What You Need to Know About Writing and Publishing Your First Novel

Posted on August 29, 2013

By Sebastian Cole, author of Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love


Sebastian ColeWriting a Manuscript

Elements of Writing & Story

  • Don’t overwrite.
  • Don’t use clichés.
  • Don’t use a lot of adverbs (e.g., run fast). Obviously, if you’re running, it’s fast. And don’t use a lot of unnecessary words. For example, if someone is nodding, obviously it’s with their head — so no need to write nodding her head.
  • If you’re going to use a lot of sentences to describe something, it better be something important. Similarly, if a character is not important to the story, there’s no need to describe him or her in detail.
  • Show — don’t tell. Instead of explaining how someone feels, use actions or dialog to show us.
  • The point of view (P.O.V.) should always be from the same person. You can only be in one person’s head, not in everybody’s.
  • Be careful not to make dialog too “on the nose.” Dialog should be natural, reflecting the way we speak in everyday life.
  • Hook the reader in the first 10 pages. (Besides, that’s all you may get to send a literary agent along with a query letter, so make the first 10 pages great.)
  • Each chapter should end with the reader anxious to start the next chapter.
  • Create characters who are three-dimensional, not two-dimensional.
  • Unless the genre calls for it, antagonists should not be cartoonishly evil. In real life, even really bad people have some redeeming qualities.
  • If you were writing a screenplay using a lot of erroneous characters, the first thing the director would do would be to eliminate some of the minor roles, combining them instead into a single, more important role. The same goes for novels. Don’t overwhelm the reader with a lot of insignificant characters. Do more with less.
  • Writing a novel is an exercise in problem solving. To find the answers, look to the story.
  • Everything should always be earned. For example, if a character is going to suddenly run a marathon, you should at least have him/her go for a jog once in a while.
  • If you set something up, don’t forget to pay it off. Similarly, if you create a great payoff, don’t forget to set it up. In Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love, for example, Noah’s father uses his last, dying words to tell his son something that he previously could never get himself to say — that he’s proud of him. That’s a payoff, because throughout the book, Noah sought, but never received, his father’s approval. I messed up, however, because I neglected to set up this payoff. When I realized this, it was an easy fix. I simply added in dialog toward the beginning of the story of Noah asking his father if he’s proud of him. To which his father replies, “That’s not the point…” skirting the issue.
  • Each scene should either develop character, advance the plot, or introduce conflict.
  • Essentially, every story should have a three-act structure, with the middle act amounting to approximately 50%.
  • Toward the beginning of the story, the main character should “save the cat” (a seemingly insignificant gesture — like saving a cat from a tree — that makes you instantly like his/her character). In Sand Dollar, this is accomplished when Robin disregards protocol and empties out her office at the homeless shelter so a homeless family could have a place to sleep, thereby “saving the cat.”

Technical Aspects

  • Use 12-point Times New Roman font, double spaced, with 1” margins all around.
  • In the header, put the title and author’s name on the left, and put the page number on the right (e.g., “SAND DOLLAR / Sebastian Cole                    1”).
  • New chapters start 1/3 of the way down (i.e., 6 lines down).
  • Don’t use the Tab key to indent. First-line indentation should be half an inch.
  • In between sentences, use one space after periods, not two.
  • For scene breaks, use three asterisks, centered.
  • When referring to your book, you should either italicize the title or CAPITALIZE it, but not both at the same time (e.g., Sand Dollar or SAND DOLLAR, but not SAND DOLLAR). If your book has a subtitle, put it after the title and a colon (e.g., Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love or SAND DOLLAR: A Story of Undying Love).


  • Take advantage of the Internet as a tool for research, dictionaries, thesauruses, grammar rules, etc.
  • Microsoft Word’s spell checker is not necessarily reliable, so definitely use common sense when deciding what’s right and what’s wrong. A great place to double-check your spelling is with Google’s spell checker, which is part of Google Drive. And the best part about Google Drive is that it’s FREE! To elaborate, if Google’s spell checker identifies 100 words that might be misspelled or misused, perhaps the majority of them are unjustified, and the words are just fine the way they are. You may feel like this is a waist of time until you come across several mistakes that you’ve never caught before. That’s because MS Word doesn’t necessarily know when valid words are used incorrectly. For example, MS Word would never catch the mistake waist of time, because “waist” is a perfectly valid word, meaning the area above the hip. It just doesn’t belong in this context. Whereas Google’s spell checker references the zillions of documents out there in cyberspace and knows that the correct spelling in this particular case should be “waste of time.”
  • A lot of people have given the Scrivenir software program rave reviews. Although I’ve never tried it, it looks pretty cool.


