4 Lurking Horrors That Will Kill Your Book

Beware the spooks, ghouls, and monsters lurking in the shadows, waiting to destroy your book…

Ooh, I love a little Hallowe’en fun. A scary movie to get me jumping, and silly decorations to spook up the house (although to be honest, the Dingle spiders have the creepy decor in hand all year round).

Ghosts, ghouls, and demons aren’t real, of course — but that doesn’t mean you and your book are safe from the horrors lurking inside your head. We humans are masters at self-sabotage and we often don’t even know we’re doing it.

It’s difficult enough running a business and writing a book without making mistakes that could scupper us.

This week, in shameless Hallowe’en bandwagon jumping, we’re going to sharpen our stakes and hunt down those monsters, so you can write a successful book.

Starting with…

1. Ghost Readers: Writing For Imaginary Readers — or just yourself

The most arduous part of writing a book (or any other marketing copy, for that matter) is the most crucial part — and it’s the part most people don’t bother with: figuring out whom you’re writing for and why.

There are two reasons why a writer may miss this step out:

  1. The writer gets overexcited and cracks on with writing without really giving any thought to the audience until it’s too late. I understand: when you get a fantastic and exciting idea, it’s tempting to close your eyes and roll down the hill at full speed. You don’t want to stop and think because it’s too much fun.
  2. The writer is arrogant or unaware enough to think that just because they’re interested in what they have to say, everyone else will be too. Not every idea is a good one, and sometimes we come up with stuff that other people just aren’t interested in (I know right? Philistines).

Spending time on this can feel like a real chore — like washing the walls with sugar soap before you paint them. It’s effort worth putting in, but you don’t see the effects until a couple of days later when you have beautifully painted walls.

Same with your writing prep: you’ll benefit massively from digging into whom you’re writing for — but not until you come to sell your book. So it seems like a lot of work for not much return.

The problem with skipping this part, though, is you risk writing a book nobody wants to read. You risk writing something that won’t help people solve problems — and won’t help you and your business become more successful.

Without knowing exactly whom you’re writing for and why, you’ll find it more difficult to write your book, and you’ll struggle to keep to the point.

Figure out who your ideal reader is, and do it before you ever put pen to paper. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort, and money. And it’s fun! Don’t believe me? What’s more fascinating than figuring out what makes people tick?

You might be your ideal reader, which is a great start… but if you’re the only ideal reader, you’re in trouble. Do the work. Do the research.

Find out what people want and need, and decide if your Big Idea fulfils that for them. If not, don’t write this book. Find a Big Idea that people do want.

2. Devilish Details Dragging Your Book Down

One of the most common mistakes indie-publishers make is not paying enough attention to the details. Readers often don’t notice the details consciously — but subconsciously they’ll notice stuff that doesn’t look quite right. Elements that whisper “amateur” and make the reader suspicious.

Just because your book is self-published, doesn’t mean it has to look amateurish. If your book looks amateurish, people will assume you’re an amateur.

Do not underestimate how much damage you can do to your reputation with a poor-quality book.

It used to be super-difficult to make a book look professional without working with traditional publishers, but these days it’s much easier — and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Invest in professional help if you need it, and do not try to do this on the cheap. If writing a book is an investment worth making, make it.

At the very least, do the following:

  • Find a professional cover designer (I work with Julia Brown at Brown Owl Design).
  • Invest in an editor — or at least a proofreader. If you don’t pay a professional editor, make sure you do a proper job of editing your own book.
  • Beta readers can help you with editing: they’ll tell you whether or not your book flows, makes sense, and where it’s too padded or too thin.
  • Interior book design: get advice and follow it carefully, or get a professional to format your book for you. This is where a lot of indie-authors struggle, because there are certain publishing conventions you must stick to, or your book will look amateurish.
  • Get a printed proof copy: don’t just send it to print and assume everything will be fine. You never know exactly what your book will look and feel like until it’s in your hands. I always get at least two proof copies. Check your proof and check it again before you send it to print.
  • Run your proof copy through the final print checklist (which you can find in my book How The Hell Do You Write A Book?).

Don’t scrimp on the details. It would be a tragedy to go to all the effort of writing a great book only to spoil it with a lack of attention to detail.

3. The Field Of Dreams Demon

Think if you build it, they will come? Field Of Dreams (and Wayne’s World) has a lot to answer for. Just because you’ve written a book — even if it’s a brilliant book — doesn’t mean anyone will buy it.

Once we’ve written the book, we have to get out there and sell it.

We must create a following and give people a reason to buy the book. We must do the work.

Slay the Field of Dreams Demon with marketing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Build an email list of people who want to hear from you and whom you can help.
  • Create a website so people have somewhere to go to buy your book, find out more about you, and sign up for your emails.
  • Build buzz: if you’re not excited about your book, how do you expect anyone else to be? Talk about it everywhere, as often as you can.
  • Write articles on related subjects. Figure out what questions people have, and answer them. Be relentlessly helpful.
  • Be a guest on podcasts and radio interviews and blogs. Talk about how your book helps people get what they want.
  • Find influencers — people with large followings in complementary industries to yours — who can help you sell your books and reach more people than you otherwise would.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of marketing, think of it like this, instead: you’re being relentlessly helpful. You’re writing your book to help people solve a problem or achieve a goal, right? To do that, you need to build a relationship with them. Allow them to get to know you.

Do not just sit back and wait for people to find you. If they don’t know you exist, you’ll never sell them anything.

4. The Biggest Demon Of All Lives Inside Your Skull

If you don’t believe you can write a good book and make it work for your business, you will never do so. This might sound like woo-woo, but it isn’t.

Believing you can won’t necessarily make it so, especially if you don’t do the work — but believing you can’t will screw you over for good.

Sort out your Inner Dickhead or it’ll destroy you.

Believe you can do this, because you absolutely can. The problem isn’t can’t, the problem is won’t.

Write your book and market in using Tiny Beetle Steps. Do one thing at a time. Then the next thing, and the next.

When your Inner Dickhead pipes up telling you you’re no good, that nobody wants to read your shit, that you’re worthless — go and find evidence that shows your Inner Dickhead it’s wrong. Find evidence to reject the demon inside your head, and support a belief that you can and will write a book that can change lives.

Vicky The Book Demon Slayer

These lurking horrors don’t just pop up at Hallowe’en, pickle. They’re ready to pounce anytime, anywhere.

Don’t let them.

You can write a brilliant book for your business — you just need to know what to do and how to do it.

Here are three more articles that might help…

And, of course, you can always read my new book — out now — called How The Hell Do You Write A Book. Get your mitts on it here.

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