When It’s Time to STOP Writing Your Book

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You gotta know when to hold ‘em

Know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away . . .

Okay, so technically that line from an old Kenny Rogers song is talking about gambling, not writing a book. But either way, it still holds true. Sometimes, you just need to know when to walk away.

There comes a point in every book manuscript when good enough is, well, good enough. How do you know when that is?

My honest answer is that it’s not something you will intuitively “know”; neither will there likely be writing in the sky or an angel choir singing the hallelujah chorus. Rather, it’s a decision you make:

It is finished.

I’ve seen authors make endless iterations of paragraphs and chapters and beginnings and endings when, frankly, each was just as good as the one before it. I have seen the same comma being inserted and removed multiple times in the same sentence, seeking “perfection.” I’m not sure who was more frustrated, the author or me!

When it comes time to make that determination, here are some things you, the author, should be thinking about to determine if your manuscript is done:

  • Structure: Does the flow of thought makes sense across the entire book ?
  • Non-fiction: Is there a clear thesis statement? Does the book deliver on its promise to answer a certain question (or questions) for the reader?
  • Fiction: Do all your story lines get resolved? Are all your readers’ internal questions about the characters and plot resolved?
  • Is there an intriguing first chapter and a satisfying last chapter?
  • Does the pace of the book pull your reader through? (does not lag partway through)
  • Does each chapter end with a satisfying conclusion and transition to next chapter?
  • Are your tone and voice consistent throughout the whole book?
  • Is there a good connection between author and reader? (outside voices can tell you this)
  • Have you caught all the grammar and spelling errors? (It’s hard to get a perfect book but you should strive to get as close as possible; find a trusted proofreader!)

The sensation of “finished” may feel different between a fiction and non-fiction book. An editor with Penguin Random House said, “When editing non-fiction, I feel the book is done when it delivers on its promise: it communicates its information in the most pleasing and effective way, and has answered the readers’ anticipated questions.’

On the other hand, a fiction author related, “I find that I’m done with a book when my subconscious mind is no longer working on it. When I stop thinking about it when I’m running. Or if I’m in the grocery store staring at avocados and a great idea about the book doesn’t just spring into my head. Or if I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to write down some dialogue. When those little moments stop happening, I know I’m done.”

That’s where a trusted third party voice, like an editor, can help you settle the issue and assure you that, yes, it’s time to put down the pen (or computer) and launch your book into the world. If you’ve ever launched a child into the world, you know what I mean. You teach them everything you can and pour your life wisdom into them the best you know, but eventually, you have to let them go and make their way in the world on their own.

After all, we don’t want them hanging around the house forever, do we?

 

arlyn_headshotArlyn Lawrence is a developmental editor, president of Inspira Literary Solutions, and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World (LifeSmart Publishing). She has successfully launched five children into the real world, along with over three dozen books.

Choosing a Winning Book Cover

To be honest, we all judge books by their covers. This is true today more than ever. While there has been much fear and speculation over the decline in sales of “real” books alongside the rise of e-books, that is not true. Physical books are selling better than ever. This is due to three main reasons:

  • there are more people on the planet than ever (as well as more people in developed nations with equal access to education); therefore, more people buying books than ever
  • the power of social media and globalized networking
  • because so many things are online and intangible, people want to put their money into buying quality physical products. Publishers today are putting increasing amounts of money into design and quality of books. People want to buy beautiful books.

For example, I own a 99-cent copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle. However, when Juniper Books, in collaboration with Penguin Publishing artist Coralie Bickford-Smith, came out with their new Jane Austen book covers, I willingly threw my money at them (see image below). That’s not because it was new content; I wanted to own this beautiful new copy and put the cover on my shelf.

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Beautiful, compelling book covers matter tremendously to the success of a book. With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing a winning cover design for yours:

  1. Pick a good title. Read our previous blog about how to pick a book title: https://inspiralit.com/2016/08/11/whats-in-a-name/
  2. Browse Amazon and search for other books in your genre.Is there a noticeable design pattern? What colors are generally used? What type of typography? Minimalistic or crowded? Be aware of what is selling in your genre and use the marketing research that has already gone into those books.
  3. Hire a trusted designer. Don’t skimp on design. A professional and beautifully designed book will be one of your biggest marketing tools. One of the key signs of badly done self-publishing is bad design, so make sure your designer knows her (or his) stuff!
  4. Don’t try to accomplish too much through intuition. The entire subplot and theme of your book does not need to be hidden in the cover. Don’t try to include secret clues or messages in the cover. Just because you use the imagery of a wave in your book does not mean that is the best for your cover.
  5. If in doubt, go for a classic and professional-looking design. A professional cover is timeless, straightforward, and (hopefully) beautiful. Can’t go wrong there!

If you do decide you want to solicit the opinions of others to help you make a decision on your book cover, get feedback from a qualified focus group composed of prospective readers in your market segment who are interested in your specific topic. They are your target audience. As the author, you are very likely too close to it to be able to make a completely objective assessment. And, your family members and friends are probably too close to YOU to make an objective assessment!

Research shows that bookstore browsers spend an average of eight seconds looking at the front cover of a book and 15 seconds studying the back cover before making the decision to buy it (or not). Online bookstores like Amazon reduce the decision time even further. In mere seconds, your cover compels a reader to buy—or to click through to the next book on the list.