Perfecting the Manuscript

  • Although your words are technically copyrighted the moment you commit them to paper, it would be a good idea to copyright your manuscript at www.copyright.gov ($35 online) before sending out the first draft. You could also mail yourself a copy in a sealed enveloped that’s postdated without ever opening it, however I’m not sure if this method would hold up in court if you ever had to use it, so better do it the right way the first time.
  • Join writers groups to swap pages and critique each other’s work.
  • Send out copies of your manuscript to your friends who read a lot, to get honest, constructive criticism. Ask them if they got confused by anything, if there was ever a point in the story where they lost interest, if they liked the main characters, etc. Then rewrite it.
  • Hire a professional to critique the story. Then rewrite it.
  • Go to writer’s conferences where, among other things, you can schedule meetings with literary agents. Then rewrite it.
  • Consider hiring a professional editor for developmental editing and copyediting. Then rewrite it.


Finding a Literary Agent


  • F.Y.I.: I recommend hiring a professional editor BEFORE querying literary agents. It’s not required, but unless you’re an experienced writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, you’ll end up hiring one anyway if and when you end up self-publishing later on.
  • The Catch-22 of publishing: You need a literary agent to get traditionally published. In order to get a literary agent, you need to have already been traditionally published. If, however, you’re a politician, sports figure, or celebrity with a huge fan base, this does not apply to you!
  • Six worldwide corporations (with multiple imprints) do the majority of publishing. The majority of U.S. publishers are located in New York City, as are the majority of literary agents. For the most part, publishers do not accept submissions directly from authors — that’s what literary agents are for.
  • Self-publishing is growing by leaps and bounds, while traditional publishing is contracting. Traditional publishers need to adapt to this far-reaching trend in order to survive in the long run.

Querying Agents

  • The Query Letter
    • Write it; sleep on it; read it; revise it; repeat it. You only get one shot, so make it as perfect as you can.
    • It should be single-spaced, and it should never be more than one page.
    • The 1st paragraph should be a hook or why you chose a particular agent (e.g., you met him/her at a writer’s conference; he/she represents books in your genre that are similar to yours.) The 2nd paragraph should be the pitch or description of the story. And the 3rd paragraph should be your bio. This formula is not necessarily carved in stone. The most important thing is to not have any grammatical errors, for it to be well written, current, and interesting to read.
    • Always include your contact information.
    • If sending a query by email, paste the text into the body of the email. Never send attachments (for fear of viruses).
    • Address the letter/email to a specific agent at the agency (e.g., Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Ms. Smith:)
      • Never query multiple agents at the same agency at the same time.
      • Search agents’ bios on agency websites, and choose the agent you think would be most interested in your genre.
    • Agents seek to represent authors whose books satisfy their own personal tastes, not necessarily the agency’s. So if you get a rejection letter from one particular agent at an agency, it doesn’t necessarily mean that another agent at the same agency wouldn’t be interested. Unless otherwise mentioned, once you receive a rejection letter from an agent at an agency, you’re free to go right back to that same agency with a query to a different agent (if you think it’s worth it).
    • Read the submission guidelines on each agency’s website to see how many sample pages to include with your query. If the guidelines call for submitting the first three chapters, then that’s what you send — no more. Never send an entire manuscript unless asked for. Never bind or staple a manuscript or sample pages.
    • Unless an agency’s guidelines state otherwise, you can usually include a separate 1-2 page synopsis, single-spaced.
    • If sending your query by email, make the Subject line specific to the agent you’re sending it to, so the person reading it knows that it’s not spam (e.g., “Sand Dollar query for Jane Doe”).
    • If sending a query by snail mail (U.S. Postal Service), include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
    • It wouldn’t hurt to correctly identify your book’s genreThis may be harder than it sounds because some genres have only subtle differences.
    • Never say that you’ve written a “novel of fiction.” A novel, by definition, IS fiction. If an agent reads this, chances are he or she has already moved on to the next query.
  • Tips
    • Literary agents acquire new authors primarily through referral, NOT through unsolicited queries. They are quick to say No because they don’t want to waste their time with “beginners” who require a lot of editing and who have no built-in audience. However, they will take a look at your query simply because they don’t want to be the dope who passes on the next J. K. Rowling. Since some agents get hundreds of unsolicited query letters every week, they’re forced to make life-and-death decisions in a matter of seconds. Therefore, three red flags and you’re out. So better not use too many adverbs!
    • Don’t be afraid to query lots of agents all at once. It could take 50 queries just to find one agent who might be interested in reading your manuscript. And even then, there’s no guarantee that they’ll want to represent you.
    • Never pay money to a literary agent. Predators & Editors monitors agents who might be unscrupulous. Some agents are members of A.A.R. (Association of Author’s Representatives), which is kind of like the Better Business Bureau for literary agents (a good thing).
    • A great online resource for obtaining agents’ contact information is Agentquery.com. When it comes to printed resources, Literary Marketplace (L.M.P.) is the industry standard. However, since it costs about $350, better find it at a library. Writer’s Market by Brewer (about $20) is a pretty good alternative.
    • At this stage of the game, if you expect to get rejections from every agent you solicit (and rightfully so), then you won’t be disappointed when you get them. Some rejection letters will be generic and sanitized (e.g., a postcard addressed to Dear author), while others might actually mention your name. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll refer to the title of your manuscript and even the names of the main characters in their rejection. Make a note of those agents who show interest and personalization. You can email them again down the road after you’ve gained traction.
    • For a list of literary agencies, click here.



