Peeling the layers:  What I learned from Scott Dikkers, co-founder of The Onion, about publishing

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“Ready, fire, aim.”  Don’t be a perfectionist.  My problem is that I spend way more time writing than I do editing, so my project this summer will be to finalize the edits on my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley (https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/).  This will mark my seventh time editing it. I’ve put off finishing it for years–partly because I wanted to wait till I had a Master’s in English, but also because every time I went back to my book, it was like reconnecting with an old friend.  Since I never read anything I write (once it’s in print anyway), I think a part of me feared parting with it forever.

Publishing e-books for Kindle on Amazon is worth it.  The large publishing houses take 70% in royalties while Amazon takes only 7%.  Of course, with self-publishing, you have to do your own marketing, but all you need for that is an internet connection and an online presence, and I’ve already been branding myself for years (it’s the whole reason I started a blog)

Don’t skimp on the cover.  If you’re not familiar with InDesign, you’ll want to hire a designer to create your cover and lay out your book.  (Now I wish I had taken the time to learn how to lay out the newspaper while I was on The Corsair.) I will either have to wait till I get my degree in graphic design or wait till I can cobble together the money to get my book professionally done–whichever comes first.  Of course, there’s always Kickstarter.

Don’t spend the money getting your manuscript professionally edited.  I had seriously considered doing this through Writer’s Digest or inquiring my professor friends to see how much they would charge.  Dikkers said he caught all his mistakes just by reading his book aloud–only 225,000 words to go!

If you want people to notice your book, you need to have popular keywords in your book’s description (and don’t forget to test those keywords).  It’s basically the same principle as a hashtag. You get seven of them, so use them wisely (and remember that each word can be more than one).

Send press releases of your book to blogs.  There are many online tutorials that show you how to write in this medium.  I’ve thought about writing a mock press release as a blog feature.

There needs to be “reader magnet” in the book, such as a free first chapter, novelette, novella–basically, a hook to get your reader to buy your next book.  I already have visions of a prequel dancing in my head.

My book goals:

⦁ To sell enough copies to not only get on the New York Times Bestseller List but also enable me to fund a recurring creative writing scholarship at my alma mater.

⦁ To be turned into a TV-series for HBO.

⦁ And finally, the best of all:  For my name (or the title of my book) to be the answer to a “Jeopardy” question (or a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle).

 

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10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

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1. Rather than trying to submit to everything, read and study certain publications that interest you and write for them.  If you want to submit a book to a publisher, study what the publisher publishes, and that should give you a fairly good idea if your work will be a good fit for them.

2. Blog at least twice a week.  (I’ve found that posting my Writer’s Digest Wednesday prompts really helps me keep this goal.)

3. Try to submit as often as you write.

4. Seek to entertain others, rather than sell yourself.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not followed someone back on Twitter because every tweet is about their book.

5. Write at least 500 words (committed) 700 (uncommitted) words a day.  If you can do more, great, but I found the 1667 daily words required for NaNoWriMo overwhelming.

6. If you have an unfinished novel, finish it.

7. Remember the Dictionary.com Word of the Day by using it in a well-written sentence.

8. If one of your novels isn’t picked up by an agent or publisher by (insert time frame), make a commitment to self-publish.  It can work for you:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-martian/andy-weir-author-interview/

9. Manage your time like you would manage your money.  Allocate not only the amount of time, but when to use it for certain activities.  (It’s always too early in the morning for social media).

10. And this is the most important:  make time for people, for other activities, so that you will have a good life—a life worth writing about.