Help for Aspiring Writers

I have been fortunate enough to have been “pulled in” to the tech book publishing industry, when a colleague asked me to participate in the writing of her book on database performance tuning.  That project got me introduced to executives at Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference (PHPTR), and a long-term business relationship ensued, whereby I helped PHPTR with nearly two dozen other technical book projects from well known and respected authors.

After several years helping PHPTR (and a few other publishers) with their technical manuscripts, I found an opportunity to write a book of my own. This writing project became the book Solaris Security, which is published in English, Chinese, and Japanese language editions. Eighteen years later this is still my most successful book, selling more than three times the number of copies that was expected.

Eighteen years and forty-plus books later, I’m still writing. Because I have a strong sense of giving back to the community from which I have gained much, I have mentored many aspiring writers over the years. And now, I am publishing this same guidance to the world.

Everyone who has approached me who wants to write a book gets the same advice. I ask the aspiring writer several questions about their book idea:

1. Who is your target audience?
2. What do you want to tell your audience?
3. How do you want to change your audience?
4. What other books are similar to the one you want to write?
5. How is your book similar to those other books?
6. How is your book different from those other books?
7. What is the proposed length of your book?
8. Will there be any illustrations (diagrams, line drawings, photos, etc.)? Who will prepare them?
9. How long will it take you to write the entire manuscript?
10. Have you developed the table of contents (needs to be 2-3 levels of depth)?

To write successfully, you have to have passion – and compassion – for your readers. You need to write your book for them as a service to them, to improve their lives in some manner.

If you want to write your book in order to improve yourself, increase your wealth or status, then I cannot help you. This is NOT the purpose of writing.

Some good resources for aspiring authors include:

I do NOT recommend that you be your own agent! Rather, these books provide valuable insight into the business of publishing.

When you are ready to begin looking for an agent, purchase one or both of these books:

5 thoughts on “Help for Aspiring Writers

  1. Pingback: Are you an aspiring writer? « Peter H Gregory, CISA, CISSP

  2. Brady

    Hello, my name is Brady and I am a 21 year old media relations student. I love to write, but sometimes I feel I might not have what it takes to be a good writer. If you have any tips for me I would appreciate it very much!

    Reply
  3. peterhgregory Post author

    Brady, I suggest you find yourself an intern position at any large nearby company’s media relations or marketing communications department, or in a media company itself. You can intern as an assistant to someone who writes press releases and other marketing communications pieces. There is definitely a “style” to writing that sort of copy, and through an internship you should get some exposure to that kind of work to see whether it interests you or not. Hope this helps! -Peter

    Reply
  4. Taylor

    Hello, I’m a 16 year old writer who is looking to be published. My book is finished, but no big publishing companies are accepting manuscripts. My book is quite long {a year’s worth of diary entries} and I just need some resources as to help me get published. I already have a style of my own and everything like that, I’m just stuck in trying to get published. I really think my book can benefit people of all ages {but especailly teens like myself} and that’s why I’m so keen on getting my words out there. Any help would be very much appreciated!

    Reply

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