There are a lot of people trying to publish a book. They have great stories to tell and they write well. Yet, their manuscripts often end up at the bottom of the slush pile and never grab an editor’s attention. Why is that? Because when you try to get published the traditional way, you’re trying to get a foot in the door at the same time as many thousands of other people.
So the competition is pretty fierce. Not only that, editors can drop the ball. They bypass manuscripts that end up becoming best-selling novels because they make the wrong judgment call about the manuscript.
Many authors who have been overlooked with traditional publishing have found a great deal of success on Kindle – plus, the money is better. With traditional publishing, you only get a small portion of the proceeds.
The general amount of the cover price the author will see from a mass market paperback is determined by percentage – and that percentage depends on the publishing company that buys your book.
You would first have to earn out any advance that you’re paid before you see royalties. The truth is that traditional publishing doesn’t pay that well. Another truth is that some of these publishing companies are not open to first time authors without an agent.
If you do land an agent, that agent then gets about 15% of your earnings right off the top. The payouts all go to the agent first and then you get paid. By publishing through Kindle, you get to keep more of the profits that belong to you.
But thinking about doing it won’t get it done. If you want to see your words in print and you want to earn money with your writing work, then you need to get started now.
Which Genre Should You Write?
When you’ve been in the writing world awhile, you’ll hear other writers talk about writing what you love. You can figure out how to write what you love by understanding what you enjoy reading.
If you like reading romance, that’s what you should write. But if you like reading science fiction, that’s what you should write. It’s okay to write in more than one genre – and plenty of authors do that.
However, whatever you write is what your readers will come to expect. You build a loyal following. So you don’t want to write sweet romance and then an erotica novel under the same name.
While as the author, you’re free to write whatever you want, you do want to keep your readers in mind. You can write what you enjoy reading and you can write what you care about, but you have to keep in mind that just like anything else, publishing is a job.
You want to pay attention to what’s selling in the market. So look at what’s selling well on Kindle. The funny thing about what sells and what doesn’t is that it comes in cycles.
Then everyone jumps on that bandwagon, the market gets too many of the same thing and suddenly you can’t give away another book in that genre- much less sell it.
Vampire and werewolf stories were the rage. Now they’re not. Historicals once ruled – but now they don’t. However, they will cycle back around. So what you want to do is to pay attention to what’s going on in the market.
Never write what you can’t stand to write just because it’s selling. You’ll be miserable. Keep in mind that just because something has never been written before – doesn’t mean it can’t be.
Choosing a Voice for Your Story
Each writer has a unique voice. It’s simply the way that you write based on all the things that made you who you are. However, novels are written in first person, third person, or second person – and it’s your character’s voice that’s telling the story.
You want to write how your character would speak. In first person writing, you’re writing the book in your character’s voice by using ‘I’. For example, if your character walked into a library, you would write, “I walked into the library.”
Second person point of view is more narrative and is not commonly used. An example of second person voice is “You walked into the library.”
Using the same sentence as an example, third person voice would phrase it like this: “She walked into the library.”
There are pros and cons with all three voices. The most commonly used voice for romantic fiction, suspense and mainstream novels – is third person. First person is used often in young adult and chick lit writing. Second person is what you would use for a very different novel and it would be risky as a new writer because second person is not as widely read.
How do you know which voice to use? There are two things to keep in mind when deciding. One is the main characters in your story and the second is the genre.
You can test which voice would work best for your characters by writing out a scene in first person and then trying it in third person. If you use multiple points of view, you would still keep each point of view (or POV) in the same voice.
You can tell which voice you find most comfortable to write in by looking at what you like to read. If you don’t like to read books written in first person, then you’re probably not going to like writing in it and you won’t feel comfortable.
Creating the Perfect Plot
You have to know how your story is going to work out. That doesn’t mean that you have to know everything there is to know about your plot before you begin to write.
But you have to know how the story progresses, how it’s going to hold together and when to reveal what drives the plot. If you don’t have something that drives the plot, you won’t have readers turning pages.
A plot is like a map to get you to your destination and along the way, you’ll have plot points. One thing that will turn readers away is a plot that calls for the reader to suspend belief so much that it comes across as too stupid to be real.
Another thing is inconsistent plot points. If killers are after your hero and you need him to confront the killers, having your hero enter a dark basement without a weapon after he hears footsteps isn’t going to sit well with readers.
The plot is the backbone of your novel and every book has one. Sometimes books are plot driven – and sometimes they’re character driven. Plot driven books tend to be faster paced.
If you watch enough television or read enough books, you’ll see that there are seven basic plots and those seven basic plots are used as foundation to flesh out your plot.
