I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. – Edgar Rice Burroughs
I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose. – Stephen King
I think of myself… as a troubadour, a village storyteller, the guy in the shadows of the campfire. – Louis L’Amour
What’s in a good book? What distinguishes a really great read from all the others? What is it that makes the really good ones stand out?
Of course, we as writers all know, first of all, we need to have a really great cover that tells the reader what to expect. (I admit I am still working to improve mine. Hey, we are all learning here). Then, we have to have a back cover blurb, or description that makes it sound interesting enough to make them want to read it. Those are just for starters. These are just the factors that will make your book actually stand out from the rest and make people want to read it.
Then too, we all know we need to have a good, thorough and professional editing job on the inside, although some of us cannot afford that, especially if you are just starting out, as I am. If you can’t, that’s okay, if you can get a fresh pair of eyes to help you, maybe a teacher or other professional you know. Bottom line, it’s just going to look a whole lot better if it’s edited professionally, as I know Joanna Penn, as well as others, have said. For now, I happen to have an advantage on that since I have had text editing and formatting classes, which were a part of my curriculum when I was pursuing my Associate’s Degree in Office Systems Technology. Yet, even still, you can tend to miss something, especially if you have been looking at it for (insert however long you have been working on your book here). Meanwhile, for now, we just do the best we can and keep learning from other authors and look forward to eventually climbing our way up the “best sellers’ ladder”.
For more tips on writing, self-publishing, and marketing our books, there are plenty of experienced authors, artists, and others out there who offer a lot of tips and helpful resources, like these that I subscribe to, Joanna Penn at http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ and Shelley Hitz at http://www.shelleyhitz.com/. Joel Friedlander at http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ also offers a lot of helpful advice, and he has some very affordable interior design templates for self-publishing authors you can check out at http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/.
Another great website that some of you old die hard dinosaurs like me who still like to work in MS Word might find helpful is Derek Murphy’s DIY Book Covers, http://diybookcovers.com/. Derek has packed it full of tutorials, freebies and lots of other goodies for the “do it yourselfers” like us. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. Click here to read what Joanna Penn and others have to say. You can also download some free sample book covers to try it yourself or become a member for a very affordable price and have access to hundreds of other templates, and of course, Derek’s help along the way.
Both of my book covers were done using one of his templates (although he wouldn’t recognize it, but hey, I’m still learning)! If it’s not working, then I work to improve it and go back and get some more advice and maybe even some hands on training using Derek’s tutorials, and keep going until I get that best selling cover that will hopefully eventually get that coveted NYTBS phrase that we all want to see on our books. Meanwhile, like all of us writers, I keep writing, and improving as I go, and hoping that I will finally write that one great book, that will climb up the ranks, and eventually win me a place in the best seller lists.
Then, of course, there is one accomplished author, whom I met at one of his book signings a few years ago, who is certainly more qualified than I am to give writers’ advice: Nicholas Sparks. Yes, he has an actual section of his website for writers, and I think it’s safe to say, his advice is well worth listening to.
Of course, this post would not be complete without my mention of a lady who is a much more experienced writer than I am and has taught me a lot, my friend and mentor, Beverly Nault. I have to say, hats off to Bev for the help she has given me so far. You can stop by her page for a visit and check out her books at http://beverlynault.com/. She also has a writers’ group on Facebook which I am a part of, called the Fresh Starts Writing Room. It goes without saying that we help each other. We post helpful links to share with the others, we ask advice, and we share things, we critique each other’s work, all under Bev’s helpful guidance. Bev also worked with Mary McDonough on her book, “Lessons From The Mountain, What I Learned From Erin Walton”. For those of you who remember “The Waltons”, you will remember Mary as “Erin”, the middle daughter.
For those who are already traditionally published, my hat is off to you, and you are certainly welcome to comment here and give us all some advice! For the rest of us “Indie Authors”, we write, we edit and re-write, and work to improve, we learn from our mistakes and help each other as we hone our craft, and hope that one day, we will achieve that best seller status, and hopefully, eventually be able to attract a traditional publisher. If you know of some resources or links that I haven’t listed here, please comment and share!
Now, back to my question: What’s in a really great read? What makes it a “must read” that everyone will be talking about? That is probably a question I am not qualified to answer as much as some of those I have referenced above. Perhaps, to me at least, it evokes one more question: What is the one thing that helps propel a really great book forward and make it a success? If we do all of these things I mentioned above to the best of our ability and produce that really great book that readers will want to read, and we market it through every channel possible to those that will read it, then it will stand out, and it will earn that one thing that truly makes it a success–REVIEWS!
I had the wonderful experience of meeting Mary at one of her book signings for “Lessons From The Mountain, What I Learned From Erin Walton”. You can read my (blog) review of her book here. My customer (Amazon) review of the book is somewhere amongst the others on the Amazon page. I will also be posting reviews of other books in the near future to help my fellow authors. In the meantime, if you have purchased either of my books, “Return to Freedom, Voices in the Wind”, or “River of Secrets, Summer of the Rose”, I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop by the Amazon page for them and leave a customer review!
WRITERS vs. READERS? I should think not. If you think about it, there is really no contest, because at one point or other, we are all readers and writers. At some point, we all write. Even if you are just writing your thoughts in a journal, that makes you a writer! My husband, has degrees in Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, and Paralegal, yet he cannot work at the job he would love to have because of his kidney disease and having to go to dialysis three days a week. So, I told him why not put all of his training and knowledge to work writing–what else—murder mysteries! He’s already started on his first one, and so far, it looks pretty intriguing to me! Who knows? Maybe there is a future New York Times Best Seller trapped inside of you! In reality, there is no contest of readers vs. writers, but all of us, helping each other. So, the one thing that is in a great best selling book is going to be in the number of reviews it gets. No matter how hard we work at what we as writers do, without our readers, we have nothing.
So, why not sit down and write a review on Amazon or Barnes (and) Noble for your favorite author? It doesn’t have to even be long, just your honest opinion, good or bad, just a few sentences. Even better, write one for a self-publishing author. When you do, you will be helping us all as writers, and perhaps yourself as a future writer. Then, don’t stop there, keep writing. No use walking around with that future best selling novel trapped inside you.
So, what’s in a really great read? Maybe that is for you to decide.
With the Librarians at the Johnston Community College Library