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I have been writing for five years. In the beginning, I was clueless. No one took the time to sit down to tell me how to write a manuscript. Frankly, even a writing course does not teach you everything you need to learn in writing. As Stephen King says in On Writing, “Practical experience is better than any course on writing.” Two things he says make a writer: “Read a lot and write a lot.” Another resource I use is 11th Edition Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition, Robert Lee Brewer, Editor. There are updated editions, but I find the 11th Edition easy to follow. If you are thinking about writing a book or have written a new book already, there are some things you need to know beforehand:

1) Consider in which direction you desire to go, whether self-publishing or traditional publishing. I chose self-publishing for various reasons. I liked the control of the book, 100% copyrights and a shorter length of time than traditional publishing. Having not written a book before, I wanted to branch out and test the “waters” so to speak.

2) While designing your front cover, consider finding free online images instead of paying a professional artist or designer. A good source to use is Thinkstock. I believe you do not have to get prior copyrights with them. My niece is incredibly talented as an artist and has designed most of my covers; yet, expensive due to copyrights. The same is true of photos used in your book(s). In addition, written permission to copyrights by each photographer and/or artist is needed. Also, this goes with writer of blurb on back cover. Word of warning – publishers will not publish without them.

3) As far as editing, I chose to self-edit. I’ve had only one book professionally edited. It is not only quite costly, it is time-consuming. It took two months to get my edited manuscript back. It is a slow process. The editor(s) mainly gave me suggestions to guide me through the manuscript. As my senior publisher consultant advised, if your English grammar is bad or a second language, editing may be the way to go. Beyond that, one can have a second or third pair of eyes without the cost of professional editing.

4) Once you publish your book(s), consider networking through friends and family. I started out selling to family and friends. Offer a discounted rate in the beginning to get your name out in the community. I feel it is okay to give away a few books to others and give as gifts. Place an article about yourself and book(s) published in the local newspaper. This goes along with book sales too. Some writers and authors do interviews with radio shows. Others do videos online. If you don’t feel comfortable with either avenue, you will need to market locally. Market where people know you and familiar with your writing. It is easier than selling your book(s) to a complete stranger who does not know of your works.

5) There are several companies that call writers and authors, I presume from a list. They are telemarketers. I avoid them at all costs by not answering them or hanging up the phone. It is wise to list your cell phone number. If they know your home phone number, they will bug you to death. Still, there are some that get through. I prefer email, in that way I can request information from the company and the package they are selling. All of them seem to want you to buy a package. There are a few exceptions. The traditional publishing is an exception or a literary agent.

6) Remember, to do your research on the company beforehand. This can be done online. Try to find out all you can about the company before buying a package, especially if signing a contract. Never sign anything before you research. Some companies are reliable, but some are not as creditable. It is a seller’s market, so buyers beware! If you do not hear back from them in a reasonable time, this may be a scam. If you don’t feel right about something, your ‘gut feeling’ is probably right. You can usually cancel within 7 to 10 business days. This is your legal right as a buyer, no matter what the company says.

7) Have a plan to market your book(s) before publishing. Social media with a blog website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are always a good start. But more than that, devise how you will market your book(s). Book sales are promising, but if you are a new writer or author, it will take time for the community to recognize you as an accomplished writer. Ads can be costly and may not bring the results you want. However, maybe consider marketing the book by online campaign ads. Available through Amazon and Ingram, it links your book(s) to your author’s website. You can also offer a free item to interested readers or even ask for a donation.

8) It takes more than sheer ability and talent. I hate when someone says, “You got the gift of writing, what happened?” It makes me feel like a failure as a writer and author. Yet, it takes time to establish yourself in any career. Give it time and be patient. New opportunities will come along. Stay positive and it’s important to enjoy the writing process. I heard Tyler Perry say onetime in an interview that it took seven years for people to recognize his screenwriting. Now, he is a billionaire with multiple television shows and programs.

Again, practical experience is the best policy. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means. I only relate what I’ve experienced over the years. My first book I thought was probably my worst. I get better with each additional book I write. Don’t be repetitive or too wordy. I have to work on that too; I often find myself “over-expressive.” In addition, if the reader can relate the story to their life, all the better. The best thing to do, is to start writing. Most importantly, have fun while writing.

Your feedback is welcomed, negative or positive.