Tips for Writing Your Own Book

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Drew5233, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    What it says on the tin-Please feel free post any advice, hints and tips regardless of how trivial. I'm a complete novice so any advice is greatly welcome.

    So after a few years of being interested in all things France and Flanders 1940 related and collecting numerous research material I've almost convinced myself to write a book about the campaign.

    I'm not looking to make money on it, just something to say I've left behind on my tombstone and of course for my son. I was thinking of it being published in 2020 for the 80th anniversary of Dunkirk but I suspect 2040 may be a bit more realistic.

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  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  3. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    Hi Andy,

    Go through your book collection and sort out the ones that you really rate.

    Use these as a guide to style, number of chapters, number of pages, average words/paragraphs per printed page.

    Now see if there is a commonality in publishing house - if so fine - if not then make some notes of house styles for all the publishers you have selected as favourite.

    Do photos figure large in the selections you have made - if so you will need to select and arrange royalties for ones you will use in your book (most publishers will use x piccys in their promotional blurb so they like picture books).

    Now armed with a profile aimed at a particular publishing house style work up an index of chapters and a couple of example chapters (in the full format you want them to appear in the final print).

    Write no more for the submission to the publishing house - they do not want a full manuscript at this stage - only synopsis of content - examples of your writing style - so they can decide if it will be a commercial product.

    You can submit direct to the publishing house or go through an agent - up to you - just beware of too many grasping hands.

    On that for direct through a commercial publisher - of the book retail price the break down typically is:

    50% to shop
    10% or less to author
    40% to publisher for profit, printing. typesetting, publicity, stocking, delivery etc.

    Author will usually get 6 to 10 copies free gratis

    Typical print run for specialist historical is around 3000 copies but varies from house to house.

    Hows that for a starter?

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  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles


    I've never published a book, but I do have a lot of experience with writing, enough to offer a single piece of (obvious) advice:

    Books (in fact, all pieces of writing) ultimately fail or succeed by their own self-set criteria: a Complete Book of American Birds that omits some American birds will be rightly panned by reviewers and shunned by readers. You must have a very clear objective of what you hope to give the reader and what you do not intend to give the reader--and for God's sake be honest about it. I've seen books titled and marketed in a wholly misleading fashion as well as books that have clearly been expanded from more forensic monographs at the request of the publisher/editor--it shows.

    The most common error I find (perhaps particularly in the field of Military history) is for an author to try to cover too much and either a) inevitably fail by omissions or b) fail owing to lack of detail. I feel certain from what I have read of your contributions to this forum that you are more than qualified to write a complete history of 1940, but be warned: books that cover huge topics tend to be either encyclopaedically huge themselves or so general as to disappoint the kind of expert you might find here. In a desire to impart all they themselves have learnt, first time writers often feel an urge to include almost everything they know on the topic in general, to write the book on the subject, but all those interesting tangents, coincidences and (worst) displays of historical knowledge eat away at your page allowance and dilute your thesis; write with the assumption that you'll live to be one hundred and publish ten more books in which to comfortably stow these 'bonus facts' in their rightful places. Set your objective and stay lean and dogged in its pursuit.

    I hope none of that sounds too poncy.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
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  5. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Speaking as one who has the same ambition constantly stalled by a lack of self-confidence as much as life events, I say more power to your elbow Andy, go for it. I wouldn't worry too much about where it's going, how it will be published etc. - just write as much as you can and get something done - like plasterers say, get something on the wall first. I'm absolutely sure you've got interesting things to say, so good luck and if I find something more constructive to pass on, I will.
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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Brian is correct. Just write, If you know your stuff and are passionate about it then it will flow onto the page (or screen). When you get stuck stop and have a think.

    Keep control. Do not let publishers mutilate it. I have seen many good books ruined by publishers concern with cost and profit.

    If you would not buy it then don't sell it. Good advice given to me when starting the model business. (Not that sort of model!).

