How to fish

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but as I’ve been driving around recently I’ve been seeing government workers clearing the bush from the side of the roads. That is greatly needed and I’m glad that so many people have employment but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if it is any way related to the upcoming elections. Perhaps that’s a bit cynical.

The good thing is that at least it’s a step up from “giving a fish” but it’s still not “teaching how to fish” in the event that these jobs don’t last too far past the election date. I am all for teaching people how to fish so that they can feed themselves and not have to rely on Government handouts.

With that in mind, I decided to dedicate my column this week to teaching people how to fish, specifically those who want to write and publish their own work. I really believe that using our knowledge and skills in this way is the way to go. Actually I am amazed at the number of people who tell me that they want to write a book or they’re in the process of writing and want to know how to go about getting published.

I’m happy to help anyone get their work published because I think that a book is a great tool to open doors to other opportunities. In fact I’m probably writing this column today because of my first book What Do You Have in Your House?. I approached the editor (who is currently on vacation for the first time in three years), gave him a sample article together with my credentials (including the fact that I had published a book) and here I am.

In the past, that is before the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, and even today if you want to go the route of traditional publishing, once you complete your manuscript (i.e. book) you have to prepare a query letter and sometimes a synopsis of the book, send it to a literary agent and hope that they see a glimmer of genius in those brief documents and ask you to send the manuscript. I call them the gatekeepers because they determine who will be let in or kept out.

I’ve read many stories of famous authors, who shared stories about the number of agents (gatekeepers) who rejected their work but through persistence they finally got a breakthrough and went on to produce bestselling novels. Believe me I can relate to that. I sent out about 35 query letters to agents, most of whom I never even got a response from. However I didn’t give up on my novel because I’d had it reviewed by about 10 people, both male and female, with different interests and all of them said that they enjoyed it and encouraged me to get it published.

Thankfully, Amazon already had in place their innovation called Kindle Direct Publishing which takes out the gatekeepers (the agents) and allows the writer to self-publish and connect straight to the reader. That also means that the writer can earn higher royalties, 3 per cent or 70 per cent, than what is usually paid by a publishing house. Moreover, publishing is quick and easy. Here is where I teach you how to fish.

First of all make sure that your manuscript is complete and checked for spelling and grammar. Microsoft Word is probably the easiest programme to use. Once it is formatted using the KDP guidelines, you save the document as a Filtered Web Page, which is one of the options when you go to “Save As” in Word, and save it somewhere on your computer. Have a cover professionally designed if possible and then follow the simple steps for uploading your book to the Kindle Store from Kindle Direct Publishing. That’s the easy part.

What is more difficult is marketing your book and positioning it on Amazon. There are so many books on Amazon that yours will be a drop in the ocean. Amazon does provide some help with positioning your book and merchandising. One of the things you will be asked to do is categorise your book by indicating if it’s fiction or non-fiction and the genre of the work e.g romance, thriller, suspense and so on. Then you have the opportunity to assign key words to the book so that it will be identified with a particular area e.g. business, inspirational, inter-racial, mergers et.c so that readers searching for books in those interest areas will come across the book. The next thing is to find other ways to promote your book and drive traffic to it, such as posting it on Facebook, sending out emails to your contacts or posting ads in the paper. If you have a column in a newspaper you can even write about it. The latter is called blatant advertising.

I hope that this has been helpful to you budding writers. We have a lot of talent in Barbados and we need to get it out to the rest of the world. Amazon has made it that much easier to do. If you have any questions, drop me an email.

*Donna Every is a motivational speaker and trainer. She has just published her debut The Merger Mogul on the Amazon Store.

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