Book Writing Guidelines

The Secrets of Good Writing



“The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—those are the thousand one adulterations that weaken the strength of a sentence.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

If I could write a book about writing that boils down to a single point, that point would be SIMPLIFY. Many writers have a tendency to overcomplicate their writing for one of three reasons:

  1. They want to sound erudite, smart, articulate.
  2. They don’t understand what they are writing about.
  3. They’ve never learned to write a simple sentence.

As an editor, I am sometimes faced with whole paragraphs full of words that say nothing, or if they do say something, I have no idea what is it. The purpose of writing is to convey a thought, an idea, or a message. That is not a simple matter. If the reader cannot translate what you have written into something that makes sense to him, you have not achieved your purpose.

Communication in any form is fraught with ways to fail. Consider this: As the sender of the message, you know exactly what you want to communicate. So you say it or write it and assume that the receiver understands your meaning. Maybe she does, but maybe she doesn’t. Unless she checks with you by asking, “Is this what you meant?” she will assume her interpretation is correct. If it is, you’re off to a good start. If it isn’t, you’ll have to restate it. But if she never checks her understanding, neither of you will know that your communication has gone awry.

Unless you are instant messaging (IM), you won’t get that that kind of feedback on your writing. You’ll just send out the message and hope that the reader “gets it.” The simpler and less cluttered your language, the more likely it is that it will be understood. The more extraneous words you throw in, the greater the possibility that the reader will become tangled up in your verbiage. What’s worse is that you may never know.

This is hardly a new problem, but for writers it is a serious one. If you adhere to the rule that every writer needs an editor, someone else may catch your convoluted wording, but it is really your job to turn over to an editor a clear, well-written manuscript. Believe me, it will still have to be polished, but at least you will have done your job as a writer.


Bobbi Linkemer is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and editor, as well as the author of eighteen books, six of which are on writing. Her passion is helping writers at all levels convey their messages through books. She has launched a successful online course and guided twenty-four published authors through the steps of writing, publishing, and promoting their nonfiction books. Bobbi can be reached at,, or 314-968-8661. 

Word Counts - How Long Should My Story Be?

When writing, word counts are often overlooked and undervalued. Not only should your word count reflect the category of your work (ex. Novel, Novella, Short Story) but also the genre of your piece. This is because readers expect each category to fit between specific length constraints which they have become accustomed to over their lives.

Author, Travis McBee, has put together a fun and greatly informative video to help you understand the appropriate word counts for many different literary texts. Watch his video below.


The Winding Road of Self-Publishing

The person who said writing a book was easy had obviously never written a book. As simple as it may seem to take the ideas in your head and place them on paper, there are certainly distractions and roadblocks along the way to self-publishing your novel. Zachary Petit, a journalist and magazine editor, put together this hilarious yet surprisingly accurate infographic for Writer's Market on how to publish your book. May you embrace all the nuances of your self-publishing journey!


Guidelines for Creating Great Book Titles and Subtitles

Many successful authors agree that the most important piece of book writing could very well be is the creation of your book title and subtitle. A great title will not sell a bad book, but a poor title can hide a good book from potential customers.

It's important to realize that both your title and subtitle must sell your book. Think of them as the hooks that get a potential buyer's attention. To help you create that great book title, here are a few guidelines you may wish to follow.

1. At the beginning of your book writing project, select a working title - one that you will most likely improve upon as you develop your book. Start with a short, catchy and descriptive title accompanied by a longer, explanatory subtitle.

2. Here's a great tip. Whenever possible, the first word of your title should be the same as your subject. The biggest benefit is it will make your book easier to find. For example, Bowkers Books-in-Print lists books by title, author and subject. If your book title and subject are the same, you have doubled your exposure.

3. There is, however, an exception to the first word rule. If you come up with a truly fantastic title - one that does not begin with your subject word - it is possible that you may sell so many more copies of your book because of your title, that how directories list your book may become unimportant.

4. Your subtitle can play an equally important role. Most book listings do not describe the contents of a book, so the role of you subtitle should be  to clearly explain what your book is about. Visit some bookstores and go online to check out other book subtitles. You'll find both good and bad examples, but the good ones will provide you with some models you can follow.

Remember, if your book title is not clear, potential buyers may not find your book because it has been mis-shelved. Or, they may not recognize it as being an important subject to them.

[This post was created, with permission, from exerpts taken from Writing Nonfiction, by Dan Poynter.]

Remembering What It Takes To Write A Book

By Bobbi Linkemer

Successful authors agree that it takes certain principles to become a successful book writer. Although you may add others, here are six principles worth remembering for anyone who is in the middle of writing a book.

1. Desire. The following five principles are important, but without a lasting desire, you will not succeed. Keep the book writing flame burning strong.

2. A concept. Does your short explanation about your book (preferably one sentence) written at the beginning of your project still hold true? You may change it along the way, as long as you have based your planning on the new version. If your concept changes, review your initial book proposal to be certain it still reflects your main idea. 

3. A plan. As you continue, writing only when you have time will not work. It is important to establish deadlines. Decide when, where and how much you will write. Don't leave your book writing time to chance.

