Nick Spalding is the bestselling self-published author in the UK. He recently signed a six-figure book deal.
His romantic comedies Love… From Both Sides and Love… And Sleepless Nights were the first and third-best-selling self-published e-books in 2012.
With Amazon saying 15% of Kindle sales come from authors with no book deal, here are his top 10 tips to succeeding in a crowded field.
1. Don’t give up the day job
I was a media officer for the police. It did help a bit – knowing how to write a press release, but it didn’t help so much with writing the book! I didn’t give up my day job until I’d signed a contract with Hodder & Stoughton.
It is such an up and down industry – you can be the flavor of the month one minute and nothing the next, even when you have had a certain level of success. Until you’ve got enough money coming in to be able to justify it to yourself, don’t give up the day job.
Everyone wants to live the dream and write full time, but it is a very difficult industry to get into and a very difficult industry to stay in. Learn to write around your day job in the beginning, that’s what I did. Frankly, it’s what almost every successful author in history had to do with only a few exceptions.
2. Be yourself
You have to be yourself in your writing. You have to pick a genre that suits you as a person and you as a writer. If you are a happy go lucky person it might not be best to write about a serial killer or vice versa.
There are enough obstacles for a new author, don’t create more for yourself, write in a style you are comfortable with. If you are not enjoying writing it, if you are not comfortable writing it, nobody is going to enjoy reading it.
3. Find a muse
My partner is my first reader, she reads everything. She has encouraged me and is the inspiration for some of the stories I write. I think everyone needs that, it doesn’t have to be a partner, it can be a relative or a friend but you’ve got to have that one person in mind.
When I’m writing, I’m always thinking about which things she will laugh at, so she is my muse in that manner. It’s important to have someone you can give your manuscript to first because it is still quite an intimate thing at that stage.
It’s probably a bit clunky and awkward and wrong and it is not ready to be shown to an agent or the world at large. That’s when you need your first reader because you know each other so well and their feedback is what helps you to create a better product that you can then show to others.
4. Read On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing by Stephen King is, for me at least, the best book there is on writing. He gives lots of advice. The tone of it, the style of it, the things he says about how much he writes every day and his attitude towards the job are great. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be a writer.
5. Promote your work
I have never been called on to sign copies of my book in a shop. If the opportunity arises, I say take it. I don’t think you are going to do any harm by going along to your local Waterstones and signing a few copies. Well, unless nobody turns up – then you will feel terrible about yourself and probably never write again.
You should certainly have a social media presence, you should tweet, blog and Facebook, but you don’t want to irritate readers.
Nobody wants to see “buy my book, buy my book” over and over again. Tweet about your life, tweet about things you find interesting and mix it up.
6. Remember that books aren’t burgers
Self-publishing has given lots of people the ability to write lots of books and get them out there. People need to remember that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
The most important thing to remember when you write a book and release it, that you are entering into a relationship with the reader and you owe it to them to provide a product that is as professional as possible.
Books aren’t burgers – they are not instantly consumable things and they shouldn’t be rushed. Always respect your reader and put 100% into every book that you write.
7. Try every possible avenue
I’ve got a great agent now. He’s got me some great deals and, in that respect, I think an agent is still a good commodity to have. I’ve got a traditional publishing contract now, too, but it doesn’t stop me from self-publishing.
I love that because it’s how I started and it’s not something I’m ashamed of. What the self-publishing thing does is give you another avenue. There is no need to go down one avenue and not the other these days, you can do both.
Every writer wants their book to be read. It doesn’t really matter anymore how you go about achieving that as long as two things happen: You get your book read by as many people as possible and you get paid for writing it. Whatever avenues get you that result should be explored.
8. Don’t get bummed out by bad reviews
I do read the bad reviews, I sort of sit there reading them and rock back and forth. Try and remember the old cliches – ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ and ‘you’re never going to please all of the people all of the time’.
It’s what you get on average that really counts. If you put a book out there and six months later you’ve got a hundred one-star reviews, chances are you might be doing something wrong.
That said, one five star review does not mean you are the next big thing. Stay on a level, don’t get bummed out by one bad review… and certainly don’t reply to the people who write them!
9. Don’t take it all too seriously
I tend to write in the mornings and I generally do at least 2,000 words a day. Sometimes that takes hours, sometimes it takes an hour depending on what kind of mood I’m in.
I write in the spare room. It’s not a study, it’s a room with a desk, a bog standard PC and a clothes airer. My routine is basically to make myself a cup of coffee, sit down and try to churn out 2,000 words.
It’s also important to be comfortable when you write. I’ve got a great pair of Batman lounge pants.
10. Read comic books
I’d like to say I have a great diet and that my body is a temple but that would be a complete lie. I do go for lots of walks though, they help me think about storylines and stop my rapidly expanding waist getting any bigger. We want to get a dog at some point.
Exercise is important when you are a writer otherwise give it two years and you’ll just be a potato.
Make sure you have a good social circle around you too, people you see on a regular basis, otherwise you will just stay indoors all day every day and become weird. And if you don’t like Batman you won’t get anywhere. Liking Batman is absolutely vital to being a successful author.
Over To You
What’s your favorite tip? Do you have any other tips? Let us know, in the comments below!