What does it take to become an author? Notice that I didn’t even insert the word, “successful” in this sentence. Success is relative, anyway, isn’t it? I know authors who don’t believe they are successful until they sell 100,000 copies. And then there are authors who celebrate their success if they earn back enough to pay their printing costs.
But what does it take to become an author—to accomplish the requirements of authorship? During my forty years as a career writer and author; after 37 published books and after having worked with dozens and dozens of clients on their book projects, I’ve narrowed it down to 5 P’s. Ask any author who has been around the block and they will tell you that it takes:
There are no shortcuts. One cannot deviate from this established path to authorship. If you want to become an author and experience whatever measure of success you desire, you must consider each of these 5 P’s. (It wouldn’t hurt to throw in the word Patience, either.)
Before you start writing the novel or the nonfiction book of your dreams, put some thought into the potential for your project—a lot of thought. I suggest writing a book proposal. You wouldn’t open a business without a business plan. Consider the book proposal a business plan for your book. At the same time, look at your book as a product. If you view this project any other way, you are already starting down the wrong path.
Before proceeding, ask yourself, “Why do I want to write this book?” and “What is the purpose of this book.” If your responses are valid and reasonable, move forward. If they are frivolous and emotionally-driven, reconsider your project.
Now sit down and write a book proposal. There are many resources to guide you, including Herman and Adams, “Write the Perfect Book Proposal” and my “How to Write a Successful Book Proposal.” There is also an extensive section and guidelines for writing a book proposal in my most recent book on publishing, “Publish Your Book.” http://amzn.toTze53Z
What will you learn as you progress through the book proposal process? Here are the most important questions that you need to answer through your book proposal.
• Do you have a valid book at all?
• Who is your audience and where are they?
• What else is out there like your book?
• Is there actually a market for this book?
• What are your qualifications for writing this book?
• Do you have a strong enough platform to generate sales for this book?
• How will you promote this book?
What you learn from a well-researched, well-developed book proposal will guide you in making your next decision. Is your original idea a good one or do you need to tweak it a bit in order to make it more marketable?
This could be an important turning point in your project. Make an emotional decision (I love my idea and I’m sticking with it even if I can’t justify producing it) and you may fail. Make an educated decision based on the facts revealed in your book proposal, and your book has a fighting chance.
What about a book proposal for a novel? While the book proposal process is designed with the nonfiction book in mind, I recommend preparing one for a novel, as well. You should establish your genre, have a plan for your story, know something about your audience and how to reach them and you must be prepared to promote your book once it is a book. The fact is that no matter which publishing option you choose, you—the author—are responsible for promoting your book. So you’d better start building your platform—your following, your way of attracting readers.
Tomorrow we will discuss Preparation and Proofing.