Advice to Aspiring Authors
When I first started writing, two things happened that encouraged me to continue. I hope through this article I can encourage you to continue, and to make your book the best that it can possibly be. In the early 80’s I got my first agent, (which I paid a $200.00 reading fee to). I didn’t know then, what I know now—reputable agents do not charge a reading fee, so be sure you’re dealing with a reputable agent if you decide to go that route. After months of hearing nothing and receiving no offers I cancelled my agent and struck out on my own. I approached what was then called a “vanity” publishing company. I received a very nice letter that I still have, and will keep forever. The company told me my book was too good to be vanity or self-published and that I should approach the major publishing companies. However, if I could not get a major publishing company to take me on, they would publish my book. They gave me a list of prices that was, of course, way out of my budget.
I continued writing; however, I realized that perhaps I needed some type of instruction. I joined a writer’s group and for the next five years I attended week long workshops learning to hone my craft. And there I received my second inspiration. The then editor for a major publishing company was a resident at these workshops, and after reviewing my first work told me the following: “You’re going to make it. Your writing needs WORK, but you have great stories. Great stories are what every author needs. Writing can be improved, but if you don’t have a great story to start with you’ll never make it.
James Patterson is often bad mouthed for his writing style. True, his works aren’t always great literary masterpieces. Patterson is a story-teller. He tells a story with action, visual scenes and a fast pace that keeps you turning pages. Bad mouthed or not—the number of books he’s published, and the number of sales he’s made speak for themselves. People love a GOOD STORY, and they’ll follow a good story teller.
In 2006 my dream of being a published author came true when I received a contract from Echelon Press for my first book. Your dream can come true too.
1) Start with a great story, and know your audience. Know what they like. Do they like a slow pace, fast pace, or a mixture of both. Read every book you can by other authors in your genre. Study their styles. And then, develop your own style.
2) Scope out the potential of your story—is it a one book release, or should you break it into a series? Once again, look to your audience. In some genres series are snapped up, in others readers prefer that stand alone book.
3) Your story is in your head. You know everything about it. However, putting it on paper so that the reader knows what you know is totally different. Read and reread your work making sure you’ve connected your scenes, properly laid out the plot, sub-plots and all twists and turns.
4) I personally don’t use outlines, but for many authors they are an integral part of writing. I would recommend either an outline or board on which you keep notes like characteristics of your characters. Don’t start out with a left-handed killer and wind up with a forensic plot that shows a right-handed person committed the crime.
5) Know your scenery. One suggestion that I feel always works best is to write your first book in a place, time and geographic area that you are personally familiar with. If you choose to use an unfamiliar place then be sure to do your research and that your facts, scenery and even weather is accurate.
6) Write what you yourself want to read. How many of us have read and book and made the statement, I could write a book better than that. If it’s something you’re familiar with and you LOVE—yes, you probably can. Write a book that you would BUY. It’s difficult to ask readers to purchase something that you yourself would not buy.
7) Make friends with other authors in your own genre. Ask questions. Most authors are happy to help and assist fellow authors.
8) Start your reader base NOW! Set up a MySpace page and post poetry, short stories or excerpts from things you’re working on. Do the same with Facebook and any other forum that you can find. What you do now will make the future much easier, and much more profitable for you. (I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THIS 5 YEARS AGO!) Start a savings account for marketing purposes. Even if you only put a dollar a day in, when your book is released you’ll have the money for a launch party.
9) Figure out which publishing route is best for you. Every author wants to snag that big advance with a major publishing company. Few will ever realize that dream. Even formerly published authors are now looking at Indie publishing, and digital rights for past and future books.
My last, and most important advice—never give up. And keep writing. If you impress your readers with your first book—they’re going to want a second. So don’t disappoint them. New readers looking for new authors are more apt to buy from an author who had more than one book.
Good luck, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I love to talk with new authors, readers and just people in general.
Linda S. Prather, Author