How to Write Your First Book
And get it to sell
When you were a kid, you learned to walk, you fell out of tree houses – scraped your knee, maybe even broke a limb or two. You got up, continued to perfect this thing we call trying-to-grow up. Along the way, you accumulated some stories. Now you might be thinking about How to Write Your First Book and tell one of those stories and what the hell growing up has to do with writing your first book. Btw, If you’ve already done this, congratulations! You did an amazing job! Writing a book is the closest a man will come to having a baby.
My point is, learning to write a book is just like learning to walk. There are plenty of people that helped you master this ‘walking‘ thing along the way and to some degree, there are plenty of people who will help you with learning to write. Though sadly, most people want to charge you. I’m not one of those.
A long time ago, to get published was a very difficult thing to happen to a good writer. These days, your dog can have his/her own book and be published within minutes. The difference between books that sell and books that don’t? It isn’t just in the writing. It’s in the marketing and promotion. And the cover. Someone needs to know your book exists. Do you honestly think that you’ll write a book, pop it up on the internet and one person will read it then go ahead and recommend it to 10 others? People don’t do that anymore. 1 out of 100 people will review a book on Amazon. Just sayin’.
So, here are some things I strongly recommend that you start with. Write every day. Whether it’s a blog, a journal/diary, love letters, penpal letters – do they still exist? – emails, envelopes – ok now I’m going too far…but you get the point. Write something every day. Your brain is wired to think a certain way and when you are taught to write as a child, you are taught to write things exactly as you see them.
What’s really important here is training that writing muscle to think a certain way so that you can write something that’s worth reading. There’s no point writing something – if you want an audience – if it isn’t something that at least one person will want to read.
I wrote as I started learning to walk, I wrote when I was bored as a young person and had been grounded for something trivial like, setting the living room rug on fire – but I digress, I wrote as a teenager, through University and at work, I learned to write documents and emails. Then I began submitting to various online writing forum websites and got rejected for nearly every single one. For every single one that got accepted, a thousand had probably rejected it. Did I give up? Did you give up trying to learn how to walk? The ones that said no, taught me to try harder. To analyse what was wrong with my writing. My desire to write better was born out of all those hundreds of rejections. My writing improved because a thousand people said I sucked.
Practice every day and think about what you are good at writing in. For example, do you like Zombies? Try writing an original Zombie short story. What about weight-loss? Do you think you have a fresh angle or a new perspective that others could learn from? What about a how-to book? There’s always demand for those and if you know how to do something, you can put it in a book and teach someone else.
Don’t do it for the money. Writing books today – forget it if you’ve disillusioned yourself you will make money – is not about making money. It’s about enjoyment. I’m talking for 90% of writers who have been at this for years and made very little money; certainly not enough to earn a living. Perhaps enough to buy a cup of coffee. You might be lucky and your work could be in that 5-10% who earn a living from writing. Most writers don’t and I know some fantastic/amazing writers who have a career other than writing or they would starve. Maybe the extra money from writing might buy you a new car one day. Now that’s your goal, but not your motivation.
First, we’re going to run through some daily exercises on learning How to Write Your First Book.
- As I said, write very day. Write about things you like, things you know and things you’d like to do one day. Write mantras, write letters that you’ll never send. Write blogs. Experiment with wording. Grow your vocabulary,
- Read more. To be a good writer, you need to be a voracious reader. Every good book I’ve read, I can tell the author reads a lot by the way they describe things, characters, scenery. Read the cereal box – I’m not kidding! Some smart cookie was hired to write for cereal packets and it just so happens I’ve done a few of those marketing blurbs in my time!
- Start writing sample chapters. Understand how your story could flow; how to describe people
- Research your demographic. Understand your audience…blah blah blah, whatever you want to call it, you need to know who’s going to buy your material, write for them
- Start reading blogs like this one; there are a ton of good bits of free information on the internet but often hard to find. My advice is to research thoroughly and understand what those who have gone before you have to say,
- Get it proof-read by someone other than a family member or a friend. If you aren’t ready to go to an editor yet to get it professionally polished, then join Writer’s Forums and ask others to help you,
- Understand that writing and selling a book is a business. If you want to sell books, you need to act and think like a businessman. If you aren’t prepared to learn marketing, accounting, PR, sales and promotions, networking, SEO etc… then don’t waste your time learning How to Write Your First Book. Unless you’re going to pay someone a lot of money to do that all for you, then ignore me completely and listen to them. They probably know more than I do.
Now you have a completed manuscript that you think is pretty amazing, what next?
