20 Tips for Selling Your Novel, Part One: Before You Begin

Readers and planners have a head start when it comes to writing a novel

David Valdes

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Photo: Yaroslav Shuraev for Pexels

So many people have sought me out to tell me that they have great ideas for books, but no clue how to make bring a book into the world. I felt the same way when I sold my first book 15 years ago. With my fifth and sixth books coming out in 2022, and a new manuscript heading out for submission, I’ve learned a lot since that sale.

I’ve distilled those lesson into 20 tips for writing and selling your novel.

1. Read first

It sounds basic, but it’s true: You need to read other people’s books. Your best training as a writer comes from seeing how other people wrestle with, play with, conquer, or get tripped up by language. Reading helps you discover what you respond to and what does not engage you at all. Sometimes, writing is an act of saying “I can do that” and sometimes it’s more like “I can improve on that.” Whether a book provides something to aspire towards or something to reject and replace, it enters your fund of knowledge: the bank of resources that will inform how you do and don’t approach your own work.

2. Write what you want (and need) to write

It is a losing proposition to write the book you think will be a best-seller, especially if that belief is based on current trends; book publishing takes so long, any trend is likely to be well worn out by the time your book arrives (and a million other writers will have submitted similar manuscripts trying to ride the same wave). Even seemingly timeless trends — crime stories with women in peril, tender coming of age stories — aren’t foolproof because there simply is no guarantee in publishing. Your best starting point is to write the book you want to write and the one you need to.

If you’re going to spend years of your life from the first word to the published product (and, yes, it will be years), you want to be in love with your idea, your characters, and the story you are telling.

Some great questions to ask: Why this story? Why tell it now? And why are you the one to tell it? (Should you be? If you are writing about cultures outside your own…

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David Valdes

David Valdes is a Cuban-American author who writes about family, race, and LGBTQ issues. His book Brighter than the Moon releases in January 2023.