What I wish I'd known
Back in 2018, I published my first book. It was an intentionally short forty-ish page guide for first-time women authors that answered questions about writing a book. I self-published the book and started marketing it to my network and beyond. I believed my book would be helpful for first-time authors and help me build my personal ghostwriting brand. Although I’m proud of the information I provided, I’m not particularly proud of the book itself. Why? Because of what I didn’t know.
The first time you write and publish a book, you don’t know what you don’t know, leaving you in the unfortunate position of not knowing what questions to ask. Even if I knew what questions to ask, I wasn’t even sure who to ask to get an honest answer.
The book writing and publishing industry is quirky, to be polite. Stepping into it is like being dropped on a far-away planet, way out of cellphone range, where you can’t even guess at how to speak the language, you don’t know the first thing about local customs, and asking the somewhat surly locals seems kinda risky.
For instance, there are lots of rules. And those rules change, depending on who you are talking to. And everybody has an opinion, a strong one. Don’t get me wrong, there are great people, great publishers, and great places to find accurate information in this industry. One of my go-to resources is Jane Friedman’s website. Jane is a twenty-five-year veteran of the industry, has a no bullsh!t style, and offers reliable insights and recommendations for authors at any stage of the writing process.
My experience as a recovering novice combined with questions my clients typically ask are the basis for this far too short list of don’ts as you embark on your book writing journey.
#1 Don’t skip the research. You need to research at every stage of book writing; competitive titles, your audience, writing resources like me, facts and attributions, publishing options, agents and publishers, marketing options, and a bunch of other stuff too boring to mention here.
#2 Don’t rush to publish. The writing and editing process can be lengthy. The good news is that taking your time means you are more likely to produce a high-quality book. You can’t edit, fix, or un-publish a book. Once it’s out in the universe, you’re done.
#3 Don’t skip the editing process. Find a superb editor who’s experienced in your genre and let them work their magic. Why? See #2.
#4 Don’t skip reading the fine print. Nearly every stage of this process involves signing some kind of agreement or contract that defines who is responsible for what, who owns what, and who pays what. If you’re a first-time author, understand every word before signing anything. If you’re a repeat offender, um author, understand every word before signing anything.
#5 Don’t let any of this, or anything, stop you from writing and publishing your book. The world needs your wisdom, passion, and willingness to challenge the status quo.
This list barely scratches the surface of what authors need to know about the book writing journey. But it's a good place to start.