Preparing to Self-Publish

  • Preparing to do business
    • Open a P.O. Box. (You’ll need to print a mailing address on the Copyright page of your book, and you should never use your home address.)
    • Create an L.L.C. (Limited liability corporation). This is recommended, but not necessarily required.
    • Open a checking account for your business.
    • Obtain a state sales tax permit (so you can collect sales tax when you sell books yourself at book signings). In Rhode Island, the fee to get a sales tax permit is only $10 per year.
    • Create an email address, preferably one that matches your website’s name (e.g., sebastian@sebastiancoleauthor.com). Google Apps has a tool for creating a custom email address through Gmail.
    • Set up a PayPal account (facilitates paying bills online easily).
  • Start getting your name/brand out there online
    • Create a website.
      • Register your website’s name at Register.com, GoDaddy, others.
      • Hire a professional to create and design it, or do it yourself at WordPressBloggerWix, and others. Use artwork from your book’s cover.
      • Reference your website in everything you do (emails, signs, bookmarks, business cards, press releases, online event calendars, etc.)
    • Create accounts on social media sites.
      • Facebook
      • Twitter
      • Pinterest (pinning pictures to online boards)
      • Tumblr (good for quotes)
      • LinkedIn (professional networking)

Preparing Your Book

  • HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. Did I mention that already?
  • Hire an artist or photographer to create the cover image. Otherwise, use stock photography/artwork.
  • Hire a professional designer to design the cover, and hire a professional formatter to format the interior. (The same person who formats the interior might also be able to design the cover.) You’ll need a PDF file of the interior and a PDF file of the cover for the paperback version, and you’ll need an ePub file for the eBook version.
  • Get ISBNs from Bowker. It costs $250 for 10 separate ISBN numbers. You will need one ISBN for the paperback version and a different ISBN for the eBook version. (If you need help setting up an ISBN, Bowker’s telephone number is 877-310-7333.) Also, if you use an aggregator to publish your eBook, some of them can supply you with an ISBN for a minimal charge. However, they (not you) would own the number.
  • If you’ve made significant changes to your manuscript since you first copyrighted it, it’s time to copyright it again. The date on the Copyright page (see example) of your book should reflect this new date, not the date you copyrighted the first draft of your manuscript. (Publishers don’t usually copyright books until they’re ready to be published.)
  • Get a Library of Congress control number (L.C.C.N.)

