Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘publishing a book’

Kickstarter for Authors

In Books, Career, Writing on March 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

Most of you’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site that’s claiming it’ll deliver more money to artists in the US than the Government contributes.

Now, here’s a version just for authors. What do you think? If nothing else, it makes you think about what the time you spend on publishing your book is actually worth in real dollars…

Writing a Book? Please, Delete Your First Chapter…

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on February 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Yes, you heard me…

If there’s some advice I’d pass on from my time in publishing –­ especially my time as an editor in book publishing – it’d be for everyone who’s writing a novel to delete, if not their entire first chapter, then at the very least the first paragraph, or the first page.


It’s an odd fact that most writers ignore the fundamental desires of publishers, or editors, or readers…

And that’s to be in the story from the word go.

Right from your first sentence, the reader should be projected directly into mid-conversation, into mid-scene, into mid-whatever – just don’t dilly dally around.

Too many writers – and I’ve been the editor for some of them – spend pages and pages setting up passive scenes, introducing characters, and explaining the back-story. By the time the reader gets to the action, they’ve lost interest.

Publishers, editors and readers like books that open with an immediate hook – a gripping first sentence that grabs them by the throat. You must make it impossible for us not to read on. To do this may mean you slash your entire first chapter – or three. If that’s what it takes, do it. Be ruthless. You can’t be sentimental with your writing if you want to be noticed.

An opening line I’ve never forgotten (from one of my favourite crime books, Minette Walters’ The Ice House):

“Fred Phillips is running.” Anne Cattrell’s remark burst upon the silence of that August afternoon like a fart at a vicar’s tea-party.

According to the experts, every first sentence – whether crime novel or no – should hint at trouble and raise a question. (Actually, your whole book should pretty much do that – raise questions in the reader’s mind.)

In Minette’s subtly menacing, yet amusing, first sentence… why is Fred Phillips running? What is he running from? Clearly, Fred is not usually to be seen running, especially on a summer’s afternoon… otherwise Anne wouldn’t mention it. And who the hell is Fred Phillips anyway?

The first sentence from my soon-to-be-published crime novel is:

She was six metres down when instinct told her something was wrong.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Write a Book

In Books, Tasmania, Writing on February 7, 2012 at 10:49 am

Yesterday, I met with a Tasmanian client who is thinking about marking a career milestone by publishing a book. She came to me for advice on whether she should, or could, do it. So, I asked her these questions…

1. Do you have something to say (and can you say it)?

I know – truly revolutionary stuff.

But an inordinate amount of people want to write a book without actually having anything to say… Or, without being able to write. It’s okay to not be a brilliant writer, if you can work with an excellent ghostwriter or editor, but you must recognise the fact first.

2. Is there another way you should be saying it?

By this, I mean think laterally about your message. Does it have to be delivered in a book? Would you be just as satisfied/achieve your goals by publishing your writing on a blog, in a newsletter, in a series of magazine features etc. Lots of people decide, vaguely, that they want to publish a book, but don’t take the time to consider if that’s the best medium for their message…

3. What is it you want to achieve?

  • Fame
  • Fortune
  • Helping others
  • Self-satisfaction

Be honest with yourself. If you want to make money, you’ll need to approach the book differently than if you want to produce something for family and friends.

4. Who is your audience?

Unless you want to vanity-publish, your book needs to talk to other people. Who are those people? If they’re X, then producing a book for Y but hoping X will buy it, just won’t work. You don’t have to please everyone, but you do need to respect your audience.

5. Does this book already exist?

There is enough crap out there already. Don’t add to it. You need to write something that hasn’t been written before. Or, if you’re writing about a topic that has been covered in-depth, you need to approach it from such a stunningly new angle that it seems new. Fortunately, there are so few people out there with real originality and individuality, and so few people speaking ‘the truth’, that it’s strangely easy to be different. Just work hard to find that difference.

6. Are you prepared to put in the effort?

Publishing a book is bloody hard work. Even if putting together the initial material is not difficult (ie it exists somewhere already), the actual production and all that goes with promotion is hard. Be prepared to be persistent and prolific.

7. Do you understand that you need to entertain, educate, inform and inspire?

If you can’t do all – or at least one – of these things with your writing, then you probably shouldn’t be writing.

If you have any aspirations to write a book – in whatever format, on whatever topic – you should consider these questions.

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