When people find out I’m in the publishing industry, the first question they’ll ask is, “Will you help me publish my book?”
I’ll then follow up with the question, “What have you written so far and how many books do you read in a month?”
Writing a book rewards you with an accomplishment that you’ve left a lasting legacy for the world to remember you with. It assures you that despite not meeting the people you want to impact, your words will touch and inspire them in some shape or form.
Publishing a book is an art. It’s similar to an orchestra where everything needs to be in harmony. One wrong tune will throw the whole symphony off, and it could ruin the whole production.
So, to answer the question you’ve all been asking. Read below the simple steps to help you get started.
The first rule of thumb before writing a book, or publishing anything for that matter is to conduct your research. Most successful books are a result of extensive preparation and thorough research.
What do I mean by that?
Take some time to discover the topic you want to write about, and decide on your genre. Choose whether it will be for education, fiction, professional development, biography, self-help, or reference.
Next, explore the best-sellers in your area of interest and learn how they made it to the top. I would recommend reading one of the books to spark some ideas on how to write yours. Remember to be unique though, avoid imitating work from another author, just learn more about their writing style and use it as a guideline to start.
Choose your audience
You need to identify and understand your audience, so you can customise your content accordingly. Find out who they are, where they are located and study their behaviour. Do they read for leisure? Or are they knowledgeable and experts in their field? Do they have a reading culture, and do they usually buy books?
You can find this information from various booksellers or search online. Another best practice is to conduct surveys, or focus groups and hear what they have to say. Facilitate the discussion by asking open-ended questions and encourage them to engage freely. This should give you a sense of whether you are heading in the right direction.
Ultimately, the topic you choose needs to speak their language. The book industry is highly saturated as we speak, and you need to ask yourself whether YOU would buy the book you intend on writing.
Write compelling content
Once you have conducted research and studied your market, you can start putting your thoughts on paper. Write content that you are comfortable with and can relate to. Should you be an expert in your field, write it in a manner that your audience will understand.
Remember, you are not writing for yourself, so avoid using jargon or sophisticated words. The book needs to be relatable and simple to read. Don’t lose your readers on the first page, as the introduction will determine whether a reader will finish your book, let alone consider buying it.
Focus on writing content that draws your audience in. Some authors do this well through attention grabbers which hook the readers. This can be done in the introduction by telling a story, sharing a profound quote, asking a thought-provoking question or telling a joke.
Once you’ve caught their attention, you can introduce your topic and expand on it by breaking it down into sub-topics.
Ensure your content flows and focuses on a single point per paragraph. For fiction writers, remember stick to the main plot and take them on a journey by making them feel like characters in the book. Evoke their emotions by creating excitement and mystery.
Traditional publishing versus self-publishing
Most people opt to self-publish because, they’ve either been rejected by a publisher, or they don’t agree with the terms of the publishing house. Others simply want to have control over their book without liaising with the middleman.
Should you decide to self-publish, I would highly recommend getting expert advice on the process of publishing a book. Details can be found on the PASA (Publishers Association of South Africa) website – www.publishsa.co.za.
Take your manuscript to professional editors and proofreaders, so they can review your content. It’s difficult to spot your errors as you are often too proud for accomplishing your amazing work that your brain is blindsided by your flaws.
When you think your work is perfect, 9 times out of 10 it’s not, and proofreaders will help you make the necessary changes. They’ll read it with a critical eye and inform you of all the hidden grammatical errors, colloquialism, tautology, lack of engagement, poor delivery, plagiarism and word choice… See what I did there? Publisher jargon!
Going the Publisher route
The benefits of going through a publisher are endless, and it’s less work on your shoulders, however, there is a catch. Publishers will work with you if your content is worth their time. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. Before you approach a publisher, get all your ducks in a row.
What I mean by that is, start with a proposal convincing them why they should publish your book.
The better you sell yourself, the higher the chances of them responding to your request.
In the proposal include the research you have completed, as well as feedback from your audience to show their level of interest in reading, or recommending your book.
A Publisher will consider working with you if there is value in your content and a return on investment. It’s also wise to include a summary and a table of contents to provide an overview of the topics covered in your book.
It takes roughly 6-9 months to publish a good book. Once you’ve signed your contract and submitted your manuscript, the next phase begins. This process includes: Cleaning up your manuscript, plagiarism checks, market research, editing, proofreading, typesetting, design, printing and of course marketing and distribution. Remember, a publisher of a book is like icing to cake!
In closing, if you have already made that decision to go ahead and write a book, contact me for services on drawing up a proposal, editing and proofreading and I will be glad to help.