Writing for Love or Money – ready to be read…

First draft is just the beginning

Part Two – Publish and Publicise

Spread the love, bank the profits?

So you’ve spent a long time writing for the love it – perhaps for years. You’ve learned a lot about the art and the craft of writing. You’ve produced a novel, or a collection of non-fiction essays, short stories or poems. What now?

You could keep on writing for the love of it – nothing wrong with that. But what if you want your work to be read? How do you get it out there? And how do you maybe make a bit of money?

Good news, bad news.

The good news is that nowadays it’s easier than ever to publish your work and build up a readership. The bad news is that you probably won’t make a lot of money and your motivation will continue to be love.

Traditional publishing

The conventional way to get your book published is to get a contract with a publishing company. Authors usually have to find an agent willing to represent them and then rely on that agent to find a publisher. The most fortunate authors will then get a reasonable financial advance from their publisher, the services of an editor, a cover designer and a publicity team. And then there will be royalties on the book sales. Some will make just enough to live on, some will make enough to be comfortable, a few will become millionaires – but J.K.Rowling is an exception.

This route remains the most likely to net reasonable financial returns – and for most authors, if they’re honest, it is still the most desirable. It is, however, increasingly difficult for new writers to get onto this particular road to reaching their readers. The book will have to be easy to market, easy to categorise and have very widespread appeal. This is fair enough. Publishing is a business and, in the present financial climate, no sane business is going to take any unnecessary risks.

Vanity publishing

The only alternative to the above used to be for the author to use a vanity publisher. This involved paying a, not inconsiderable, amount of money to a book printing company to produce as many copies of their book as the author could afford. The author would then have to try to sell these books from their lock-up or garage or wherever and with very little opportunity to publicise the book’s existence. It’s doubtful that any money was made by authors in those circumstances.

Self publishing

But the world of publishing has changed and continues to change. And it is the internet which is largely responsible. The internet has made it possible not only for authors to publish their own work but also to publicise it effectively – and yes in some cases – make a little bit of money. E.L. James is the exception that proves the rule here. Go down this route and you’ll most likely still be writing primarily for love. Don’t let that put you off!  What’s most important is that YOU WILL GET READERS. And things are changing in this regard. It’s gradual, but there are more and more writers taking this route who are making enough to give up the day job.

It is relatively straightforward to set up a PRINT-ON-DEMAND PAPERBACK and to sell it online through Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble etc. It’s also relatively easy to make your book available in DIGITAL FORMAT for Kindle and other e-readers.

But there are PITFALLS to be aware of.

Firstly, I would advise against engaging the services of companies that purport to ease your way to self-publishing and that charge hundreds of pounds to do so. It really isn’t that difficult to do it yourself.

Secondly, don’t go it completely alone at the pre-publishing stage.  Do employ some PROFESSIONAL HELP – namely the services of an editor and a cover designer. After all you’ve put a lot of work into your writing – plus you’re asking people to pay to read it – so you owe it to yourself and your readers to present a product that is of a professional standard. I’ve lost count of the sloppily produced books that I’ve deleted from my Kindle or put in the paper- recycling bin. I will not buy work from those authors again. No matter how many drafts you’ve done and you should have done many – your book will require professional editing. And people do judge books by their covers. It’s what readers see first when looking at you book – either on a shelf in a bookshop or online – so again hire a professional. And if you have trouble with the technology and need help with formatting your book for publication there are some very able professionals who don’t charge the earth who’ll do that for you.

After publication, you’ll need to publicise your book of course. Social media can be a good way to do this. You can have a fan page for your book on Facebook. You can inform your followers on Twitter. But be careful when doing this – don’t bombard people – far better to use these social media sites to slowly build relationships with fellow writers – a very supportive bunch – and your readers. You can do readings at your local bookshop, get yourself interviewed on local radio. You might blog or have a website. You might do none of those things and just hope your book gets noticed amongst the millions of others.

N.B. It’s worth pointing out here that even those authors who are traditionally published are nowadays expected to be active self-promoters in the ways I’ve just listed.

So there you have it. Writing’s simple really. Do it, love it, and – if you want  to – share it.

I’m delighted to have had several brilliant but very different authors agree to guest post in this Love or Money series over the next few weeks. Come back next week to read the first one.


Useful information:

FOR EXCELLENT, DETAILED, COMPREHENSIVE AND GENEROUS ADVICE ON THE WHOLE SELF-PUBLISHING AND PUBLICISING THING – from your desk to bookshop real or virtual –  you would do well to visit DAVID GAUGHRAN’S blog here on wordpress.com



For competitively priced and first rate, insightful editing JOHN HUDSPITH is your man – find him at http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/

For superb cover design JANE DIXON-SMITH is your woman – find her at http://www.jdsmith-design.com/

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