6 ways you probably aren't
I would also add, "Respect your reader and their time." I'm currently editing a book for a friend. It's almost as if they are being paid by the word...and it's a thriller. You have to keep pace and not re-explain things every time it comes up (a little refresher is good if the info is in different acts, but not a few paragraphs away). Your reader is smart and is paying attention. Show them you know that. Lastly, read your book aloud before you send it to an editor (even a friend doing the job). How we speak (or read) and how we type can be very different. You will also find your repetitions and can improve the book before you send it for the edit. Also, dialogue *has* to move the story forward in some regard (not just get you over 70k), and for every darling you leave in, you must kill at least three. Please. (BTW, this is all stuff I've learned after I've published, so I have to live with what I've put out there. LOL.) xo
Great post. I always say that 'my readers tend to be smarter than I am' in the sense that I am writing for someone who wants an easy read, but who also wants something that has re-read potential. My biggest fans have read WBTH three times over, and the book was designed for that. So density works, provided you know your audience and get it in front of them. One of my latest short stories wasn't too popular with a scriptwriting friend, but an astrophysicist thought it was hilarious, so I think I know my audience!
I had an issue with the stakes in my upcoming novel where I felt the beginning was longwinded, but removing it made the book boring even though it brought the action forward. I realised the tension between the two worlds in the book, if written in another order, was more than enough to keep people interested. And without it, they aren't invested in the protagonist by the time the big main thing happens (not the inciting incident, but what essentially changes her life forever after it). The issue with the early drafts was that these two worlds did not feel like they were interacting, in essence turning chapter one into a drawn-out prologue. Having the characters encounter each other earlier on fixed most of these problems!
I'd disagree about not really having a choice between hardback and paperback, but I know we are coming at the issue from different angles. I know trad likes to put hardbacks out first, get customers paying more, then eventually do the paperback, but the way I do things is typically the other way round. Paperbacks for accessibility, then hardbacks with extra content somewhere down the line. If an author goes self-pub or with a small press, they have more power to choose.
I agree the title of a book is incredibly important. When I settled on WHO BUILT THE HUMANS? I wanted the book to feel like a parody of scientific and religious literature at the same time, with a sci-fi edge. I managed that. It has meant that the Guardian won't be writing a review of it any time soon, but the right people find my book and that's more important than writing a super catchy title like OMG THE ALIENS ARE IN MY TROUSERS!!! and selling it to people who will give it a lukewarm review at best.
That said, my autobiography OMG THE ALIENS ARE IN MY TROUSERS!!! is coming out in December.
I agree with all of these except I would add a couple caveats to the last one. As a reader, I like when the title has a double meaning and the second one isn't clear until after you've read the book. That "aha!" moment when you get the title's "real" meaning can be ver cool.
Also, as with a lot of book marketing today, the title shouldn't be misleading. More and more I feel like publishers are trying to trick me into buying books with titles, blurbs, and cover art that suggests a book is something trendy or popular that it's not.
Yes on the complicated ebooks. Turns out, most readers prefer to read. Who'da thunk it?
I wrote an antiheroine, thus guaranteeing that NY bestselling authors had nothing to fear from me. In the end, though, I was rewarded by those who persisted in reading the series (and who let me know) finally getting it. Would I do it again? Not by choice. Maybe just because it's what I feel driven to write. Fortunately, I don't mind if people don't like her! :)
Wise advice. It's sad how those enhanced books are impossible to get accepted. My friend, Nick Bantock, author of the marvellous series, Griffin and Sabine, is a visual artist as well as a writer and his creations are a magnificent blend of these two skills. His publisher nixes many of his projects even though he's, you know, famous!
Thank you for the clarification on book titles. I think I have a good one, but it may be a little hokey. It's nice to know that the professionals will help out with that. I love your posts!
I'm thinking hard about your last point about title. I hear what you're saying but some of my favourite books are books where the title didn't really make sense until the end. The biggest bestseller example I can think of currently that has a title with a secret meaning, that you literally don't get until the very last sentence of the book, is It Ends With Us. The market is so oversaturated with certain types of titles because one will sell and then a bazillion titles copying that come out after. Then the titles of the books on the shelves become so boring. I get why it is this way. I get there (might be) a necessity to having it this way. But I also wonder — because it seems like many breakout bestsellers are so because they are the first of their kind. I think it comes back to risk-taking in publishing. It's hard to take a risk, because it means you fail in an industry where failure is already part of the business, but then you have these risk takers who are anomalies and became so because they took a risk.
I wonder how genre helps. Let's say I write a book about a vile monster but for reasons in the story, I title it IN STRONG LOVING ARMS. So it sounds like a romance. But the book is in the horror section of the store. Maybe the cover has a reptile on it. I'd think that makes it work...
Honestly though if I'm about to get published and all I have to do is agree we switch to the title KILL DIE BLOOD AX, sure, do it -- just sell a million of em that way.
This is great advice. It’s so tricky isn’t it...how much to tell the readers as they go without making it boring. Just enough to make it clear but not so clear that it’s an essay instead of a novel! I think it’s definitely possible though and just keeping that balance in mind as we edit can change it just enough. Thank you.
Thank you for that Kate. And you are so right because if the author isn't able to bring the new reader fully into the book very early on few people will be enticed to go on reading.
Thanks! I’m working on both a memoir and a cookbook proposal right now and this was helpful.
The deeper I get into my memoir, the more I am thinking about the reader. Trying to roll out the red carpet for them as best I can!
Extremely true. Thinking of readers is crucial. You nailed it with the idea that readers don’t really care until you make them care (my words). This is why getting non-emotionally-invested beta readers early on is key. I tell book editing clients all the time: Readers are disinterested people who need proof that they should care. Sounds harsh but think about how much our attention is pulled and fragmented in 2023. You gotta really hook readers in and sustain that attention. No easy feat.
‘Sincere American Writing’
Excellent and helpful. Thank you.
Totalmente de acuerdo. Estoy en un grupo de escritura donde nos revisamos textos y nos damos criterios y siempre me sorprendo de la falta de perspectiva a la hora de pensar en el lector. Es como si la frase ¨Escribe para ti mismo¨se transformara en un mantra a recitar(o una camisa de fuerza) Más de una vez me he detenido a pensar: bueno, entiendo de donde viene esto, pero el lector no tiene tiempo de atar cabos complicados y entretenerse al mismo tiempo.
Por supuesto, esto no es sencillo de conseguir. Pero creo que una distancia prudencial entre primer borrador y revisión, y entre revisión y publicación nos garantiza una mirada más crítica hacia nuestros propios textos. A veces la adrenalina de querer postear enseguida se convierte en una trampa, y es doloroso cuando encontramos el error en una publicación ya compartida (aunque podamos editarla luego) He chocado contra ese poste varias veces jaja.
Seleccionar un buen título refleja el proceso de escritura en su totalidad. A veces aparece no más y sabes que nada va a moverlo de allí. Otras, se debe esperar hasta el final del texto para conocer cuál será o se tiene una idea vaga que hay que pulir y pulir hasta alcanzar la joya. En mi caso, estoy escribiendo mi ópera prima, una novela de cyberpunk: La Comunidad de los Exiliados y este título me vino desde el principio y sé que nada hará que le cambie una sola letra (salvo un editor entusiasmado, claro jj)
Gracias por compartir tu experiencia!
PD: escribo en español porque es mi lengua nativa y mis pensamientos fluyen mejor de esta manera, pero si es un problema, házmelo saber y lo hago en inglés, como el resto.
This was really helpful, thank you!