Why don’t you use your holiday break to start writing that book?
The holiday season is upon us: it’s time to take a well-deserved break from work and your usual responsibilities. But what will you do this holiday break?
Whether you’re staying at home or going away, why don’t you use your next holiday break to tell or write your story, or at least to get a start on writing your story? (Then, later on, you can publish or self-publish it as a book.)
Why write a book?
When writers, or people with a story to tell, actually write their story, or tell their story and others to write down for them, they can feel a deep sense of satisfaction to get that story out of their memories or head and onto the page.
And if they publish or self-publish their story – i.e. produce an actual book that represents their story or their life – they can feel real happiness and fulfilment, almost as if they have brought a baby into the world. In my experience, this is especially true where the storyteller has lived a difficult or challenging life. But even stories told by people who think their life has not been very interesting are, if presented properly, well worth telling, and well worth reading about.
After you have told your story (either in writing, or verbally with a person assisting you to document your story), it can be produced as a book and shared with the audience of your choice (family/friends, or the public).
‘But I am not a writer!’
A writer or storyteller doesn’t need any experience in writing. To write your story, you just need to be able to write (or type) well enough to put your thoughts down on paper (or into a computer).
But if you don’t feel comfortable writing, or if you’re a far better at talking than writing, you don’t need to do the writing yourself. You can simply tell your story, and ask someone to type it up for you, in your own words.
For example, you can sit with a typist (like me) and tell your story; they will type what you’re saying as you speak. Or you can ask someone to record you while you’re telling your stories then have the recordings typed up. Even though you have verbally told the story, not written it, you are still the storyteller, and can still be the author and the copyright owner of your story.
Note: if you are a storyteller, not a writer, and want someone to document your stories and compile and produce your book, this will take at least a few months to do. The more stories (or the longer the book), the longer it will take.
Finding something worthwhile to write or tell a story about
We have all lived our lives and therefore we all have stories. Many of our stories may be too private or embarrassing (or boring) for public consumption. But most of us have lived through certain experiences that at least some other people would find interesting, or fascinating, or educational – experiences that others would want to hear. So, we all have worthwhile stories to write or tell.
But if you want to write a book, it needs to have a focus.
Try doing this, to help you decide what your book is going to be about:
- first, list all the stories about your life that you could tell
- then, choose the story that will be the most difficult to tell or write. Because that story is likely to be the most interesting and helpful to your readers.
Your story’s audience
Whether people will want to read or hear your story depends on who they are. For example, if your chosen audience is your family members only, they will probably be interested in every aspect of your story simply because you are a member of their family and your story is about people they know in real life. On the other hand, if your audience includes members of the general public, your story will have to be particularly interesting, for them to want to read it.
So, who do you want to read your book, and who would find your story interesting? Family members only? The public, but people of your age group only, or younger or older ones as well? People of your gender only, or all genders? People of your country only, or all countries?
Knowing your audience may not affect the way you write your book, but it will affect the way your book needs to be self-edited, edited and designed.
Will writing a book make me rich?
It’s highly unlikely that writing a book will make a person rich. Of course, you never know; ‘best sellers’ written by first-time writers do happen, and it is possible to get rich from writing a book – just as it’s possible to win the jackpot in Tattslotto.
If your book is for sale, it’s likely you will sell some books. The earnings from sales will hopefully cover costs and you may even make a profit. But if you add up the writing hours and compare that to your earnings, you will probably be dismayed that, after the costs of production, your hourly earnings are far, far below people’s earnings in other industries.
Most published writers who are making a good living earn their main income from activities other than book sales; for example, they run writers’ courses, present at conferences, or charge for advertising on their sites and blogs. Even among well-known, award-winning writers, only a minority of authors are able to make a living from the sale of their books.
So, if getting rich was one of the goals you thought you could achieve by writing a book, I suggest you strike it off the list and see if there’s another reason why you should spend all that effort writing a book, such as (a) helping others understand this or that issue, or (b) educating others about how to overcome certain difficulties, or (c) finding fulfilment or happiness through self-publishing my story as a book.
What are the steps (and costs) of publishing or self-publishing?
After you have used your holiday break to start telling or writing your memoir, life story or whatever type of book you want to tell, you will need to continue writing until you have completed what we editors and writers call the ‘1st draft manuscript’. It may be as short as 30,000 words or it may be much longer.
Now begins the self-editing process; this may take weeks, or months, depending on the wordcount and how rough your manuscript is. Even if you have never written anything before this manuscript, with some guidance you will be able to self-edit your MS so that it will be less time-consuming (therefore cheaper) for the editor to edit it. See: Self-editing your manuscript (fiction or non-fiction)
The subsequent stages of editing will need to be done by a professional editor. This will cost between about $1000 and $6000, depending on the length of the MS and the level of editing needed. You will need to pay for the editing yourself if you are self-publishing, and we also recommend that you have your manuscript professionally edited if you intend to submit it to publishers. See: The editing stages
After editing, you can either:
- send your MS to a publisher (who may or may not wish to publish your book); this means the publisher will fund the cost of producing your book; or
- self-publish your book, which means either (a) paying someone else to design and print or e-publish your book, the cost of which will depend on how long your story is, or (b) if your book is for family or friends only, and your budget very low, you may choose to simply photocopy and spiral-bind the document.
‘Self-publishing’ compared to ‘publishing’
Self-publishing simply means distributing your manuscript to anyone (apart from a publisher). Distributing a spiral-bound copy of your book to your family and friends is, technically speaking, ‘self-publishing’. Getting your book professionally designed and printed and distributing it is also ‘self-publishing’, whether you distribute it to the general public or just to your family.
On the other hand, sending your manuscript to a publisher who then publishes it for you, with the publisher paying all the costs of production and then paying you royalties for book sales, is known as ‘publishing’, not ‘self-publishing’.
For more information, go to: Comparing the different types of publishing.
For more information about self-publishing, go to:
- The steps of producing a self-published hard copy book
- (One assessment of) how much it costs to self-publish a book
- Marketing your self-published book
- Our services: MS appraisal, editing, proofreading, self-publishing
- A self-publishing case study: from handwritten MS to printed book stage
Edited by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading
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