Publishing an eBook (two options)

  • A) Sign up with an aggregator to distribute to online retailers
    • Smashwords In addition to being an aggregator (distributor), they also sell eBooks directly on their website. One benefit is that they allow you to give away eBooks for free, and you can also create promotional coupons. However, they still don’t distribute to Amazon, so you’ll have to sign up for Amazon’s KDP program separately, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They also distribute to Overdrive, the database that libraries use. Also, if you want to give your eBook away for free at Barnes & Noble, this is the way to go.
    • Bookbaby They DO sell to Amazon. However, since Amazon’s minimum retail is 99¢, you won’t be able to give your eBook away for free at Bookbaby. And they have great telephone customer support! (877-961-6878)
    • Lightning Source Their eBook division offers two options to choose from. (For more information, call them at 615-213-5815.)
    • BookBrewer
    • Untreed Reads
    • Others
  • B) Sell directly to online retailers
    • Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing for Kindle eReaders) or Amazon KDP Select. Amazon gives you a 70% royalty on eBooks priced between $2.99 – $9.99, otherwise it’s 35%. With the standard KDP program, the minimum retail price that Amazon will allow you to sell your eBook for is 99¢, unless you enroll in their Select program. If you sign up for their Select program, you can give your eBook away for free for a total of 5 days out of every 90 days. The Select Program also allows you to put your eBook on sale for up to 7 consecutive days in that same 90-day period while showing the original retail and maintaining your original royalty percentage even if the sale price of your eBook is less than $2.99. They call this a Kindle Countdown Deal. If you’re not in the Select program, you can’t give away your eBook for free on Amazon, and the only way to temporarily reduce the price of your eBook would be to manually mark down the regular price and then mark it back up again after the promotion is over — which is how you’d have to do it at all of the other online retailers, anyway. Another benefit of the Select program is that Amazon Prime members can “borrow” your eBook for free while at the same time you get paid about $2.25 – $2.50 per book (give or take) from their Global Fund. Here’s the catch: in order to enroll your eBook in their Select program, you have to give Amazon exclusivity (i.e., your eBook can’t be on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, etc.)
    • Barnes & Noble (Nook Press, for Nook eReader devices) With Nook Press, the minimum price you can sell your eBook for is 99¢. That’s not to say that Barnes & Noble doesn’t give away eBooks for free — because they do. To accomplish this, you need to use an aggregator like Smashwords to distribute to Barnes & Noble, rather than selling it to them directly.
    • Apple iTunes (iTunes Connect, for Apple iPods, iPads, and iPhones). In order to upload your eBook to the iTunes store, you have to first download a software program called iTunes Producer. Be patient, it might take a week or two for iTunes to approve your title. Use iTunes Link Maker to create a URL link for referencing your eBook online.
    • Kobo (Kobo Writing Life, for Kobo eReader devices)
    • Scribd. (Subscription service)
    • Google Play (Partner Program)
  • Amazon is king. This is where you’ll sell the majority of your eBooks. You’ll also get many more reviews at Amazon than at any other eBook retailer. For example, during the last 99¢ promotion that I ran, I sold 2,400 eBooks at Amazon, 1,200 at Barnes & Noble, 250 at iTunes, and 22 at Kobo.
  • Online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc.) do not necessarily report eBook sales to aggregators in a timely manner. Therefore, if you use an aggregator, sales reports may not reflect certain sales until a month or two later. However, if you sell directly to online retailers, sales are reported in real time (except for iTunes, where sales are reported the next day).
  • Amazon generally tries to match the prices of the other main eBook retailers (Barnes & Noble, Google, and  iTunes). So if your eBook is not part of Amazon’s Select program and it’s free on any of those other sites, you might be able to get Amazon to make it free, also. To do this, you have to get all of your friends to go to your Amazon selling page and click on “tell us about a lower price,” which is located at the end of the Product Detail section, just above Customer Reviews, and enter the links to the other website pages where it’s free.
  • To make your eBook free on all of the main websites, use Smashwords to distribute to Barnes & Noble (rather than selling it to them directly), make it free at Smashwords, then try to get Amazon to match the price. There are no price restrictions at iTunes, Kobo, and Google, so you’re all set there. Otherwise, sell only to Amazon through their Select program, make it free for 5 days during the 90-day contract period, then switch out of the Select program after the 90 days are up.
  • Conclusion: Perhaps the best approach is a mixed one: sell directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Google while at the same time use an aggregator like Smashwords to distribute your eBook elsewhere, such as to Overdrive (a retailer that you’re not allowed to sell directly to).
  • Note: eBooks can be read on a computer by downloading free software offered by the companies that make the devices. To read ePub files on a computer, download Adobe Digital Editions.

