We had a wonderful weekend in San Luis Obispo, California, at the Central Coast Book and Author Festival.
I do have to admit that we spent Saturday visiting several excellent wineries in the Paso Robles area. If you like good wine, Paso Robles is very much worth the trip.
Sunday’s Book and Author Festival was at least equally enjoyable. We met a variety of authors working on a wide range of projects. An Italian chef discussed his plan for a cookbook. A history buff sketched his idea for a novel set in the 12th and 13th Centuries which will be filled with drama and romance, but still get the history right. We talked to people who wanted to preserve their family histories by getting their mom or dad’s stories down on paper. Three women in a writing group stopped to talk with us about their works in progress. We discussed several memoirs, one with a woman who thought creative nonfiction would be the best tool for telling her story. Another gentleman discussed his draft memoir of his experiences living in the Dominican Republic. It seemed like everyone at the festival had an idea for a book or was already working on one.
Reflecting on the numerous conversations we had on Sunday I can think of a few pieces of advice to authors thinking about writing a book or maybe already in the process of doing so.
- Don’t dream it, do it! – If have a book you want to write, get started writing and keep writing until it’s finished. A completed draft that needs revision is a lot better than a perfect first draft that you imagine. If your book requires research realize that research can be a never ending road. Follow historian Barbara Tuchman’s advice, “The most important thing about research is to know when to stop. How does one recognize the moment? …One must stop before one is finished; otherwise, one will never stop and never finish.” Whatever research you may be working on, make sure you are writing pages of your manuscript as well.
- Get help with your project sooner rather than later. - Whether you have a trusted friend or family member, belong to a writing group, or seek out a professional editor, feedback on your draft is a good thing. Early feedback will help you shape your book more effectively.
- Be realistic about your goals. - If your goal is commercial publication recognize that bringing your book to market with a traditional publisher is the culmination of a campaign of marketing your manuscript to and agent who can help you find a publisher. If you plan to self publish commercially understand that you’ll also need to become a marketer if you ever hope to find an audience.A well written book won't sell itself.
- Don’t get ripped off – As the publishing industry evolves you may find a lot of people offering to help you get into print. One of the saddest parts of the weekend was listening to people who had signed up with Outskirts Press or Publish America, paid a large sum of money, and believed that the companies would market their books. Unfortunately, their books did not sell and they felt victimized. A little research with a book like Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self Publishing could save you some money and a lot of grief.
But most of all I hope that in a short time all of the enthusiastic authors we talked to are able to complete their books, get them into print and into the hands of their target audience. Good luck!