Sunday, October 16, 2011

Guest Blogger ~ James P. Wilcox

I'm very excited to have my first guest blogger on Mystery Writers Unite...many thanks to James for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his experience and knowledge with us!!

"Breaking Into the Writing Business"

Congratulations!  You have crossed the final “t” and dotted the final “i” and your literary masterpiece is finished.  All the hours spent hunched over the keyboard have been rewarded with a book you are proud of.  Now that the writing is complete, you may be asking yourself, “What now?”  Well, I am here to give you a few pointers on breaking into the writing business.

Now I know your first inclination is to run out and tell everyone you know (and even some that you don’t) that your book is finished.  After that, you are going to want to start selling your books and pulling in the rave reviews.  Before you start trying to fulfill this dream there are a couple of things you still need to do. 

First, you need to find a good editor.  I know you think your manuscript is perfect, but trust me, it isn’t.  I poured over each of my manuscripts numerous times and they are still riddled with errors.  The problem with trying to edit your own work is the fact that you know what it is supposed to say.  When you are reading, you are already anticipating what comes next and you miss what is actually on the page.  You know what it is supposed to say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what it says.  This is why you need a good editor and I don’t mean your husband/wife, your mother or father, or even your old high school English teacher.  You need to find someone who is a professional, someone who edits for a living.  They are trained to catch the errors we overlook and they aren’t afraid to hurt our feelings.  As a new author, this may sound intimidating and expensive, but there are reasonably priced editor out there (check with writing club, Google it, or contact other writers for recommendations) and we are talking about your reputation as a writer here.  It is worth every penny you spend.

After your manuscript has been edited and you have made all the necessary changes, you have an important decision to make.  Are you going to try for traditional publishing or are you going to self-publish.  There are advantages to both routes and I am not going to try to sway your decision one way or another, but this is a decision you are going to have to make. 

If you are going to try to go the traditional route, the first thing you need to do is write a quality query letter (again, contact your local writing club or other writers for tips on writing this letter).  Once your letter is complete, start sending them out to literary agents (you can find these in the Literary Market Guide or online).  Make sure you are sending your query to agents who represent your genre and who are accepting new clients.  This can be a daunting task and your may get rejection letters from hundreds of agents before you find the one willing to take you on (or you may never find one).  Once you sign with an agent, it is their job to market your book to potential publishers.  This is where you sit around and wait for good news.  Again, you might get dozens of rejections before finding a publisher, or you may never find one at all.  If you are lucky enough to find a publisher, it could take a year from the time you sign the contract until your book is actually printed (which can be a long time to wait).

If you choose the self-publishing route, you have to decide on a company to work with.  There are a lot of self-publishing and print-on-demand companies out their and you need to do your research to find the one right for you (I recommend Createspace, which is owned by Amazon).  The self-publishing route can be fairly simple and you can get your books into customers’ hands quicker, but who is even going to know your book exists?  This is the challenge with self-publishing.

Whether you go the traditional publishing route or self-publish, the one thing you are going to have to do yourself is market the book.  The days of publishing houses running multi-million dollar marketing campaigns are long gone and the bulk of marketing, especially with new authors, falls to the writer.  Yes, that means you.  If you aren’t willing to market your book yourself, for at least three years, then you probably shouldn’t even publish the book.  

How does a new author market their book?  Social media is a great way to start.  When I published my first book, I immediately set up a book page on Facebook and started inviting my friends and family to join the page.  I then ran a give away (an Amazon gift certificate) to the person who got the most people to join my page.  I then emailed everyone I knew about my book.  After that I hit Twitter (I now have over 1000 followers).  I promo my books on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and I send out a steady stream of emails to my followers.  Most authors set up a webpage with a blog to help attract readers.  As you develop your marketing campaign, don’t forget to get in contact with the traditional media (radio, newspaper, and television) to try and create a buzz about your book.  Contact local bookstores and offer to do signings.  Print up bookmarks and business cards that you can hand out to everyone you meet.  Remember, this is a long process and success won’t happen over night.  If you do at least one thing to market your books everyday, whether it is to send out a tweet or sign copies at your local grocery store, you will go a long way in attracting readers, which is the goal.  Remember though, all the marketing in the world won’t cover for a bad book.  Even if you have the greatest novel ever written, there is no guarantee people will read it.  It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, patience, and luck.

James is the author of The M-16 Agenda and Sex, Lies, and the Classroom; two books with grit and flavor! You can read the a the full interview on Mystery Writers Unite on Tuesday, October 18, 2011.


Carrie Green, said...

Nice overview for a writer interested in having a book published. Great that you touched upon Social Media and digital marketing. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, knowing how to market your books online is key!

Becky Illson-Skinner said...


I couldn't agree with your comment more.

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