If you would like to become an author or want to improve your chances of becoming a published author, then below are some “Tips & Tricks” of becoming an author. And, remember, becoming a published author is a long and hard road, which may require several years of hard work. If it is your passion, don’t give up:

  • If you are ready to find a publisher, then some of the tough challenges still lie ahead.
  • Some publishers will accept a “book idea” or “book outline,” but most want a completed manuscript before making a decision whether to publish or not. Publishers are usually of the opinion that to write a 300 to 400-word synopsis is easy, writing a book is hard.
  • Your book or book synopsis must be in electronic format. Very few publishers will assist you in typing the manuscript into electronic format. And if your synopsis is hand-written, you are unlikely to get the attention of a publisher.
  • Whatever you do, stick to readable fonts in your manuscript. DO NOT type it in fancy fonts that you like. Do not lose the publisher’s interest because the manuscript is hard to read. Do not use double-spacing and other font ideas that stretch the manuscript over many pages and makes the manuscript appear longer than it is.
  • For most publishers, you have to submit your manuscript online. Do not submit a hard copy, it is unlikely to be read. E-mail is the preferred option to submit your manuscript. Delivering it by hand and waiting to see someone from the publisher also won’t give you a better chance of being published. E-mail is the best option.
  • What are your goals and expectations with wanting your book published? Be clear on your goals and expectations. For most, it is to have your book available in the major bookstores, published by a “major” publisher. And, yet, for most of us that is not the way our publishing journey goes. You may have to start with a smaller publisher and independent bookstores.
  • Do your research. Research the publisher before you approach them. Do you, or your book “genre” (the type of content, e.g. fiction, memoir, poetry, fantasy, etc.) fit the profile of book published by that publisher. Many of the publishers favour certain genres or author profiles. Their websites usually give you the details on which books will be considered for publishing.
  • Once you have a manuscript written, it is essential to have it read by one or two people who can comment on it. Close family are not the right people to comment on it. If the feedback is positive, then you can consider approaching a publisher. Sometimes there is a viable book somewhere in your manuscript and with some guidance it can become viable.
  • Don’t let your ego prevent you from getting published. Publishers often refer to the “ego” of authors and how this makes them difficult to deal with. Since the journey from publishing a book to it selling well in the shops is often a long journey, you and the publisher need to “like” each other. There may be book signings, book promotions and other events where you will be in attendance. Publishers like “authors,” those writers who are presentable, speak well, are open to guidance and generally are easy to work with.
  • Let’s face it – some books should not be published. Accept it. Your book idea or manuscript may be one of those. If it is, move on, improve the book, rewrite it, choose another topic. But, never give up if you are determined to be published. Try again. Most published authors walked the hard road before their books were published or sold well.
  • Once your manuscript has been written, vetted and is viable, it is highly advisable to get an editor to assist you through the publishing journey. Without an editor, you may find publishers have to do a lot of work to make your manuscript publishable. And if your ego gets in the way and you believe that as author you are un-editable, you may find it difficult to get published. Top authors go through the same editing process, they have learnt to embrace and accept editorial advice and not to let their ego get in the way.
  • It is best to submit to multiple (targeted) publishers at the same time. Do not restrict yourself to one. But, do your research and submit to those who publish in your genre.
  • It is a bad idea to WhatsApp the publishers directly, e-mail them repeatedly. Especially, don’t WhatsApp them at night or weekends or harassing them. That means you will go on the “blocked” list and your dream of being an author may not be realised. And phone calls will similarly, not lead to much success. E-mail your manuscript with a synopsis and wait. The process may take some time.
  • Publishers are, literally, flooded with manuscripts. It is not unusual for them to have 100 applications at one time to get through. Be sure your story can compete. Write a book that you would enjoy reading.
  • If your manuscript is rejected or you don’t hear from the publisher, move on. Try another publisher. Repeated e-mails won’t get you published. And if the e-mail back from the publishers does not explicitly state that you are being considered for publication, move on. They are often trying to be kind by not.
  • Don’t write “Cinderella in another setting,” e.g. a horrible stepmother in Limpopo with two sons / daughter and a stepdaughter treated badly. Write your own story.
  • Make your story different and exciting. A real author creates something new and does not rehash old stories.
  • There are many unscrupulous people out there. Be careful. You don’t want to pay someone for a service they never deliver or deliver very poorly. Do your homework. Beware of the publishers who charge you (a large amount) to “publish” your book. You may eventually receive 15 copies of your book published, usually with a stock picture cover. And then what? You spent a lot of money only for your book to sit on your shelf. And then you are enticed to pay a lot more for “marketing.” Again, with no tangible result. Be very careful before spending money. As authors who have been turned down a few times, this seems like the answer to our prayers. It is not.
  • If you are going to write a “self-help” book, make sure it is different. There are so many of these on the market that yours has to be a special book and must bring something different to the market. Find a new angle. Do your research. The “self-help” genre is very hard to publish, unless it is very different.
  • Good story books for children or youth are often welcomed by publishers.
  • You don’t have to write in English. If the story would benefit from it, write it in your home language. If it is a good story, then publishers may publish it in another language. The buying market is smaller, but, if it is a story that resonates in a particular language, use that language.
  • Book cover. If you get to the point where your book can be published, you will want a decent cover. It is better to get a professional designer to create a decent cover for you. Unless your budget is modest, do not accept a designer who simply gives you a “stock” picture. Be different.
  • Do you have to write every day? Disciplined writing is always better. The longer the break between your writing sessions, the longer it takes to “get back” into your characters and pick up the thread of your story. You don’t need unnecessary complications to your writing. Whether you are a night owl or an early morning writer, write when it is best for you and your circumstances. Life is demanding, so adjust your writing habits to suit your reality. And ride the creative wave when it hits. We can sometimes finish 3 or 4 times the work on some days. If you can write just 300 words a day, that is fine.
  • And the final tip – getting your book published and in bookstores is a team effort. Build your team with like-minded people who are as passionate as you about your book. Don’t let anyone stop you from writing that bestseller.