Editing. Oh yes…that old chestnut. Your book, no matter how fantastic grandma and Uncle Joe think it is, will definitely need an editor. It needs to be checked not just for grammar and typos, but plot holes, character flaws, structure and theme. It needs to be perfect. If your book is good, then it isn’t good enough. With the competition out there – approximately hundreds of millions of books being published every single year – you are going to need to get your work to be beyond perfect; it’s going to need to stand out amongst some pretty tough competition.
Again, there are a ton of editors out there and most of them are expensive. Generally, a manuscript of 80,000 words will cost you $1000 for two passes. That’s a rough and average estimate. Do not get your mother, school-teacher friend etc to edit your book. Trust me, this doesn’t work. Their input is valuable but you should take it with a grain of salt. Whether you like it or not, someone who knows you will always hold back a little tiny bit about what they really think to prevent hurting your feelings. I can send you a recommendation or six, just ask me, but they all charge. You may never make your money back on your first book. Know that now before you learn How to Write Your First Book.
Get an amazing book cover done for your book. Your book cover is what everyone sees first. Now, let me put this into perspective for you.
For your first book, only concentrate on digital ebooks. Don’t worry about paperback. Yet.
When you look at Amazon’s book list, as an example, you will see billions of books – zoomed out. All you’re seeing is a thumbnail of the actual cover. Now tell me, which one of those books stands out to you and why?
There’s your book cover. It needs to be amazing from a distance – thumbnail – and it needs to be amazing when people look up close. The font needs to truly reflect what’s on the inside and the cover image must really grab someone’s attention and be related to the content. There’s no point having a pair of sexy legs with red heels as your cover if you’re writing a manual on dog grooming.
If you’re doing this on a budget, check out Fiverr – be warned, there’s a lot of dodgy people on Fiverr with 99% fake reviews so make sure you check out sample work before you pay.
Once you’ve got your cover and text looking so glamorous that you want to buy a copy yourself, you’re ready to add it to presale. Yes, I recommend presale on Amazon because it’s smart. You might make some sales before your launch date that will count towards your rankings on the release date. Don’t rush your release. Do it carefully and do it intelligently.
Now, we’ve run through How to Write Your First Book, we’re going to run through how to get it to sell.
There’s a lot of authors who will tell you that the best strategy is to make your book free. I am not one of those. I don’t think that’s a good strategy for your first book. Firstly, you won’t even make enough for that cup of coffee which will dis-hearten you before you even began. Secondly, what’s the point of writing a book and going through the costs and efforts to get it out there only to give it away? Unless you’ve got other books that you are promoting, then I wouldn’t recommend this. I know a lot of readers who agree that a free book is not worth reading. There’s exceptions to the rule, but that’s outside of the scope of this blog. For your first book, I recommend that you don’t.
Let me tell you a secret. Readers do not look at the name of an author when they got the book free. They will look at the author when they had to pay for the book. And let’s be honest, most people will spend 99c on a book if they like the cover, the biography and the sample first pages (which you get to read for free on Amazon).
There’s literally hundreds of websites that promote cheap and free books. If you make your first book initially at 99c – a strategy I do recommend for your first book – then you can get listed on many of these for free. There are just as many who will charge you, but for now, I recommend ignoring those. You can adjust the price of your book later, once you understand a little more about pricing and competition.
I may do a follow-up post about those, but for now, I will just tell you that Google ‘selling your book at 99c’ and you will see many.
Plan the launch date with your marketing efforts. Pick a date – usually at least a few weeks into the future – and submit all of your marketing efforts for that release date. You can shout about it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, the front of your street, the nearest Starbucks etc.. that it’s available on presale but don’t expect any sales from social media – again, I can cover that in another post. Social media is supposed to be social, people don’t go on there to buy, so they tune out to any marketing. There’s some exceptions, but as a rule, it’s a bad strategy that will get actual readers unfollowing you. And if you did it in Starbucks, you might get people following you. But they won’t be fans.
When you have dozens of online resources – such as websites – all pointing to your book on your release date, you are going to have the best chance of success that there can be with an ebook today. When a book goes live, all of the presale figures finally count towards your day 1. Also, every single person that buys your book on that one day – your launch day – helps you get up the charts on release day. You want to be as high as possible on launch day. If you make modicum sales on your launch date, forget it, your book is consigned to the billions of others gathering dust. You might sell a copy here and there but you will not be making more than enough to buy a cup of coffee in a year.
There’s a ton of other advice I can give you, about SEO, your website, marketing strategies, which websites to avoid and which ones to target etc… but that would make this post too long. Perhaps I’ll put it in a book; we shall see.
For now, you can do me the greatest honour of at least checking out my books. You can go back to ignoring them after, but at least have a look.
I really hope this blog on How to Write Your First Book has helped you. Please also take a second to throw in a comment and let me know what you think about this and whether there should be a follow up with marketing stuff I have learned.
Thanks and good luck with your book!
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