Writer, small business wannabe, pundit, philosopher, often hopelessly confused, and blessed by a gracious God beyond all imagining (the views expressed by this blogger do not necessarily reflect the Supreme Being, but this blogger hopes he doesn't embarrass the Big Guy too much).
This is wonderful writing advice. Write what you know.
It may not mean what you think it means, though. It doesn’t mean you have to write about your school, your job, your family. It doesn’t have to be set in your town or your time period. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have science-fiction, time travel, fantasy, historical fiction or alternative history. Heck, we wouldn’t have interesting stories.
What it means is use your own experiences, your own relationships, your own understanding of the universe as templates within your story. It’s the only way for your story to be “true.”
What would you do, or your sister do, or your friend, enemy, teacher, uncle, do in that situation? How would they react?
There is a dance to most relationships, and that dance can be applied to paper heroes. Imagine the dance between you and your spouse, or a prickly sibling. What if a captain and commander echoed those dances?
People of the past in historical settings may have conditions pressing on the dance, but by including the modified dance, it feels true to us (or will to you, and therefore to us, because you write with understanding).
So write what you know about human interaction, and for everything else research, research, research!
As a habit, I ask people if A) They are readers, and B) Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Invariably, of the readers (about 33% claim to be) children are fiction readers, women are predominately fiction with a dose of non-fiction, and most men are non-fiction.
Yet, demographically, married men don’t buy the books, their wives do. The thought is that women buy their men non-fiction to improve their husbands. There is a shift around Christmas time where women buy the men fiction, typically thriller, suspense and shoot-em-ups. Fiction makes good stocking-stuffers?
At the same time, of those I speak to, the men are the buyers. Amazon has a larger sampling than I do, however, by about 50,000%.
Now let’s look at age of buyers. Young adults buy sporadically, and solidify the habit as they grow older. 30- to 40-year-olds are the gravy train; they’re up and comers looking for solid non-fiction and escapist fiction (as well as books for their children. Readers beget readers. My parents were voracious readers). 50- to 60-year-old readers drop off a bit, then retirees pick it back up. Many of these join book clubs, though as the more tech-savvy people age up, this is expected to shift back to online sales, and book clubs to fall by the wayside.
Another Amazon statistic is that the authors who sell the most books year-over-year are those who sell non-fiction, the biggest areas are finance, business and writing-as-a-business. Writers, of course, are readers.
I have always been a fiction guy. From age 4 to now-55, I’ve read all genres. I’ve always struggled with non-fiction. I start strong and then put it down somewhere mid-book. I have read many all the way through, but not most.
All that to ask, what should you write?
My answer: What you want to write.
Every author wants to make money writing. For some it’s a way to keep track of how many are reading their book, and for others it’s so they can quit their day job and focus on writing. Or retire to a beach sipping margaritas.
There are two kinds of writers though: Those who love to write, and those who write to make a buck. Of course there is cross-over. If you love to write, though, write what you want. Trying to write toward trends, toward what’s selling now, is a good way to miss the wave. Write what you love and you may start the next trend.
If you write non-fiction, write non-fiction.
If you’re a novelist, write novels. BUT. Some advice I don’t give to non-fiction writers… Keep the idea of writing a non-fiction book in the back of your head. Perhaps your research for your novel can be spun into a non-fiction book. Be on the lookout for this.
I have. My next book is non-fiction, and I think it’s an important book. I think I’ll sell more of that book than my others combined. I also hope it will help sell my other books. The key to selling more books is writing more books.
There’s no snow here in Florida, but Christmas remains a magical time of the year. I have delicious memories of running downstairs to a room full of presents. Lots of socks and underwear, lots of candy, lots of toys of dubious quality, and books. My parents, readers themselves, knew of my love for the written word and always gave me some books for Christmas.
It’s a worthy tradition and I encourage each of you to adopt it. Might I humbly make some suggestions?
For grade school kids, Always Look for the Magic, by Bonnie Manning Anderson, or Do Angels Still Fall? by Robert Swanson.
For older teens, Me and the Maniac in Outer Space by Robert Swanson.
For the college-aged young adults, So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climbby Aron Osborne (also good for every teen and adult of any age).
For the married couple, Cherishing Us by Tom and Debi Walter, and 7 Essentials to Grow Your Marriage by Steve and Cindy Wright.
All available on Amazon!
May you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
I first read So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climb? What Really Matters in Church Life a few months ago, straight out of Aron’s hands. Let me tell you what struck me about this book:
So many things Aron shared about his first steps in Christianity were like reading my own biography. There was an immediate kinship with the author.
Reading it is effortless. It’s like talking with Aron on the front porch of a beach house, lemonade in tall, cool glasses sweating in our hands.
An instant sense that this is the book all Christians should read. We’ve been getting slammed by unbelievers for far too many good reasons. Aron address those here, artfully throwing out the dirty bathwater while keeping the beautiful baby right where he belongs.
While it was an affirmation to my beliefs, I know it’s going to ruffle some legalistic feathers (that deserve to be ruffled!).
Weeks after I read it, whole chapters came to mind. “Ah, I’m living that chapter; ooops, I’m failing that chapter.”
I’m a better person and Christian for reading it.
You’re going to feel like you personally know Aron once you’ve read it.
This kind of book, like all our others, is why Prevail Press exists. This book, and all the others, deserve a place on your bookshelf.
Vanity Press is a term for alternative publishing that preys on desperate authors.
