One of the best talks I have heard about writing a book is actually about what not to do.
My friend Julie Campbell, who wrote, “The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History,” has given the talk several times and noted, “It’s a bit of a confessional self-help talk.”
Campbell, who was honored with the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award for nonfiction, highlights three areas that she did wrong when writing her book. Those areas include: payment, procrastination and publicity.
“You’re not going to get rich writing books,” Campbell notes. She was prepared for that. What she wasn’t prepared for was making negative dollars. Once she factored in her time and expenses, she says, she made no money.
Her first lesson she shared is to negotiate to have expenses covered. Her contract did not include expenses, so Campbell paid for gas, hotels, meals and photocopies incurred as she researched the book and later when she went to book signings.
She encourages other writers to get an agent, even if the book is being published by a university press. “You want to have someone looking out for you.”
Procrastination is always a challenge. One way Campbell avoided working on her book was raking all the leaves in her “very large yard.” She also confessed to arranging her work space several times.
She finally developed some rituals to place her in the writing groove. She learned to break her work into small chunks and focus on one chunk at a time.
Campbell says it’s also important to ask how much publicity the publisher will do and how much you as the author will have to do. She had to do most of her own, although she did suggest to her publisher where to send review copies of the book. She scheduled speaking engagements and created her own press kits by taking pocket folders and inserting her business card and several pages from the book to send to bookstores to make them aware of her book.
One area where she succeeded was with people. “I had the support of so many people to help me along the way.”