Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Secret to Success: The Writing Phase

Dreaming of becoming the next best-selling author? Hoping to move thousands upon thousands of books on your own? Before putting that pen to paper, do some research! Success at any level is determined long before the book is written.

It is said that a fiction author writes out of passion while a non-fiction author writes with profit in mind. While this is not the case every time, non-fiction writers tend to possess a target audience or marketing strategy before they begin. Their research is based on a perceived need. So, before we pour our heart and soul into a project, we need to confirm that an audience awaits our work.

Two factors determine most book purchases- author reputation and subject matter. Most readers are faithful to a handful of authors, which places an unknown at a distinct disadvantage. A new author stands a better chance when the subject matter is the primary concern. However, he or she will still face competition. The writer must possess the necessary expertise to stand out from other masters in the field.

The first step in determining marketability is selecting a genre. The Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee lists forty-six major categories and numerous subcategories. We must locate a genre that fits our proposed book, or perhaps several general categories. It is one thing in this industry to appear unique, but a book without a genre will only die in obscurity.

Now we must determine if our genre possesses an audience. This requires that we research the book industry, both online and physical. We must discover the current trends and confirm our editorial niche. Who is our competition? Which authors and publishers boast similar works? We must ascertain if we possess the required expertise and can produce a book that falls within the word count of our genre. This step is vital, because we can’t prepare for battle if we don’t understand the enemy.

Ultimately, we must consider the marketability of our work. How many books are currently available on the topic? Is our niche too big or too small? A book that teaches cats how to dance might have little appeal beyond the country’s crazy cat ladies! Our subject must attract a reasonably sized audience, but we can’t make the appeal too broad. No one has ever written a book every wants! The wider the audience, the more difficult it will be to focus our promotions. It is better to stay with a target market that is clear and defined.

Once we’ve established a market for our book, we need to create a reader profile. Basically, who are these people? Determine details such as age, gender, location, income bracket, and lifestyle. We may find our book has a regional appeal or is more apt to be read by women than men. A reader profile fills in these little details.

One of the most important aspects is the recreational activity of our audience. Where does our potential reader shop? What magazines does this person read? What websites or blogs does our audience visit, and do they frequent social sites? Our books must be available where our readers shop, both on and offline, and this does not always entail a bookstore. These details are vital if we want to reach our target market. Our promotional efforts need to focus on these items and specific locations. Why waste time with interviews or articles if they do not reach our target audience?

Not all book sales are created equal, either! One market we need to consider is large-volume sales to businesses. Will our book tie in with an organization or non-profit group? Would it make an excellent gift or sales incentive for a business? Could our book be required reading at an academic level? Selling 5000 books to one group is easier than selling the same amount of books to 5000 individuals. Explore this option in depth, especially if the work is non-fiction. A large pre-publication sale would be quite comforting indeed!

We cannot overlook the power of endorsements, either. Create a list of individuals or businesses that might endorse the book. Look to other experts in the field. We should not be afraid to approach qualified professionals in our field of work- we’ll never know unless we ask! Consider authors of the genre as well. Endorsements and blurb from these experts will add to a book’s appeal, solidifying our credibility and ultimately boosting sales.

The writing phase is the best time to consider possibilities beyond the initial book, too. We need to think long-term! Will there be magazine excerpts? Do we foresee foreign rights and multiple translations? Perhaps even a movie or television event connected with the book? These situations may appear larger than life, but even possibilities as simple as an E-book, book on CD, or the potential of a continuing series should be considered. A great idea often spawns other inventions or tie-in products. The money created outside of the actual books by a certain wizard series should be motivation enough for the rest of us to think beyond our initial book!

The final item to consider is our publishing path. Most author hopefuls complete their book and then wonder what to do next! Before we finish our masterpiece, we should decide if we want to submit our work to a publisher or do it on our own. Those seeking publication should form a list of presses currently accepting our genre. Explore the Literary Market Place or Writer’s Market, and visit each publisher’s website for submission guidelines. Those intending to self-publish need to read every publishing and promoting book on the market and conduct extensive online research. Regardless of our chosen path, we need to understand the book industry if we hope to be successful.

To a writer, there is no greater joy than the act of writing. We can’t forget the big picture, though! Without a marketable product, a target audience, or a publishing plan, our creation will never see the light of day. If we do the research first, we’ll give ourselves a better chance for success.