We’re not that.
Vanity Press takes anyone who will pay them.
We take overlooked, fantastic authors. We help people with potential and turn away people who haven’t yet mastered their craft.
Vanity Press charges so much you’ll never make your money back.
We don’t. Yes, we charge, but very little; a fraction of what VP charges (on order of about $9,000 less).
Vanity Press forces you to use their editors, book designers and cover designers.
We don’t. If your book needs editing, we’ll offer some suggestions for no-cost editing, or refer you to a qualified editor. Or you can hire your own. Same with book and cover design. We can help, but if you have them already, no need to pay us for them.
Vanity Press requires you to buy a minimum number of book copies, at a mark up.
We don’t. You don’t have to order any, or you can in any quantity you want. We don’t mark up the price and we don’t take a percentage.
Vanity Press is about making money any way they can.
We aren’t. All you pay is a low amount for time and administration. Once you earn back every penny with your 70% commission (Amazon get the other 30%), we’ll charge 10% (which is about .20 per book). However, that is covered through the sales we inspire with our network of promoting writers.
We will always be honest with you. Chances are high that your book will need editing. Editor’s books need editing. You should invest in this even if you self-publish.
All told, you will spend less with Prevail Press than you would self-publishing. In the next post, I’ll detail the benefits of publishing your book with Prevail Press.
As an author, since Gutenberg got busy, there has never been a harder time to find a publisher. Maybe you know this. Maybe you’ve been shopping a book around.
Traditional publishers are no longer traditional. They take fewer risks, offer fewer services, and often their “advances” are made back by requiring authors to buy copies at a profit to the publisher.
Books that would have found a Madison Avenue publisher just 20 years ago are sent packing, in favor of sure-fire blockbusters, people with platforms, or pandering books best read at Twilight…
What do you do?
Self Publishing – Difficult, often unprofessional, and more expensive than you might think.
Vanity Press – Expensive, many empty promises, and dashed hopes. Your book will be lumped with truly awful books, because Vanity Press publishes anyone who pays their high prices.
Time for a New Kind of Publisher – We fall in-between these and offer the best of both.
First, we don’t publish just anybody. Your book must be well-written and reader-friendly.
Second, we aren’t trying to make a profit as a publisher. WHAT? That’s right. We’re building a community of authors who help promote one another. While we do charge, it’s only to cover the time others put into your book. Thousands of dollars lower than Vanity Press and less than self-publishing (assuming you do what you should do as a self-publisher), we’re a new kind of publisher who is championing authors. As owner of Prevail Press, I want to make money off my book sales, not my author’s entry into publishing.
What Kind of Books?
Great question. What kind do you have? Fiction, non-fiction, how-to, cookbooks, short stories…
…and even screenplays. I can’t find you a producer, but why have it just sitting on a shelf? People do buy screenplays.
Do you have an idea I haven’t listed? I’d love to hear about it!
Why are you lower cost that vanity press or “partner publishing?”
How does the publisher make a profit if the cost of entry is so low?
What’s this all about, anyway?
All excellent questions!
My name is Rob Swanson (Robert Alexander Swanson on Amazon due to the utterly common nature of my preferred name). Through my ghostwriting days and my own stories, I’ve written 18 books. I know the arduous nature of trying to get published. There are a lot of reasons–I’ll get to those in later posts–none of which involve the quality of writing, but the big one for me is that I love experimental stories. Traditional publishers see that as “risky publishing.”
And you know, I get that. Traditional publishers lay a lot of money on the line. If the book doesn’t sell, they lose.
So, what do you do if you have a great story, well-written, but it’s just sitting on your hard-drive?
You might self-publish
That takes a lot of effort and a lot of research, and a surprising amount of money. And it’s hard to do well.
Or you might go with a vanity publisher
Besides the fact they publish any book, regardless of quality, they also charge a horrifying amount of money. They have overhead, after all, and a need for profit.
So, why is Prevail Press different?
Simple. I have a full-time job that pays my bills and then some. I don’t need to make a profit as a publisher (but I do want to make royalty money from my books). Amazon has made overhead their problem, not mine.
I have a heart for writers. I want great authors to get their books out there. So I just charge for my time in book design and administration. You’ll spend more money self-publishing than you will with Prevail Press, and with us, it will be a better book.
We don’t publish just any old book…
It has to be a great book:
You have to have a really well-written book.
If you just need a little help, we can link you with editors or mentor you to quality
I’d prefer you try to get traditionally published. If you get picked up, congratulations! If not, we’re here for you.
You have to be willing to help promote your fellow authors, as they will help promote you.
What will you pay for?
Book design if you can’t do a professional job yourself.
Book cover design if you can’t do a professional job yourself.
Any editing necessary (I can link you to editors, or you can find your own)
An ISBN number, and administration costs.
Any hardcopy books you want. There is no minimum, I don’t take a markup, so your cost is just what Amazon charges to print it.
A vanity press company will charge anywhere from between $5,000 to $15,000.
With us, it can be as low as $150 (your book is completely ready to go), or +/- $2,000 (if you need everything).
You get 100% of the royalty payment from Amazon (70% book price) until you earn back all you spent with Prevail Press. After that, you get 90%, Prevail Press gets 10%.
I promise you, you won’t get a better deal anywhere else.
What other questions do you have? Comment below and I’m happy to answer!
A unique publisher who is Author-Centric and Reader-Sensitive