Authors all want to gather positive reviews, not only because they’re encouraging and feed your ego, but because they help readers decide if they’ll like it and then, hopefully, buy it. Being an active reviewer yourself is good karma and helps you network with others.
You can learn a lot about writing from other author’s work, both negative and positive. Once in a while something in a book may drive you to distraction. When this happens, think long and hard about whether you’ve ever been guilty of the same faux pas. When you read something that makes you hope you can write that well someday, spend some time analyzing what made it so outstanding so you can incorporate a similar technique in your work.
As an author I don’t know what I’d do without Wikipedia. It is the first place I go when I want to get a fundamental and easy to understand glimpse at something. If I need to do more research, I do, but more often than not I find everything I need for the purposes of a novel right there. If you haven’t used them, you should try them.
They are a nonprofit who relies on donations and hopes to keep it ad-free. If you use them, I encourage you to donate. They are a tremendous resource and it’s beyond refreshing to be free of ads distracting your attention.
It’s been said your first novel is often best seen as practice. Thus, you might want to set it aside and start your next one before trying to publish it. This, of course, is hard. It’s your baby and you think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Unless you were born with incredible talent, had plenty of training, a top notch mentor, and an outstanding editor, sorry, but it’s probably not. If nothing else, rest assured your next one will be better. Same with the one after that and the one after that.
However, any readers who pick up your first book will judge you by what they see there. If it’s not so hot, they won’t be back, regardless of how much your subsequent books may actually be the best thing since sliced bread.
If you can’t bear to throw that first novel in the trash, at least set it aside to rework later. If nothing else, you’ll be able to see it with fresh, more objective eyes. You’ll probably be glad you didn’t put it out there. If you still care enough about it, you can now rewrite/edit it with your newly honed skills.
Organizing notes and research can be a huge challenge. I have dozens, even hundreds of online bookmarks, which can be difficult to sort through to find what I’m looking for again. I’ve found that it helps to copy & paste excerpts into a document with the URL, which makes it easier to find the source again.
Writing is a skill & the only way to learn it is by doing. Like any sport, you can read and study all you want, but you won’t master it until you do it and practice, practice, practice. There are no short cuts. Some people are born with incredible talent and may need less, others may never get good enough no matter how hard they work, giving ghost writers a living.
More often than not, a talent is no more than having sufficient interest and desire to pursue a particular activity. This implies that if you want to write, you can learn to do so. Just be prepared to work hard.
Yesterday I went on a bit of a rant about book spamming. On a more positive side, engaging with your fans and other authors is your best bet for gaining sales. The personal touch makes all the difference. Selling yourself as a person is likely to sell your book(s) more effectively. Once you build a fan base and people know and love your stories, then you can start gathering some momentum, but this often starts one person at a time.
Have you ever bought a book from an author you only know via social media who privately messages you with a book ad? I haven’t. I find that almost as annoying as robocalls. While we want to be noticed, being too pushy can be a turnoff. Another annoyance IMHO are those who spam their book, often several times a day, as if repeating their message enough times will work.
When I have time to look at my Instagram or Twitter feed nothing annoys me more than seeing repeated plugs for the same book(s). I want to reply something like “Alright, alright, I saw it already!” Any interest I may have had goes up in smoke with spamming. Think about that when you’re promoting your book. Think quality as opposed to quantity.
Since ebooks are so popular and, in most cases, comprise the majority of your book sales, be sure to include links to your other books in the end. Including excerpts is another option. Making it easier for your readers to discover your other books and possibly sample them can help build your fan base as well as encourage sales. If they liked your story there’s a good chance they’d like to see more.
Cliffhangers are one of those reader lures that can backfire if they’re so abrupt they annoy the reader and the sequel is not yet released. One way to mitigate this frustration is to include the first chapter or so of the sequel at the end. This is particularly easy to accomplish in an ebook. That way your reader might feel less abandoned, used, or manipulated and hopefully make it more likely they’ll buy the next one in the series.
In most cases, it’s unnecessary to use phrases such as “he knew”, “he thought”, or “he saw” when dealing with your viewpoint character. Just dive right in and say it as it would be going through his or her head. This is something to definitely watch for during your final edit.
For example, instead of saying, “He saw that it had started to snow, covering the mountain peaks in the distance” you can simply say, “It had started to snow, covering the mountain peaks in the distance.” See how simple it is? One advantage is that this helps pull readers in, as if it’s happening to them. Saying he saw/she saw or thought or heard can act as a subtle bump out of the story. Besides, you want to eliminate unnecessary words, anyway, and this is one place to start.