Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagements: Your First Gig as an Author

Once you’ve done the hard work of writing and publishing your book, it’s time to consider getting some speaking engagements so you can spread the word about your book’s message. As an author, it’s highly possible you’ve convinced yourself that speaking in front of an audience simply isn’t for you—after all, you’re a writer, not a speaker…right? That’s not exactly true.

While the walls of publishing are coming down, and there’s never been a better time to become a published author, this means there’s an awful lot of competition. The authors who are willing to put themselves out there—whether in the form of speaking gigs, media, or other in-person appearances—have the best chance of standing out from the crowd and grabbing the attention of book buyers.

Speaking Engagements: How to Land Your First Gig as an Author

We’re not saying it can’t be nerve-wracking to stand up in front of a crowd. That’s why we recommend starting small, saying “yes” to multiple opportunities, and getting lots of practice. This isn’t a one-and-done proposition if you truly want speaking to become an effective piece of your “professional author” repertoire.

So, how exactly should you land that first speaking engagement? Read on for our ten tips, and you’ll soon be writing your notecards for your debut talk.

1. Start Local

Conferences are a natural place for speakers of all levels to take the stage. However, don’t feel as though you have to limit yourself to formal settings to find speaking engagements. Any group where your desired audience gathers can provide a chance for you to speak.

You could speak to students, to religious organizations, women’s groups, at your library, local business associations…the list is endless! Look around your own community and make a mental list of all the places where you might ask to speak. 

2. Speak to Your Niche

If your book is geared toward a specific niche, explore related groups. For example, if your book is a memoir about overcoming an obstacle—such as domestic violence or cancer or another illness—you could speak to a support group. If your book is about productivity, then seek out entrepreneurs’ groups or the chamber of commerce.

If you’re a nurse, and you’ve written a book about health care, then hospitals are a natural place for you to speak. If your story relates to a specific sport, then hit up the closest sport teams. No audience or venue is too small or informal for your first “official” speech.

3. Find a Natural Connection

While we do recommend starting small and local, look even closer: make sure the group you choose will actually be well-served by hearing your message.

Look, there’s nothing worse than standing in front of a crowd that’s bored, or worse—hostile—because you’re wasting their time. There’s an easy way to warm up any crowd, and that’s to have something in common with them. You want your first speaking engagement to be closely related to your book and your book’s message. If your book is all about the stressful life of a lawyer, then you’re not going to want to speak to a group of airline pilots.

For your first speaking gig, your goal is to find an audience that will benefit from your book’s message. Ideally, you want to find an audience you naturally connect with, because that connection will make you more relaxed and authentic, which will result in a better speech.

4. Build Excitement

If you’re not quite ready to beat the bushes in order to grab your first speaking engagement immediately, then consider building up some excitement first. We authors share a common goal: to get our target readers excited about our book’s message!

How do you do that? The good news is the Internet makes building a virtual audience fairly easy these days with consistent effort. You can establish a following of readers through your website, through online forums, via social media, and by writing blog posts, both your own and by writing guest posts for others. Use all of these types of content to build your audience with the goals of increasing book sales and finding your first speaking gig.

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5. Hone Your Skills

Think of informal ways to practice your speaking abilities with the goal of scoring a “real” gig. You can produce videos on your book’s subject, join podcasts, and seek out online interviews to share your voice with the world, gain exposure, and get comfortable with your talking points.

By showcasing your speaking talents, you open the door to an invitation to speak in a more structured setting. Plus, you get great practice speaking about your book’s message before you have to stand on a stage in person.

6. Attend a Writer’s Workshop

A great way to get the inside scoop is to meet other authors and pick their brains about their speaking process. How did they find speaking engagements? What are their best speaking tips? What fees do they charge? Meeting other writers gives you a broader network to use as resources on all topics that impact authors—not just the nitty-gritty of drafting books.