In the world of visual marketing, your cover matters. Your cover will likely correspond with your brand (think website and social media platforms) as well as be the first impression people get of your book. Make it a good one!

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

Marketing Your Book: The Importance of Building Your Tribe

If you are a regular reader of our blogs, you’ll notice we talk about your “tribe” a lot. We define a tribe—as it relates to an author—as a group of people who look to you for direction, insight, wisdom, authority, or “how to” on a particular topic. Your tribe may be small (e.g., your family). It may be medium size (say, you are a community leader or you own a small business or pastor a congregation, etc.). Or, your tribe may be large (e.g., you are a thought leader in your industry, a well-known professional athlete, or a celebrity in one regard or another).

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No matter the size of your tribe, it is your most important marketing and networking tool. In fact, the traditional publishing working is largely funded by people with large tribes (fan-bases). Publishers know that if a celebrity writes a book, it will sell. There are enough people who count themselves as a part of that celebrity’s tribe who will buy the book because they care about the celebrity. You may not be a celebrity, but you have a tribe. These people will not only be the first people to buy your book, but they are also going to be your biggest advocates. (Think of your mom; I bet she will not only buy your book, but also convince eight of her friends to buy it, too!)

This is why you want to start building your tribe early and communicate often.
If you are anything like me, there is a small part of you that wants to go hide in a cave for two years writing a book and then emerge with a perfect, fully finished product to market. Maybe that is how the world once worked, but it is not today’s world. In a world of distraction, relevance, and constant marketing, you cannot go dark for two years. Maybe your mom will remember that you were in a cave writing a book, but you cannot expect the rest of your tribe to keep up the anticipation for that long.

Do you have an idea for a book? Are you still in the writing process? Tell your tribe. Let them go on the journey with you. Let them see your writing days. Let them see the exciting day you sign with an agent and the bad day you had writer’s block. Build their trust, their excitement, and their loyalty. While you spend your two years writing a book, make sure you are always checking in with your tribe. Keep your project in front of them and on their minds. This way, when it comes time to market your book or launch a Kickstarter, they will be there for you.

Where should you start? First, decide on the best way to communicate with your tribe—e.g., Twitter, Instagram, blog updates, Facebook page, or LinkedIn. Then ask, how does your tribe communicate best? Knowing the main demographic of your tribe (i.e., the audience of your book) can help determine this.

Second, decide if you are going to market yourself or your project. How personal will you make your communication? If your tribe is world business leaders, then you will want to keep your updates professional—market your project. If your tribe is moms with toddlers, your communication can be a little messier, and you can be more comfortable with marketing yourself.

Third, build the bridge. Remember, the end game is not about numbers. Of course, it would be nice if your book sold thousands of copies, but, hopefully, that is not your main goal. You have a unique message to share and your tribe is excited to hear it. That is what matters. Build community through authentic communication and trust.

If you need some help building your tribe, brainstorming ways to communicate/market, or editing/self-publishing your book, Inspira is here to help. Let us become a part of your tribe!

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

Who Me, Write a Book?

“Why should I write a book? There are so many others out there already. How can I possibly have anything new to say on the topic?”

This is probably one of the most frequent objections I hear from would-be authors, many times leaders in their fields who have been urged to think about writing a book. They ask, What do I have to contribute that someone else hasn’t already?

inspira-10-6-2016To a certain extent, this is true. There probably IS someone somewhere who has already said what you have to say. As they say, there is very little new under that sun. But, that being said, no one else will say it quite like you! And no one else has the unique audience you have.

All of us have a “tribe,” a group of people that looks to us for direction, insight, wisdom, authority, or “how to” on a particular topic. Your tribe may be small (e.g., your family). It may be medium size (say, you are a community leader or you own a small business or pastor a congregation, etc.). Or, your “tribe” may be large (e.g., you are a thought leader in your industry, a well known professional athlete, or a celebrity in one regard or another). Whatever the size and scope of your sphere, these are people for whom you are uniquely positioned with something to offer. This is why your book, no matter what the topic, will have something unique to offer your particular tribe.

What does your tribe want to hear from you? They look to you for:

  • how to/teaching on a particular topic
  • encouragement
  • your perspective
  • direction
  • life wisdom
  • your story (ies) or experience(s)

Having a particular demographic in mind makes writing a book a whole lot more meaningful and compelling. Plus, identifying your own tribe is helpful for a number of reasons:

  1. It helps clarify your target audience (helpful for marketing your book, and/or in submitting it to an agent or publisher if you choose to traditionally publish your book)
  2. It sets you up as a thought leader in your industry or area of expertise
  3. It can be a powerful marketing tool for your business, program, or product
  4. It can be an effective motivator for the discipline of writing since you’re writing with real people in mind

So, if you’re contemplating (or in the process of) writing a book, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is my tribe?
  • For what kind of information, insight, encouragement, or expertise do they look to me?
  • How am I already delivering that to them?
  • How could a book in hand make that process simpler or more satisfying?
  • How could writing a book get my message to more people?
  • How could that impact my business, product, or program?
  • What steps should I take now that I’ve identified my tribe and what they need from me?

Chances are, there is an audience just waiting to hear your message, uniquely from you! And a book is one of the best ways to deliver it.

Arlyn Lawrence is a developmental editor and the founder of Inspira Literary Solutions. She has written and published books of her own, but gets considerably more joy out of helping other people write and publish theirs.