Thursday, March 05, 2020

Successful Self-Publishing: Learn Your Craft

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Indie Authors Series 

JH: Before you jump into publishing, learn how to write well. 
Laurisa White Reyes shares tips on things to do if you want a successful writing career.

Laurisa White Reyes is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing. She is also the founder and senior editor of Skyrocket Press and teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Visit her website at

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Take it away Laurisa...

“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

The process of writing may not seem to be directly related to publishing, but I assure you it is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by a writer who has written a book, wants to get it published, believes it’s the greatest book anyone has ever seen—and it’s NOT. The problem usually lies with the fact that these writers had a good idea for a story but did not invest the time and effort to learn how to write before actually writing.

Writing a book without experience or training is like handing a paint brush to someone who has never painted and expecting him to create the next Renoir.

Before you start writing your book, you need to know how to write a book. If your book is already written, you need to ask yourself: Is my book really ready to be published?

How do you hone your skills to the point that you can confidently write that amazing book? The following tips are a MUST.

Read. A Lot.

Many writers are already avid readers. Their love of books is often what drives them to write in the first place. But WHAT you read as an author matters a great deal. If you write epic fantasy, for example, when was the last time you actually read an epic fantasy novel? “Sure,” you might say. “I love The Lord of the Rings. Read the whole series half a dozen times.”

LOTR was published in 1954. Over sixty years ago! Have you read anything that’s been published recently? Game of Thrones, you say? But that too was published a while back and is only one series among hundreds.

What’s popular today? Trends change from season to season. If you’re only reading “classics” in your genre, then you are likely out of touch with today’s reading audience.

Read About Writing

As an aspiring author, books about the craft of writing should be on your TBR list. Many best-selling authors have written insights into their own processes: Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Charles Bukowski, just to name a few. There are literally hundreds of books out there about how to write books by many writers and from many different perspectives.

Also, make sure to read at least one or two books about how to write in your specific genre. For example, Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole is considered by many as the best how-to book for crafting fiction for children and teens. For science fiction, my favorite is How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Writing a mystery? How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey is a must. And so forth.

(Here's more on Assessing Yourself as a Writer: Does Your Writing Make the Grade?)

Find Your Tribe

Your tribe is your people. Your fellow writers-in-arms. The men and women who think like you do, love the same books you love, who “get” you. Let’s face it. Our husbands and wives and children and even parents love us and (hopefully) support our sometimes quirky addiction to writing. But unless they are writers themselves, they really don’t understand what it’s like to be us.

You need to spend time with other writers who will encourage you, commiserate with you, who will bolster you when you’ve gotten that 50th rejection letter and celebrate with you when you’ve won 2nd place in the local writing contest.

Where do you find your tribe? To start, go online and find your national or state or even city-based writers’ organization.

Also, get involved with an organization for your particular genre or a common trait you share with other writers, such as religion, gender, etc. Pay the dues and become a member. Get on their mailing list. Read their newsletters and blogs and magazines. Connect with other members. Maybe there is a local chapter in your hometown. Attend their meetings. Form a critique group (more on that later). Go out to lunch!

Attend Writing Conventions, Workshops and Classes

Once you’ve joined an organization or two, take advantage of the training that many of them offer. How do you craft a mystery, a picture book, a romance novel? How do you write a query letter? How do you find the “voice” of your fiction story? How do you put together a non-fiction proposal?

You learn all that by attending workshops and lectures and classes. If you wanted to become a nurse, you wouldn’t just show up at a hospital and start injecting patients. You’d register in a nursing program at a college and take two to three years-worth of courses. The same goes for becoming an engineer or graphic designer or teacher. Why do so many people think they can write without first being educated on how to write?

It’s not that you need a college degree (although that does certainly help), but it is vital that every aspiring writer puts in the time and effort and – yes – money to learn their craft.

Many writers’ organizations host annual conferences and occasional workshops. There are also online resources such as UCLA Extension’s writing program, Writers Digest University, The Writers Workshop, Gotham Writers, and She Writes University.

(Here's more on An Introvert’s Guide to Writer’s Conferences)

Practice, Practice, Practice!

They say practice makes perfect. Well, maybe no writer ever becomes perfect, but they can get pretty good at their craft with a lot of hard work and persistence. Mastering one’s craft does not mean perfection because the art of writing is a process that varies from author to author. Mastering the craft of writing means becoming comfortable with the tools of one’s trade and producing work that is satisfying both to the writer and to the reader.

As with any skill or talent, mastering writing takes time. A lot of time. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000 hours of practice – of any skill – to become the best at what you do. That equates to about 90 minutes of work each day over a twenty-year period. Now, that number is extraordinary and even daunting. But don’t let that 10,000 hour rule dampen your dreams. Writers (or artists or musicians) can get very, very good at their craft after even a fraction of that number. In other words, you don’t have to be THE BEST writer in the world to be a successful writer.

While how you practice and how often depends on you and your schedule and level of commitment, it’s a good rule of thumb to set aside time every day (or at least most days) to write and/or edit. Set a schedule that fits your personal goals, but do write regularly—and write a lot. 

What do you do to improve your craft?

About 8 Secrets of Self Publishing

So, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Great! What next? Time to consider these questions:
  • Is my book ready?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is self-publishing worth the effort?
  • Where will I find readers?
Publishing a book is easy. Successfully publishing a book takes commitment, teamwork, and yes—money. In 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing, award-winning author and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, Laurisa Reyes, explains what it takes to give your book that special ingredient that will shoot it towards success. Learn how to develop your craft, gather a publishing team, market your book, and much more as you travel the road of self-publishing. Whether you're a veteran or new to the field, this book is a valuable resource that needs to be on every writer's shelf.

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