If you’re an aspiring writer, these are 2 must-read books. ‘APE‘ written by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch and ‘On Writing’ by Steven King offer complementary instructions for writers.
Help for the aspiring writer
‘APE’, which stands for Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, focuses on the technical elements of writing, while including a bit on actually writing your novel or non-fiction book (the book focuses mainly on non-fiction). Kawasaki also provides great information for other aspects of writing, assuming you self-publish your book (which is becoming increasingly common) and/ or act as an entrepreneur to market your book. Given the relative lack of funds for promoting unknown authors, most face the challenge of promoting their books.
In contrast, ‘On Writing’ is almost autobiographical. Written by Stephen King, best selling author in the horror genre, the book traces the challenges of writing and working with publishers. It recounts his difficulties in getting ‘Carrie’ published, despite its ultimate success with readers and its movie revenue.
Let’s take a look at highlights from each book.
‘APE’ has been my bible as I’m writing ‘Buried Ladies’ and it’s saved me from making any number of mistakes. Here are my favorite bits from each element of ‘APE’.
In the author portion of the book, Kawasaki and Welsh provide a wealth of information. For instance, they provide:
- Pricing suggestions for aspiring authors $.99, $2.99 and $9.99
- Suggestions for funding your writing. I’m using Kickstarter, but there are crowdfunding sources specifically for authors. (Please consider contributing a few dollars to help). Publishing a book yourself can be pretty pricy. You need professional editors, graphic designers for the cover and any images, advertising money, and agencies for social media or other promotion if you don’t have the skills yourself. Luckily, my day job is as a marketer.
- Layout suggestions both in terms of size and styles. They even offer a template to layout your book in either Word or InDesign. I’m crafting mine in word and will later convert it to InDesign for publishing.
- How to improve your book so you don’t look like a self-published one.
- Getting feedback and editing the book is critical for success. I’m currently distributing the book, chapter by chapter, to subscribers. Please consider subscribing to provide feedback. But, you’ll also need to hire a professional editor to proofread the book prior to publishing, if you decide to self-publish.
One thing we’ll return to later is that an aspiring writer needs to think about publishing and promoting their books during the writing stage. That way, you’re not faced with starting from scratch as you move through the phases.
If you’ve done your job in laying out the book, editing it, and getting a designer to create a great cover, half the publishing job is done. BTW, even if you want a traditional publisher, self-publishing makes sense to cut through the clutter. A publisher who finds a book selling well is much more likely to sign that author to another book or even take over publication of the existing book.
Options for self-publishing vary, but Kindle is a great option and relatively easy (they also offer good returns to authors). You can also do a print-on-demand so you have a few printed books for book signings or speaking engagements.
You’ll need to convert your book to upload it to electronic sellers or to your printer, for printed books.
Again, you should begin this task early. I started my Facebook and Twitter outreach once it appeared I had a book that was going to get done. I’d had several false starts in the past. Please connect with me there.
I spent a little money on Facebook advertising to begin generating a following and to promote my Kickstarter campaign. I also tapped into my existing social networks and friends and family to promote my book. I’d really appreciate your help, as well.
‘On Writing’ for the aspiring writer
Stephen King is almost a household name due to his prolific writing. I’m not a big fan of horror, but this book got me interested in reading some of his fiction works.
This book focuses primarily on writing. When I was an undergrad, I took a writing course and the instructor said you have to just write. Most of the first 10,000 words you write are terrible, but you learn to be a better writer by writing, just like mastering any other skill.
As a grad student, I took a course in writing where the instructor recommended sitting down every day to write (preferably at the same time). King definitely echoes these recommendations for the aspiring writer.
He recommends setting aside a place to write and sitting there for a certain amount of time every day that’s dedicated to writing. Don’t let anything interfere with that writing time. While I can’t follow his instructions to the letter, I do agree that this should be the goal.
King also recommends being a reader, which I can’t stress enough. And, read bad stuff, not just the good stuff. It really helps you avoid mistakes to see other authors make them.
Writing what you like and know makes writing easy, but research defines a good writer. That doesn’t mean you can’t take some literary license to fit facts to your plot. For instance, I have Estella take an airplane to Mexico to make it easier for her to be kidnapped. In reality, the place she’s going is very near and a car or bus would be the most likely mode of transportation. Literary license.
I’m getting so good at interjecting events from my own life into the book to give the characters and plot depth, that family and friends are starting to tell me that specific events are off-limits for future books.
You need descriptions to bring your characters and plots to life. King recommends avoiding adverbs like the plague and I agree with him. Don’t tell people how characters feel, show them.
His stories are character-driven. Mine are, too. I do think it’s possible to have a story that’s plot-driven, but you still need good characterizations.
For aspiring writers by an aspiring writer
Tomorrow I release Chapter 3 of ‘Buried Ladies’ to subscribers. I’d love your feedback and I’m happy to do the same for you.