Publishing a Paperback

  • Sign up with a P.O.D. (Print on Demand) distributor/printer to get your paperback listed at online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others
    • Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, the largest book distributor)
    • Createspace (owned by Amazon)
    • Lulu
    • Note: I personally use Lightning Source because they allow bookstores to return books (if you choose this option), which is the only way a bookstore would ever carry a book. However, many indie authors use Amazon’s Createspace.
    • When a customer orders a paperback book at an online retailer, the P.O.D. company prints a single copy and ships it directly to the customer, eliminating the middleman and the need to carry inventory. They also act as the publisher’s (your) printer, printing as few or as many books as you need at the lowest wholesale cost based on the volume of books that you’re purchasing.
  • Send out advance review copies (A.R.C.s, copies of your book) to major review publications and websites (see list3 – 4 months prior to the publication date.
    • If you don’t send them out 3 months prior to the publication date, most major publications won’t consider it for review.
    • Create a one-page informational sheet (see example) for your book, listing all of the pertinent information, such as genre and B.I.S.A.C. code (click here for codes), ISBN, publication date, retail, page length, trim size, binding, distributors, publisher information, and website.
    • F.Y.I.: the U.S. Postal Service has a Media rate for mailing books that’s half as expensive as First Class or Priority Mail. This might be a good time to take advantage of the savings.
  • Once you have reviews, use the first page of the book for blurbs.



Poster of Sebastian Cole

2.5′ x 6′ banner in a stand, available at Staples.

After You’ve Self-Published Your Book

  • Print business cards, bookmarks, and letterhead stationery. (I use Gotprint.)
  • Create an author bio page at Goodreads and Amazon’s Author Central. Besides having an Author Central page at Amazon.com, you can create an Author Central page at their subsidiary websites in the U.K., Germany, and France. Use Google Translate to translate your bio into French and German before pasting it into those websites.
  • Enter book award contests (see list).
  • Get reviews.
    • Send advance copies of your book to major book review publications 3-4 months prior to the publication date (see list).
    • Goodreads book giveaways. (This is how I got most of my initial reviews.) You can include your book in Goodreads’ book giveaway contests up to 6 months after its publication date. Goodreads chooses the winners for you, but you send the books out. Expect to get anywhere from 500 to 2,000 people signing up to win your book each time you run a contest. You can giveaway as few or as many books as you’d like, and you can run as many contests as you’d like within the first six months. Autograph your books, include a bookmark, and write a nice note asking for a review on Goodreads and on Amazon (if they like reading it, of course). Keep the timeframe of each of your giveaways to two weeks or less. That’s because the list is sorted into Books Ending Soon and Books Recently Listed, so the majority of people will sign up immediately after you’ve listed it and right before your contest is about to end. At other times, your book could get lost in a very long list that includes thousands of books being given away.
    • Give your eBook away for free temporarily on Amazon. Give away thousands of eBooks for free in just a few of days by getting promotional Kindle websites to mention your eBook during your promotion, and you’re bound to get reviews.
    • Contact bloggers who specialize in reviewing books in your genre. Google it.
    • Contact Amazon Top ReviewersAmazon ranks customers who write reviews (with #1 being the most prolific and current). They give badges to the top reviewers, as well. Email top Amazon reviewers who gave favorable reviews to books similar to yours, and ask them if they’d like a complimentary copy of your book in exchange for an unbiased review.
    • Paid reviews
      • PW Select from Publishers Weekly. For $149, they’ll list your book in their monthly supplement of new indie books, while reviewing 25% of the books they list. There’s no guarantee that they’ll pick your book to review, however.
      • RT Book Reviews. They just recently started accepting paid reviews. Standouts will be considered for a feature in their magazine.
      • Kirkus Indie
      • ForeWord Reviews
      • Several others

