I was recently given an opportunity to speak with career coaches about candidates who tell them they want to write a book. They wanted to know how to advise them to venture into this volatile market. It was a good experience for me because I’ve come so far from the day in 2012 when I hit “publish” with my first book, a self-help short called Life Isn’t Just Luck: How to get from where you are to where you want to be.
Looking back on my journey from that shaky start to Amazon best-seller, I came up with the following formula:
- Write a good book – Yep, that’s probably obvious, but you’ll see I took LIJL off the market because it violates this first precept. It’s okay, but it isn’t very good. My first novel, Too Cute to Kill is much better but it’s still a far site short of the skill I’ve developed. If readers hang in there until they get to my award-winning Justice for Katie, they’re going to agree that every book gets better.
- Network with authors and readers – I have learned more than I ever dreamed I didn’t know from the generosity of other writers. I had no idea how to engage in the business end of writing so I would put out a book and see it sit on the virtual shelf, unknown and unread. When I joined a fabulous Facebook group of like-minded authors, my sales and strategy knowledge base grew to the point I hit the Amazon best-seller list with both Too Cute and Main Street Murder in 2015. More than 100,000 people have downloaded (and hopefully read) my Jake and Emma series. THRILLING! LinkedIn, Facebook, writer’s associations and Goodreads are terrific opportunities to talk with writers and readers.
- Find some great Beta Readers – My mom loves everything I write and while she picks up typos, she is too kind in her feedback to do me any good. My beta readers love mysteries, like my mysteries and aren’t afraid to tell me when something isn’t working.
- Hire an Editor – I have a fabulous editor and have had all of my work edited and copy edited (typos). I still get the occasional reader email about something that slipped through but far fewer than when I couldn’t afford the investment — and it’s a big investment — in an editor.
- Decide how you will publish – I have a publisher, Cozy Cat Press, for my Caribou King Series and I publish everything else myself under 307 Publishing. Everybody decides for themselves whether to find an agent, go without an agent to smaller presses or publish their own work. You’ll note the editor step comes first. If you don’t have a stellar author platform (ie: if you’re not already famous) invest in an editor. You won’t get an agent or publisher without a clean, polished book to show them.
- Hire a cover designer – My first two books went out with Amazon-generated covers but I kissed the ground when my niece, a professional graphic artist, offered to design the Jake & Emma covers. If you’re looking for someone, that networking you’ve been doing will point you to cover designers and editors. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but people do. I know one author who writes exceptional books that nobody read until he changed his covers and featured his golden retriever character. Now he regularly earns the best-seller status his writing deserves. Of course, if you have a publisher, they will design the cover for you.
- Promote, promote, promote – No matter how your book hits the market, plan on doing the lion’s share of promotion yourself. Even large publishers expect authors to be active partners in promotion. This is something you will learn in your adventures in networking so never skip that step. We writers are often borderline hermits, but push yourself out there or no one will ever read your books.
What I’m Reading
I got a wonderful gift from you! People clicking through the Amazon links on this page earned me enough money to buy a few of the books that have languished in my wish list. That was exceptionally wonderful because a) I was low on funds because of jury duty, see my last post and b) my water heater went out. OUCH!
I was two books down in the Cozy Suburbs Mysteries by Lisa B. Thomas so I snapped them up. Her latest is Sharpe Point http://amzn.to/2mCJtVD