After bragging about my novel ‘Me and the Crack Mayor’ hitting the best seller lists* (now available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.com) people are always coming up to me and asking me stuff
like, ‘Gary, how did you do it?’. They don’t really want to know, they’re just being polite. They’re stuck standing next to me at a barbecue and they can’t find a way to move on to another conversation. This is what
I tell them, and if you follow these 10 tips, you can write and publish as successful novel too.
1. Before starting, have a complete understanding
of the English language, including grammar and spelling. I don’t have that and it really slowed me down.
2. Go to University or College
for courses on creative writing and study English Literature. I didn’t do that either and my book likely isn’t as good because of that. What I’m suggesting might take years or weeks, depending on if we’re talking University of Toronto,
or The Learning Annex. I bet both are good. If you read my book, you might think right away, “This might have been better if this guy had taken a course.”
3. Investigate all the genres of fiction that are selling and write your story in that genre. I did this research after I was finished the book. The big ones are murder mysteries, action thrillers and romance. Me and the
Crack Mayor is a political satire. There is no consistent market for this kind of book. Nobody goes on Amazon browsing political satire. Nobody has ever asked a clerk at Chapters ‘Where’s the political satire section?’. They do browse
for Historical Vampire Romance. Write that. Remember Primary Colors by Joe Klein? It was a fictional book that paralleled the Clinton Administration, the same way my novel ‘Me and the Crack Mayor’ reminds people of the ongoing
Rob Ford story. Eventually Primary Colors was a big hit and was made into a movie starring John Travolta. I need to get everyone who loved Primary Colors to find my book. If you know anybody, please send them to me. Clearly, getting your book made into a major
Hollywood motion picture really boosts sales, so do that.
4. Read the genre you’re writing. Immerse yourself in the type of book you’re
trying to write. I didn't do that either. Before starting ‘Me and the Crack Mayor’, I read about five Stephen King books. People are probably going to find it jarring in my novel, when suddenly in chapter seven, a Plymouth Fury
comes to life and starts to kill people.
5. Keep in mind that experts say novels should be about 80,000 to 90,000 words, tops. Nobody wants to
read more than that from an unknown author. My book first book, ‘Slapshot of Love’ was 111,000 words. I went way over. This time, Me and the Crack Mayor is about 65,000 words. A bit under. My third book, whatever it is, is going
to be just right. Seriously though, for me, the story is the story, and I don’t know how to make it longer or shorter.
6. Drink plenty of
fluids. (I didn't really have a number 6)
7. So that your book will sell, make your story international, which means set in the United States.
My book is set in Toronto.The story of a Crack Mayor has made international headlines, but I probably should have moved the story to New York or Chicago. Nobody buying books in Des Moines knows what the Bloor Viaduct, or what Castle Frank is. Come to think
of it, I’m not sure I even know.
8. Write what you know. This is an old piece of advice but it’s so true. I just didn’t follow
it. I have never met the Mayor of Toronto and I have never worked in a political office. I just used my imagination. I made it all up. In this case, there were a lot of stories in the news about a poorly behaved Mayor. I used those as ‘inspiration’.
9. Send your novel out to all the literary agents you can find. Publishers don’t accept unsolicited work so you have to go through one of these agents.
They decide to publish your book. They pay you a huge advance, help you edit it to make it better, do great publicity, and ‘ta da!’, you’re a top best selling author! None of these things have happened to me.
10. Self publish. That’s what I did. Then you are your own boss and responsible for all the mistakes (see above) and victories yourself. Me and the Crack Mayor
is available as an E Book and paperback at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
*When I say ‘best seller list’,
you should know that Me and the Crack Mayor is currently number 2 on the list of sales for Gary Pearson’s novels. Number one is Slapshot of Love, my first novel. It is a very short list and not exactly the New York Times.