Archive for the ‘Writing A Book’ Category

“How Long Should My Book Be? What’s the Best Length for a Novel or a Non-Fiction Book If You Want to Get Published?”

December 18, 2015

A new author approached me recently asking for my help with a publicity campaign for a book he’s just written.

He had a fascinating story to tell about his journey from drug abuse in his teens, to becoming the successful entrepreneur he is today. His heart was in the right place: he genuinely wanted to help others rather than make a fast buck from publishing. I really liked and admired him. He had an incredible tale that would inspire thousands of others.

But then, while we were talking about his forthcoming book launch, we hit a slight snag. I asked how long his book was and he told me: “Twenty-thousand words.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, twenty-thousand words is still hard graft by anyone’s standards. I’m sure this book contains a lot of valuable information for anyone wanting to follow in this man’s footsteps. But is a twenty-thousand-word manuscript really “a book”? Or is it – and I know some writers will hate me for saying this – more of a brochure or a pamphlet?

Call me a cynic, but I am wondering if the reason this entrepreneur was advised to write something of this short length was because he could get it written within the 60-day time-frame of publishing program he’d been on.

Yes, you can always justify a short manuscript by saying that readers have limited attention spans and they want easily digestible information. But then perhaps there are other documents like “The Constitution of the United States of America” or “The Lord’s Prayer” which could also be put inside paperback jackets and be called books? When exactly is a book, a book? When is a book, not a book?

Back in the old days, there used to be two camps only. On one side, you had the big guns of publishing (mainstream publishers such as Penguin, Random House or Macmillan). On the other side, there was (boo, hiss!) Vanity Publishing. You were either in one camp or the other and the boundaries were very clear. If your work was of a high standard, then you eventually got a publishing deal. Your book got sold in high street book stores and was reviewed by literary editors in newspapers and magazines. If your book wasn’t what was euphemistically called “of a publishable standard”, you paid extortionately for the privilege of Vanity Publishing. Your book rarely got into shops and it certainly didn’t get reviewed. There might even be embarrassment if you dared to mention your book.

Today, self-publishing has blurred those boundaries. There is no limit or control on the number of mediocre, average or sometimes crappy books that are being sold at this very moment on Amazon. Some of them are e-books that are only eight pages long. Truly outstanding books are few and far between.

So back to the question of: how long should a book be? What is the best length for a novel or a non-fiction book if you want to get published?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. Would a literary agent or a mainstream publisher (the “gold standard” of publishing as it were) offer a publishing deal for a twenty-thousand-word book? Highly unlikely. Not even these days when all the old rules have been over-turned and there is a publishing free-for-all going on.

Would a high street store like Barnes & Noble accept a “book” of this length on its shelves. Again, I doubt it. The spine wouldn’t even be thick enough to have the title and author’s name printed on it.

What about newspaper journalists or TV producers? Would they look at this book and feel inclined to do a book review? Would they give it the same treatment as other books that are four or five times the size? Or would they think of it more as a “report” or a “pamphlet”.

What about you? If you saw two books on a shelf and one had a 3mm spine and the other had a 15mm spine, which would you consider to hold more valuable information? Which author would you respect more?

And those books you studied at high school: how easy might your exams have been if they’d been a fraction of the size?

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule like Annie E Proulx’s novella, Brokeback Mountain. But they are the exception. Plus, it was published after she got famous.

There’s a reason why authors have been revered throughout the ages and held in high regard. It’s because most books are seventy-thousand to ninety-thousand words long, and writing them takes unusually high levels of tenacity, persistence and perseverance. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Except that suddenly, everyone is. A manuscript can be uploaded and published, and on sale in across e-stores in a matter of minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of self-publishing. It opens up amazing opportunities for both first-time and experienced authors. It also remedies the disproportionate balance of power between big publishing houses and talented writers. However, at the same time, I do think it’s time for a reality check and a frank and honest assessment of the state of publishing today.

Take a look at some of the 12 million plus books on Amazon right now. Some have unappealing titles. Some have appalling covers. Others have spelling and grammatical errors on the opening page. Many seem to have been thrown together with scant regard for editing or proof-reading, let alone typesetting and cover design.

Just because you can sell a book, and someone somewhere is willing to buy it, doesn’t mean you should. Just because no one is writing bad reviews, doesn’t mean you can automatically assume that your book is of high quality.

Isn’t it time for authors to stop taking the lazy option? Isn’t it time to stop writing “good enough” books? Isn’t it time to start raising publishing standards?

My Book on the Cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside BLONDIE

May 3, 2014
My book on the cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside Debbie Harry

My book on the cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside Debbie Harry

saga inside saga inside 2

Look what the postman dropped through the door … It’s exciting when hard work, and team effort, pays off.

To pre-order your copy of Celebrity Authors’ Secrets, go to:

How To Pitch Your Book To Glossy Magazines, Newspapers or Radio: Top Mistakes Authors Should Avoid

April 14, 2014

Many authors wrongly assume that their book isn’t important enough, or that only celebrities and famous writers, will get media coverage. This just isn’t true. Radio stations (particularly local radio stations) have many hours of airtime to fill each week. Similarly, most print publications are also looking for inspiring, topical, or controversial human interest stories to entertain their audiences.

