How to write a book and get it published
Most people have a book hidden in them somewhere. All it needs to come out, is some kind of spark to be ignited. The spark could be a cataclysmic event, a hilarious experience, something mind-altering and life-changing or something you read that got you thinking, "Hey, I can do that." Whatever the spark, you do need something to fire you up. Nobody wakes up and says to themselves, "Golly gee. Think I'll write a book today." Okay, nobody says, "Golly gee," period. Anybody can write a book, it's not difficult. All it takes, is careful planning and discipline, and don't forget time. Writing a book is time consuming.
From a young age, way back in elementary school, I loved to write. I was an avid reader and was already into the heavy stuff like Leon Uris at the age of thirteen. My personal opinion, if you don't love reading you're going to find it hard to write. When I write and hit a blank, I read. Reading other author's work inspires me to get back on track with my writing. Whatever genre you decide you want to write about, read whatever you can get your hands on from that genre. Do this before you start writing. Read, read, read.
To start writing, think about what has lit the writing spark in you. This could be the subject you write about. Make a list of what you liked about books you read in the genre you've chosen to write in. Then, make a list of what put you off about some of the books you read. When you start writing, you want to try to include many of the things from the first list. Chances are, if it's things you like other people will like them too.
Before you even think about characters, you need to decide on what the problem is going to be. A story without a problem is not a story. People will read it and think, what was the point. Unless you're writing science fiction or fantasy, don't make the problem too improbable. You want the story to ring true and be a little believable. Personally, I hate reading improbable stories. After you've decided on the prolblem, think about how it will be resolved in the end. You can think of a few alternative endings. Then, as you're writing you'll subconsciously gravitate to the best one for your problem. You want your story to flow. Once you have your problem, think about what type of characters would work with the problem. Think of a main character, supporting characters and a villain. Decide on their names, and write a short biography for each one and even list their likes and dislikes. When your charcters become real to you as the author, they'll become reall to the reader as well.
Start working out a short synopsis for each chapter, building up to the climax and then coming down to the conclusion. This will be your basic framework for your novel that you'll work from. As you start to write, you might add and delete stuff from the basic framework, as you start to get involved and caught up in the story. Keep a notebook on your person at all times to jot down crazy ideas, funny quotes, anything interesting that you come across during your daily life. This will serve as a good resource book for you at a later date when you hit a stumbling block or run out of ideas. Now, take each chapter's synopsis and start fleshing it out by adding in heaps of sparkling dialogue and some good descriptive writing. Try and describe all the details you see in your mind. If you don't give your reader a mental picture of what you're talking about, they'll lose interest.
Research, research, research. Read up all you can on your chosen subject, talk to people about your chosen subject. You need to become an expert. Try and write a different slant to the topic, as otherwise it'll be, "Same-old, same-old," and nobody will be interested in reading your book. Don't write a non-fiction book on a subject you have no knowledge about. Someone will find you out, trip you up and you'll have egg all over your face. That'll be a bit messy and not a pretty sight.
Be disciplined. Find yourself a quiet spot where you can work uninterrupted. Set yourself a realistic daily goal of how many pages you want to write. Try and reach that goal or go beyond it every day.
Don't worry about spelling or grammar as you are writing. All that is important, is to get your great ideas down before you forget them. There's time to revise later on.
Get yourself a close friend who can be your editor. For both my books, the novel and the self-help one, I emailed each day's work to a good friend in London. As he was only editing a couple of pages at a time, it was much easier for him to do. I'd email him every night before I went to sleep, and because of the time differences, I'd wake up every morning with the perfectly edited pages in my inbox. Ah, there are times when technology is so wonderful. After you've finished your writing and your friend has finished the editing, revise it again. Send the whole complete package to the friend again, make any changes they've suggested, and them break open a bottle or two of champers. You've finished the easy part. Now you have to get it published and out there.
