When I first began writing, I typed the title of this blog post How to Become a Best-Selling Author into a search engine and spent ages scrolling through sites, looking for a magic formula that would help me become a recognised, reputable author. There was a lot of advise, a lot of encouragement from those who had sold millions and lot of adverts from people hoping to take money from hopefuls in exchange for offering a step up the ladder to success.
The truth is, there isn’t any such formula. If you want to be a best-selling author you need four things: tenacity, self-belief, hope and luck. Maybe five things – a darn good book.
The journey to publication is not an easy one. Yes, you may read of those first-time writers who hit the jackpot, but for the majority of us, it is hard work that produces results.
This is the first of several posts that I hope will help you along your way. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do have experience – lots of it, from writing and editing to networking, marketing and publicity and oh, yes, I have tenacity.
I began writing for the adult market in 2009 and my first novel, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines was aimed at women over forty who wanted to read something humorous that would resonate with them. Chick Lit was full of young women and sexy men and hot romance but I wanted to target a more mature market who had experienced the flush of first love and who had lived the maybe not-so-happy ever after ending, and were now scratching about for the next stage in their lives. My audience still felt they had a life to lead even though age, life and families were pulling at them from all angles. It was a brave move. After writing my novel, I proudly submitted it to several agents and publishers, only to be told there was no market for this type of comedy. It fell between the cracks of chick lit, romantic comedy and humour!
Deterred? Yes. Disillusioned? Yes. Determined? More so. I won’t go into lengthy detail of the next phase of how I finally became published yet, but it involved taking criticism on the chin. I submitted my first chapters to website, You Write On, that encouraged writers to read others’ submissions and in exchange for offering positive criticism, would receive equal and fair criticism of their own work.
Ouch! The comments came back thick and fast: Reader A hated this about my book. Reader B hated that. Reader C hated something else. Everyone hated everything. I was clearly the worst writer in the universe – or at least that’s how it felt. However, as my skin grew thicker, so I learned to consider the positive criticisms hidden within the scathing ones and because of those, I rewrote many of the chapters of the book and resubmitted it.
Once again, I was faced with rejection. I believed in the book. In spite of what I was being told. I felt my audience would love it. I decided the only course left to me was to self-publish.
Self-publishing is another topic I’ll cover at a later date, but all I’ll say here is be warned. There are many vanity publishers out there. It’s a minefield but I was fortunate enough to have my work taken up by the website I had submitted the first few chapters to for critical analysis. They became FeedARead who for a small fee and I mean, small, published my work in paperback.
Ha! I’d done it at last. Or so I thought. I was wrong. This was only the beginning.
Would I follow that same path today? No. I would not. There are better ways of becoming an author. I wish I’d had more patience. I made many mistakes and although I learned from them and my story is now one of success, I could have got where I am today sooner if I’d done it differently.
My advice to any budding author is the following:
- While you are writing your novel, build an author platform. Make sure you have a blog, a Facebook page, other social media accounts and most importantly, interact with other writers and readers. Engage with them. FB groups are the best for this so join a few online writing, reading or reviewing groups and chat!
- Once you finish your script, put it aside. Don’t look at it for at least a month. Concentrate on building your community. Wrote a few blog posts. Anything to make people aware of you.
- After 4-6 weeks read through your work and edit it. Repeat the procedure. I know you’ll be desperate to get your book baby out there and concerned somebody else will pip you to the post with your ideas, but don’t worry. Your book needs this time. Edit it once more and then send it to a professional editor for their thoughts. At the same time, send it to some of the people you’ve met online. By now, you should have made contacts who will be willing to be your beta readers. They’ll offer suggestions and might even spot errors for you too. They’ll do this for free or maybe in exchange for you offering the same service for their books.
- When the professional editor sends back changes, go through your script yet again and make them, and at the same time take up any of the suggestions offered by your beta readers.
It’ll need another read-through for errors before you submit it, so make sure you do even though by now, you’ll be sick of it. If you truly can’t wait any longer at this point, ensure the first three chapters, or 10,000 words, are error-free and submit them.
If you are submitting to an agent or publisher, make sure you follow their guidelines.
And now, cross your fingers and work on your second book. Good luck.
Posts to come:
Getting Your Book Published – Building an Author Platform and Brand – DIY Publicity for your Book – Getting to Grips with Marketing – Networking – The Next Step