Today is the best possible time to be an author.
When I began writing novels in 1986, it was 2 years and 8 months before I saw my first mystery novel, Kill Cue, in a bookstore. It took more than a year from contract signing to publication. Today, things happen more quickly because self-publishing is the name of the game.
You don’t need traditional publishers anymore.
Over the last decade, Print on Demand has made it possible to scale down the cost of publishing. No huge print runs for books, which might possibly sell, and no more remainders when they didn’t. Best of all, the world has finally become comfortable with buying their books on the Internet.
Amazon gave power to authors.
Today, many writers are self-publishing books through Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle programs (or other companies) because they want a greater share of the pie than traditional publishers offer. In the late 1980s, Bantam-Lynx gave me a 7% royalty on the cover price of my first novels; today with the right pricing, you can get 70% royalty on your published novel.
Self-publishing finally gave authors complete control over their own books. When you self-publish through Amazon, you gain global distribution to major eBook stores, which means you can reach millions of readers without a New York publisher. Your book will get in the hands of your readers quickly, with the advantages of low cost delivery, global scale and no upfront costs for you.
It’s a wonderful time to be writing a novel
Back in the old days, you wrote a manuscript and sent it to publishers who would decide if you deserved to be published. If they bought your manuscript (and only about 10% of all manuscripts were purchased by New York publishers back then), it was out of your hands.
Digital publishing has democratized
the publishing industry.
Today, you can write and publish your book in paperback and eBook for almost no money and reap the rewards. No agent. No publisher other than you. Your book remains in print for as long as you want.
Kindle eBooks account for less than 10% of all the books sold by Amazon, so you’ll probably want to publish your novel in paperback first. Besides, there’s something cool about holding your paperback book in your hands. It also makes it easier to sell your books in book stores and to libraries.
If you ask them to do so, CreateSpace will publish your book for Kindle easily. Amazon accounts for two-thirds of all eBook sales and a huge percentage of eBooks are being sold by indie authors like you rather than traditional publishers.
In the first eight months of 2015, the number of self-published books (eBooks and paperbacks) in America surpassed the number of traditionally published books. Since the market has been besieged with self-published books, of course, some have been undeniably awful. Bad editing, lackluster covers and mediocre content have been widespread.
Are you teaching me the rules of writing?
There are no hard and fast rules for writing fiction, or if there are some, nobody knows what they are. However, there are many precedents, created by the millions of writers who went before you. We no longer call them rules for writing fiction. Instead, I’m sharing with you the methods other writers have discovered, by trial and error, successful methods which have resulted in well-written novels by those writers.
In my research, I looked at 100 self-published novels. More than 60% of the books were virtually unreadable. Apparently, some writers are writing novels before learning how to write them. Readers complained that the books had POV problems, misspelled words, inferior character development, and pointless plots.
Check out these short excerpts from reviews of novels available on Amazon.
1. “Mistakes all over and immature writing. Head-hopping viewpoint. The story line was completely disjointed. Characters were forgettable.”
2. “Spelling and grammar errors abound. The protagonist was about as likeable as a disease. I DO need to CARE about the protagonist in a book.”
3. “The characters don't feel ‘real.’ I'm frustrated with the heroine of this book. She has no backbone nor, apparently, a brain in her head. No one could be this gullible. Sure it's fiction, but couldn’t the story be somewhat realistic?”
Those reviews came from people who wanted the books to be good, or at least readable.
Since anyone can write and publish a novel today, that literary democracy causes lots of bad writing to be published. However, you can buck this trend by writing the best novel you can. That’s why you bought my book and why I will help you write your novel. This book is based on the wide-ranging 900-page textbook I created for my online writing classes. It also includes material I learned during my 30-year career as a writer and editor.
Can you write a novel and publish it yourself?
Yes, of course, you can. If you strive to write the best novel you can and rewrite it carefully, you can make lots of money with a good book. The market needs your well-written novel. Quality rises to the top in publishing.
You’re scared to write a novel.
