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The Successful Author

Writing about Your Health Issue

Writing about Your Health Issue

Many writers want to write a book about their health scare that almost killed them. But will publishers be interested in that book?

These stories are very personal for the writer, very real and raw. Unfortunately, it isn’t unique, and publishers want unique books. (Unless a writer has a big platform that will move books. Then publishers won’t care so much about the topic, because the size of the platform will overcome it.)

Publishers interested in your topic already have one or more books on the subject, and taking on another one could hurt the sales of the books they already have, so they’ll pass.

And publishers who haven’t published a book on your topic haven’t done so because they’re not interested in the subject.

The only likely scenario is a publisher who has published a book on your topic, but it’s dated and not selling well anymore. Then they may look to replace it with a new book—providing the author has a platform to move books and an agent to represent them.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Writing Investment

writing investment

For years I made the mistake of not investing in learning the craft of writing. Though I certainly put in the time, for years I was reluctant to spend money. But taking the cheap way out merely held me back.

Here are some investments I’m now making to become a better writer:

  • Study magazines about writing and publishing
  • Read books and blogs about writing and publishing
  • Listen to podcasts about writing and publishing
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Hire editors: developmental editors, copy editing, and proofreading
  • Join online classes about specific writing-related topics
  • Take part in online writing communities
  • Hire mentors and teachers

Of course, none of these things would help if I weren’t regularly applying them every day by writing. This is a long list, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one item to invest in and add more over time.

Note that not everything costs money but merely time. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts is a free option to learn about writing and publishing.

Bonus tip: The one mistake I almost made but didn’t was quitting my day job to write full time. This was about eight years before I was ready. Yikes!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Keep Up on Evolving Writing Conventions

Evolving Writing Conventions

Do you want to stay current with other changes in writing conventions? I wish there was a site, a book, an app, or a publication that would answer these questions.

But if there’s a one-stop resource, I don’t know of it. Besides, there would likely be disagreement over it, anyway.

Here’s how I work to keep up with ever-changing writing trends:

  • Participate in critique groups.
  • Network with other writers.
  • Go to writing conferences.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to have a professional editor look at my work.
  • Learn from the recommendations of editors.
  • Study the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Look at the conventions followed in books recently produced by major publishers.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Finding Time to Write

finding time to write

Finding time to write is a dilemma most writers face at one time or another. Maybe all writers do.

I think the problem, however, is in the question. We don’t need to find time to write as much as we need to make time.

We each have 24 hours in our day. While work and sleep occupy part of each day, we exercise some degree of control over the rest. We decide what we will do with it. We can choose to write or opt to do something else.

Before you say, “But my situation is different,” let me agree with you.

Then let me ask, “How much time do you spend each week watching TV or on social media?” That is a prime opportunity to write instead.

If writing is important to you, you will make time to write. It may be a little or a lot. It may be every day or only once a week, but make it happen.

If you can carve out ten minutes a day, every day, and write one hundred words each day, by the end of the year you will have written 36,500 words.

If you can carve out one hour a week, every week, and write 500 words, by the end of the year, you will have written 26,000 words.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Microsoft Word Alternatives

microsoft word alternatives

Writers often seek options for word processing software, either to save money, increase functionality, or both.

Many writers extol the virtues of Scrivener for content creation, especially novelists. It costs much less than Microsoft Word and, since Scrivener is designed for writers, it has powerful features that creatives crave.

Another option of increasing popularity is Google Docs. It’s free. And your files are online, so you can access them from any internet-connected computer.

Nonetheless, whatever alternative tool you use for writing, be sure it can output in Microsoft Word format (Scrivener can) because almost all publishers require a Word file submission. In addition, all editors I’ve worked within the past twenty years have used Word (except for one who edited a printout).

However, instead of buying Microsoft Word (or Microsoft Office) for hundreds of dollars, get Office 365 and pay a low monthly subscription fee—less than a coffee or two a month. As a bonus, you’ll always have the latest version.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

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The Successful Author

Writing Perspectives (Point of View)

Many beginning writers wonder about point of view in writing and which should they use. Though there are many books written on this subject, here’s a brief overview.

Note that most people use perspective and point of view interchangeably—that’s what I learned in High School English—but others make a distinction between them, claiming that point of view is the correct term for this discussion.

Here is a brief, basic overview of perspectives/points of view.

First Person Point of View

First-person perspective uses I, as in I said… or I went…

For example, I went to the bookstore to buy the latest book by my favorite author.

Second Person Point of View

Second person perspective uses you, as You said… or You went…

For example, you go to the store to buy a journal and pen.

