Many people dream of someday writing a book, but without a clear message and plan of action very few will even write the first word. Here are some tips on how to start writing a book from an editor with more than a decade of publishing-industry experience and hundreds of manuscripts under her belt.
“I’ve heard horror stories about editors,” an author told me recently at the start of a project. Another said to me, “I was really expecting the worst during editing.” Horror stories? The worst? Really? What is going on in the publishing world that has authors dreading editors and their fiendish red pencils? I know a lot of editors, and I don’t think we’re a horrible lot. Yet editors do offer up similar lamentations about working with authors: “I need to start charging a stupidity fee” or “Why won’t they just accept that I’m right.” If you’re on either side of this editorial war, I recommend you read on for some rules of engagement:
An acknowledgment section might initially seem like the simplest part of writing your book, but many authors feel stumped once they reach this part of the publishing process. How long should it be? Who to thank? How to say it? It can get surprisingly complicated surprisingly quickly. Read on for our tips on how to write a great book acknowledgment page.
Who to Thank in Your Acknowledgements
Similar to making a wedding invitation list, the names of people you want to include may seem to pile on top of each other fifty per minute once you start brainstorming, leaving you overwhelmed with who to thank. A good rule of thumb is to stick only to the people who helped you directly in writing and producing the book (ie: not your friend from pre-K who showed you how to tie your shoes, as invaluable that life lesson may be). Common acknowledgment ideas are family members, sources for nonfiction pieces, your editor and designer/illustrator, your publisher, and your book mentor. BPS also has a good piece of advice—“Be parsimonious in your praise of animals, too.” Sorry, Spot.
Trying to sell a book with an uninteresting title is like trying to sell a homely pre-owned car—the buyer is probably going to browse right over the rusted ‘99 Saturn to check out the pristinely waxed Honda parked next door. Although the interior looks great, and the gas tank is full, the Saturn’s dullness holds no ground against the Armor-All tires of its competitor.
Your book’s title serves as the deal breaker for your target consumers. Take a lesson from the used-car analogy and don’t let a dull or overused phrase ruin a book’s selling potential. A title should attract the intended audience, communicate the promise of the book, and differentiate the book in the market. Pick a title with purpose! Here we’ll discuss how to make that purpose come to life with brainstorming techniques, essential titling elements, and some no-no’s to avoid when narrowing down your title.
A book’s title is important. It’s a crucial summary of the essence of the content inside, and one of the key ways a book pitches itself to browsers when it’s all alone on the bookstore shelf. Get the title wrong and a book is crippled from the outset. And there are all sorts of mistakes to be made in titling: genre-inappropriate titles, overly clever titles that don’t reflect what the book’s about, titles with strange formatting or cute intentional misspellings that make the book not show up in online search results.
If you’re trying to title your book and getting frustrated, you’re in good company. For instance, George Orwell almost called his dystopian masterpiece The Last Man in Europe instead of 1984. Bo-ring. And Moby-Dick was named after a real-life whale named “Mocha Dick.” It’s a good think Melville changed it up—can you imagine the cleverly named Starbucks menu items? (Starbucks got its name in part from Captain Ahab’s first mate in the novel.)
A Little Background
You always hear at writers’ conferences to write what you love, or to choose your genre based on what you enjoy writing. If you’re writing purely for pleasure, this is a great idea. But if you’re interested in selling books in a crowded marketplace, you have to write about what you know. Writing a book within a genre where you have either credentials or expertise is one of the best ways to cut through the noise, because consumers have a good reason to put stock in what you’re saying. As a first time author, start writing where you have an audience. Are you a business owner? Write about entrepreneurship, company culture, or how to start a small business. Are you a life coach or speaker? Address a topic that you encounter or speak on frequently. Medical professional? Tackle health topics pertaining to your field. And the list goes on.
So what happens when you’re ready to write your second book, and it’s in a genre divergent from your original book? This happens frequently when an established author decides to write a fiction book after a nonfiction release, or vice versa. Before you put pen to paper, there are a few things you might want to consider to give your new book its best chance of success.