To accompany my previous post, Author Don’ts, I’ve compiled a list of things you, as a new author, should do.
Be nice to everyone you come in contact with. I’m not talking about every John Doe you bump into on the street, but anyone you contact through your blog/Twitter/review requests, whatever. Always make an effort to sound polite and well-meaning, even if someone is being a twit.
Unplug for a while. Always set aside time to just sit down and do what it is you need to do, whether it’s editing, rewriting, writing, outlining… whatever. Procrastination is your enemy, and Facebook and Twitter are leading the attack.
Write something new. I’m not talking a new manuscript, but a new idea. Relying on cliches and old tropes might get you sales, but you can’t be afraid to be an innovative author!
Keep organized! This applies to everything, from editing notes to review requests. Everything saved on your computer should have smart titles and everything in a physical copy should be together in one place. Keep track of who leaves good reviews and which blogs you come across who offer to do reviews for your genre. Also keep track of your sales and expenses down to the cent, so you can finally celebrate when you’re out of the red and know what your next novel will take.
Edit, edit like the wind! … or something. You don’t want to publish a first draft, or a second draft, or a third draft. Maybe a fourth or fifth draft, depending on how things are going. You want to make your novel perfect to stand out from other novels. Literally anyone can self-publish these days, so you need to establish yourself as a serious author.
Keep your feet on the ground. Most likely, your first novel isn’t going to sell enough copies to allow you to quit your day job. Don’t expect your first book to be a runaway success. Or your second. Or your third. Just keep writing until you build an audience, and watch as that audience grows. It may take some time, but if you try hard, good writing will stand out.
Write a good author bio. Wherever your book is, there will be an author page. You want it to stand out, not read like a formula, 3 kids + cats + Michigan = author. Mine mentions pugs because they are my one true love. If people think of me and say, “Oh, she’s the pug author who wrote that romance book” I’ve succeeded. Don’t forget to link your blog to your page, which I know for a fact can be done both on Amazon and Goodreads.
Keep learning. Not all of us writers majored in English. Even for those of you who did, you don’t know everything. If you’re uncertain about a certain aspect of grammar, look it up. Read essays on character development and the precision of language. It’s important to continue growing as a writer.
Read like your life depends on it, because it does. Your life as a writer, that is. Reading is the best tool we have for increasing literacy, and that’s just what you need to do to be a competent writer.
Help other authors! Without the help of fellow bloggers, I wouldn’t know how to number pages properly on Microsoft Word. For someone formatting their own book, that was an issue. You can build a vast network of reviewers, cover artists, and editors just by connecting with your fellow authors, and having friends who also know your craft is invaluable.
On the topic of number ten, Marigold over on Verses Blurb is giving away free copies of her book. Just click the picture to go to Smashwords, and you can download a free copy in honor of her awesome new cover!
This post is going to be short and to the point. Do you write so that others can read what you’ve done? Do you write so that you can share advice, art, or funny anecdotes with the world?
If so, you need to be able to communicate with your readers. This is imperative. WordPress doesn’t have a private messaging feature unless you use a plug-in (at least, not that I’m aware of, but I’ve only been on here for a few months). To talk to you, someone has to use a comment. However, what if they want to start a real conversation? What if they want to talk about something personal, or correct a matter without embarrassing you?
I know y’all have email, because you can’t make a WordPress blog without one. One option is just putting your email in your “About” section, but that’s opening it up to robots who scan pages looking for emails to send spam to. Instead, put in a contact form. This is super convenient for anyone who is signed into WordPress, because they don’t even have to fill anything out other than the comment. It’s super easy. Go add one now. Right now. In another tab. I’ll give you exactly three minutes, so don’t get sidetracked.
Alright, all done? I made one for myself as well. Bam. That took 30 seconds.
The best place for these is to put on your “About” page, but if you do book reviews it might be better to put it on that page instead. I’ve been going around trying to find people to review my book and I’ve seen a lot of blogs with no contact information. Someone had their Facebook up but no email or contact form, so I went to Facebook and awkwardly messaged them there. This forces people to comment when they would much rather email people. I don’t want people thinking that I’m spamming their profile, and in my opinion an email is a much better option for the people who want to ignore me.
Granted, this does mean that you’re going to have to check your email often. If you use your email for WordPress only and never check it, I suggest changing the email address for your account to the one you use most often and switching off all the notifications so that “Beanybabies21 liked your post” isn’t clogging up your inbox.
Alright, so that wasn’t as short as I originally intended it to be, so here’s a zucchini wearing a hat.
I wrote that before actually looking for the picture, but Google never disappoints.
Alright, so you need to find a cover for your novel. It’s all edited, but it needs an image. A strong image. A distinct image.
