Becoming a writer is a dream that many word lovers cherish a bit like a child looks at the moon, as something both fascinating and unattainable. In fact, the most difficult thing is not necessarily to write, but to earn enough money to make a living. However, this is the case for many people, especially since the advent of the Internet and digital books.
- Here's the program
- What kinds of books could you write?
- What subject(s) can I write about?
- What can I do if I’m not good at writing?
- How do I find a publisher to edit my book?
- Can I self-publish if I can’t find a publisher?
- What about audiobooks?
But before starting, let’s say it right away: If you don’t already have this desire or this impulse, maybe you are simply not made for it. Because being a writer cannot be improvised. It is an activity that requires a lot of work, tenacity, and concentration. So, if you’re one of those people who have felt the urge, whether it’s so strong that it becomes a need, this article will give you some tips on how to get started and maybe finally make some money from your writing. But it will depend a lot on you, as we will see.
What kinds of books could you write?
When we think of a type of book, it is usually the novel that comes to mind first. After all, it is the most popular type of book. If you have any ideas for themes or have ever written in your life, this might be a good time to get serious about it then!
However, not everyone knows how to write a good novel as it requires a lot of work and a minimum of experience. So you may prefer to turn to genres that suit you better, such as the short story. It is a genre very close to the novel but shorter, so it can be suitable for beginners or for people who prefer stories limited to a few dozen pages or less.
Both of these types of books remain in the fiction genre where the author narrates a story that he or she has created, but it is also possible to move toward non-fiction books. The essay, for example, is a genre that allows the author to expose his or her ideas and thoughts on a specific topic. It is a type of work written in argumentative prose and in a simple and clear style so easily understandable by the reader. This option can be interesting for people who have thought long and hard about a specific topic and want to share that thought. You can also write about yourself, or someone else, a historical figure for example, who has had a rather unique experience or whose life is or was exceptional (e.g. The Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary).
It is also possible to turn to the writing of informational books. This term covers a large number of types of books and can be suitable for many people because writing such a book requires in-depth knowledge on subjects that can be of interest to everyone. The fields concerned are vast and varied: cooking, languages, nature, sports, wellness, tourism, animals, artistic activities or books on professional or daily life… An author can, therefore, use his personal or professional experience to write about something he knows well.
And then there are books for children and teenagers, which have seen their popularity explode in recent years, the most striking example being certainly J. K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter, which has been sold in several million copies.
What subject(s) can I write about?
First of all, when writing a book, it is important to focus on subjects that you know, especially if it is your first book. It is also preferable to choose subjects that we are passionate about or for which we feel a real interest, in this way motivation will come more easily. On the contrary, when we start from a subject we know little about, the desire to give up or even to procrastinate can quickly appear, because there will be much more work to do before the writing and a certain lassitude can quickly get to us.
On the other hand, in the case of writing a technical or scientific book, it is preferable to know your subject in detail and to have prior professional or academic experience. This will give you a certain credibility and allow readers to read you with confidence.
To maximize your chances of success, it is best to find a topic that is fairly popular. To do this, you can start by doing a little market research. For example, you could visit the Amazon or any othe online library “best sellers” page. In the last few years, it is not uncommon to see books on personal development or health and wellness, as well as many novels. These results give an idea of what your future readers are looking for.
There are also seasonal books. The different school periods, for example, influence the results of these “top sellers”: in the summer, you will easily find vacation notebooks, at the end of the school year you will see books to help prepare for exams, and at the beginning of the school year it will be books giving advice on how to succeed in the school year. These types of books are very popular and can be a good option if you feel you can write them and have some experience in these subjects. For example, if you have a degree in computer science, you could write a book of tips for students who are about to start that kind of schooling.
Newsworthy topics are also good candidates for bestsellers, especially when they are hot topics that are in the news. So don’t be afraid to watch the news and take note of the debates that are on people’s minds, even among the people around you. This is as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction. A novel whose plot is related to current trends is more likely to be successful and talked about than a novel that could have been written at any other time. Among the most famous examples, the book 1984 by George Orwell (which was even censored in some countries, like Thailand in 2014), or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley had made a lot of noise just after the first and the second world war.
You can also turn to a type of book that I have already briefly mentioned above, and which is always a great success in bookstores: children’s books. There is a multitude of books for young people: stories and short stories, learning books and first steps in learning a foreign language for toddlers, cookbooks with easy and fun recipes, books to learn to read from a young age, etc., are particularly popular in recent years.
Novels for young people are very popular among teenagers, especially on the theme of the supernatural (vampires, witches, werewolves…) or dystopian (end of the world, totalitarian systems, science fiction…). I was talking about the interplanetary success of Harry Potter, but I can also mention the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, or Neverending Story by Michael Ende (the first book without pictures I have read in my life). These are some of the most emblematic examples, but there are many other lesser-known novels, which nevertheless sell hundreds, even thousands of copies, allowing their author to live comfortably from their passion.
