You have a book in you. I know it, you know it, but it has been how long already? I know you have a million reasons to not go ahead with it. Today, I will help you with the few reasons why you simply have to!
There are millions of writers out there, and you are one of them. There's also a lot of advice out there. While I will look to steer you in the right direction, my main goal is to get your expectations straight and then to have you give birth to that baby-book that has been hanging in there for months or even years.
Why do you want to publish a book?
While many people have many reasons for why they want a book published, I can think of one reason that surpasses them all as well as unites them all -- the reason that must be there, or you might as well go and bang your head against the wall.
That reason is simply that writing and getting a book out is just too much fun! Are you with me here? Can you imagine your book on Amazon? Can you imagine getting a box of 20 copies and showing it around? Can you just taste having people tell you how awesome it is that you wrote a book? That's because it is. It's exhilarating. Take that sense of excitement through the process and remember that this is what it's all about!
Self publish or look for a publisher?
A common trap writers fall into is somehow believing that unless a publisher or literary agent takes them on, it's pointless. After all, almost anyone can write a book and pay to self-publish it, right? Is doing something that anyone can do that special? Will I add to that statistic of first time authors that don't sell more than a handful of copies?
You may, but that is not the point. That statistic is not the important one. The important statistic you do not want to fall under is people who don't live life to the fullest, don't follow their passion, and are too afraid to just put themselves out there.
Yes, right -- anyone can write a book. However, No one can write your book!
Not even the best author out there has your point of view. Not John Grisham, not J.K. Rowling and not E. L. James. I want to see them try. You have a unique perspective that simply has to be shared with the world. Let that drive you, not a need to prove something.
Forget about an agent, forget about a publisher
Publishers and agents must ensure one thing and one thing only before taking you on: They need to be convinced that you can sell books! Notice, I did not say "That they can sell your book." A publisher will expect you to be the force behind your book's promotions and sales. For that, they will want you to have a little thing the publishing biz calls a "platform."
It's the platform, stupid!
A platform is a very simple concept: If you speak, how many people listen? If you post something online, how many people read it? If you write a book, how many people will buy it? Publishers want to hear about your idea, and then they want to hear about your platform. It can feel a bit degrading. Here you are with this great idea and the publisher wants to know the size of your mailing list.
You don't need to play that game!
Of course, if you have a circle, this means you are known to those people; you can't be in a social/intellectual circle and not be known in it and appreciated by some few thousand people, then a publisher will take a look at your stuff. However, if you're looking to write your first book, and your audience involves your friends and family, getting a publisher to pick you up is an uphill battle that you may not want to take on.
If it is in you to be a famous author, it doesn't have to start with a traditional book publisher. In fact, if you're hell-bent on having publisher pick up your book, it may be your writing career's death sentence.
I wrote a couple of books, then I began to think that it wasn't worth it unless lots of people bought them. I was frustrated and annoyed. Johanne, my darling wife had to give me a verbal slap to get me reoriented. I completely forgot that I had people email me and tell me how much my book touched them and helped them. I forgot how great it was to have my book out and tell people that I published it. I forgot that it was supposed to be fun! I will not forget again.
The four possible goals of writing your first book
There's so many things that are involved in getting that book out that it can be overwhelming. Mentally, we also have expectations that can be misleading and cause us to never take on writing or be frustrated once we do.
To help with that, I am breaking down the process into four stages for you:
1. Write it
Get it written. Sit on your bum, today, and write some thoughts. Write the beginning of the outline. Write down some chapter heads and what will be under them. Start to develop characters. This is your show, and while there are people that can teach you a better way to write your book, the best way to write your book is you putting words on paper or typing them into your laptop, iPad or even smartphone. Start writing. The only wrong way to write is not to. Having a complete manuscript and having someone competent look through it and nudge you in the right direction is a huge achievement. Get started. Don't over-think it.
2. Publish it
Once you have a manuscript, I would seriously consider self-publishing it. For a few hundred bucks you can sign up with a company such as CreateSpace, format your copy, and you have a book! CreateSpace is what known as POD, or Print On Demand. In that method of publishing, no book is printed before an order is placed, and you can have a book published and selling on Amazon.com in a few weeks. Is that too cool, or what? Do you really need to be rejected by several publishers in order to be satisfied? I doubt it.
3. Sell some copies
Once your book is on Amazon.com, you can, if you choose, promote it. There are many people around that can help you with that. How many can you sell? Really, who cares? If this is your first book, use it as a learning tool. Making serious money on your first book is a one shot in a million. It may happen, but that should not be your goal.
4. Sell a lot of copies
A statistic out there tells us that most books never sell more than a few hundred copies. That should look like a small number, I guess. I used to think that my book would only worthy if I break that and sell thousands. Now I no longer keep track, nor do I really care. If I have a breakthrough, then great. If at some point I decide to focus all my energy on selling my books, then great. But not writing and publishing your book because you think it will not sell is a big mistake. This is your life and your book. Write it, get it out there, and love every minute!
Don't be a newb
If you do self publish, please, please, do not create a 6"x9" trade book and typeset it in 12 pt. Times. It screams "I made this book with Microsoft Word!"
This is all I ask.
A trade book should be 5x8 and the text should be 9 or 10 pt. with wide row spacing (leading). It should also have decent margins. White space says you know what you're doing, at least a little bit.
What I did was look at a book similar to mine and copied the type size, leading and margins. This gave me a good start.