Thursday, May 07, 2020

Successful Self-Publishing: Write a Great Book (Part 1)

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Indie Authors Series 

JH: In the end, it all comes down to the novel itself. 
Laurisa White Reyes shares why it's so important to start with a great book.

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

Take it away Laurisa...

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ― Jodi Picoult

You may have already written a book. If so, congratulations! If you are in the process of writing or are planning to write a second or third book (which you should be) then it is essential to do it right. Your goal should be for lots of people to one day read it, and that will only happen if your book is really good. No. It’s got to be great.

The painful truth is that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions! of good books out there all competing against yours. Each book is waving its little hand amid a sea of other hands crying “Read me! Read me!”

What makes your book stand out from all the others? And more importantly, how do you write a book that will break away from the pack and make a name for itself, which it has to do if you want to sell more than three copies?

While no one can teach you an exact formula on how to write a perfect book (remember, there is no such thing as the “perfect” book), there are several things you can do to ensure that your book reaches its own greatest potential.

(Here's more on What Matters More? Story Execution or the Idea?)

Know Your Genre

I want to pull out my hair sometimes when I ask writers what genre they write and they reply with “My book is sort of sci-fi, romance, historical – you know what I mean?”

No, I don’t. And neither does anyone else.

I understand the drive in some authors to break barriers, to experiment, but in most cases it just doesn’t work. Why? Because all book sellers sell books according to genre. Yes, a sci-fi book can indeed have elements of romance and history, but there’s no such thing as sci-fi/romance/historical on the shelves at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.

Resist the temptation to invent new genres and instead find the right genre for your book.

“But I don’t want to pigeonhole my story!”

Too bad. We all have to do it. Join the club.

When you publish on KDP, for example, they will ask you to select one or two genres. You will likely choose either fiction or non-fiction, and then you must select the genre and sub-genre from there.

Here are some common genres for fiction, though KDP has many more and calls them categories:
  • Action Adventure
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Contemporary
  • Mystery

Each of these are then broken into several sub-genres. For example, these are some of the sub-categories for Fantasy:
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Epic
  • General
  • Urban
  • Historical
  • Paranormal

You’d better know what genre your book falls under because if you don’t, your readers will not appreciate it. Imagine a die-hard mystery fan downloading your “mystery” only to find out its really a horror novel (with a little mystery thrown in for good measure, of course). Yikes!

(Here's more on The Importance of Genre Specific, Part Two)

Know Your Audience

Another pet peeve of mine is when new authors tell me “My book is for everyone,” or “Well, it’s middle grade and young adult.”

No, it’s not.

While you might think your book is appropriate for a wide audience, Amazon and Barnes & Noble will disagree. And if you ever decide to submit your manuscript to agents or traditional publishers, they will reject it out of hand if you don’t have the audience pegged.

Your book should first be either for adult or juvenile readers. If adult, is it for adults or new adults? New adults are the 18 to 25 set, college-age students, and most NA books run on the more risqué side. Not full on erotica, mind you, but more sex than you’d find in typical books for teens.

If you’re writing for youth, there are quite a few sub-categories to choose from.

Each of these categories has specific guidelines to follow, such as the age of the protagonist, word count, and subject matter. For information on how to write books for kids and teens, I strongly recommend connecting with The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

As far as the adult category goes, pretty much anything that is not specifically written for kids, teens, or hormonal college students is fair game.

“How do I know for sure?”

A good rule of thumb is to look at your protagonist, the hero of your story, and his/her age. The age of the protagonist generally coincides with the age category of your readers. The only exception is when the protagonist is a kid, but either the subject matter is mature (such as The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini) or if the story is about a kid but narrated from an adult point of view (such as A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving). I’ve seen some YA books that tackle some pretty mature subjects, so then it becomes a matter of literary quality. YA books generally use language and tones that are more teen-relatable as opposed to adult books whose vocabulary and style can be quite complex.

If in doubt, speak to someone in your genre-specific organization to help you nail it down.

(Here's more on Trust Me, I’m a Reader: Writing for Your Audience)

The next time I post for Fiction U I will cover part 2 of “Write A Great Book,” tackling three important keys to finishing that project.

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.


  1. One subject few, if any writers talk about, mention, or write is the cost an indie author will incur when publishing a book. I have little money so I'm wondering if I should keep on going or chuck the thing in the wastebasket. I write for pleasure mostly, but I wouldn't mind if what I had written was published. I'm not looking for a figure carved in stone but a general, ballpark type figure.

  2. I am going to finish my book. I am going to put illustrations in it. I am hoping it is not expensive.