So! You Want To Be A Writer?

This blog is inspired by Alan Rinzler, Zoe Winters, David Kazzie, JA Konrath, and Dean Wesley Smith.  Because everything I ever learned about being a writer – a person who makes money writing – I learned from these individuals.  So, if in the next five minutes you read something that you don’t believe, they are the ones to blame.

Do you know how to write?  I’m not kidding.  One day I was reading the autobiography of a bus stop mate.   He had self-published the saga of his journey from gang member to solid citizen.  The thesis of his book was how difficult, starting at birth, his life had been.  To wit:  “Even my birth was difficult.  I wouldn’t come out of the birth canal, and my mother screaming in agony had to have the assistant of two surgeons for an emergency caesarian. They used both hands to pull me to life.” Yep. That’s it.  The guy’s parents had found two one-armed surgeons to pair up and bring him into the world. As an editor I read this kind of writing all the time.

Please enroll in English Grammar 101 if you don’t know how to diagram sentences, or detect a run-on sentence.  Be an active member of a writer’s circle; hire an editor, and a book doctor, if you want to pursue becoming an author.  Possibly you’re a storyteller, not a writer.  Your first review will tell.

Write short.  Really, nowadays shorter is better.  Over fifty-percent of book sales revenue comes from selling eReader material.  The first draft of my first novel was 93,000 words.  I published it at 73,000 words.   For today’s market, even that’s too long.  Why?  Because people are rushed, crushed, and stressed.  They want an escape, and they want to move on.  Fast, flashy, hip!  And…being into paranormal, or crime…or sex, doesn’t hurt.

It’s reasonable to label 45,000 words a novel.  This is true especially if you are an Indie Author.  This advice comes from Dean Wesley Smith, I think.  Write!  Package!  Sell! Move on!  Write! Package! Sell! Move on!  It’s a fast-paced world, don’t you feel it?

Don’t be a design dork.  I talked about this in one of my most recent blogs.  This is a re-rap of advice that Zoe Winters gave me in October 2009.  It has to do with your book cover and the look of your book.  Okay, Zoe does a lot of trash talking, and I’ve spoken to her about that part of her personae.  But how can I judge harshly a woman who is in the Kindle Top 100?  You’re right, I can’t.  It was Zoe who said something like, “I write.  It’s what I do well.  I let someone else do my book cover designs, which I don’t do well.”  Smart.

Get someone who knows what they are doing design your book cover.  You need to know that every genre has a ‘style’.  Check it out!  Invest the time.  Zoe’s paranormal covers have a certain ‘feel’.  Dean Koontz (when he was with Yorkville Press) had a particular book cover style.  His name was emblazoned in the same size and style font across the cover.  Recognition by your readers, that’s what you are looking for.  Even the spine design needs to be correctly executed.  The obvious CreateSpace self-published covers are those that scream ‘PowerPoint!!!’  (I typed three exclamations to catch the attention of Steve Berry, in case he ever reads my blog.)

PowerPoint designed book covers employ text boxes for the title of the book, and inserted squares around the clip art design.  Avoid this look by at least applying your cover art to the master slide and applying the title of your book and your name as author as a ‘float’ on the normal view option.  Use a font design that can carry through all of your titles in a given genre.  Readers DO judge a book by its cover.  You have nine seconds to win them over with your book cover, your description, and the title of your book.

Hyperlink that Table of Contents.  If you do not know how, I will teach you – for FREE!  Contact me and mention this offer. I’ll send you instructions. Easy to understand instructions.  Then, unless you want me to, I will never, ever contact you again.  Promise.

A rose is a rose – unless it’s a book.  You want everything working in your favor when you begin your marketing campaign.  (See everything I’ve ever written about Lynnette Phillips, Book Marketer – enough said.)


Is the title of your book a ‘grab’?  Maybe a double entendre?  Maybe an inside joke (like Mike Wells Baby Talk ?)  Does it tell your readers what the hell the book is about?  I don’t mind admitting I’m good at naming my books.  No question, you know what you’re getting if you buy one of my titles.  If I’m wrong, say so!  No drama, no hard feelings.  Name your book with the same effort you would name a child.  Would you name a child Wanda, or Sabastian?  Well then, point made.

Do you have engaging features embedding into your eBooks – like links to your author’s page, your YouTube interviews, and links to your other books?  These are features that are possible for your eBooks.  Yes, go back and re-load your ebooks if you did not include hyperlinks to your web pages at the conclusion of your ebook.

Fast facts – revisited.  You have no more than nine seconds of book-buyers time to win a reader to your book cover, book title, and book description.  Ninety billion a year – world wide – is being spent on book purchases.  So don’t tell me “No one’s buying.”  Traditional publishers aren’t buying – but if you’re a Smart Cookie you’re going around them anyway. Go straight to your fans!  The tipping-point majority of your book sales will come from your eBooks.

Your book title, book cover, and book contents have to be on the same team.  The ‘Buy Now! Button’ Team.  Good luck, Writer!

  • I sometimes wonder how many great books are never going to be written because of this kind of advice. How many new writers will just give up before they get started, or worse, give up their dreams and creativity to meet the demands of those in-a-hurry readers who can’t spend more than nine seconds to evaluate a book. Readers who don’t have the time for more than 45,000 words. Maybe someday, at the rate things are going, anything over 25,000 words will be considered a novel.

  • Cantana:

    Yes, I agree. It would be sad if writers gave up their dream of (a) commercial success or (b) finding a fan base just because someone wildly successful like Konrath or Smith said something akin to ‘If you want commercial success ‘knock their socks off – and in most cases you’ve got nine seconds’. It would be equally sad if authors shortened their prose because a ‘Kindle Top 100’ author observed in a blog that eBook content today is trending toward being less voluminous than print content of yesteryear.

    I can’t imagine getting bumped off my ‘passion path’ because some SPR blogger waxed on.

    If an author wants to ‘write long’ thank goodness Amazon, Nook, and Smashwords include file size in product descriptions. In fact, you’ve just inspired me toward another Excel spreadsheet survey! I wonder what the content average IS for the Kindle Top 100 this week?

    One merely needs to check out Konrath’s 360,000 words on self-publishing if hefty content is what they’re after ;D

    Indeed slowing the consumer/reader down would help quite a bit – but, gosh, with 600,000 titles coming out annually [Source: Bowker] there’s a lot of content to purvey before one plunks down their $.99. Readers probably feel that they have to go fast (if one considers nine seconds fast). It’s 2AM in a very quiet house and I’m sitting here waiting for nine seconds to click by…it seems like a long time…but it’s all relative.

    When an author who is commercially successful -or has more seniority- than I imparts a bit of knowledge and experience about what they’ve discovered; or an industry source reveals a survey on how consumers react to content…as though E.F. Hutton were speaking…I listen. Think of me as an aggregator.

    Not all writers WANT to listen to industry sources when making their publishing-standards decisions. Look at Dean Wesley Smith – although most successful authors [Boyd Morrison, Zoe Winters] advise professionally designed book covers – he bucks the crowd and does just fine with his fan base – the members of which probably consider his book covers collectable. I don’t think he would ‘give up’ his dream because successful Indies advise professionally designed covers.

    Those writers who have confidence in themselves will pick and choose their way to success (self defined) and I’ll be cheering them on from the sidelines.

    Best Wishes and thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  • I’d love your instructions on hyperlinking chapters!