What you need is a book cover, and there are three ways to get one. First, let’s go the easy route. Let’s assume you have money.
Honestly, buying a cover is the easiest route. Here is where I would suggest to go for a reasonable price. (I don’t know how much covers can cost, but I know that that site makes pretty covers for a price I can almost afford.) You just need to talk to a professional and they’ll make something you love. If you don’t love it, don’t pay them for it. Just make sure that everything is reputable and don’t assume that because you’re paying for it means it’s going to be a great cover. Hey, if you give me $50 I’ll make you a cover. Does that mean you’ll want the cover I make? No.
The next one is also easier, but a lot less solid. This route is going to people and begging for a free cover. I’ve gotten a few decent covers from people at the NaNoWriMo forums who just wanted to design things for fun, but you have to make sure that everything checks out on those.
Finally, and what the biggest trouble is, we have making your own cover. Let me say right now that no matter what you do the cover-maker that CreateSpace uses is crap. Seriously. Do not use one of those covers. It screams “SELF-PUBLISHED”, and that’s not what you want people to think when they see your novel.
Here are the biggest tips I have for making your own cover:
Don’t just use an image off of Google. You need to know that you have the right to use that picture. You can either buy a stock image to use or find a free stock image. Obviously, the free one is free, but the ones you pay for will usually be better quality and have a bigger selection. It’s up to you which one you use. Remember, if you need more than one image, buying them can get expensive, and it’ll be worthless if you have no photo editing skills.
Use a LARGE image to start with. The bigger it is, the better it will look when compressed down for print. I used an image that appeared alright on screen, even though I knew the resolution wasn’t that high. When printed, the image itself looked alright, but the text looked a little blurry. I couldn’t fix the text because I couldn’t make the image bigger to increase the text resolution. I ended up needing to find a different image and redoing my cover completely.
Go simple. Unless you’re a graphic designer, simplicity is key. Seriously. Don’t overdo yourself. It will look terrible.
Get opinions on your cover. If most people like it, that’s good. If one person says “Oh, it’s obviously not done by a professional” because they already know that you made it yourself, ignore them. People always assume that self-published works are bad. Take a book and slap “Penguin” on the side and you’ve got yourself a book twice as good as the exact same thing with “CreateSpace” listed as the publisher.
Practice makes perfect. If your editing skills aren’t that great, remake book covers for books you already know. Try to recreate them with your own skills and free images. Once you learn the techniques that get the image you like, you’ll be ready to work on your own cover.
I was going to outline step-by-step how I made my own cover, but I figured that I would make a YouTube video instead. At least one of you better find it useful, because I may have downloaded a Trojan trying to get a program to capture my screen.
The quality is shit, but it gets the basics across. It’s 14 minutes long though. So there’s that. (There is a reason I picked blogging over vlogging.) If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I used the photo-editing program GIMP because that’s what someone recommended and it’s free. Photoshop would be unquestionably better, but I’m being as cheap as possible. I basically just made my cover with the steps in the video. Here is what my book cover looks like:
If you missed it, part one is here. Part three will be interior formatting.
I always try to make characters you can sympathize with. Since I’ve started reading The Host I can see how wrong it can go when you fail to make a sympathetic character. Stephanie Meyer wrote the main character to be a parasite that took over a human body. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her because she feels she doesn’t belong and all the humans want to kill her. The problem is, she is constantly complaining and crying and she won’t stand up for herself. She’s a really terrible character overall, but you can’t sympathize for someone you find annoying who won’t do anything to help her situation.
There are two characters I’ve always sympathized with. The first one every knows; Professor Snape.
Professor Snape was an asshole to Harry, yes. However, we learned that there was a reason that he was so mean. Harry’s father bullied him, all the Gryffindors bullied him. He grew up in a shitty neighborhood with shitty parents. His entire life sucked, and the only people who were ever kind to him were the evil people. Then he lost the woman he loved most in the world. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it, then was killed ultimately for a mistake he made as a teenager.
The second one might not be as well known. It’s the cop from Bridesmaids.
I sympathize with him because he’s just such a nice guy. He is like the nicest guy ever, and he’s cute and charming and adorable. If you haven’t seen the movie, Annie used to have a bakery but it failed so she stopped baking. The cop (yeah, I forget his name) and Annie spend the night at the cop’s place and she wakes up and finds that he went out and bought baking supplies to try to get her back into baking. We then have to watch him get all sad and stuff because Annie gets confused and turns him down and is basically a bitch. (Don’t worry, they end up together, I’m pretty sure… I forget).
So which characters do you really sympathize with? Do you ever examine what makes you sympathize them to apply it to your own characters?