Second person is hard to write (and to read), so most authors avoid it. As an exercise, I wrote a piece of flash fiction in the second person, present tense. It was tedious.

Third Person Point of View

The third-person perspective uses he, she, and they, as in He said… or They went…

For example. They went to a book signing to see the famous author.

Two Types of Third-Person Points of View

There are two flavors of third-person: Limited (only what the point of view character can observe or think) and Omniscient (where the narrator knows what everyone thinks).

Third-person omniscient is out of favor and seldom recommended any more—though many of the classics, including much of the Bible, is third-person omniscient.

Writing Tense

For each of these four options there are two choices: present tense (what is happening now) and past tense (what has already happened). This results in eight possible combinations to consider, but eliminating the second person and third-person omniscient, cuts our considerations down to four.

Past tense is easier to use, and the first person is more natural for most writers. After all, when we tell stories about ourselves to our friends, we use the first person, past tense.

Beginning writers should start with first person perspective, past tense, as in “I wondered which point of view I should use.” Then try third person, past tense, if you wish.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Word Processing Options

word processing alternatives

Microsoft Word is expensive, but it is also the de facto standard for writing and publishing. I urge you to use it if possible. Even so, consider these word processing options.

As an alternative to purchasing Word (or Office), you can check out Office 365. It includes Word, but instead of buying the software for several hundred dollars, you pay a small monthly fee. As a benefit, you are always on the latest version, and depending on the license, you may get to put it on multiple computers.

Other Word Processing Options

If you pick another word processor, make sure it can output files in a .docx format (Microsoft’s Word format). Always submit your work as a .docx file.

Scrivner, a popular writing tool designed for how writers think and work, is gaining popularity. It can also output a .docx file, as well as many other formats.

Another word processing option is Google Docs, but Microsoft Word remains the industry standard—and my recommendation.

In a related issue, consider using dictation software to write.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Discover How to Know If You Have a Marketable Book

a book is marketable

Have you ever wondered if you have a marketable book? Most people have, especially anyone who wants to make a living from writing.

You can pay someone to give you their opinion on what’s marketable before spending hours writing. Although you can do internet searches to find them, I recommend going to the websites of agents you respect. Some provide writer services on the side and would gladly charge you a fee to offer their opinion on if you have a marketable book. Other sites provide lists of respected service providers.

However, the operative word here is an opinion. Aside from some basic book tips, the best anyone can do is offer their opinion. Ask two people, and you will likely get two opinions. Often they may conflict with each other.

Consider all the stories we hear about agents and editors rejecting submissions, based on their opinions that the novel won’t sell. But then after twenty, forty, or even more rejections, it crosses one person’s desk who doesn’t reject it. In her opinion it’s marketable. Sometimes that proves correct and becomes a best seller.

All of this to say, you can ask around and even pay for advice from someone to tell you if you have a marketable book idea. But in the end, just go with your gut and write what you’re passionate about.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Citing Sources for Quotes in Books

Sources for Quotes

Each chapter in my friend’s book starts with a quotation. Most of the quotes came from internet sites. She wonders if she needs to include a page citing sources where she obtained each quote. Here’s what I said to her.

For Traditionally Published Books

For traditionally published books, your publisher will have its own requirements for you to follow. And each publisher likely has a different approach. In addition, they also have a legal team that will help keep you and them out of legal trouble.

In general, they will want you to attribute your source. I’ve even heard of one publisher who insisted on a signed release for each quotation. This is burdensome and a good reason to not use quotations.

For Indie Published Books

If you are indie-publishing your book, my opinion (not legal advice) is to cite all your sources. In my books, I try to avoid using any quotes, in any way, from any source. That’s the surest way to avoid getting sued for plagiarism.

However, in your case, this gets messy because the website where you found the quote may have copied it from someone else—that is, they stole it from the original author. Then you perpetuate their plagiarism—and their crime.

Final Thoughts about Citing Sources

If you can remove the quote and put the concept in your own words, that might be your best approach.

I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice about citing sources. It’s just my opinion. For a great resource on this subject—as well as other important legal considerations for writers—check out Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Literary Agents Handle Books and Not Shorter Works

What agents handle?

I’d love a literary agent who would handle shorter pieces, such as articles, short stories, or poems. Unfortunately, they don’t. Literary agents handle books. They only deal with book-length projects.

Agents earn commission on projects sold. The payoff for shorter pieces is too small for them to spend time pitching them. They need to invest their time in bigger works that pay better.

That’s why literary agents handle books and not short pieces.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!