Once you have a good topic, you should make it as specific as possible and not stray too far from it. For example, if it is a novel, you can define the theme in time (what period do you want to write about? When does the story begin and end?) and space (where is your story set?). For works that are aimed at a certain age group, try to keep this element in mind throughout the story.
What can I do if I’m not good at writing?
No one is born with innate writing skills—in fact, often even the most talented writers have gone through a lot of writing exercises and advice to get where they are! So if you think you can’t write, don’t despair because there are ways to learn.
To get started, keep in mind that writing is an art, just like drawing or music, that you have to work at: Start by writing a little bit every day and you will quickly see progress. For example, you can set yourself a few goals, such as writing first 100 and then 1000 words a day, or using a topic generator and writing on the given topic three times a week. You can also participate in writing workshops and take note of the tips that will help you.
It is also important to read a lot, so you can recognize storytelling techniques and improve your spelling. If you already have an idea of the type of book you want to write, focus on books of the same style. This will usually give you a general outline for your book (of course without plagiarizing), an understanding of the tone that is expected in your writing, and an idea of how many pages readers expect to find.
Also, feel free to draw inspiration from your favorite authors: Look at their turn of phrase, their style, the way they convey events and emphasize important information, the synonyms they use, etc.
Now, if you still don’t think you can write (and there’s nothing wrong with that, not everyone is cut out for writing!), you can turn to a “ghostwriter”. In other words, you pay someone to write for you. You only have to provide the titles and topics to be developed, and this person will write the body of the text. Then, the book will be published under your name, and the income earned will be for you. This idea can be interesting if you already have specific ideas about the type of book you want to sell but don’t have the time or energy to write.
How do I find a publisher to edit my book?
In order to make money with your book, it must be published. This is what allows you to earn royalties. These royalties are generally around 6 to 14% of the direct income from the sale of the book (a small percentage but which can generate significant income if your book is popular), the rest is shared between the printer, the publisher, the diffuser and the distributor.
On the other hand, a publisher will allow you to limit your book’s operating costs: the publishing house is in charge of printing, distribution and promotion. Sometimes, they even pay a financial advance when the contract is signed. It is also important to read the contract carefully before signing it, to make sure you know what you are getting into.
To contact a publishing house, there are several steps. First of all, you have to keep in mind that a lot of people request these publishers, it is not easy to find one. Also, it is useless to go to the most famous publishing houses because, most of time they only read manuscripts from authors who have already acquired a minimum of notoriety.
In order to find the right publisher for your book, you should first ask yourself which publisher is most likely to be interested in your book. To do this, you can look at which publishers have published the most books similar to yours. Then, you can look for those that are recommended on the internet or in your area (which will make it easier to meet them). You can also visit literary fairs.
Once you have found the publishing houses that might meet your needs, you can send your manuscript. And you shouldn’t hesitate to send your book to several publishers at the same time!
To make your manuscript stand out among the many others that are sent to them, you can start by making sure that there are no spelling mistakes (or as few as possible) and that your style is neat. You should also send the manuscript in the format requested by the houses, paper or e-mail (if you have a choice, prefer paper).
It is also important to attach a letter in which you highlight the strong points of your manuscript and the interest it may represent. Do not hesitate to highlight the elements that made you choose this publishing house rather than another, and why your book should be part of their catalog. And don’t forget to include all your contact information on the first page of the manuscript. Also note that if you know a publisher, or someone you know knows one, don’t hesitate to take advantage of that contact. Even if they are not interested in your book, they will usually give you good advice.
Then you just have to wait for the replies. If you receive rejection letters with explanations, it is important to take them into account and make any necessary corrections to your book before sending it out again. If, on the other hand, you receive positive responses, I congratulate you in advance, but be careful not to rush into anything and read the proposed contract carefully before committing yourself.
Can I self-publish if I can’t find a publisher?
If you can’t find a publisher, or for some reason you don’t want to collaborate with them, it is also possible to turn to self-publishing! This alternative is becoming more and more popular and has certain advantages, such as having total freedom in the choice of cover, font, etc., and above all, receiving the totality of the royalties.
First of all, there are two types of self-publishing. The first is self-publishing in paper format (paperback or hardcover). However, this option requires the deduction of the VAT tax and the distributor’s (bookstores) commission fees. The second option, and the most popular, is the digital book: The selling price is lower than a paper book. but the income can quickly become higher.
Digital books (eBooks) are becoming more and more popular nowadays, especially thanks to the success of tablets and e-readers like Kindle, Kobo, or PocketBook. This way of reading is becoming more and more popular as it seems to be more convenient (you can bring as many books as you want anywhere) and more economical. Moreover, the users of these electronic books are found among all segments of society, so all kinds of books can be published this way.