7. Speak at an Industry Event

These fact-based speaking engagements are perfect for non-fiction authors. Whether your industry is blogging, healthcare, law, plumbing, or real estate, it’s likely you can find a conference about it. The exact nature of the industry doesn’t have to mirror the topic of your book. Instead, you can focus your talk on skills that can help people in that that industry. For example, if your book is about productivity, you can create a talk that’s focused on how your audience can adapt the productivity lessons found in your book to suit their particular industry.

8. Aim Low (at First)

You first speaking engagement probably won’t be a Ted Talk, and that’s okay! The first time, in fact, you may have to volunteer your time to speak at a pretty tiny event. But as the saying goes, you have to walk before you can run. Just keep taking steps toward bigger and better events. With each new speaking gig, your resume will grow—along with your confidence! 

9. Practice Makes Perfect

Write a speech today, and read it to yourself daily—before you even have speaking engagements lined up. You want to be able to handle a speaking engagement that’s the very next day if someone called you out of the blue. Once you’ve taken the time to put together your speech about your book, you’ll notice ways to refine it and improve on it day after day when you practice like you’re speaking in public. What way when the times comes, you’ll be ready to shine.

10. Say YES!

When you’re offered your first speaking engagements—take it! Even if it gives you butterflies or if it’s not the “perfect” fit for your brand, you need to be open to invitations when you’re just starting out. You’ll gain valuable experience, polish your skills, and get your book’s message out there to the public. All good things!

Get started now on finding your first speaking gig. No matter the size of your audience, you’ll gain exposure for your message, while achieving the unparalleled life experience of speaking about your passion.

Writing Process_10TipstoCreateRoutine_v2

Writing Process: 10 Tips to Create a Routine

The writing process is uniquely personal and specific to each author. We all have different creative processes when it comes to writing books, and part of the learning curve that comes with writing your first book is creating your writing routine. Some crave complete silence, while others thrive on white noise hum. Some consider the glow of a Mac their best light, while others draft in pencil on yellow-ruled pads. You get the drift.Once you create a daily writing ritual that works, you can better maximize your time, energy, and creativity.

10 Steps to Finding Your Best Writing Process

There’s no “right” way to write a book; the only way is the writing process that works for you. Creating your daily writing routine might take a little experimentation on your part. To get some ideas, read our tips and find your own personal writing groove.

1. Become an Avid Reader

Reading is one of the best things you can do to pave the way for your creative process. The beauty of a book is that you can travel across the world, live in other cultures, and walk in another’s shoes, all without leaving your couch. Unfamiliar worlds, new faces, and original concepts spark creativity, so each time you sit down to write you have a wealth of ideas to pull from.

Reading also primes you to recognize top-notch writing, and what kind of writing you find subpar. The more styles and tones you’re exposed to, the easier it will be to find your own. You’ll get a sense of what appeals to you as a reader and aspire to capture that in your own work.

2. Diagnose Problems Quickly

Sometimes when you’re writing, you hit a brick wall and stop. You’re not sure why. You think you’ll pick up the manuscript in a few days, but before you know it, days have turned into months. What went wrong? You probably have no idea, because you didn’t take the time to think about what stopped you.

If you took a moment to figure it out, you would have been able to discern what was holding you up. Maybe your outline is confusing you. Or perhaps part of the storyline isn’t resonating. Or maybe you’re not quite sure how to write a difficult character. But the problem is, if you put off tackling that outline, reworking the wonky chapter, or procrastinate the rewrite of an annoying character, then you risk ditching your whole book. Forever.

You’ve got two choices in this situation: Fix the problem NOW, or skip it, start working on a different part of the book, and come back to it later. But your first instinct—to put the manuscript down and walk away—is usually wrong, because that’s how books get left to die.

Whatever you’re struggling with, make a decision. You’re going to clear it off your plate one way or another, whether it’s by correcting the problem, or working around it. But whatever you do, don’t stop working.

3. Block Distractions

Allow me to create a mental picture: You’re perfectly immersed in Zen-like concentration in your immaculate office while the words flow out of you and onto the page in a stream of such beauty and force that you’re moved to tears.

