Please welcome our guest and multi-published author, Bruce Borders!
My “Rules” For Writing and Self Publishing
by Bruce Borders
Finding advice on how to write a book and then self-publishing that book is easy to do these days. The Internet is full of articles on almost any aspect of being an author. Everyone seems to be eager to impart words of wisdom on the subject. So, it is with slight trepidation that I offer my two cents’ worth. After all, I’m nowhere near an expert. But I have learned a few things in my writing adventure, which I’m happy to share.
But remember, most advice is just that — advice. It may have worked well for someone else but everyone is different. There are no hard and fast rules. And there is no wrong way to write and publish a book.
That being said, there are a few things that can greatly increase the chances of success for a self-published book. Basic stuff really, but since we all tend to overlook the basics at times, it’s a good idea to focus on the little things that can make or break a book — especially, for the self-published author. I call them “My ‘Rules’ For Writing and Publishing.”
Pick an Interesting Topic
This doesn’t mean the book must appeal to everyone. That will never happen as everyone has different tastes and likes. Rather, the topic should be interesting to the writer. If the writer is interested, that will translate to the writing — and to the readers. On the other hand, if the writer is disinterested, odds are the readers will be also.
Although it helps, a writer doesn’t need to have an extensive vocabulary. A writer does not need to be eloquent or mesmerizing with their words, though that helps too. But what makes a good writer is the ability to express one’s thoughts clearly. Writing clearly and succinctly is far more important than using flowery words, empty of meaning.
Rewrite it — Again
The first draft of anything is usually horrible — at least for me. But that’s why rewriting exists. My approach is to not be concerned about anything but getting the story down on the first draft. Typically, I end up with a jumbled mess. Then, I rewrite, and rewrite again, smoothing things out, fixing plotlines and other problems, revising until the book flows seamlessly.
But when is it enough? The answer to that is purely subjective. Personally, after I’m satisfied with the story, the way events are arranged and presented; I like to do one final rewrite. On one of my books, I made seventeen of them; a total of eighteen drafts before I felt it was finished. Yes, that takes a lot of time. I spent several months revising and rewriting, but that book is now my biggest seller.
Use Proper Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling
Nothing is more irritating to a reader than opening a book to find pages of misspelled words, missing or incorrect punctuation, or grammatical errors. Due to the nature of dialects and such, grammar is a little more forgiving than spelling or punctuation; however, it is still an important part of writing. And although being a grammar expert is not necessary, all writers need to have at least a working knowledge of proper grammar. Poor sentence structure, misused words or punctuation, detract from what might otherwise be superb writing. Do not be discouraged if you find all the rules of grammar a bit intimidating or confusing.
These days, help is just a click away. And, it is never too late to learn. If a writing career is your goal, educating yourself on grammar would seem to be a logical move. Yet, far too many aspiring writers fail to grasp that concept. But if you want your book to stand out, if you want to better your chances of becoming recognized as a great writer, you would do well to learn grammar.
If a self-published book is to have a chance competing against traditionally published books, it needs to be well formatted with an eye-catching cover.
Formatting is one of those things that if done right is virtually unnoticeable. For those who may not know, formatting is nothing more than arranging the material within the book (the title, copyright information, chapter headings, paragraphs, as well as font selection) to present the book in a professional manner.
The result should be a crisp and clean looking book. If it is sloppily thrown together, readers will be turned off. Since different methods of formatting are commonly used, I suggest studying published books within your genre to determine which is best for your book. No matter which style is chosen, the key is consistency — keep things uniform.
An attention-grabbing cover is equally important. The old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” may be good advice but it is advice that no one heeds.
The cover is usually the first thing people see with regard to a book. If it looks shabby, they’ll move on. But let’s face it; most people are not graphic designers. If the very thought of computer graphics gives you a headache, rest assured professional book covers are available from a number of places for as little as $35. Just be sure to check them out before purchasing. Ask to see some of their work; most will be happy to provide a sample.
Proofreading and Feedback
These are actually two different processes. I have put them together because of their similarities.
I subscribe to the belief that an author cannot possibly catch all of the typos and other problems in their own book. It’s a little like not being able to see the forest for the trees. The author knows what is supposed to be there, what the book is supposed to say, and the mind, wonderful thing that it is, fills in all the missing information, and fixes the typos automatically.
Spellcheck is not dependable either. I think sometimes it misses more mistakes than it finds and it has no way of determining consistency and other issues (the blue pickup that suddenly became a red car in the next chapter). Spellcheck can be useful — just don’t rely on it as an end-all solution.
While it is best to have a book professionally edited, many self-published authors operate on a limited budget – or no budget. However, this is one step that can’t be skipped.
It is imperative to get feedback before publishing since it reveals those pesky and elusive problems that need to be fixed. At the very least, find someone well schooled in grammar, a teacher perhaps, who is willing to read the book and provide an honest opinion, preferably by marking up the manuscript.
They can provide proofreading and editing at the same time. Let them know you want to be told of any problems and that they won’t hurt your feelings by pointing out the flaws. And then, keep your word — don’t argue with them about what they find. Instead, thank them. If you honestly don’t agree with something they’ve found, nothing says it has to be changed.
By far the hardest part of the self-published author’s job, marketing is just as important as writing the book. The best-written book will remain on the shelves if no one knows about it. But as many self-published authors discover, marketing is not easy. Advertising is not generally cost effective for books. Plenty of advertisers exist, and some are not that expensive, but converting those ads into sales is difficult. I know, I’ve tried a lot of them — with less than favorable results.
However, there are things the self-published author can do; use social media to interact with readers and other writers, join author groups, or join a book club such as Rave Reviews Book Club.
Book clubs are full of writers and readers and can greatly increase an author’s exposure. Many of theses clubs offer a wealth of support through various programs and activities. The idea is to build relationships with readers and thereby establish a following. Start small and grow. A word of warning: this takes time, but it does work. Of course, the number one marketing tool available to authors is — write the next book.
These are just a few of my own “rules.” If you notice, none of them cost a lot of money. Most can be accomplished free or obtained for a reasonable price. Yet, each one is, in my opinion, necessary in order to become a successful writer. And one last thing; writing is a journey — so enjoy it. Don’t give up before the journey is complete.
I would like to express my thanks to Michelle for hosting me as a guest on her blog. I greatly appreciate the opportunity.
Bruce A. Borders was born in 1967 in Cape Girardeau, MO. Bruce’s childhood years were spent in a number of states, including Missouri, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
During his high school years, he was a member of the football, basketball and track teams, involved in various non-athletic activities such as school yearbook production and photography, and won numerous awards for his artistic creations. Bruce graduated Valedictorian in 1984.
While in school, Bruce held three part-time jobs; a store clerk, a janitor, and a dental technician, working about 60-70 hours per week. After graduation he became employed full time as a dental technician. Other jobs have included restaurant manager, carpenter and grocery store cashier. For the past sixteen years, he has worked as a commercial truck driver, logging more than two million miles.
At the age of fifteen, Bruce decided to become a writer. He began by writing songs, news articles and short stories. Eventually, books were added to the list. Over the years, he continued to write and currently has a catalog of more than 500 songs, numerous short stories and nine completed books. He writes on a variety of subjects such as the Bible and politics, as well as fictional novels of legal issues and westerns.
For more information please visit his WEBSITE.
by Bruce A. Borders
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