Books and Ideas Matter
Ideation—and nudging something to percolate—is exciting. At this stage (post-conception, right around the time you undertake the task of creation), if you’re a first-time author, it’s in your interest to:
- Make sure your concept is original. Google it or search for it on Amazon. Happening upon something similar doesn’t dismiss your idea and isn’t a reason to scrap it, but it helps to know what already exists and shape how yours is distinct.
- A working book title is helpful (and often changes). If you’ve put any thought to potential titles/subtitles, research these. (This isn’t fail-proof. I’ve got a pal whose book, Along Came a Spider, came out the same year as James Patterson’s first novel of the same name.)
- Be thinking about potential readers, who they are and how you can reach them.
- Wrap your head around book metadata and your book’s discoverability.
- As you write, forgo stylistic measures; leave book design to the design phase. Focus your efforts on storytelling, not yet the look of the book.
Book Publishing: Work towards Perfection
The metaphor I use to sum up novel-writing is it’s akin to emptying a dozen jigsaw puzzles on a table in order to create a single, narrative “image.” This workhorse stage—the crafting of plot, subplot, character, subtext, the whole of it—has two objectives:
- Write with abandon.
- Go wherever it takes you.
Once you’ve accomplished a first draft, it’s time to finesse. As you refine your manuscript, it’s also time to think about the bigger book publishing picture. In this order:
- Reread your book, then read it aloud to catch mistakes your brain may gloss over when reading silently, make your revisions, and then self-edit.
- Write a short description and take a first stab at the back cover copy.
- Have your book professionally edited. It is a key part of the book publishing process.
- Finalize your title/subtitle.
- Craft a longer book description; ask your editor to weigh-in (along with other marketing content you pen along the way).
- Once you and your editor feel good about the work, send it to beta readers. This is a stop-gap that can help with book marketing.
- Begin to clearly articulate your promotional efforts and create a marketing plan. Figure out financial aspects, such as whether there’s a budget for a publicist.
- Secure interior design; if you’re outsourcing, get comps.
- Secure book cover design, include back cover and spine; if you’re outsourcing, get a few comps (while interior design enhances the reading experience of a book, a cover can make or break it).
So Many Books So Little Time
Sylvia Plath wrote, “Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” Don’t let your manuscript rot in a drawer somewhere. Share it! And share it widely by making sure your book is available on every single, viable platform around the world. As a general sequence, I offer:
- Secure an ISBN; each different platform requires a distinct ISBN.
- Organize your author website that, depending on your goals, is either author or book-centric.
- Print ARCs (advanced reader copies).
- Create EPUB/MOBI files for ebooks.
- Secure book reviews. (Whenever someone offers to read or review your book, take them up on it and ask them to post their review wherever they’re able).
- Reach out to local libraries and booksellers.
- Set up author pages on Goodreads, Amazon, and other platforms.
What I’ve offered herein is loose, general, and abridged. Best-selling books require boldness, forethought, a pinch of luck, and a solid plan. Whether you’re a wild horse (read this as independently published) or a stabled one (read this as traditionally published), a lot of work goes into taking an idea, making something of it, and then getting it across the finish line to share it with the world.