Why is it that so many people start writing a book but never see it published? From my experience, there are a variety of reasons. Some simply lose interest. Others hit what’s commonly known as writer’s block. Still others don’t know how to get published once their manuscripts are finished. Simply put, many authors don’t have a plan for getting from manuscripts to books in the hands of readers.
Over the past few years, and from the hundreds of conversations I have had with authors at book fairs, trade shows, and conferences, I’ve found that there are six things that successful authors do to get published. So if publishing a book is a goal for you, here are six tips to help you get that manuscript off your computer and into the hands of readers.
Tip #1: Set a date when you want to hold the first copy of your book. The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. It may be an important event, such as a speaking engagement, holiday, or even birthday party. For example, one author I worked with had the goal of getting his book done by his fiftieth birthday so he could give a copy to everyone who attended the party. That date became one of the key motivations for him to finish his book.
Tip #2: Create a timeline with the milestones you need to pass to reach your publishing goal. The second thing you need to do is create a schedule with the tasks that must be completed to meet your deadline. In other words, you need to understand what is needed to get from where you are to where you want to be and set appropriate milestones along the way. If you already understand publishing, you may be able to do this on your own, but most authors need to work with someone who knows the publishing process to make this happen. Your timeline should include important steps like completing your manuscript, editing your manuscript, submitting your manuscript, and allowing time for both cover and interior design. Of course, the timeline for the book will depend on the type of book you are writing. For example, a children’s book will take less time to edit than a lengthy historical fiction.
Tip #3: Determine the best time for you to write and make an appointment on your calendar. My third tip is to determine the best time for you to write and block out that time on your calendar. What I’ve learned from my own experience and conversations with multiple authors is that most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write. I recall one conversation with an author who has published more than twenty books, some traditionally and some self-published. I was having lunch with her and her husband, and I asked her if there was a time that was better than others for her to write. Before I could finish the sentence, her husband blurted out, “Five thirty in the morning.” By his own observation he had noticed that was the most productive time for his wife to write. If you want to get work done, it’s very important to know what time of day you write most productively and make sure that time stays available for you to work on your manuscript.
Tip #4: Make yourself accountable to someone. The fourth tip is to be accountable to someone. Share your goals and milestones with someone who will encourage you and help you stay on task. It could be a friend, a spouse, an editor, an agent, or a publishing consultant. The fact is that most of us work better when we have someone checking in and reminding us of our deadlines.
Tip #5: Start planning your promotion before you finish your manuscript. Now this may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but with the advent of social media and the other opportunities we have to communicate with people these days, you can have people anticipating the launch of your book long before you finish your manuscript. One of the key things you have to do to promote your book successfully is identify your audience. For whom is your book intended, and who might actually enjoy reading it? This is a seemingly small thing, but it’s very important because it lays the foundation for promoting your book. I asked an author one time who the audience was for his book was, and he very seriously looked at me and said, “Every man, woman, and child living on this planet.” While I admired his ambition, it really was an unrealistic way to think about connecting with potential readers. A specific, carefully defined audience usually leads to a good promotional plan.
Tip #6: Plan an event to celebrate the publication of your book. Many people start writing a book, but far fewer get to the goal of publishing, so when you do, it is time to celebrate. This is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of promoting your book, and it’s actually quite fun to think about it when you’re doing the hard work of editing and revisions and proofreading. You might want to mark the occasion by holding a book signing at a bookstore, but you can also be creative. Depending on your book, you may want to host it at a kitchen store if you have a cookbook, or a church if you have a spiritual book, or a school if you have a children’s book. Just be sure you take time to celebrate your accomplishment no matter the venue.
I trust you have found these tips helpful, and I am confident that by following them you can reach your goal of becoming a published author. And when you do, send me an invite to your book launch event. I just may be there to celebrate with you.
Join Keith Ogorek in the free FWA webinar “Six Tips on How to Get Published” on August 13, 2016, at 11:00 AM EST. Register today and save your virtual seat.