From a Not-so-n00b Writer to An Aspiring Writer

After I published my first book, I’ve got a number of friends who came to me to ask about publishing a book. I thought I’d just summarize here and share it with everyone. If you know of people who are embarking on the writing journey, do share this with them.

First thing first, do not jump straight into full time writing without any form of savings. Writing (self-pub) is like running a small business. If you do not have the capital, you should not start. Some writers like me have day jobs funding our expensive writing business. If you’re hoping for your debut book to start off with a bang, read on.

Step 1

Write the damn book.

I learned not to entertain questions until the book is actually completed. It’s the same thing the seasoned authors tell me when I was just starting out, and after I finished writing my first book, I understood why.

It’s easy to get distracted with all the glitz and glamour – where do I get a book cover? marketing? should I do up a website?

Don’t. Just write the book first. Finish it.

You need to finish writing the book before you know what genre you’re writing. Very often, we want to write because we have a compelling story to tell. We don’t really think about genre, market, and all those. The content is going to affect the book cover, so it’ll be good you have the entire story planned out at least before you get an artist to do your cover. If you’re lucky and a pre-made that matches your story happens to be available, get it.
However, I’d still advise that you think about the cover *after* you finish the book, because characters do what they want. Halfway through writing, one of the characters may decide to do something other than what you’ve planned and your book suddenly steers the other way. If you’ve already gotten the book cover and it limits you, you’re fucked.

I know because I’ve experienced this first hand. Lol. And I continue to suffer this mistake I’d made. That said story I had is not published. The pretty cover I’d bought is sitting in my hard drive until my brain gets the story all sorted out. One day, hopefully.

So yeah, finish writing the book first. If you have a series, good to finish the series. I know you’ll get excited and want people to read it. That’s fine. Get your alpha or beta readers to help you out with your contents. But finish writing it. I published my first book without finishing my series and I can’t tell you how many times I screwed myself over the contents. I can’t change what I’ve already written and published. I can upload new editions, but those who have already bought your books won’t see the changes. Worse if you already have the books in print.

Step 2

Get beta readers. Ask your author of your reader group nicely if you can ask for help. 90% of the authors I know will say ‘yes’, but whether or not people will volunteer is another thing. Ask those seasoned readers for their opinions on your plot, whether or not they like your main characters.

This was something I was too shy to do for my first book. I’m suspecting it could be why the first dev editor I hired disappeared from me. Probably thinks my book is beyond salvation. Which brings me to my next point.

Get a developmental editor. If you don’t know how many types of editor there are, do your homework. Read this. Unless you have a lot of beta readers to point out content problems, best to hire a professional.

Get reputable editors.

For my first novel, I had one who ghosted me after I paid in full. I won’t go into the details here but go to the author whose writing style you really enjoy, write to the author and ask for editor recommendations. Over the course of your writing career you may change editors, find that certain editors are better at certain genres etc. But for your debut novel, get the right editor. That first novel, first book in the series is very important.

Step 3

Hunt for the cover.

You need to join many FB groups of cover artists, look for a style that matches what you need. The covers will determine the kind of readers you will attract. Then, look at the price that the artist charges for custom-made, or get a set if you are planning to write a series. I scored a beautiful pre-made for my book. Everything was good until I started writing Book 2, and I realized I can’t really afford a custom-made. It’s a good thing I have a day job, so I had to save up like hell, book the popular artist waaaaay ahead, then get it done. For Chikara, I was super lucky. I bought 2 premades for Book 1 & 3. I got personal help from a fellow Singaporean for Book 2. It wasn’t that artist’s style but she helped me. She could have said ‘no’. I have to save up for Book 4 onwards and the original artist’s price is out of my league. Either that or I get something else but doesn’t follow the current theme of my series.

See how I’m screwed? Yeah. Write the story first. If you are planning a series, maybe write the series first, then you won’t run into cover issues like me.

Step 4

Hire a proofreader, or get a number of reliable beta readers to help you proofread, but professional proofreader will be better, Those sneaky typos will just fly by you when you’ve read your own script for the thousandth time. Same for your editor and it’s not the editor’s fault he/she didn’t catch 2 of your typos in an 80k word novel. It’s all on you.

Step 5

Join FB group 20booksto50K and read about marketing strategies and ideas. This is one part I couldn’t be bothered to do, so I’m paying the price for it. Low sales, low readership, and so on. I also made costly marketing mistakes because I couldn’t be bothered to learn how to do it properly. I don’t know how to generate large sales and get publicity. The publicity I paid for didn’t work for my sales at all. So I may have to reflect on my writing, covers, or blurb. As I quote one of my favourite authors, Grace Draven, “putting pearls on a pig won’t suddenly turn it into a princess.”

So there you have it. You want to write your first book? Here’s what you should do. Thereafter? Go to the FB group and read how those authors made it. I am still learning the ropes too. From what I know, every author’s path to success is unique, you won’t find a template for money-making success. I have read on the FB group about some debut authors hitting the jackpot with their first series, so go in there and read their stories. There are no shortcuts to success to anything. Everything is hard work. If you are just doing this as a hobby and you don’t want to stress yourself over it, then don’t ask how to make money from it.

Remember, writing is like running your own company. You are the creative director, the financial officer, the publicist and marketing expert. You have to wear all these hats yourself until you make enough money to outsource these roles to experts, or save up enough capital to hire the experts to smoothen your path.

All the best!

p.s If you are a seasoned author reading this and you have advice for me, please reach out. I will be most grateful!

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