This part is the nightmare. This is the part that kills it for many would -be-writers. There are many people out there with books completed, who can't do anything with them. Most publishers and publishing houses won't accept unsolicited manuscripts. You have to go through a literary agent. Most literary agents won't touch new unpublished authors with a bar of soap. Many literary agents won't take unsolicited manuscrips. You, as a new author, are the lowest of the low. The piece of doggy doo stuck under a shoe. Many don't treat you with much respect. They pride themselves on making you feel inferior. To get them to graciously allow you to submit your manuscript for their consideration, you have to write a query letter. Your query letter has to be so fantastic, that you'll wow the pants off the literary agent. The bad news is that the pants of the literary agents are stuck to them with super glue. Probably because they spend all day sitting on their bum. In fairness to them, they receive thousands of query letters each month, all from would-be authors who are convinced that their book is the next number one bestseller. Very, very, very few impress a literary agent.
What many new authors are doing these days is self-publishing. There are many self-publishing companies out there, many of them suspect. After many rejection emails, and feeling a little dejected, I saw an ad for a self-publishing house. The first one I used for my self-help book was Instabooks. My self-help book shot to the top of their bestseller list, but all I got for my efforts from book sales was $20! Despite quite a few sales. I sent them numerous emails and battled like hell just to get that $20. So, I don't recommend them at all.
The other way to publish your book, is as an ebook with Lulu.com. They are free, no cost to you at all as the author and you get a percentage of every ebook sale. I've put both my books for sale with Lulu.com, but haven't had much success there. You have to do your own online marketing and I suck at that.
The self-publishing house I recommend is Booksurge.com. They are part of the Amazon group of companies and if you publish with them, your book is automatically listed with Amazon. I found their customer service to be excellent, they respond to all your questions timeously and the finished product was very good. To self-publish, you have to make sure that your editing is spot-on if you don't want to pay for Booksurge to do the editing. They met all their deadlines, delivered all the sold books within a few days of the customer ordering it, and send me a cheque at the end of every month.
Another self-publishing house which is part of the Amazon Group is Creatspace. I am currently busy publishing a revised copy of my self-help book with them. You don't pay a publishing fee like you do with Booksurge (which is incidentally under $500), but you do have to pay for your proof copy and the postage of it to you. All books published with Creatspace are also automatically listed on Amazon. I have a good feeling about them so hope it won't be like the Instabooks-disaster.
The biggest problem with self publishing, is that if you don't market your book yourself, you won't sell any. Big bookshops won't stock it, so you are forced to try and sell it online. The best way is through Amazon. But, with so many million other books listed for sale on their website, it's very hard to get your book noticed by the masses. Which brings you back to doing your own online marketing. You have to direct traffic to your book's link on Amazon. Believe you me, this is not easy. Online marketing is time consuming and not for the faint-hearted. Especially, when you are technologically challenged like me. Half the things you read you should do to market your book online, you don't know what they are. It's impossible to continue writing other books while you have to do your online marketing and hold down a day job. There are just not enough hours in the day. and when you have kids that have to be fed and cared for, it is a mountain you have to climb to get anywhere.
I don't want to put you off. The writing part was the easiest for me, and when I decided on self-publishing, that part was easy. It's the marketing. Jeez, it is so hard. A friend is helping me put together a website as apparently that is very important. It is also important for people who've read the book, to give you reviews. Amazon also have a special deal Buy X get Y. You list your book with a bestseller and people have the option to buy two books at a special price. This costs over $1000. Sorry, have son's upcoming university costs to pay so don't have that kind of cash lying around waiting to be spent.
I did have a book signing here in Nanjing, China, at the local Irish Pub which was quite successful. I'm sure that marketing a book in the States is far easier than marketing an English fiction book in China. You could do many more book signings at book clubs and shopping malls. There are far more opportunities there.
Don't be put off by my negative comments about marketing. I just suck at it but you might be great. Get that book out of your closet, dust it off and self publish it. Make sure you work out a marketing plan in advance, not like me who tries to market as I go along! Good luck and go for it!