So You Want To Write A Book............5 Tips Authors Need to Know BEFORE They Publish

The advent of the Internet has had a powerful affect on the publishing industry. In the past, writing was traditionally done by authors who considered this their professional career. I place myself in this category.

Putting pen to paper has been my passion for the last decade. I have co-owned/edited a magazine, been on staff with another in New York, published over 150 magazine articles, released my first print book - Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals - in 2014 and review books for iRead Book Tours.

However, the Internet - along with a myriad of new publishing options - has changed the game. There has been a steady increase in two types of authors that were exceptions before. The first I like to call the Pieces of Gold writers. This group feels strongly led to share their experiences and wisdom (pieces of gold) gained through life experiences such as divorce, health issues, caring for loved ones (dementia, ALS, aging, special needs), adoption, pain management, teaching, etc. Often they only release one book. The second are entrepreneurs who realize a published book is a great calling card that will help brand them as an expert in their field.

Many of these new authors choose to work with self-publishing or hybrid publishing companies. In my role of book reviewer, I have seen everything from a truly professional offerings to what can only be described as what-were-they-thinking disasters.

What bothers me the most is reviewing essentially good books held back by mistakes that take away from the book's impact – poorly laid out, unreadable table of contents, mediocre editing with frequent mistakes (usually by a friend), cheap and ineffective cover art, odd margins (book laid out by someone who didn't understand the printing process), the wrong font, the wrong font size, stream of consciousness writing and last but not least, inappropriate material.

I have three examples for you. One was a memoir by a former CIA operative that used the term water buffaloes to refer to former co-workers. A good editor would have let him know that this side vignette and the use of this offensive label to refer to the weight of his co-workers was distracting, inappropriate and not relevant to the story line. The second was one of the best new fiction writers I have had the privilege to read in quite some time. Unfortunately her budget publisher let her use a dime store look cover that screamed cheap pulp fiction. Last was a well-written political book that honestly had the worst and most unreadable table of contents I had ever seen. If I had looked at it in a bookstore, I would have put it down after seeing this, which would have been unfortunate. The book had a lot to say.

For entrepreneurs in particular, your book is also your calling card. Would you hand out sub-par business cards to prospects or show up at a speaking engagement wearing workout sweats? There are people who have managed to be successful without professional input, but they are rare. There are also companies who claim a professional level that they actually don't provide - I know. I've reviewed authors who used them. So do your research diligently and be willing to pay for quality work.

What's important? Here are my top five!
  • Editing – You need to work with someone who edits professionally and is willing to push you outside your complacency. They are not there to help you feel good about your writing or tell you how great you are. They are there to help you see what you have written from a new angle and make it the best it can be. This will be a trial by fire, but worth the difficulty of the process. If it's not challenging, they're not doing their job.
  • Proper formatting – There is a look to a professional book. The correct margins, font and type size speak volumes. It's shocking how many authors have someone typeset their work for the printer who doesn't understand what a bleed is (you can look it up HERE).
  • Cover art - The cover is what readers see first. It's what draws them to pick up your book from the shelf or click on it in a digital store. It needs to be high-quality, done by a professional, laid out with the right margins, formatted correctly and appropriate for your subject. Review a graphic artist's portfolio until you find someone whose style draws you.  Wander through the Amazon site in your book's category to get ideas to take to your first meeting.
  • Focus – Know your subject. Lay out your book clearly in an outline so you understand what goes in each chapter and stick to it. Cut out anything not on topic. Side stories are fun to share and can be great of strongly tied to what you're saying. But they are not effective in keeping the readers attention or the focus on what you are sharing if they are just side stories there because you like them. 
  • Get professional feedback – Friends and industry connections cannot give you the hard feedback you need. Be courageous. 

So you want to write a book? Then commit to doing it.  Lay out a detailed outline of what is in each chapter and write in your daily planner how many words you will accomplish each day.  A writer writes - it's simple as that. And be committed to offering a quality product that is an asset to whatever career you choose to pursue.

No matter what anyone says – there is no substitute for hard work and professional feedback.

Here are links to the professionals I worked with on my first book:

InspireABook (weekend workshop to lay out book in detail – also available as a webinar)
Influence Publishing (book development, proofreading, typesetting (layout) and ePub conversion)
Adrian Horvath Graphic Artist (cover art)
iRead Book Tour (30 stop digital book review tour)