Marketing Your Brand & Building Your Platform

  • Post as much as possible to your blog, social media sites, YouTube (if possible).
  • Do book signings at local bookstores and libraries.
    • Announce your events.
      • Email press releases to local newspapers (see example). Send it to yourself while blind copying them. In addition, you can broadcast a press release over the internet for free through PRLog.org.
      • Submit event info to online event calendars at websites for local newspapers, news stations, and magazines.
    • F.Y.I.: If a bookstore is collecting the money, the standard commission rate for authors is 60% of retail.
    • If you end up selling the books yourself, you’ll need a state sales tax permit to collect sales tax.
    • Make a poster or banner. It is not uncommon to have a poster on an easel next to you at a book signing. I prefer a 2.5′ x 6′ vertical banner in a banner stand, which you can get at Staples (see the image above).
    • At the event, ask if they prefer you to make it out to someone or to just sign it. Sign your name on the title page and place a bookmark there. Your bookmark — as with all printed materials — should include the name of your website.
  • Contact bloggers who reviewed your book to see if you could do author interviews, guest posts, chats, and book giveaways.
  • Get in with book clubs. On Facebook, I belong to a great group called the Long Distance Book Club. Tell them Sebastian Cole sent you!
  • The best way to market yourself and gain national exposure is to enlist the services of the best free/bargain eBook websites to recommend your eBook on the same day that you’re running a promotion in which you’re either giving away your eBook for free or substantially reducing the price. With the exception of BookBub, eReader News Today, and Freebooksy, most of these promotional websites are only geared toward Amazon’s Kindle (not Barnes & Noble’s Nook, iTunes, or others). You have two options here: request to get your eBook mentioned on the date of your promotion without paying for it (a shot in the dark, perhaps), or pay for a guaranteed spot (if available). The beauty of paying for a sponsorship with these websites is that it appears as a recommendation from them as opposed to an advertisement from you. Expect to give away thousands of eBooks per day by combining a FREE eBook promotion with the services of the best promotional websites.
    • For only $25, I recommend giving Kindle Books and Tips a try, or book a whole month at Indie Book of the Day for only $50. If you prefer someone else to do the groundwork for you, Free & Discounted Books will submit your information to 50 different free eBook websites for $45. Pixel of Ink is an excellent resource if you can get them. Ereader News Today is also excellent. However, with over one million subscribers and growing, the biggest and the best is BookBub. If I could only choose one site, BookBub would be it by a landslide. They are the most expensive, but worth every penny!! For a comprehensive list of free and bargain eBook websites, click here. Although there are dozens (if not hundreds) of free/promotional eBook websites out there, quantity is not nearly as important as quality. Put your money into BookBub, eReader News Today, Kindle Books and Tips, and Pixel of Ink. You won’t regret it!
      • A useful tool to determine which websites have larger audiences than others is Alexa.com. (Enter a website’s name in the search box and it gives you their ranking, with #1 being the best.) This comes in handy when sifting through promotional eBook websites or blogs. Another good way of assessing a website’s reach is by looking at the number of Likes it has on its Facebook page.

Other Possible Marketing Options

  • Hire a publicist?
  • Create a book trailer and put it on YouTube?
  • Produce an audio recording of your first chapter and put it on YouTube?
  • Get millions of hits on YouTube by posting a video that goes viral while at the same time mentioning your book? (Does this ever really happen to people like us?)
  • Sign up for a Virtual Book Tour?
  • Join the Independent Book Publishers Association (I.B.P.A.) and participate in their events (such as doing an autographing session at their booth at Book Expo America)?
  • Offer advance copies of your paperback book to independent bookstores through American Booksellers Association’s (A.B.A.) Advance Access monthly newsletter?

What’s Next

  • Start all over again. Now that you’ve gained traction, you’ve got clout with bloggers, reviewers, websites, book clubs, literary agents, etc.
  • Feel free to contact those literary agents who seemed genuinely interested the first time around. The difference is that now you’re not in the same boat as everybody else: you’re an accomplished indie author with credibility, a brand, a following, great reviews (hopefully), rewards (maybe), sales, and a solid platform to stand on.
  • Write a second manuscript.


