Pitfalls of a Writer.

typewriterMost writers will have a romantic notion of writing a book, pitching it to a publisher and being wined and dined by the literati as the book skyrockets to the best-selling lists. Sounds good, huh?

Since the advent of the internet and digital technology, the traditional paradigm for publishing has changed dramatically. I think it’s fantastic BUT it means that a writer has to think differently too. You might ask why?

The writing game isn’t just about the words anymore. It’s a package deal. It might be better to look at a book as a small business because it isn’t enough to write your bestseller and sit back and wait for the adulation. It can happen but rarely does.

Here are some common mistakes:

  1. Writing a book for money
    If you think that your book is going to allow you to give up your day job, think again. DO NOT have this as your reason to write a book. If you do all the right things, and your book does well, you may make some money out of it but it isn’t common for someone to be able to retire and write full-time unless you’re someone like Bryce Courtenay. Try to write a book because you feel that you have a story to tell, something to leave behind after you die. It’s a bonus when you make money out of it.

    You may be able to make a good living once you have a few books out and have a collective sum of commissions.

  1. Not having your work edited
    I would love to have a dollar for every time that someone has come up to me and said, ‘I’ve had my book edited, can you help me publish it?’ That editor that they are talking about is often a friend or relative and the book is in no way ready for publication. It doesn’t matter if you plan to submit to a traditional publisher or to self-publish, you must have the manuscript professionally edited. This is just as important for a print book as an ebook.
  1. Not getting feedback
    If you’ve written a manuscript and self-edited (as so many do), but never shown it to anyone, you are crazy! It’s worthwhile being in a writing group or sharing your work somehow with other writers (not relatives and friends). This should be at different stages of the work: the outline, first draft and final draft. Feedback is crucial to the success of your book.
  1. Not using Microsoft Word
    There are many programs available to write your bestselling book with but get with the times and use Word. It’s universal, professional and you have fairly good control over the formatting.
  1. Having only one plan for your book
    Everyone would love to write a book and have it published by Penguin or Allen & Unwin but the changing times have meant that this seems to be harder than ever. This means that in the modern publishing world we need to be more flexible. Plan to write you book and submit it to a publisher. If that doesn’t get anywhere, plan to self-publish. You may find that self-publishing gets you noticed by your dream publisher and you end up being published by them anyway. In the meantime, write the best damned book you can.
  1. Depending on social media and word of mouth
    You must have a plan for your book once it’s published. It doesn’t matter whether it’s published by Penguin or yourself. Either way it needs to have some marketing behind it in order to get it into people’s hands. The big publishers no longer put lots of money into book tours and marketing, so a lot of it falls to the author to promote themselves.

Writing a book is hard work. Stamina is required. But the people who write and finish a book usually have something to say and feel compelled to share it. Being able to fulfil that need is very satisfying and a good reward in itself, but do yourself a favour and think ahead. The more you put into your book and its life after writing it, the more people will get to read it.

– BvH.

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