These days, with the abundance of self-publishing houses and the relative ease of putting a book together, it is easier to get your words in print than ever.
There’s just one trick — you have to write them down.
“Everyone wants to be a writer, but no one wants to be an author,” says Karen Hodges Miller, owner of Open Door Publications in Lawrenceville and frequent contributor to U.S. 1. Miller will present “Unlocking Your Ideas: Your Book from Concept to Publication” on Monday, June 21, at 10 a.m. at the Inn at Glencairn, 3301 Lawrenceville Road. Cost: $79. Visit www.opendoorpublications.com.
The event will feature excerpts and lessons from Miller’s book, her first as a writer. Open Door has published several books for other aspiring authors, and she based the idea for her own on the lessons and pitfalls she’s seen time and again from would-be authors.
Miller also will appear at U.S. 1’s event for authors on Wednesday, June 16, at 5 p.m. at Tre Piani restaurant in Princeton Forrestal Village.
“I always wanted to be a writer,” she says. “I remember writing in my diary at age 8 that I was going to be a writer just like Louisa May Alcott.”
Miller started out writing poetry in high school, but says college — Duquesne University, Class of 1977 — taught her three things: “I was a really good high school poet and that’s all I’d ever be; I really loved writing non-fiction and working for the college newspaper; and newspaper reporters ate a lot better than poets.”
Her mother was an English teacher, but, she says, “she claims no credit for my writing ability.” With her bachelor’s in journalism and speech communications, Miller became a daily newspaper reporter at the Butler (Pennsylvania) Eagle. A few years later she married Howard Miller, who works for Bristol-Myers Squibb, and moved around the country.
“I got tired of always starting my career over each time we moved so I became a freelancer,” she says. “I could work anywhere, so long as I had a phone and modem.”
But then her husband landed a job in Puerto Rico, “and we couldn’t get a phone for six months, so there went the career. I put writing on hold for several years.”
The Millers moved to New Jersey in 1998. In 2004 Miller started writing again, and in 2006 she opened Open Door Publications, where she writes, edits, and publishes for small business and private clients.
New writers are often intimidated, confused, and overwhelmed by the magnitude of writing a book, Miller says. But like anything, writing takes organization, patience, and discipline. It isn’t so much that people don’t have valid ideas, they simply lack the road map that will get them to “published.”
#b#Identify the audience.#/b# Writers need to know who they are writing for. If it’s just you, you can say whatever you want, but if you are looking to make a name for yourself — in fact, having a book is often seen as a sign that the writer is a genuine authority, she says — you have to know who your audience is. Moms? Business executives? Teens looking to find a college path? Whoever they are, know how to reach them.
#b#Find time to write.#/b# Miller is familiar with a wannabe-writer’s favorite excuse, there’s no time. And it sounds intimidating when you hear stories about the great authors working 12 hours a day to get one good sentence.
But, says Miller, you don’t need to make huge blocks of time for your book project. An hour or two a day will yield better results in a week than forcing yourself to write in three five-hour chunks.
#b#Know your limits.#/b# Book writing is hard enough, but book publishing — even self-publishing — is a lot of work.
Knowing your resources and your endgame will help you focus your energies better, Miller says. If you self-publish, the entire enterprise will be on your dime, and if you want to be a big seller, you will have to buy and market a lot of books. Know what you can and cannot commit to. It will save you a lot of time and bridge the gap between your writing dreams and your published realities.