The 21 top tips for becoming a bestselling authorThe 21 top tips for becoming a bestselling author
on Apr 29, 2021 Gone are the days when international fiction and non-fiction dominated our bestseller lists. As Australian authors such as Jane Harper, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Craig Silvey, Kate Grenville, Richard Flanagan, Tara June Winch and many more clock up sales, international recognition and screen deals, it’s no surprise that thousands of would-be writers are tapping away on their laptops. There is no one-size-fits-all route to publication. Publishers choose authors based on a whole range of practical and subjective criteria, although the quality of the work is understandably crucial.
But aspiring authors can increase their chances of finding a publisher. Here are some insider tips; some dos and don’ts that can help smooth the way. Being prepared is as important as being creative. There can be a lot to do even before you start writing. Above all, take your time so you produce your best work possible before you look for an agent or publisher. Paraphrasing Alexander Hamilton, don’t throw away your shot.
Know the industry. Read books pages and literary-themed social media, and go to book events and literary festivals so you have a broader perspective on the publishing world and how you could fit into it. Think about the type of book you plan to write. What is its market and audience? Who are similar authors? Read the competition. If you are looking at writing in a genre such as crime, devour a raft of work by the most successful authors. What do they do? Lurk in bookshops. There is a lot you can learn from studying the books on the shelves, talking to booksellers and overhearing conversations.
Study the authors’ acknowledgment pages in locally published titles. They can reveal names (and thus the taste) of publishers, editors and agents who may be worth approaching. Understand how your computer software works. This will save you an immense amount of time and possible heartbreak. Remember the importance of back-ups. Seek advice. Join a writers’ group or centre. An encouraging community is a great resource. Strangers can be more honest and useful than loyal loved ones who tend to offer compliments. (Bless). Or, occasionally, can prove demoralising. Ensure you have a quiet and comfortable place to work, away from family distractions. At least while you are getting started. Later you may find that you can concentrate in your local cafe. Start writing. Don’t rush. Different people write in different ways. There is no right way. Whether you want to gush 100,000 words into a first draft and then polish, or hone each sentence, or mark off 1000 words a day on an Excel spreadsheet, it’s OK. Whatever works for you.
If you get stuck, don’t worry. Go for a walk, do the laundry, have a long shower or tidy the fridge. If inspiration strikes when you are out, type into the notes section of your phone. Do multiple drafts. And then more. Polish. Print out your manuscript single-sided at the start of the editing process. Your eye can pick up different issues, including structural flaws, when you are reading away from the screen. Don’t send out it too soon. Is it as good as it can be? You have one shot. Many fall at this hurdle. Decide if you want an agent to represent you. An agent will facilitate access to publishers, negotiate on your behalf and support you through the writing and publishing process (for a percentage of royalties). Go to austlitagentsassoc.com and look for agents who represent books like yours. When you have polished chapters (or ideally a whole book for fiction or a detailed synopsis and sample chapters for non-fiction), make your approach. Don’t approach agents too soon.
Don’t despair if you don’t find an agent. The websites of publishers will reveal if they accept submissions and in what form. (The famous slush pile). Follow the guidelines exactly. You are not special. Prepare a polished submission with a short professional biography (the type you would see in a book). Include a headshot. In describing your book, don’t be too plot-driven or flowery. Try writing it like the back-cover blurb on a book. Include comparison titles but be modest. Don’t say your fantasy novel is just like George R.R. Martin’s. Your historical fiction like Hilary Mantel’s. Practise explaining your book in one pithy sentence — what the film industry would call the elevator pitch.
Don’t pester the agent or publisher while waiting for a response. They are overworked and do much of this work in their own time at home. Be patient and polite. Don’t add cute accoutrements to your submission — no proposed cover designs by your girlfriend or, if sending by snail mail, no pot pourri. It falls on the floor and causes much unhappiness in publishing offices. No biscuits that can attract cockroaches. If rebuffed at first, follow the inspiration that 14th century Scottish king Robert the Bruce gained from a spider attempting to build a web. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Good luck. Source: https://www.smh.com.au/
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