  7. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    First advice is to WRITE. I've had many an idea for a a story wither because I couldn't get the time organised to follow it through to the end - a change of job and a family took a huge chunk out of my writing time and many a would be author has fallen at the first hurdle because they spend more time talking about it than doing it. You are a busy bloke with your trips to Kew and your Facebook page and your work on this site so some of that may have to go on the back burner a bit to give you space. Some writers like to set aside a set period of time every day (at least an hour or so) to get into the habit of writing every day.

    In terms of what it is you actually write Charley's advice is excellent - set achievable parameters for your book that give you a clear target to aim towards rather than a woolly idea of just "something about France and Flanders 1940". Once you've got an idea of your main area of focus your task will become a lot easier. In this respect it might be a good idea to look at what's on the market already - if you are serious about getting published, bear in mind the Dunkirk bandwagon will have rolled on by the time you are finished so you need to have a marketable angle to sell your idea to a publisher - perhaps there is a niche in the F&F campaign that is interesting but not well covered. Your "then and now" photos are always interesting - perhaps a some well chosen examples where you devote a chapter to each one to tell the story of the picture would be an idea worth exploring? That would give you tightly defined areas to cover for each chapter and would allow you to cherry pick the most interesting stories of the campaign without having to go down the "kitchen sink" approach of a more generalised history.

    Accept that your first attempt will most likely be shit. The age old advice given to writers is that "it's not writing, it's re-writing." When I'm working on a story I invariably spend first part of any writing session reviewing what I last wrote and editing it. Then when the story is done leave it for a week or so before going back to it again for another polish before asking other people to read it and give me their feedback. I am sure there would be a few willing bodies here to look over your drafts and offer advice.

    Finally you reach the point where you have a marketable manuscript completed. This is where all Ross' excellent advice above about how to present your work to a publisher will stand you in good stead. Crafting a good synopsis and chapter outline etc will pay off here but you will have the added bonus of already having written the book so don't have to worry about selling the idea but then having to make it real working to a deadline!
  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I have never written a book but would suggest as mentioned above - know what your book is about :

    Are you writing this book to cover :
    Only British troops? -
    Allied troops? (does this include French & Belgian + ??)
    German side of events?

    Time period or what is your starting and finishing points time wise

    Is the book going to be chronologically based or is it going to be based on Regiment/Brigade/Division? (that another question as to how detailed you want/need to go)

    Good luck with this and can I pre-order my signed copy now?

  9. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Yes, totally agree with the advice of 'just write'! It's absorbing, and if you are not wanting to make money, then it's a straightforward process. I wanted to record the wartime life of a soldier in 76th HAA Regt RA through letters, diaries, written accounts, photographs, and research carried out at National Archives, but without any ambition to be another Anthony Beevor! It took a little over two years of fairly focussed full time work editing, composing, and writing original text to finish it. Having approached several specialist WWII publishers, sourced through the Writers and Artists Handbook Writers & Artists , which is worth purchasing, and talking to the War Museum (who were very positive about the script and project), I decided my preferred way to proceed was to self publish, particularly as this gave me total control over the whole process, with very little associated costs.

    Having researched the options for self publish, which is print on demand so no up front costs, I opted for Online Self Publishing Book & eBook Company - Lulu .I had processed the text in Word and subsequently formatted this to their downloaded template for paperback (they also do various hardback and also digital formats), and then converted this to PDF using Acrobat Pro (can be purchased on a monthly basis) to allow this to upload onto the Lulu platform, which is pretty quick if you use a compressed PDF format - but be careful with images, as these do need to be at good uncompressed resolution for publication (simply reinsert the uncompressed images into the compressed text). Press the button, and you will receive a copy through the post! However, I do strongly recommend that you find some helpful soul who will plough through your original manuscript before you upload and then likewise go through the printed version line by line to find all those very small errors that it's so easy to miss in the original. Also be very aware of copyright of images, and check that you have a right to publish (War Museum will charge if you want to use stock images - best avoided). I created maps using Photoshop, and converted these to PDF, which seems to have worked, as well as carefully processing photos using high pass filters.

    My work resulted in three volumes, partly because there is a page limitation (which is actually quite a large number) and because the story line broke down very conveniently into Battle of Britain, North Africa, and then Italy, which you can hopefully see here Ever Your own Johnnie italy - ( no, this is not a sales pitch!).