4. A long attention span. From beginning to end, planning, writing, publishing and promoting a book can take anywhere from months to years. Give yourself adequate time to plan, research, write, publish and promote. Along the way, stop to take stock of where you are. Sticking with a schedule and maintaining your enthusiasm is what is meant by a long attention span.

5. Self-discipline. Staying interested is one thing; actually writing is another. Creating a schedule is a good beginning, but the hard part is sticking with it. Self-discipline is making yourself do something even on those days you don't want to. It's meeting your deadlines, motivating and re-motivating yourself.

6. Support and guidance. If you were writing a thesis or dissertation, you would likely have an advisor to push, prod, guide and hold you accountable. If you have an agent or publisher for your book, you have a similar support system. If you have neither, there are other ways to build a support group. Look to writing groups, other authors, coaches, classmates, friends, and others who share your common interest. Seek out people who not only will give you advice and feedback, but who will also hold you accountable for living up to your commitments.

Writing a book takes time, energy, determination and perseverance. Remembering what it takes to write a book will help keep you focused on the task at hand.

[The majority of this post  was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from How to Write a Nonfiction Book, from planning to promotion is 6 simple stepswritten by Bobbi Linkemer. To visit her website, go to]

The "Top 10" Greatest Book Writing Tips

By George Kittredge

In April 2010, Book1One launched Book1Blog, a blog dedicated to providing aspiring authors with guidance and tips on how to successfully write, self-publish and promote books they wish to create. Now, almost four years later and thanks to many professionals who have contributed, people like Sue Collier, Valerie Douglas, Bobbi Linkemer, Karen Hodges Miller, Dan Poynter, Karrie Ross, Marilyn Ross, Dana Lynn Smith and Danny O. Snow, this blog now contains over 200 published posts packed with terrific advice every book writer should read.

From the hundreds of great tips, we've assembled a "top 10" greatest tips. Here they are.

1. Before your start writing, consider who will buy and read your book, and what you plan to give them.

2. For nonfiction writers, the more specific you make your book, the more potential buyers will identify with it.

3. The key to any book is the strength of its concept, its point. If you can't explain what your book is about in one sentence, you don't have a clear idea of your message.

4. Chances are if you have an idea for a book, someone else has likely had it also - and has probably written about it. This doesn't mean you should abandon your idea. It simply means you must tackle it in a different way.

5. Visit a bookstore. Look for a book that you like for its binding, layout, overall feel, margins, typesetting, everything. When you find such a book - buy it, and use this book as your book model.

6. Your book cover should not only tell people what your book is about, it should tell them why they should buy it.

7. Place your book title near the top of your cover. Your book may wind up being displayed on a rack with only the top one-third of the front cover peeking over the book in front of it.

8. Always subtitle your nonfiction book. There are two very good reasons. First, Books-in-Print and other important listing sources enter both the title and the subtitle in their databases, so you can get more mileage out of your listing if you have a subtitle. Second, a subtitle gives you more opportunity to describe your book.

9. Every writer needs a profession editor - someone who can clarify your concept; plan and organize your material; read for content, consistency and style; check for grammer, punctuation and typos; and catch those mistakes you and everyone else has missed.

10. It is highly possible that you will sell more books through specialty stores than bookstores. Look for stores that you believe your potential buyers would frequent.

And finally, here is a bonus tip. "Limit your book title to five words maximum."


7 Action Items to Take Before You Begin Writing Your Book

By Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow

Much has been written about what you need to do when you are writing your book. For example, Book1Blog is filled with over 100 posts on the subject. Yet, some of the most important actions you can take should occur before you begin writing. Here is some solid advice worth considering.

  1. Don't make the mistake of writing your book before you know your audience. Do some initial research to identify the type of readers you want to aim your book at before you start writing.
  2. Go to libraries, bookstores and the internet. Read and study other books that are similar to your subject matter. Your book will have a much better chance for success if it fills a need that you discover is not already met, or does a better job at meeting the needs of your audience.
  3. Observe how comparable books are made. Are they soft cover, hard cover or coil bound? How many pages do they contain? What is their pricing? What is their overall appearance? Then plan your book to be truly competitive in each respect.
  4. Read books written by experts that offer self-publishing advice and tips. Such books can give you insights before your begin writing and help you avoid potential pitfalls down the road.
  5. Join one or more trade associations and/or local book writing organizations. Such groups can provide meaningful opportunities for ongoing education and networking.
  6. Talk to book designers. An experience book designer can explain things such as why each chapter might start on a right-hand page, or why faces in a photo should be at least as big as a dime.
  7. If you are truly self-publishing and plan to hire a book printer, discuss your project with some professional printers. These folks can show you how to optimize your printing dollar that can save money.

It's generally considered that books such as successful novels and poetry books are tougher to write than successful nonfiction books. The reason is that it is harder to pinpoint the audience for general fiction than for a book about a specific, practical topic. However, regardless as to the type of book you plan to write, it- will have a greater chance for success if you plan carefully beforehand - before you begin actually writing.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.]