To be self-published, all you have to do is to use a word processor to write your book, check it for spelling and syntax/grammar mistakes (because if the selection is almost non-existent compared to traditional publishing houses, a book full of mistakes will quickly accumulate bad reviews), and send it to the chosen platform. In general, the book sells for 3 to 5 dollars. The figure seems low, but it can quickly become important if the number of sales is high. Moreover, once the book is on sale, all income received is passive since your work is completed!
Perhaps the most well-known option is Amazon and its program launched in 2017, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This program allows you to sell your book in physical format (on a print-on-demand system) as well as in electronic format. The author sends his manuscript to the site, which validates it (or not) after 24 hours. Then, royalties are earned on each sale, or, if readers are on the “Kindle Unlimited service”, on each page read. The more the book is sold, the higher it will be in the search results, which can quickly become interesting and profitable for you, given the popularity of the platform.
The Kobo Writing Life program is another interesting option: the author decides on the price and the conditions of sale (on which territories to sell it), submits the manuscript in ePub format (Word, OpenOffice and Mobi are also accepted), and clicks on “publish”. The author then receives 70% of the sale price for each sale.
Self-publishing is a relatively simple option to use, and many other programs exist in addition to these two. It is up to you to compare them and estimate which one suits you best!
My advice is to first try to find a publishing house that will be a real springboard to your writing career. You will then be surrounded by competent people, who know this rather closed environment perfectly, and will benefit from advice that will help you progress rapidly in your art. And if, despite all your efforts and your numerous attempts, you still fail, then turn to self-publishing.
What about audiobooks?
Finally, we can’t conclude this article without mentioning audiobooks. These books have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in particular to Amazon Audible, the number one platform for audio book sales. They are particularly convenient, because they allow you to do other activities at the same time, such as sports and walks, or to travel without taking up too much space. It is also a way to consume literary content for people who do not like to read.
In addition, it is interesting to note that this type of book sells at a higher price than digital books, with a standard price of between 10 and 15 dollars. The audiobook is a growing market that is already generating millions of dollars worldwide, so it’s an option to seriously consider!
Once you have written your book, you may decide to turn it into an audio book yourself. To do this, you’ll need quality equipment (microphone, spit filter, recording and editing software) and a quiet, echo-free room. Then, just read your book distinctly, softly, and clearly (and avoid mouth noises 😉).
But if you have the budget, I strongly recommend that you hire a professional, whom you will have to pay, but who will have both the equipment and the talent. This voice narration generally brings a very theatrical and emotional dimension to the story, hence the importance of finding a narrator who will be able to both understand the text you have written, and above all bring all his or her talent to transcend it.
In the case of Audible, they are usually the ones who take care of finding this narrator (often a popular actor or actress), as well as the recording. Once the distribution contract is signed with them and the recording phase is over, you will generally receive about 45% of the revenue generated by each sale. Otherwise, there are other publishers, often local, to whom you can turn. A little Google search should help you find them easily.
At first glance, it seems quite difficult to make a living from your passion for writing, especially when you’re just starting out, but with a little practice and talent, you could quickly start earning your first dollars. This income can even quickly become very interesting if your book gains rapid popularity—or if you are prolific and write and sell many different books.
So, for people who like to write and are ready to start, having a real desire, courage, and unshakeable motivation, writing can become a sometimes very profitable activity. The possibilities for writing topics and types are almost endless, and anyone, whether creative or practical, can write a book that will appeal to a very large number of people.
Finally, please note that I have written an article that may be of interest to you if you are just starting out in writing.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
You can imagine that the absolutely colossal number of paper books that are published each year require the cutting down of an equally colossal number of trees, sometimes from illegal logging. So insist on being published on paper from certified labels and sustainably managed forests.
For digital and audio books, it’s a different story. Most servers hosting computer files consume a very large amount of energy. Amazon has servers that limit this consumption, but this is far from being the case everywhere.
Finally, you don’t need to buy a new high-performance computer to work well. A small entry-level computer (even second-hand) with low power consumption (e.g. i3 CPU, 4Gb RAM and 128Gb drive) will do the job just fine. A word processor is probably the application that requires the least amount of resources to work properly.
- You live your dream of becoming a writer
- You work at home or while traveling
- You can become a real star (sell several million copies first, talk about it later 😉)
- Requires a lot of work and tenacity
- Without a minimum of talent, you will remain anonymous among many others.
- Location: At home or while traveling
- Investment: The purchase of a small entry-level computer
- Earnings perspective: From nothing to a lot. Hard to say 😅
- Required: Have imagination or know your subject (depending on whether it’s a novel or a how-to book), love to read, love to write, be tenacious and courageous.
- Risk level: Low. At worst you will have “wasted” time.
- Implementation time: Writing a book takes time, minimum 2 or 3 months depending on the case (a few days or weeks for a short story).
- Material needed: A laptop