Article contributed by Author & Professional Speaker, L. Diane Wolfe,,

Please leave any comments for Ms. Wolfe below.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

How to GET Published--and when to do it!

Here is a tough one for you to accept; getting published should be somewhere down about the middle of your to do list!

It is always interesting to me to hear the excuses some potential authors give because they cannot seem get their work accepted by a publisher. They are always griping that they are getting rejection slips to every query letter they send. If I ask them why they think that is, the usual answer I get is, "I don't know." That, I tell them, is one of their biggest problems! They don't know!

"Whadda ya mean by that?" is the usual response to that statement. "Look," I would tell them, "have you ever considered the possibility that you have never taken the time to learn what is necessary to know if you are serious about getting your work published?" Unfortunately, to these people, that question is a rhetorical one because it is obvious they have not.

For most people becoming a published author infers an obligation upon the would be author, like any other field of endeavor, to know or learn what is necessary to play in that ballpark. Simple analogy; if you want to become a medical doctor you have to go to medical school.

Well, if you want to be a published author you have to be able to do more than put the words on a page to write a book and get it published! You must educate yourself to the requirements in the field.

First and foremost, you must learn to write a query letter in a manner that will make those overworked editors in the publishing houses perk up their eyes and want to continue reading. There is so much free information available on the net or in your local library about this subject that there is no excuse for anyone not to be able to learn to do it.

Along with this is being able to present your synopsis of your work. This is crucial if you want that editor to keep reading. He or she must see within the first few sentences that they will want to know more about your story. It must be concise, informative, and compelling. Again, the information a writer would need to learn how to do this is freely available on the net or in your local library.

Another item for this phase is the authors resume. This is something that should never, ever, be hyped--keep it factual. It's okay to emphasize any kudos you may have attained along the way, just don't overdo it.

If you get past this point and get a request for a sample of your material, you had better know how to edit. Unless your work is so unique that you capture the editors attention and imagination immediately, your work will very shortly be returned to you; that is if you included a postage paid return envelope.

Editing is not a one time thing--it is a process! It is something you can learn to do, or it is something you may have to pay to have done in a manner that will be acceptable to most publishers. Don't get me wrong on this aspect of writing. Most authors are generally not good editors of their work. But they can learn to get it to the point where a publisher will be willing to polish it up for publication. And again, there is ample information freely available to establish in the author a working knowledge of what is necessary to do a moderately good job of editing their work to the point of acceptability.

Then there is the homework factor the author must perform for his/her own basic knowledge of the publishing industry. Learning what the submission procedures are for the different publishing houses--learning which publishers prefer what genres. Learning which publishers are more prone to accept new authors, etc, etc. Doing your homework will always put you several steps ahead of those too lazy to do so.

Now we come to one of the parts of getting published that is one of the most overlooked aspects. NETWORKING! This Website is a great example of the potential help available to new authors, and some old ones too. I'm an old fart with a young mind, but I do have an advantage in this area. I have been in business for most of my adult working life, and have gained a real understanding of the value of networking with those who know the things I don't, and are willing to share their knowledge with me.

Most published authors are, usually, more than willing to share their experience and knowledge with those who are following them on the writers path. Most will do so willingly for those who show they are truly willing to learn. Networking provides a treasure trove of knowledge and insight for those willing to show that they can be deserving of it.

Now to the publisher?

Not quite yet. I would recommend that the best policy a new writer could establish for themselves is to have your work completed and as polished as possible. In addition, the author should have done enough homework along the way so they will be able to present their work in its best light, and to the best venue.

To those reading this. I have, of necessity, condensed a great deal of what I might have liked to say on the subject, but have covered the basics adequately. Your comments are, as always, welcome.

Contributing Author; J. A. DiSpada
Author, The Earth-Chai Saga – Book one – Waking The Dragon
Published – May, 2007
ISBN10: 14241527 55
ISBN13: 978-14241527 59
Awards - New Book Reviews .Org ‘Best New Book 2007’
Visit J.A.'s Web Page at
Member – A Book Inside Forum at

Learn more about the writing and publishing maze by reading A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story available at Author’s Box or

Please leave your comments for J. A. DiSpada below.