To a reader, writing a novel can seem effortless, but it’s anything but. I have recently written and self-published my debut romance novel, Finding Home, and wanted to pass on some tips and tricks on how to write a book, how to market your novel and how to self-publish a book that I’ve found along the way.
If you have a dream to write a novel or an idea that you NEED to put on paper, then here are the bare bones to help you get started.
How to Write a Book: The Basics
1. Ask yourself the following questions.
Why do you want to write?
I had a story in my head I needed to get out and I’ve wanted to be an author in some way since I was twelve and spent a bus ride home from Dubbo crying into the pages of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I love how words can impact people and inspire their emotions, their sex drive (wink wink) and help them find strength they didn’t know they had.
What’s Your Genre and Topic?
Write what you know or love to read. My chosen genre is romance. Not because I’m an expert at romance (chronically single) but I’ve been reading it since I was 13.
Are you a plotter, a pantser or a plantser?
Writers are usually fall either plotters, who meticulously plan their stories in advance, crafting detailed outlines before writing a single word or pantsers, who embrace spontaneity and dive into writing without a predefined plan, letting the narrative unfold organically.
However, a growing number of writers (like me) adopt a hybrid approach known as “planting“, blending elements of both methods. These authors begin with a loose outline or key plot points, providing a guiding structure while leaving ample room for creativity and unexpected discoveries during the writing process. This flexible strategy aims to combine the benefits of planning and spontaneity, offering a personalised and adaptable approach to storytelling.
2. Set a Writing Schedule.
Establish a realistic writing schedule that fits into your daily routine. Consistency is key, whether writing a certain number of words each day or dedicating specific time slots to your work.
I’m a super-procrastinator and have two timers on my phone that allow me to sprint write for 40 minutes and then play games, read, or do some housework for 20.
Every hour for five to six hours a day. I’m terrible at keeping up with it, but I try.
3. Just Write The Words.
They don’t have to be perfect the first time. This is a lesson I’m still learning. My ducks don’t have to all be in a row before I can write. That’s what the revising and editing phases are for.
4. Bring a Notebook Wherever you Go.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. I keep a notebook with me at all times to jot down interesting dialogue and plot ideas while I’m out because I always forget about the notes function on my phone.
5. Hear From Readers
Join writing groups for your genre on social media and make a post asking for beta readers, join a writing or critique group, or ask trusted friends. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights and help you identify areas for improvement. You can share the first draft or wait until it’s a little polished.
6. Revise and Edit…and Probably Rewrite.
After receiving feedback, revise your manuscript. Pay attention to the overall flow, consistency, and clarity of your writing. Edit for grammar, punctuation, and style. If your writing platform has a microphone function (Word has Dictate), have it read your book to you. You’ll find errors you might otherwise have missed.
IF you’re confident in your skill, or not financially able to afford a professional editor, you can self-edit but you need to really know what you’re doing.
Next step: How to Self-Publish a Book
Finding Home sat on my computer for months because I was too afraid to do anything with it. What if people didn’t like it? What if no editor wanted to publish it?
And then my Nan, who was always supportive of my writing, passed and for her, I set off in search of a publisher. When I couldn’t find one and had a close call with a vanity publisher (publishers who ask you for money to publish your work), I decided to do it myself.
It’s not cheap and it takes a lot of extra work, but it can be worth it. After a year on the shelves of Amazon, an indie Aussie publisher accepted my book to be edited and published by them. It comes with pros and cons and is very similar to what I was doing before in terms of marketing.
1. Where To Self-Publish?
Research self-publishing platforms such as Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, or others. Some have fees around distribution and print-on-demand, so check the royalties, and platform user-friendliness before making a decision.
You can use software to create your own ebook and sell it on a website if you have one, but it might have initial fees.
Make sure you read the fine print. For example, if you enrol in Amazon’s Kindle Select program, your book must be exclusive to Amazon while it’s in there.
2. What About Copyright And ISBN’s?
In Australia, copyright protection is automatically granted upon the creation of original works, including books, providing immediate rights to the creator. While not obligatory, including a copyright notice in your book, featuring the symbol (©), year of first publication, and your name, is a recommended practice. Registration with the Australian Copyright Council or other services is optional but can serve as valuable evidence in legal disputes.
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) isn’t a legal requirement in Australia, but it is highly recommended if you plan to sell through various channels. Obtaining an ISBN from Thorpe-Bowker, the official agency, is essential, with separate numbers needed for different formats (e.g., print, ebook, audiobook).
