Your readers rely on you to get things right. Do your research carefully. The internet is a great place to start, but don’t rely on it as your sole source of information. Instead, use it as a springboard to find experts in their field, and works of reference.
Never say, “I can’t be bothered”. Check everything. When I’m writing non-fiction such as Struggle and Suffrage, I write a quick ‘dirty draft’, which sketches out broad chapter topics. This highlights the places where I need to find specialist help. I put key words in bold capital letters, so I can list subject areas easily. In second and second and subsequent drafts, I include more facts and figures as I gather them.
When you’re writing non-fiction, the final step is to include all your sources in footnotes. That way, anyone who wants to find out more knows which other books to read, and who to contact. There’s no need to do that in such detail when you’re writing fiction, but include a list of useful links, or thanks to people who have helped you, at the end of your book.
No matter how obscure your subject, you can bet there’s an expert among your readers. They’ll pick up on the difference between the figures you quote for the spices traded in eleventh-century Constantinople, and the statistics they’ve collected for themselves. Include only a fraction of your research in your fiction writing. You might find yourself fascinated by mediaeval drainage techniques while you’re planning your romantic novel. That doesn’t mean your readers want spadefuls of information about sewers shovelled into every chapter. Use a light touch. When fiction needs to have some facts included, less is more!
Use social media to create a “street team” of readers you can trust to give you honest feedback. Bounce ideas off them. Make it clear you’ll always listen, but you reserve the right to make all final decisions. Give credit where it’s due, but be careful. It’s a short step from naming a character after one of your friends on social media, to have them claim you’ve used their life story without their permission. It’s very rare, but it does happen.
When anyone takes the trouble to email or write to you about your work, always take the time to reply to them. While most people are lovely and offer only compliments, there’s always the odd person with an issue. Never argue with trolls or sock-puppets. Reply with “Thanks for getting in touch. Your concern means a lot to me.” and move on. That way, you aren’t stooping to their level, or giving them any ammunition to use against you. They can’t moan that you’ve ignored them.
Never stop writing. That way you’ll have your next book well under way when your first is ready for publication. Make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. As always, make every word count.