5 Rules Every New Author Should Follow

Part II : How to Avoid Common Mistakes and What to Do Instead

If you are a new author, the whole process of taking your book from planning to promotion may feel like an obstacle course. But it needn’t be, if you follow five basic rules (plus one “bonus” rule to make everything even easier).

Rule #1: You must be able to explain your book and its main benefit in a single sentence.

Think of that sentence as the foundation of a house you are building. If it is not strong and solid, the house won’t stand up. Everything depends on how well you construct that foundation or, in this case, your sentence. I won’t kid you; it is hard to do. For one thing, writing it forces you to focus on your topic in a way you may not have done before. You must capture the essence of your book in one brief, descriptive statement that tells the reader what to expect. This book will answer a question, solve a problem, explain how to do something. Your sentence is a promise to the reader about the book’s purpose, content, or benefits. This is not a promise you make without thinking it through.

Rule #2: Before you write, you must have a plan; that plan is called a book proposal.

There are several steps in writing a nonfiction book, and the first one is not writing; it is planning. It may sound like a cliché; but, just as you wouldn’t set out on a road trip without a map, you don’t start a book without a plan. This is where many first-time authors go wrong. Perhaps you have the romantic idea that one begins a book by sitting down at the computer and just “letting it flow.” The truth is that, by the time you reach the point of actually writing, you should have done a whole lot of thinking, answering tough questions, and carefully constructing the answers. If you haven’t, you are going to run into problems. If you have, you are well on your way to writing a dynamite book proposal.

Rule #3: Every writer needs an editor—a professional editor.

There are no exceptions! Just for starters, there are several stages of your writing in which you might need an editor to help:  • Clarify your concept  • Plan and organize your material  • Think globally about how the parts fit together • Read for content, consistency, and style  • Craft a catchy title  • Check for grammar, punctuation, and typos   If you are writing a book, you may even need more than one editor, since different kinds of editors specialize in different aspects of preparing a book for publication. Here are three of the most important:  Developmental editors help you plan and organize your material in a logical, convincing manner. The best time to work with a developmental editor is at the beginning of the process.  Content editors look at the big picture, writing style, structure, flow of ideas, language, and accuracy.   Copy editors check for grammar, punctuation, and typos. They catch mistakes you and everyone else have missed.

Rule #4: It is important to understand your publishing options and which one is right for you.

Publishing is exciting because it means your book is finally going to become “real” and tangible. Yet, this is the part that so often derails even the most passionate and determined author. What follows are the seven most common publishing options: conventional or traditional publishers, self-publishing, POD/subsidy publishers, co-publishers, independent publishers, electronic publishers, and do nothing.

Rule #5: Marketing starts at the beginning of the book-writing process, not at the end.

Few of us are experts at marketing our own creative projects. The good news is we don’t have to be experts; we just have to grasp the basics and put them into practice.

  • Start with your business objective—what you want your marketing to achieve. Make it concrete and achievable.
  • Then map out at least three ways in which you are going to reach your business objective. These are your strategies.
  • Finally, get specific. Under each strategy, list the specific actions you will implement—your tactics.
  • Now, block out some time to concentrate on marketing, and “just do it!”

Bonus Rule #6: If you don’t know how to do something, find out.

I know. Sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know. You would ask a question if you had any idea what to ask … or even whom to ask. Here are some suggestions: Read a book or two or three on the subject. Go to Amazon, your favorite bookstore, the library. Take a course. It doesn’t have to be graduate school; it can be a non-credit community college class. Join a group aligned with your topic or a local chapter of IBPA. Find one locally, nationally, or on line. Google it—whatever it is—and join.




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