For printed books, each edition and format may require a distinct ISBN, while eBooks and those distributed through self-publishing platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) benefit from having their unique identifiers.
Whether you’re aiming for library and bookstore distribution or navigating self-publishing platforms, understanding the ISBN’s significance, and considering your distribution choices is crucial. Some platforms offer free ISBNs, but using your own provides more flexibility and control. Ensure you check the specific requirements of your chosen platforms for self-publishing, as policies vary regarding ISBN services.
A single ISBN is $44, 10 is $88, and 100 is $480. Considering you will need multiple for different formats, buying in bulk is a good idea.
3. They Say Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover Even Though We All Secretly Do.
A well-designed cover can significantly impact potential readers. Cover trends come in waves and the best way to come up with ideas is to look at the top 100 books on Amazon or another retailer for your genre and subgenre/trope. Those covers will give you an idea of what readers are looking for.
There are many DIY sites like Canva etc where you can design your own, but if you aren’t confident in your skills, the internet can provide a plethora of cover artists. I do know from experience that KDP has a basic cover generator.
4. Format Your Manuscript.
Follow the formatting guidelines provided by your chosen platform. This ensures your book appears polished and professional on various e-readers and in print.
5. Set a Reasonable Price.
Again, the top 100 will give you a good idea of how to price your book. Aim for a competitive yet reasonable price that reflects the value of your work.
6. Ugh. Writing Blurbs.
It’s one of the hardest things about writing. How do you create a concise, engaging book description that highlights the key aspects of your book but doesn’t give everything away? Think about how you would describe your book to a reader if they asked you what it was about. Use language that captivates potential readers and prompts them to explore further.
7. Publish Your Book.
Follow the step-by-step instructions on your chosen self-publishing platform. This usually involves uploading your formatted manuscript, and cover design, and setting pricing and distribution details. Then celebrate with your chosen beverage and snack. This is a momentous thing.
Marketing Your Book: 7 Key Steps
1. Build an Online Presence.
Create an author website or social media page to showcase your works, share your writing journey, and connect with readers. Establish a presence on social media platforms relevant to your target audience. Make sure you post regularly. There’s an often utilised 80/20 tactic many authors employ. 80% of your content is not about promoting your book.
Give glimpses of your workspace, bookshelves, inspiration, snippets of works in progress, a behind-the-scenes look at how you plan your novel, books you’re reading and authors you enjoy. The 20% is for promotions like announcements about book releases, promotional discounts, reviews, or any other content directly aimed at encouraging book sales.
2. Utilise Book Launch Strategies.
Plan a launch strategy that may include a limited-time promotional price, social media announcements, and collaboration with book bloggers or influencers. Perhaps your local library will allow you to do a reading for members who love your genre.
Consider running ads to reach a broader audience. Giveaways can bring in more readers and there are Facebook groups for authors to post their promotions. For romance readers, The Tuesday List emails readers with a list of all new romances (who send the site their details) that will come out.
3. Leverage Book Reviews.
Encourage readers to leave reviews on platforms like Amazon and Goodreads. Positive reviews build credibility and attract more readers. Reach out to book bloggers or reviewers in your genre for additional exposure.
4. Engage with Your Audience.
Respond to reader comments on social media, your website, or book review platforms. Engage in conversations, host Q&A sessions, and create a sense of community around your work. Create bookmarks, stickers, and other merchandise to send as swag if you mail signed copies of books and give them away as prizes in small competitions.
5. Consider Additional Marketing Strategies.
Explore other marketing avenues such as book signings, guest blog posts, podcast interviews, or participating in relevant events. Tailor your strategies to your target audience and genre. There are a few promotional companies online who do most of the promo work for you by sending out flat lays and posts to share on various social media platforms, some also send out review copies for you.
6. Monitor and Repeat.
Regularly monitor your book sales and track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Pay attention to reader feedback and reviews (with a thick skin because not everyone will like your work, and that’s okay) to understand what resonates with your audience.
7. Repeat and Publish More.
Use the insights gained from your first book to improve your writing and marketing strategies for future projects. Building a catalogue of works can enhance your visibility and attract a larger readership over time.
The publishing landscape continually evolves, so stay adaptable and open to learning throughout the process. Each book you write and publish contributes to your growth as an author.
Good luck and happy writing! Be sure to also head to Amazon to get your copy of Finding Home.