    You can set your own sale price, together with discounts if you wish, and the site enables the book to be sold through various book suppliers such as Barnes and Noble, and also Amazon, or indeed just use this to put your manuscript into printed format for yourself. The site allows some of the book to be previewed, so that buyers have an idea of what they are purchasing. I have, to my surprise, sold copies of each both in UK and Europe, as well as having the option to order copies for friends and interested parties, which naturally I can at cost - these can be delivered direct. If the book sells through Amazon, they will take a cut of the sale price, which regrettably seems to be the main channel for sales. Lulu offer frequent discount days, allowing multiple buys, and/or free shipping, which is great if you are handing these out for free. You will need to complete a tax form advising that you are not an American citizen, otherwise Lulu, being an American HQ'd company, will deduct tax at source. The product is of excellent quality and looks and feels like a good quality paperback, and is printed in UK. It's also very easy to update your book, e.g. you have found additional information that you want to include, which is not so easy with a print run published version.

    However, if your book is predominantly graphics based, I would recommend using Blurb for self publication instead of Lulu. Whilst I found this site far less user friendly for text based content, it's far better for graphics, particularly photographs, and is where I've published glossy hardback photographic material - but the final books are very expensive.

    Hope that's of interest.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
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  10. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    Just to reiterate the excellent advice that’s being given here – write the book now. Don’t worry initially about making it perfect. That can be sorted later. Once you have it in some sort of shape right in front of you, you can take your time to check it, edit it and organise it.

    It’s a while since I’ve had any experience of the book world. But I think these days it’s difficult to get a mainstream publisher interested in what is probably seen as a niche market. Having said that, it might be worth pitching it to Pen & Sword.

    Realistically though, self-publishing might be your best option, especially if the quality of HAARA’s book produced via Lulu (see earlier on this thread) is anything to go by.

    It’s a hard slog writing a book. But I guarantee you’ll never regret having done it and there’s no better sense of fulfilment and achievement.
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  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Have you finished it yet?

    I weel proff reed it four ewe wen reddy
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  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Why not start with some magazine articles for publicatons such as "Britain at War" ?
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  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    OMG - wen r u gonna lern to spel & rite proper!!

  14. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

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  15. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    Having been there several years ago now and soon to be dipping my toes into the treacherous waters of book writing again with a revised edition, my advice is if you are sure of your subject then go for it in your own way. It's your hard work, don't let anyone take your vision away. Listen to advice by all means but don't take your hand off the tiller. If one publisher won't do what you want then look for one who will, or do like I it yourself!
    No doubt you will have those who will question your work and it's authenticity etc unless like me you choose a subject that no one has done before. One then becomes the complete master and the "expert"!!
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  16. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    After trying self publishing, and then having a 'not too good experience' with a publisher, I went to Amazon Create Space. It's worth going to their site and having a look. If you do decide to go that routeI can send you a pm with tips.
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  17. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Andy, go for it. Just do it. If you have any questions about the process just ask.
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  18. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

  19. TijgerB

    TijgerB Member

    Hope I am not the one hitting you with a virus mate :wacko: I agree with Roy go for amazon kindle publishing. You can both do e-books and print on demand. Advice: "I once read in one of those wise books on the subject that you shall just get started. Chance are what you remember is correct and you can always fact checking afterwards.":D

    As former military some of the things done in the past might still be usable like making up a plan. Actually I just published my first "tiny" book on Amazon "First line of defense". Not to become rich and famous but instead of :banghead: I decided to write something and get live just to prove I can do it :D Next one will be "Target Palembang" which probably will make Warlord happy. But enough about me all the advice here are good and usable.

    Last suggestion is for a start work on a minor book like the counter attack at Arras. This way you keep your book under 2000 pages and at a price we the poor can afford :-P Remember it is easier to swim in a lake than the ocean and as I remember you are not a sailor :sailor:
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  20. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    You know I have realised we have all forgotten 1 major fact for Andy when writing his book -


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