By Al Kalar
Introduction to the Series
Working for an eBook publisher as an acquisitions editor, as well as a copy editor, I see a lot of manuscripts cross my “IN” basket. Many of them have a good story yarn or an interesting subject matter, but most of them are not written with sales in mind.
Some of the problems are because the writer is using a technique s/he saw in the writings of a popular author. What a new writer has to remember is that s/he is not a popular writer — yet. Popular writers can get away with a few bad techniques because their fans will buy their books anyway. Professors can write poor text books because they can require them for their course.
Most of the problems I see are a combination of poor English skills and problems in the construction of the manuscript (the order and manner in which the piece is written). This series won’t teach English skills, but I hope that between us we can discover some tips on how to construct a text, book, or novel that will be more likely to find a publisher and hopefully enough of a buying audience to justify space on a retail bookshelf or web site book list.
If you’ve published something before, by all means keep writing. But never rest on your laurels. Make every effort to improve your craft and your product. Many authors who sell one book to a publisher never sell another. The most common reason is that the first book didn’t sell enough to justify the expense of publication and distribution.
Publication is a business! No matter how “worthy” you and your writing may be, it’s still a product. If the product doesn’t sell, it gets taken off the shelves to make room for something that will. So, don’t think your future is “made” because you found a publisher. Get out there and help your publisher to promote and sell your work and work hard to make your next book even better than the first.
Identify Your Audience
You’re muse has struck and you are sure you’re ready to write the next best seller. But to whom are you going to sell it?
Most of the time, the subject of the work will dictate what type of audience will be your ideal reader, but it never hurts to “formalize” your audience in your mind. For instance, if you’re writing a vampire novel that will appeal to kids in their early teens, you might want to hold back on the sex to keep from enraging their parents (and so you won’t be responsible for the next serial rapist). If you’re writing for kids in the second grade, your vocabulary is going to be somewhat limited. If you’re writing for an esoteric literary publisher, your vocabulary may require some stretching so you won’t be teased for writing like a mere college graduate.
With a target audience in mind, you can hopefully “stay on track”. Your writing should be tailored to appeal to that audience and not wander away to some area that your target audience might find boring, offensive, or uninteresting.
With that in mind, you can start laying out the framework of your book.
If your book is going to be a work of fiction (other than your tax return), you will be dealing with characterization, plot, sub-plots, story arcs, challenges, solutions, and so forth. If you intend a non-fiction work, you will be dealing with introductions, background, methods, data, conclusions, summaries, and perhaps stories just to name a few things. Again, these elements must be tailored to your audience. For kids, keep it simple and straightforward (but don’t be afraid to challenge them a bit).
For adults, you might want to keep it even simpler.
Okay, maybe a few of us can handle something a bit more complex than Dick and Jane. Some adults thrive on complexity. If that’s your audience, go for it.
As mentioned earlier, the content of your work will also be constrained by your audience. A “how to seduce a member of the opposite sex” work probably won’t be well received by confirmed church goers or by the parents of a teenage audience.