Writing a novel is a personal experience that a lot of people begin, but never finish. But to ensure you reach the end, you need to know who you are writing for and your target audience.
This could be as simple as writing and publishing for yourself. It could be that you are writing a novel for a loved one or someone special as a gift. Or, you could be aiming for the stars and want to write for the masses; seeing your book in the hands of everyone in the reading world.
These are all valid goals, but only you can decide who you are writing for.
Writing for yourself
Some people are built to tell stories. Somehow, they have a natural ability to create a world full of new and interesting characters and can churn them out with ease. But do they ever write them in a book or even publish them?
I know some great (private) writers who have written fantastic novels over the years. But those books were never released to the public.
Why? Because the author wrote them for themselves.
We might not understand why someone would go through the process of drafting, editing, re-writing and re-editing, etc., only to place the book on a private bookshelf. But that is their prerogative.
The same can be said for any hobby, I suppose. I am not a fan of gardening. In fact, to me, gardening is one chore I could do without. But there are people out there who do it for private pleasure and others who do it professionally.
Each to their own, I suppose.
Anyway, if this sounds like you (the writing, not gardening), then you should truly question your reasons.
Are you really writing for yourself or are you worried that a potential reader may not like your work? This is very common and is referred to as SELF-DOUBT or IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
This state of mind prevents many writers from ever publishing their work. And it’s a common factor that stops many writers from ever completing their work.
The only advice I can give you without personally knowing you is this: Don’t sell yourself short out of self-doubt or fear. There will always be a critic in the audience even if you write an international best seller.
Believe in yourself. Write and publish your work for that one reader who will love it for what it is.
The cost of publishing
Another common reason for not publishing is the cost.
Maybe you’ve been telling yourself that the book is just for you because you don’t know how to publish it, or that it costs too much.
If THE COST is a factor, try to save up for each element. You are not on a clock or held against a deadline, so don’t sweat the calendar.
If it takes you a year to save for a professional editor, I urge you to take the time.
You could even approach local or national writing communities, Trusts, or Foundations to help finance your Work in Progress. In some cases, you may qualify for a bursary or grant to help you publish your work.
Ultimately, writing for yourself is entirely up to you.
I began writing my first novel for myself. I was incredibly stressed and was staring down an emotional blackhole. And for some strange reason, I found writing.
However, after a few weeks, I was able to see where the inspiration came from. My wife loves to read thrillers. So, I decided to try my hand at writing a thriller.
And this led me on to the next point.
Writing for a loved one
In my opinion, writing a novel for someone is one of the most personal gifts anyone can give.
I started to write as a means to cope with stress, but I soon realised that I could do more than I thought possible. I realised that I could write a novel if I just worked at it.
And in doing so, decided I would write a novel for my wife.
We like the same books, the same movies, and the same T.V shows (apart from the reality stuff that she watches on the run up to Christmas). And with that in mind, I set out to write a crime thriller that would keep her on her toes until the last page.
However, I didn’t tell her that I was writing it. This would only add pressure and I really didn’t need a deadline.
So, I wrote in secret and only shared the first draft with a few people who could keep it to themselves. This is what I found to be the hardest part – sharing my work with others.
The questions raced through my mind hundreds of times… “What if it’s rubbish?” “What if the beta readers thinks it’s crap?” “Is it good enough?”
Every time I thought like this, I felt a little embarrassed.
But this is just self-doubt.
Besides, I know my wife well enough to trust in her honesty. And if it was bad, she would have told me – in a nice way, of course. But she wouldn’t give me false praise and would rather manage my expectations than see me publish a bad book.
It was due to this level of honesty, that I took the next step and published it.
Writing for a wider target audience
This is where fear of rejection or criticism comes into its own.
If you intend to release your novel for strangers to read, you must acknowledge that not everyone will love it. Not everyone will like it. And there are even those who will go out of their way to tell you how much they disliked it.
After all, they paid to read it. And they are entitled to share their views.
When my wife read the novel I wrote for her, she immediately asked “when will you finish the next one?”
Thankfully, she loved it. She also told me that it should be published for others to enjoy.
To begin with, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of having strangers read my work. But thanks to the support and encouragement from my better half, beta readers and editors, I decided to send it to a book blogger for some impartial feedback.
The book blogger in question is known for giving honest and constructive reviews, and I’ve come to trust his writing and recommendations.
Thankfully, he really enjoyed it and shared his views on his website. Have a strong and unbiased review from this man was all I needed to take my novel to the next level.
That week, I researched the process of publishing it as an ebook and paperback through Amazon.
That’s sounds great, right? Well, yes and no.
The problem I encountered was this: no one knows that I wrote a novel. No one knows that my book is out there floating in the digital world. And no one will ever know to go and look for it.
It’s like planting a shrub in the middle of a forest; all the established trees cast a shadow over my little shrub and it might never see the daylight.
That being said, there are ways to help it grow. Like a shrub needs water to grow, a book needs reviews. But when no one knows it’s there, how will they know to read it in order to review it?
This is the tricky part.
For every 100 readers, you will be lucky to get one review. This is just the way of the world.
Think about it. How many things have you purchased this week, and how many of those things did you leave a review for?
To be honest, I only realised how important reviews were when I published a novel. Now, I leave reviews whenever I get a chance. But I make a point of leaving reviews for indie authors.
When your book picks up a few reviews, it tells other readers that this book is worth their time. When you attract more reviews, it tells readers that this book is popular, and that they should give it a go. And when your book starts to attract a lot of reviews, readers will feel like they are missing out and will actively look for your book.
This is when your shrub breaks through the canopy and basks in the sunlight.
Aiming for the stars
If you’re about to write or release a novel, there’s a good chance you know of the big hitters in this industry: Stephen King, J.K Rowling, Patricia Cornwall, to name a few.
These are titans in this industry and they could publish a poorly formatted shopping list tomorrow and it would probably make the New York best seller list.
This is because they have created internationally recognisable platforms that deliver time after time. Readers trust that they will be buying a great product.
But do they know you? Will they be willing to buy your novel on the strength of your name being on the cover? This is where you must be realistic with yourself.
As a self-published author, you will need to build your own platform. And this could take years and multiple books.
But don’t let that stop you.
There are some amazing self-published authors out there who have built their own writing empires; making a strong fan-base and are now easily earning a living from their writing.
There is nothing stopping you from achieving this too. But you must approach the goal with a realistic understanding of how much work it takes.
Yes, lightening does strike. But don’t be disheartened if you don’t become an overnight success story.
We all have our reasons to write, and we all have our own version of success.
For some, their target is to hold a hardcopy of the novel they worked so hard on. And for others, it’s to have phone calls from NETFLIX begging for permission to use their story for the next big series/movie.
We are all different.
But if you set your goals high and struggle to reach them, don’t be put off. Just make your goals more realistic and achievable. Then, build on them.