by Yvonne DiVita
I'm talking storytelling and communication, of late. I am putting my focus back on my core passion - writing, sharing, supporting women who want to succeed in business in a digital world. It all involves communication skills that get tangled up in 'social media' - when they should stand on their own.
- You must learn how to write well.
- You must never believe you know how to write well enough.
- You must to learn how to write well over and over again.
- You must not think you write well enough to stop learning how to write well.
- You must consider publishing, whether online or in print, to be taken seriously.
You must read. And then read some more. In fact, put down the business books and read the classics. I'm talking Hawthorne, Virginia Wolfe, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Tolkien, even the not yet classics by Stephen King and others who invent entire worlds out of thin air. Yes, even Harry Potter. There is a wealth of learning in fiction.
And then, you can, if you are inspired, write your own book. Share your expertise. Become a sought after speaker and professional in your field, contributing the kind of content people will share. Publishing is your promise to your audience that you not only took the time to become a good writer, but that you will continue to study writing and improve, and by that purpose, help them become whatever it is they are striving to become.
Publishing opens up a multitude of options and questions. People are still confused over the idea of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and print on demand publishing. The first and third are closely connected relatives; the middle option is still out there, but not doing so well. In my brazen opinion, you understand. Many traditionally published authors may disagree with me.
Amazon, the big gorilla of bookstores (and a whole lot of other stuff, these days, but remember they started out as a bookstore), has a vision of publishing in the future where self-publishing isn't the ugly step-sister to 'real' publishing. In the article linked above, on self-publishing, they shared this, "Best-selling hybrid author Hugh Howey shared the stage with Fine*. Howey could be an author from Fine’s future. He has self-published ebooks and audiobooks, traditionally published print books and translations, and has no definite plans in the future as to how he will publish his next title." [*Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon]
When looking at books and sales, Publisher's Weekly reported in 2013 that "sales of print units slipped". The story reports a drop of 2.5% according to Nielsen's retail and club channel. Other reports I searched online show similar results, indicating a rise in ebooks, and in self-publishing, in general. As a former print on demand company president, I knew this day was coming. I watched more people flock to self-publishing, via print on demand, and I secretly cheered as giant publishing firms began to recognize the value of this publishing model.
What I didn't like was the lack of professionalism I was seeing in the industry. All to often, someone decides she will write a book - because books give you credibility and respectability - book as business card we used to say, but she will fail at her endeavor because she thought writing a book was not only simple, but easy. Being able to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard does not give you license to write a book.
I receive a good many self-published books to review. In too many instances I have to put them down after the first chaper. Occasionally, I put them down after the first page. Why? Because the writing is so poor. Not necessarily 'bad', just poor. The writer clearly did not pay attention to flow, syntax, grammar, punctuation, spelling, or the fact that she was writing for someone else, not for herself. She, or he, forgot the 'story'. She, or he, did not hire an editor. I'm not even going to get into the need for a cover designer.
If you decide to write a book, my best advice is to take a few writing classes first. THEN you can start to explore the world of publishing. Here is a short list of MUSTS:
1. Study books. Understand the purpose of chapters, titles, subtitles, and how the BOOK communicates the message.
2. Your options are wide open on what form of publishing to use. Understand...
a. self-publishing is an option, it is not free, it exists to get your book in print, it will not stand on its own once the book is in print
b. print on demand is popular because you can print one copy, two copies, a dozen, a hundred, whatever you choose; and if you update, the book itself is updated at next printing
c. traditional publishing still considers itself the Board of Directors of the publishing world... but, consider this: no one, at least no one I've asked and I've asked a lot of people, looks to see who published a book before they buy it - your book needs to stand on its own, and you need to be its biggest fan... traditional publishers require it, you should also require it
3. You need a cover designer. An editor. A proofreader. No, editor and proofreader are not the same.
4. You need to be dedicated to the book. You can't start it, put it away for a bit, return to it, and think the content in it will be relevant. Things change overnight today. If you are determined (be determined, please) to write a book, do it. Consistently.
5. You must begin marketing the book well before it's done and in print or made into an ebook.
6. You must not believe friends and relatives when they say it's fantastic. Find a disinterested person to review it ahead of time, and demand she offer real feedback. Take the feedback graciously.
7. If you think you're going to make a million dollars or become an overnight best-selling sensation, put the pen away, turn the computer off and go buy a lottery ticket. Just saying.
8. Understand the ins and outs of publishing. Understand that regardless of the imprint on the book (of the publisher, whether it's you or someone else), it's your book, you have to stand by it, and if you can't put the time in required to make it professional, don't do it.
9. Attend a few conferences on writing and publishing. Not only will you glean a wealth of learning, you will meet good people, and begin your mailing list. Yes, you need a mailing list.
10. Visit blogs on writing. Ask questions. Make friends with the people you consider your audience. Write and fail and write again. Write and review and cut your first draft in half. Then, cut it in half again, without losing the message. If you can do that, you're almost ready ... to be a book author.