One of the most common questions, complaints, and concerns I hear is that a writer edits while they write, or stops and edits a chapter before moving on, and so on. They get stuck. Stephen King and so many others recommend you do not do this–do not start editing until you have your first draft. Then edit all you like. In fact use placeholders, such as (in fiction) “crime scene.” Then you can always go back and talk to cops about crime scenes and so on.
Not only does editing as you write slow you down or stop you, it can mess with your style and voice. Did you know you write “like you’re reading?” It’s true. Best if you read a particular author(s) exclusively if he/she/they pertain to what you’re working on. It will come through. Ever find yourself starting to use a slight southern drawl when in South Carolina, or a definite dialect when in New York? We are influenced by what we read and observe. Another reason to get quickly through your first draft.
For non-fiction, I’ve found it best to overshoot your word-count target. If a book is largely based on interviews and we’re writing a 50,000-word book, best to have something line 70,000 in transcribed words (not including all the questions and so forth).
Editing is about taking away and making clean and concise more than about adding where needed, and then about organizing and perfecting.
Anyway, a simple tip, but an important one, and a hard one for perfectionists to follow!
Recommended reading, On Writing by Stephen King
“Trim size” refers to the sizes of books. In fact there are charts that tell which sizes are “industry standard” and available in different formats. The availability from self-publishing platforms can affect your decision on where to upload, distribute, and publish your book. For example, CreateSpace does a great job for self-publishers but by design is meant to be more on the user-friendly side, so the amount of technical know-how you need is less but so are the publishing options on things like trim sizes, formats, and distribution, as compared to Ingram’s self-publishing platform, Lightning Spark, where you have many more professional options but a little more know-how is required. Each platform has a PDF that explains file preparation and lists trim sizes.
For example, speaker/author/trainer Erin Mahoney and I did a beautiful little book recently called Positive Vibes. We wanted a small format in cloth hardcover with a dust jacket. Ingram had it, but the smallest available was 5″ x 7″. That trim size was available in softcover with CreateSpace and we wanted to upload to both, so that’s what we went with. The Big Five publishers have access to more by way of printing, and produced Oprah’s little book in a size unavailable to self publishers. But that’s fine, Positive Vibes turned out beautifully!
I always check and try to decide on trim sizes before we get too far into a project. It helps, especially for cover design, and I’m anal-retentive, a bit. In fact I mock up the book file in the chosen trim size from the beginning (I loathe 8.5″ x 11″!). There are design benefits, and it’s more fun for me, which is important!
Certain trim sizes will be expected as genre-specific. Non-fiction books are very often 6″ wide by 9″ high. Textbooks are often letter-sized (8.5″ x 11″). Books of poetry, fables, and small business books are often 5″ x 7″, and if a business or philosophic title, exoected to be pithy at that size. Thicknesses are also expected as per genre.
The best exercise I know of is simply going into a book store once in a while and picking books off the shelves. You’ll want to be familiar with reader expectations, to meet them in ways, and exceed them in others.
The lead-time for launching your book will vary depending on your purposes and resources. If you are building a career as an author, it might also depend on whether this is your first book launch or not. The formula for viability as an author is simply books x readers = sales. That explains in part why publishers will tell you the best marketing for your book is always your next book.
But let’s back up a bit. If you are a first-time author and have no readers, how do you get them? One way is to publish a book with the target of lots of reviews rather than sales, initially, and then use that first book to build a readership with. Then with book two you’ll have more options and can start focusing more on sales. Book sales and being an author as a career is a long-term plan, despite the occasional lightning strikes. For a professionally published and marketed book launch I’ve seen publicists want anywhere from three months to a year to prepare. As you learn about what’s involved you’ll see why.
The other end of the spectrum is the “soft launch,” where a title becomes available quietly in the night, without fanfare, and this suits plenty of authors, too. Remember, launches and marketing take either sweat equity or actual cash, so a soft launch might be the best way to start if you have little of either, or if the book is for establishment purposes like credibility and positioning. They still work wonders!
And when you learn a launch is primarily about reviews, the whole pre-launch sequence starts to make lots of sense. Otherwise, your fresh, new, well-written tome might simply drift unnoticed, a message in a bottle, a drop in an ocean. There are now over one million books published each year, so crafting a smart launch and long-term plan for your books is a great idea.