Additional Comments

  • Rejection is at every corner, but don’t let that stop you or slow you down. Just find a way to go around the obstacles.
  • Writing means rewriting. The writing can always be improved, and the first draft is never as good as you think. Think of it this way: the manuscript starts off as a piece of Swiss cheese (with holes to fill), is transformed into a sculpture that needs to be whittled away at, and eventually becomes a polished work of art.
  • The process of writing a book teaches you how to write.
  • Publishing a book professionally costs a fair amount of money to do it the right way. Don’t expect to recoup your investment right away. However, you’ll never achieve your dreams if you never try.
  • You’ll most likely have to write several books/manuscripts before securing a literary agent. (Sue Grafton, for example, wrote four manuscripts before getting one.)
  • Marketing is the biggest challenge for self-published authors because their books are generally only available online, not in bookstores, and people won’t know to look for you online if they’ve never heard of you before. Having a great price, great reviews, and winning awards does not necessarily translate into sales. There’s a big difference between placing display ads somewhere versus getting websites to recommend your book. Paying for pay-per-click ads at Google, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. does NOT work unless you’re already well known or in demand, so save your money there. The best way to gain exposure is by getting free/bargain eBook websites (see list) to recommend your eBook on the same days as a temporary price reduction or free-book promotion. Now that you know this, you’re on your way to overcoming your biggest challenge.
  • Quantity of websites is not the same as quality of websites. You’ll sell 100 times more eBooks on Amazon’s website (quality) than you would at lesser known online retailers. And you’ll sell 100 times more eBooks using BookBub’s website (quality) to promote it than you would by using lesser known promotional websites. If this were real estate, I’d say, “location, location, location.” However, in this case, I’d say that “BookBub, BookBub, BookBub” is the appropriate mantra.
  • Sending books unsolicited in the mail usually never works. Networking with people, face to face, usually does.
  • Every step leads to another step, so keep moving forward.
  • Enjoy having fans and the knowledge that you’ve touched the lives of others through your writing.
  • Good luck, and don’t forget to send me a postcard from Hollywood when you’re famous!



17 responses

  1. Great synthesis of invaluable information for writers. Thank you for sharing. There’s only one point I disagree with: you advise not changing narrators in a novel. There are plenty of successful and good books where this is done. It’s not easy for the reader or the writer, but it’s enriching.

    February 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

  2. Pingback: Kindle Books and Tips is a Great Place for Authors to Promote Their eBooks! |

  3. Gary Sedlacek

    More information here than in some books on the subject. Thanks so very much for putting all of this so concisely (sorry about the adverb) in one place.

    September 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    • Heh heh. Thanks, Gary! That’s nice of you to say.

      Sebastian 🙂

      September 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

  4. Wonderful synopsis for new authors. I’ll be sure to share this widely. Thanks for including ForeWord Reviews and the Book of the Year Program.

    September 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

    • Thanks, Jennifer!

      Sebastian 🙂

      September 3, 2013 at 10:50 am

    • Hi, Jennifer,

      Feel free to share it however you’d like. I’d love to see the article show up on other sites. Thanks again.

      Sebastian 🙂

      September 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

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  6. “Enjoy having fans and the knowledge that you’ve touched the lives of other people through your writing.” I hope that you’re taking your own advice! 🙂 Thanks for this great information. You’re so generous!

    August 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

    • Thanks, Maryellen!

      Sebastian 🙂

      August 30, 2013 at 7:24 am

      • maryellenpallow

        And thanks for the shout out to the Long Distance Book Club! 🙂

        August 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      • Thanks for creating such an awesome book club with amazing people!

        August 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm

  7. A wealth of information…great post, Sebastian! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    August 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    • Thanks, Mina. I really appreciate it.

      Sebastian 🙂

      August 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm

  8. This was really so so helpful. Thanks for all the useful tips

    August 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    • It’s my pleasure, Caroline. I’m glad you found it helpful. And thanks for letting me know. Your comments made me smile. Have a great day!

      Sebastian 🙂

      August 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm

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