You may be thinking: ‘Why bother – it’s too much effort.’ But here’s why it matters: many newspapers and magazines have audiences that run into millions. SAGA Magazine, which has just snapped up the first serialisation rights to my book Celebrity Authors’ Secrets has a readership of 1.8 million. The Huffington Post, for which I am now a blogger, has over 30 million readers globally. Many other newspapers, magazines and radio stations which are running features and reviews for my book have similar-sized audiences.

This phenomenal coverage costs nothing, zilch, other than your time and energy. Yet, in return you can build a massive following for your book even before it’s launched. So it makes sense – enormous sense in fact – to spend time on mastering this.

When authors do approach the media, a common mistake I see is that the press release ends up sounding like a ‘pitch-athon’ for the book. Most journalists don’t have time to read books. They may not even be interested in your book, period. But what they are interested in is you, the story of what inspired you to write your book, or the fact that you’re an expert who can comment on a similar topic that’s in the news. In other words, your book is not necessarily the reason why you will get media coverage. It does however give you a big reason to attract the media’s attention.

Another common mistake is to write the same press release for all publications. Many of SAGA Magazine’s readers are over 50 and interested in writing books – so a press release about publishing secrets works fine. However, when approaching women’s magazines or celebrity magazines, I angle my press release on more personal (rather professional) aspects of famous millionaire authors’ lives. So I look at interesting ‘trivia’ about their day-to-day lives and the sacrifices they make to write their books. This is much more in keeping with the ‘gossipy’ nature of these magazines and what their audiences like to read.

All authors can use this strategy to get publicity for books. It’s remarkably simple and you can do it in a weekend. It’s just a matter of writing a one-page press release and identifying where to send it.

In my next blog, I’ll reveal tricks for high-impact book promotion that even professional publicists are missing.

Be one of the first people to grab a copy of Celebrity Authors’ Secrets, by pre-ordering a copy right now on Amazon.

     “Anyone setting out to write a book should thank their lucky stars for Stephanie’s outstanding inspirational guide. I’m astonished by just how much insider information and personal experience the world’s top million-selling authors are prepared to share.” 

– Sue Price, Arts, Culture and Books Editor of SAGA Magazine


Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist: 2014

Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist: 2014

Why Authors MUST Build A List of Fans Hungry For Their Books

May 17, 2011

Many authors are so focused on writing their books they neglect the bigger picture.

But if you genuinely want to attract a publisher or an agent, you need to go the extra mile to grab their attention.

Here’s a recent question from one of my subscribers that I’d like to share… and my answer:

How would you interpret an agent who writes three paragraphs gushing about how much she enjoyed the writer making so much effort to get her attention and then summing it up with, “However, the book is not for us.” Do you think it’s time to give up?

My reply in brief:

This means exactly what it says on the tin. They love the book, but it’s not for them.
Loosely translated, they can see you’re a great writer, but they don’t feel the passion and excitement that’s essential to represent a book.

No, you definitely should NOT give up. Agents wouldn’t give you the time of day if they didn’t think you had talent.

The current publishing environment is incredibly tough. For this reason, your pitch needs a big dose of ‘oomph!’ or uniqueness to stand out.

For this reason, I strongly recommend building yourself a ‘platform’ or ‘list’ of fans for your writing.

This can be done via social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.  This can often sway the case in your favour.

Here’s a different letter from one of my other subscribers which reflects the difference this can make:

My daughter is on the cusp of a book deal. She has an agent after following your advice in your ‘Get an Agent’ course. We found your advice invaluable, especially the advice about creating social networking interest.

Her agent told her that her web presence and web profile was the main factor in taking her on – something we would not have known about had we not attended your workshop.

At a time when some publishers are getting 1000+ manuscripts per week, you need strategies to make yourself and your book stand out from all the others.

If you can persuade them that you already have a following before your book is even published, they will see you are highly motivated, savvy and marketable.

All this can only reflect well on you… and help you land the book deal you deserve.

Writers – Don’t Do It!!!

September 2, 2009

I just HAD to write this blog as it concerns a publishing ruse all writers should be aware of.

I certainly wasn’t aware of this before now… so I’m sure it will catch some of you by surprise too.

I have to say that I nearly fell off my chair when I heard about it.

A first-time novelist has just sent their book to what they thought was a publishing house.  The publisher told them their book wasn’t of a high enough standard for their list. However,  it was suitable for self-publishing with their sister company… At a cost of… drum roll… £10K for just over 100 books.

£10K folks! Are they mad? Do they really think writers will fall for this ruse. Obviously not all that mad, because the writer who told me about this was considering paying this sum.

Please, please, please do your research before considering anything so drastic.  Most publishing houses are charging in the region of £2.5K per 1000 books. That’s around £2.50 per book. If you want a smaller print run, then you’ll be paying even less.

It’s easy to feel disheartened and crushed when you’ve had one too many rejections. Yes, you can feel like you’re never going to reach your goal. But there really is no need to go reaching for your credit card when you’re offered a ‘solution’ that costs £10K. This just reeks to me of manipulation.

If you’re having no luck getting your book published, then learn about marketing, get a mentor, rewrite your book, have someone check over your pitch.  Look at independent publishing houses or take a SERIOUS look at self-publishing.

Self-publishing is NOT – most definitely not a ‘second best’ these days. For someone of an entrepreneurial mindset, it can actually be a better option than a mainstream publisher.

But NOT when you are paying £10K for a handful of books. That is vanity publishing not self-publishing. You and your book deserve far better than this.