Friendly Advice to Would Be Writers

A good friend whom I have known for many decades now has decided to write a book. This is not on any management subject nor is it a work of fiction. What makes this one different from books that most people say they will write is that his book is about a personal tragedy that took place in his life a couple of years ago. His daughter whom he was very fond of passed away when she was only in her early 30s. She had been through an unsuccessful love marriage a few years ago. This tragic event prompted him to write a book on her life as seen through his eyes as her father. 

He requested me to write a foreword for his book. I readily agreed to do so. As is only to be expected, I asked for and read every word of the manuscript to understand what the book was all about before undertaking this task.

Based on this experience, I would like to share a few thoughts which might be of help to other aspiring writers amongst the readers of this blog- especially those considering writing their autobiographies or reminiscences of their professional or personal lives, in one form or the other.

  1. Positioning: How would you like to position this book? Is it a private publication meant largely for family and friends? This would mean that a certain number of copies are printed for you as per your desire. These then are circulated/gifted to family and friends without any element of book sales. Is it for the reading of the public at large ? This would mean it is available, at a price of course for anyone who wants to buy and read it. This makes it an entirely different ball game.
  2. Sensitive Content: While writing be sensitive to sensitive content! While what you write may not please everyone equally, will it cause offence to anyone? Will they take offence to such a degree that they may file a case against you for tarnishing their reputation and stuff like that?  You may feel it is relatively harmless but what about the other party, or their family and even heirs. There is a lot to ponder over here. Having said that ( though I detest this phrase which has been beaten to death) your story must have interesting content. No one wants to read a monotonous tome of how you got up and what you did each day and how you went to sleep, more so when they are paying good money to buy your book.
  3. The importance of editing and proof reading: Believe me, the importance of this labourious and thankless- but crucial – activity cannot be overstated. The quality of your book rests to a large extent not only on its content but also on how well it has been written. Typos, grammatical errors and the like reflect poorly on the author. Take as much time as you need but bring out a perfect book. In one’s haste to complete the project within a tight deadline it is entirely possible that mistakes are not spotted and will adversely affect the quality of the book.
  4. Preparing for Publication: With the trend moving towards ebooks, get your publisher to ensure your book is compatible to be published in a variety of formats. Sure, this can be done later as well but it is best to get this done at the first instance. Re-formatting a manuscript is not at all cost effective.

I hope these thoughts have not been discouraging. My objective in sharing them is to help you avoid the mistakes so many would be writers have made in the past!



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