Advice on writing and getting published

Advice for Authors

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Disclaimer


First - a disclaimer! BookBrowse's business is reviewing and recommending books, not advising on how to get published or reviewed, but as we are asked the question so often, we have put together this page which we hope will be of help. All resources referenced below were valid at the time of writing (2011) but the internet is an ever-changing beast so some may no longer be relevant and other, more relevant, resources might well have come to the fore. So, please use this as intended - as a starting point for your own research, and definitely not a definitive resource! If you have expertise on this topic and would be interested in rewriting this page (including byline of course), please do get in contact.


Writing and Getting Published


There is a wealth of information and resources waiting to be discovered on the web and, probably, close to where you live - for example evening classes, writing groups (check with your local library or bookstore to see if they know what's available in your area). Resources online vary in quality. Some web based resources include Writers Market, Writers Weekly, Writers Digest, Poets & Writers, The Literary Market Place and Publishers Weekly.  Also a number of successful authors offer tips on writing, either in books they've written, or on their websites; for example Stephen King's On Writing.

For children looking to get published try: Stone Soup, New Moon and Teen Ink.

Marcia Yudkin's website which is worth a visit as she gives advice on many aspects of publishing and promoting books, plus she talks about the crooks and scams to watch out for. Also, she provides a lot of ideas about ways to get yourself in print other than writing a novel. Keep in mind that many successful authors built up years of experience writing articles and/or short stories before they had their first book published.

There are a multitude of books on the subject of writing and getting published, including Getting Your Book Published For Dummies and Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing by Celia Brayfield. Writer Beware is another very useful resource.

You might also get inspiration from Jennifer Weiner's essay and an interview with Kyle Mills. Lastly, for an appealing and meditative collection of thoughts and observations about the book industry and the state of literature in the early 21st century we recommend Gabriel Zaid's So Many Books: Reading & Publishing In An Age of Abundance


Getting Your Book Reviewed

If your book is likely to be of interest to general readers, in addition to reaching out to websites such as those below, do look for opportunities within your local community. For example, ask your local newspaper to review the book; and if you're lucky enough to have a local independent bookstore, ask if they would be willing to host a reading/signing - and then make sure to ask how you can help with the promotion to ensure a good turn out. Building awareness locally can give you useful feedback on the book; it may also provide you with reviews that you can leverage when you expand your promotion to a wider audience.

If your book is aimed at a very specific audience look for websites and print media aimed at your audience and contact them - usually your time will be better spent reaching out to a particular specialist group, some of who may be readers - rather than trying to reach general readers, some of whom maybe interested in your niche topic.

The following websites may be willing to review your book if published in the USA - MyShelf.com, The Midwest Book Review, Rebecca's Reads, Armchair Interviews and Bookreporter. Also, and this is important, look for bloggers who review books similar to yours and reach out to them. As with all review outlets, we strongly suggest against doing mass mailings (and please don't waste your money buying mailing lists from list brokers who want to sell you thousands of email addresses!); instead spend some time on each blog before you make contact and then send a personal one-to-one email to the blogger - this will take much longer than a mass mailing but is likely to be much more effective.

You should also check if your book meets the submission criteria of any of the 'big four' pre-publication review sources in the USA. These are all print magazines that are also available online: Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. All four are very selective about the types of books they will consider for review and will usually only review books before publication. Kirkus Reviews offer a paid review option for books that don't meet the criteria for their main magazine (e.g. self published, PODs, ebooks and books post-publication). While you might be buying the review from Kirkus, you are not buying their opinion - the reviewer will give his or her honest opinion - so, as Kirkus is a well respected resource, the review will have credibility elsewhere. One or more of the other three might have followed suit to offer a similar service - it's difficult to keep track of who does what these days!

The prepub magazines are unlikely to review your book after publication (unless you pay in the case of Kirkus). But other media also have similar deadlines, and even those that don't have firm cutoffs will likely be less interested in reviewing a book the longer it has been released - so make sure that you set time aside to market the book you've spent so long writing! And don't expect instant results. These days, even authors published by established publishers need to put time in to promote their book. We suggest you set aside a period of time each time, rain or shine, to reach out to websites, local media etc.

Whether you're self-publishing your first novel or have the name of a big publishing house on your book jacket, you still need to understand the book publicity process yourself so that you can either do it yourself or understand how to help your publicist do the best job for you. A good book on this subject is The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren, published in 2003 (ISBN: 0786712759).


Your Online Presence

Your online presence is critical. Some authors choose not to have a website these days, in favor of keeping a presence on Facebook, Twitter and so forth. We recommend a website because it is a resource that you entirely control so can say what you want about yourself and link to other places as relevant, such as a Facebook page. Creating a website need not be an expensive process. First you need to register a domain name, which should cost less than $20 for a year. We use Dotster for our registrations, but there are many others out there. Some may offer domain name registration at surprisingly low rates - if you use one of these registration services, make sure to read the small print to be sure that the domain you register is in your name, not the company's, and also what the renewal rate will be in future years. For peace of mind you may feel it best to go for one of the bigger and best known domain name registrars, even if costs you a few dollars more.

The next step is to find someone to host your website. Many of the domain registration services also host and vice versa. Again, we recommend going with a well known company simply for the peace of mind. We haven't looked into basic hosting costs recently, but the chances are you will find a good hosting option for a 2-figure annual sum (if you're site gets substantial traffic you'll need to pay more, but you can cross that happy bridge when you get there!) Look for domain hosting that offers free 24/7 telephone support, even if it costs you a little more, as when your website goes down on a Sunday morning you want to be able to call someone to find out what's going on, not send an email and wait, sometimes days, for a response!

The next step is to create your website. We suggest you don't try to do this yourself, unless you are very keen on that sort of thing. Instead, look at other author websites and find one or more that you like. Then plan out what pages you want and write a brief. Then visit elance or guru and search for designers who's work you like (or put it out for open bidding). Many of the designers work at very reasonable rates and should be able to create you a very presentable simple website for a couple of hundred dollars, maybe less. Many will use template software such as Wordpress to create the website - and this is what you want, because once the site is designed, you want to be able to maintain it yourself (you don't want to have to be contacting a web designer every time you want to change a word in your bio), so you want an interface that you can work with easily - and this is exactly what free software such as Wordpress allows you to do.

How active you decide to be on social networking, and which social networks, depends on you and your audience. But we strongly suggest you don't try to do it all. Find the one or two that work for you (and where your audience are likely to be) and focus on them.


Be Careful!

One last note of caution: Before you part with any money for promotions or advertising on or offline, do your best to verify the claims made. For example, it is very easy for a website to over-claim on their visitor stats, whether intentionally or unintentionally (for example, by including page views by non-human traffic such as search engines 'spiders' - which will likely inflate page views for a website by 60% or more.)

Also, be realistic about your expectations - if a print magazine has a circulation of 30,000, it probably claims a readership multiple times that (on the basis that some copies are read by more than one person); but when you buy an ad you're buying an 'opportunity to see' - only a small fraction of those readers will turn to the page your ad is on, let alone act on it. On the internet, when you buy an ad you are at least buying actual views by real people (assuming the website suppresses the search engine spiders) but click through rates are usually measured in fractions of one percent (but, at least, unlike print media, an interested person can click to find out more). When big companies buy advertising they are doing so as part of an overall campaign that involves advertising, promotions and PR in multiple places, plus in-store placement.

In short - it is tempting to think that if buy some ads, copies of your book will start to flood out the door but, realistically, to build a buzz for a book takes a lot of time and exhaustive amounts of energy - there is no quick fix.
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