Of course you are. Writing is a dangerous profession. (Bullﬁghting is more dangerous, but at least the bull doesn't try to rewrite your book.) Writing a novel takes an investment of your time and faith in your ability. Fear and anxiety are natural emotions for a novelist, and these feelings are not unique to beginners. Will you look deep inside your soul and ﬁnd nothing worthwhile? (Like the great line from the Broadway musical, A Chorus Line: “I dug right down to the bottom of my soul, and I found nothing.”)
Many writers beat themselves up because the ﬁrst words they write look dumb. Well, nobody writes perfectly the ﬁrst time, which is why I call your first draft the secret draft; nobody gets to see it but you. Write anything that comes to mind. Since you are the only one to see it, you can go down the wrong road and even back yourself into corners difficult to get out of.
Millions of people cannot write a simple sentence. You can. You are a writer. Some days you’ll write badly, some days you’ll write well. It’s unlikely there will ever be a day you cannot write at all. It’s okay if you're scared. We all are.
I have written five novels, three of which sold a combined 220,000 copies. My purpose in writing this book is to teach you how to write a GOOD self-published novel.
What will you learn from this book?
1. Since you are no longer dependent on traditional publishers, you can create your own genre. New Adult (NA) is a new genre created by several self-published women. I’ll list the old genres as well.
2. Learn how to find adhesive ideas for your novel. (Ideas other ideas adhere to.) We’ll use the novel idea generator called Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) and discuss how to save your ideas.
3. You’ll learn to write a secret draft, which allows you to make abundant mistakes, and how to create your leapfrog outline, which, along with storyboards, keeps you on track as you write.
4. We’ll get into the structure of your novel and learn the key to a good plot, the hook, the joyride and the payoff. (Thanks, Aristotle!)
5. You will learn the significance of your first ten pages. When readers look inside your book on Amazon, those ten pages are when they decide to buy your book or not.
6. You’ll learn how to create characters your readers will care about. Your protagonist and antagonist are the most important ones. We’ll even get into how to name your characters.
7. Viewpoint is so important it can affect sales. I will simplify it for you and teach you the best and most useful viewpoint for your novel (limited multiple).
8. We will get into dialogue, which moves your novel along. It is like imitation cheese. We’ll tackle interior monologue, also known as thinking.
9. Too much description will get in the way of your story. That’s why it should be used sparingly. I’ll show you how.
10. You’ll learn how to write in scenes, like a movie in your mind. Scenes keep your novel moving ahead.
11. Flashbacks slow down novels, but if you plan to use them, at least you’ll learn how to get into them and back out again. Sometimes a recollection turns out to be better for your book.
12. You will learn how conflict and suspense combine to make your novel work. Readers prefer a satisfying end to your novel. Give it to them and they will keep buying your books and tell their friends.
13. After your secret draft is done, we’ll check your facts, so readers will buy your lies. Then comes the best part of being a writer, rewriting and revising your novel. I’ll teach you how to cut, edit and improve your book.
14. We’ll talk about promoting your books on social media, “beta” readers and beating writer’s block. I’ll teach you how to do book signings and appear on television to promote your books.
Here’s why I can help you.
· After 14 years as a radio journalist, I purchased my first computer in 1984 and began a fulltime, freelance nonfiction-writing career.
· I wrote more than 400 business magazine articles, and wrote humor columns for several magazines and served as managing editor of the Florida Business Journal Newspaper.
· After Bantam-Lynx in New York published my first Veronica Slate mystery novels, I began teaching novel writing at AOL’s Online Campus.
· In fifteen years, through dedicated chat rooms, regular email and two weekly virtual classrooms, I taught 4,125 students from all over the USA how to write a first novel. I actually read and edited more than 3,000 first chapters for my students.
· Check out my published online graduates by going to Amazon and searching on:
· Knights of the Shield by Jeff Messick and
· Destined to Choose or Strength to Stand by Sheyna Galyan.
Any questions can be addressed to me at:
Be careful, however.
· A woman from California who was in my 1997 online writing class asked me questions by email almost every day for a year.
· I ended up falling in love with her and moving from Florida to Los Angeles to marry her!
· We celebrated our 17th anniversary on December 13th, 2015, my darling, Lori Dagmar Huffman Crews and me.
· (She is also the Senior Editor at Petersen Press and edited this book.)