, jot down the name of the publisher, publication date, number of pages, and cost. Go on Amazon and read some sample pages from these books. Now answer a key question: Should I move forward with my book idea.
- Write an outline. Professional authors always have an outline. The outline can be a progression of logical points, or the development of a plot and characters. Your outline should be clear and easy to follow. When I’m outlining a non-fiction book, I list every point, every sub-point, every resource I’ve used, and every page number. Writing a good, workable outline can take months.
- Learn how to format a manuscript. In the current book market, people who used to be acquisitions editors are also doing marketing, and they’re short of time. Handwritten manuscripts often wind up in the slush pile. To avoid this, format your manuscript according to the publisher’s guidelines. Books on this topic are available from local bookstores and the Internet.
- Start writing and keep at it. Years ago, a friend approached me about my latest book and said, in a slightly hurt voice, “I was going to write that.” But he didn’t. I researched the topic, wrote the outline, wrote the book, and found a publisher. I believe in hard work and persistence, two qualities that will help you see your book in print. After you’ve finished the book, put it away for a month or so. Then take it out and read it. What changes do you need to make?
- Find the right publisher. Local publishers welcome work from local authors. Top-notch lay-out and printing companies, such as P. Hansen Marketing, are eager to help you. Many of my book covers have been designed by Jay Highum of Action Graphic Design in Rochester. Submit your book only to publishers in your genre. Don’t submit a mystery to a publisher that prints poetry books, for example.
The publishing industry is changing quickly, and this is creating new options for new authors. So consider electronic publishing (an ideal entry point for new authors), independent publishers (called Indie), and hybrid publishers, and latest variation in the book industry. You’ll find more information about these options on the Internet. Writing is fun and I hope you enjoy the process. You can see your book in print!