Frequently Asked Questions
And this author’s answers are…?
In my journey from entrepreneur, business advisor and writer for entrepreneurs to published author of crime fiction novels about an entrepreneur, I’ve heard a few frequently asked questions for authors. The questions may come from curious readers who want to know how it was done or from future writers wondering if they could do it themselves, but they generally fall into familiar categories.
Following is my summary of the five most frequently asked questions and the answers based on my personal experience with four published business books and three novels in the last six years.
Other authors may have different answers, so keep asking the questions!
- How do you become a writer?
It can be a long and winding path and it’s easy to get lost or be discouraged by the obstacles. My suggestions for finding your way:
- Live an interesting life, enjoy what you do.
- Make perceptive observations of people, places, and events.
- Improve on a bad memory with a good imagination.
- Develop your own style and way with words.
- Read a lot, write a lot, and learn from other writers.
- Enjoy the journey, you may never reach your intended destination.
- Where do the ideas come from?
Ideas are everywhere. Both intriguing stories for fiction and important issues for non-fiction. If you start with a purpose and a plan, it will be easier to select stories and topics that will appeal to you enough to justify the time and effort required to write a book that will also appeal to future readers.
- What is your writing process?
I started with a purpose and a plan. For the business books I wanted to present my advice for entrepreneurs in the friendly voice of wise and experienced Uncle Ralph, like The Wealthy Barber for financial advice. For the novels, I chose the theme of an entrepreneur as the hero fighting crime and corruption instead of the stereotypical ruthless, immoral capitalist villain in most murder mystery and thriller novels. After the initial choice of story line, with a title and tag line to define the theme, I do a detailed outline before I start writing. Since I’m an engineer and MBA, the outline is in a spreadsheet, of course. It lists each chapter with notes on the who, what, where, when and why. As I’m writing the novel I continuously revise the draft and the outline together as I develop the story, the characters, and the plot lines.
- How do you publish a book when it’s finished?
There are a wide range of choices for writers to get their books published and into distribution for marketing and sales to readers. The traditional choice is to pitch a publisher or an agent to signup the author and do all the work in exchange for a percentage of the sales revenue.
The alternative is self-publishing, where the author manages the publishing process directly, with or without additional professional services for editing, cover and interior design, distribution, marketing and sales. The process can be fast and low-cost (from free to $49) if you use the automated services of Amazon–Kindle Direct Publishing or Ingram/Spark to publish your e-Book and print-on-demand paperback and make them available immediately to bookstores and libraries around the world. You may also have online access to make changes, revise prices, review reports and will receive reasonable royalties on all sales. If you want more personal and professional services to deliver your book to higher publishing standards, the full cost of those services can range from less than $1500 to more than $15,000.
Writing a good book comes first and is still the hard part.
- How are you doing in sales?
This is the question authors hate to hear. Most of us dream of the millions of books sold by the international bestsellers that we’re reading ourselves. But we are realistic in our expectations and we recognize that to be considered a Canadian bestseller you only have to sell 3000 books. Even that is not easy to do. We’ve also been told that the average sales for a self-published author is 150 books in their lifetime (including the dozens they gave away to friends and family.) How are my sales doing? I’m doing better than the average but less than a bestseller, so far. My answer to the question is usually, “Sales are pretty good, but should be better. You wanna buy a book?”
I hope that answers all your questions. Let me know if you have more and don’t forget to enjoy your reading and writing!