The seven basic plots are man (or woman) against self, supernatural, nature, environment, religion, technology or person against person. You flesh out the plot by choosing one and giving it details.
For example, if you were doing a basic person against person plot, you can flesh that out by choosing murder, adultery, revenge, family discord or kidnapping. You can learn how to flesh a plot out simply by looking at the news. You’ll often find examples of every single story plot in the news.
Man against nature (fighting to survive while lost in the woods) or person against person (woman fights to escape kidnapper). If you were choose the plot of man or woman versus self, that can be something like coming to terms with the death of a loved one or some internal struggle that acts as a catalyst to change your character.
If you do enough reading, you’ll see that almost every single plot under the sun has not only been done, but it’s been done quite often. So the trick to writing a novel that sells well is to make sure that your plot is unique. You can use the same basic plot, but give yours a twist that so that it stands out in a reader’s mind.
How to Develop Good Characters
In a book, there are two types of characters – the main character(s) and the supporting or secondary characters. Here, we’ll take a look at how to develop both so that they help you to create unforgettable books.
With any main character, the worst thing in the world you can do is to make that character perfect. Remember that characters are loosely based on real people. Since there aren’t any perfect people, there shouldn’t be perfect characters. He or she must have flaws, but the flaws have to be ones that readers can identify with.
No one wants to read about the female character that is beautiful, talented, had a perfect childhood – and her worse nightmare is breaking a nail. Not only is that boring, but readers can’t identify with a character like that.
Your character should have a background – where he came from, what he does, what he’s afraid of – and it should be real. For example, look at Indiana Jones: larger than life, a very lovable character, and he’s afraid of snakes. And who can’t relate to that fear of slithering snakes?
You want to create complete backgrounds on all of your characters – know them inside and out. The more you know about your character, the easier it will be for you to find what motivates him. Put your characters through situations that real people face.
If you have a female character and she’s the lead in a homicide investigation, you know she’s going to be a tough character. She’s seen the uglier side of life and that tends to jade people.
To help that character connect with readers, you would present her soft side. Working with sick children or she’s experienced a crushing loss that compels her to fight for justice for others.
You want to create emotional ties with the reader even if your character is extremely tough. You want to give the reader a way to connect and understand and sympathize with that character.
Supporting characters can be tricky to write. You have to be careful that your secondary character doesn’t overshadow your main character. You want to give them enough detail to make them interesting and believable.
But you don’t want to give them so much detail that your reader would rather your secondary character be the lead. Keep in mind that supporting characters are there to support your main characters.
They’re the ones that your characters interact with. But if the supporting character has a minor appearance – like a waitress at a coffee shop, then you wouldn’t give that waitress a lot of space. You wouldn’t give her a background or anything that sticks out unless she’s an important part of the story.
Setting the Scene for Your Story
Setting is important to your story and is one of the tools you can use to make your novel stand out. Setting is where your story exists. It’s the time, location and place that gives reality to your story.
Setting shows the way that your character lives. It’s the environment and what’s going on around your character. A rainy fall day evokes a very different mental image than a hot, sun-filled summer day.
A barefoot, dirty kid scrounging for food on the streets of 1930 London gives a different mental picture than a modern day heiress dining out in a fine establishment.
You want to get setting right because it literally sets the mood and the tone for your story. Not only does setting cover the range of seasons, but it also covers day or night and morning or noon.
It covers the decade, too. Setting covers what’s going on in the world as well, such as political unrest or the moral fabric of society. But remember – when you choose a setting, you have to know why you’ve chosen that setting – how the setting has affected or will affect your characters.
Draft to Final Copy
Not even bestselling authors write a perfect first draft. There’s no such animal. But you don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to edit perfectly as you write. That stifles the creative process.
You have to turn off your internal editor as you write and get the story down. That’s what keeps many writers from ever completing a novel. They spend too much time trying to get down the perfect story so that it takes too long to get the book written.
Just write. Then edit. Once you have the novel written, the revision process takes place. To revise a novel, you look for holes in the plot – anything that doesn’t make sense.
Check that your characters are acting like themselves and that you haven’t given characters unbelievable traits. Check to make sure your pacing is even. You can often catch pacing that’s off when you see long, unbroken chunks of dialogue or internal thinking.
You might want to revise your novel by starting on the last page and then working your way backward! When you read straight from page one, it can be too easy to miss issues you should fix.
Some writers also use beta readers to read over their work – and having a second set of eyes can often catch things the writer misses. When you’re ready to post your book, go ahead. It’s okay if you’re still learning. You can get your work out there and you’ll get feedback that will help you continually improve your work.