“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” - Charles Caleb Colton
As a book club we are often contacted by authors for advice about the book business. In the hopes of providing useful, helpful, practical and accurate information as a reference guide, we’ve decided to offer a series of Open Mic pieces where we go straight to the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak. For this third guide, we’ve reached out to a few self-published authors for their tips and advice to those looking to do the same. Collectively, this group has over 10 published titles available in book stores everywhere, years of experience, and a wealth of knowledge.
Each was simply asked one question - What advice or tips would you give to someone looking to self-publish?
School is in session…
Moses Miller: For the author considering self-publishing a book, my advice is rather simple. Know who you are and what you are trying to accomplish with your writing BEFORE you write your book. Perfect your craft. Read more than you write. It’s really that simple. Now to elaborate further, I’ll say this: The reason why African American literature is becoming stale is because of the lack of creativity and individual voices and ideas that are being dispersed across every genre. Sure there are a lot of books, but there are also a lot of authors trying to be the next _______ (fill in the blank with the name of your favorite author). We’re all unique and our writing should reflect that. How about being the first ___________ (fill in the blank with your name).
Perfecting your craft means to study whatever it is you’re trying to be good at. If you want to be a good author, read some books by GREAT authors. Learn about different writing techniques, grammar, prose, foreshadowing, metaphors, similes…those things that some of us were taught throughout grade school that play an important role in literature and storytelling. Read everything. Not only do you want to read publishing and marketing books, but as a creative writer you want to expose your mind to as many things outside of your “normal” world as possible.
On countless occasions writers will say, “I write about what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through.” Well, that’s nice if you’re writing non-fiction, autobiographies or if you think that your real life experiences are so much different than the things your readers have seen or read about in the past. However, one thing to be cognizant of is the fact that many of us have experienced similar things whether first hand or through someone we hold near and dear. Many of us have seen the same movies as well.
Also keep in mind that fiction is about imaginary events and people as opposed to fact. Most readers would prefer a well thought out and executed “fake” story over an ill conceived “real” one. So, when you’re telling “your story” about things that your reader has experienced themselves, heard through a friend, read or seen in a movie, it gets tired after awhile. Whatchu got, another pimp, hoe, stripper, drug dealer or cheating reverend story? They’ve probably heard them all more than once. How about you choose a new topic or put your own spin on it and tell the story from a perspective that it has never been told before? Think outside of the box.
Lastly, it would probably be a good idea to invest in some editing. Editing is not proofreading, even though that is important as well. There are seasoned authors who have more than one editor edit their books. If you want to be the best, you want to emulate the best practices that the best in your craft use. The quality of your product will determine whether your achieve longevity in your field. Any author can sell one book. Not many can sell a second title if their first book wasn’t recognized as being a quality piece of work. People tend to talk more about bad experiences than they do about the good ones. I hope this helps.
Moses Miller is an author, journalist and co-founder of Mind Candy, LLC, a company focused on book publishing and the development of creative and thought provoking screenplays. A native New Yorker, Moses exhibits the uncanny ability to capture the pulse of the streets with intelligence, strong character development and well thought out storylines.
Caroline McGill: These are my random thoughts on the topic.
Start with an interesting and edited manuscript.
Do your homework and come in the book game with tough skin.
Familiarize yourself with all aspects of publishing. Publishing doesn’t stop at writing a book, it starts there.
Publish quality work that you’ll be proud to stand behind. This is a business, so the objective is to make money, but keep in mind that longevity cannot be obtained by half-stepping.
Be able to take constructive criticism. When it’s coming from an avid reader, critique is invaluable.
Network, make alliances, and don’t burn bridges.
Be knowledgeable about the distribution process, discounts and wholesale prices.
Sell, sell, sell!!!!!!
Caroline McGill is the author of the highly acclaimed, award winning A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent series and the controversial novel, Sex as a Weapon. McGill obtained a degree in Business Administration and founded Synergy Publications. A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent was the inspiration behind her S.O.S. (Saving Our Selves) AIDS Awareness Campaign, a campaign fueled on educating the minority community on fighting the AIDS epidemic. She hopes that women and men alike will be enlightened by her works, and begin to take initiative in the fight against HIV/AIDS. McGill is currently working hard to promote her upcoming new series, HBIC: Head Bitch In Charge.
Class is over. See you with the next Open Mic!