June 20, 2013

First In Wins. The Time is NOW!


The best time to write a book? NOW!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The immortal opening line of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities could apply to today in terms of writing a book. In so many ways, with the rise of the internet and self-publishing, this is the best time to be an author.

Sure, I may be prejudiced in this regard, but I believe this really is the best time to write a book.

Why? Start with the fact that it’s never been easier to write a book. Computers and word processors offer an ease of use previously undreamed of, complete with spell-check, grammar-check, plot-check, and many other options.

Not only that, but the internet has opened up new avenues for authors seeking easy access to information about their field of interest and gain expertise in the subject.

Author, blogger and media whiz Guy Kawasaki says things have changed so much today, anyone with a good idea and skills can write a compelling book.

“Say you’re a science fiction  writer,” he said. “You can position yourself as an expert in science.”

How? First, you have easy access to research. Whether it’s black holes or advanced chemistry or biological or geological processes, you can find article after article that explains how things work and add to your knowledge.

Then, Kawasaki says creating an online presence that showcases your expertise and gains you an audience is easy. You can create a website, reach out to others through social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, develop your voice on a blog.

From there you can post relevant pieces and links to other posts and articles, and invite comments from others. “Curate great leads that position you as an expert,” said Kawasaki.

People will gradually begin following the posts, and eventually come to see you as not only an expert, but as someone they feel indebted to for helping them advance their interests.

Kawasaki says this last part is something that is often overlooked.

“I call it the NPR model,” Kawasaki said, referring to National Public Radio. “It’s okay for them to run a telethon and ask for money. I’m indebted to them because of the great education I get from their stories.

“If Terry Gross (host of the popular NPR program Fresh Air) wrote a book, I’d buy it.”

It’s also easier than ever to publish a book. Think back to before Gutenberg invented the printing press. You could write on a scroll or vellum, that is, if you were very, very careful (no erasers) and had outstanding handwriting. And if you could afford the cost. And if you knew how to write. And even if all those applied, there wasn’t much of an audience. Not a lot of incentive.

Move up a few hundred years, and while the population was much more literate, there were still obstacles in the way of writing an actual book. Even in the late 20th century, you were still at the mercy of a publishing industry that was motivated totally by profit. Unless someone was convinced your book had the potential to make the company money, you were out of luck.

And even if you were able to convince a company to publish your book, your troubles were far from over. Headaches could include everything from company-imposed deadlines to printing delays. You – the author – would typically have little say over book and cover design. And as for marketing efforts, you were still at the mercy of the publisher.

Compare that to today. With all the self-publishing tools that are available, it’s possible to go from finished manuscript to publication in as little as 48 hours. E-books and print-on-demand make it possible for an author to hit the best-seller lists far quicker than ever before.

The internet also has given writers easy access to editors, a key consideration for anyone writing a book, but especially for someone looking to self-publish (and especially, especially a first-time writer looking to self-publish). You also have at your fingertips a myriad of designers. There are more print and selling options available than ever before.

So back to that opening quote. It’s the best of times, but is it also the worst of times for someone looking to write a book? If they don’t have something compelling to say, if they don’t seek out professional assistance from editors and designers, if they don’t take advantage of the marketing and public relations tools available, then, well, yes.

But that’s why we’re here: To help guide you and provide the assistance you need to write that interesting, engaging, and, ultimately, successful book.

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