Ha! Just kidding—you’re listening to your email ping as you log into Facebook. Meanwhile, you glance at your phone and realize you have exactly nine minutes until school pick-up, while simultaneously getting a text notifying you about the “super lice” going around your daughter’s preschool. Welcome to real life.

We get it. We all face demands on our time and attention, but it’s your job to manage them as best you can so you can write. Choose a window of time to block out all other distractions while you write. Put your phone on silence, block social media, and commit to ignoring email. Put the dog in his crate—but not your kid; that will get you in trouble! Then, WRITE with a combination of abandon and focus.

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4. Schedule Time Daily

You’ll write when your kids are at Grandmas, or over Spring Break while you’re on vacation, or in February, when that blizzard snows you in for a week. But, the kids come home from Grandmas three days early with chicken pox. Your Spring Break is overrun with screaming school kids, and that blizzard knocked out your power and guess who forgot to charge the laptop before the storm?

Waiting for the ideal block of time to write is dangerous. Sure, take advantage of these open swaths of time when you can—don’t let me discourage you! But don’t count on them. The unexpected will always come up to sap your time and energy. So, when’s the best time to write? Right now! Yep, today is the day.

Here’s what you do: set a daily writing schedule and commit. Calendar this time. Block this time out on your phone, your email, and your planner. This dedicated block of time is every bit as vital as work hours or your kids’ school days. Make this a non-negotiable priority for you, and for others who depend on you.

What time of day should you block off? Some swear that early morning is the prime time for creativity. You’re less likely to be interrupted. Your mind is fresh. And the demands of the day have yet to take over your attention. The longer you wait to write, the more likely it is that excuses, interruptions, and means of procrastinating will rob you of your chance to get your book done.

While there’s merit to the concept of writing first thing, some of us are simply not morning people. That’s okay—you need to find your own best time. You might choose to write on your lunch hour, or before bed after the kids are asleep.

You might have to experiment. Maybe you’re too tried at the end of the day, in which case, you revisit the idea of waking up early. If all you’re good for at night is watching TV or surfing the internet, then you’re not a night owl; you’re just procrastinating about going to bed. So turn off the TV, put down your Kindle, and get some shut eye so you can wake up earlier!

Whenever your best window for creativity and motivation to write is, embrace that time and commit to it. Sit down and write. Then do it every day. The more you write, the more natural it will become.

5. Gather Your Tools

One of the toughest parts of completing a project is collecting the materials you need to finish. For example, you’ve been meaning to repaint your kitchen for the past several years, but first you need to pick a new color, and buy brushes and tarps. Then you’ve got to dig the ladder out of the garage and wipe off the cobwebs. It’s no wonder your kitchen has remained the color of Avocado Dream accented with Tangerine Sunrise since 1972.

Look, I know. It’s just easier to maintain the status quo. But imagine one day waking up near the end of your life and you do a face palm, thinking it’s too late to bother writing a book now. (And GAH! Why did you spend your entire life with a hideously-painted kitchen!?) Because it’s easier to procrastinate. It’s way easier to keep putting it off than it is to put a book project in motion, because the idea of gathering the tools you need is too much of a headache.

But wait, what tools are we talking about? Don’t you just need a computer? Well, yes and no. Some people need coffee before they can write. Some people like to write with pencil on a yellow legal pad before they type out their sentences. Some people like to print out their research so they aren’t tempted to go online and get lost down the rabbit hole of internet surfing in the middle of a writing session. And most of us require our trusty outlines so that we don’t get lost somewhere in the manuscript.

Decide what your tools are. Gather them before you type or write a single word, each day. Sharpen your pencils, print out your research articles, and brew that coffee before anything else. That way, once you’re on a roll, there’s no excuse to stop what you’re doing to search for a printer cartridge or trudge to the store for more Keurig cups.

If you have all the tools you need before you get started writing each day, you can expend all your energy being creative. There are no excuses, no interruptions, and no reason to pump the breaks to search for a pen.

6. A Place of One’s Own

Each writer has an image of their ideal writing space. Setting up your own private space for your scheduled writing time can help switch your brain over to the task at hand. But first, a word of caution:

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

—E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web

It’s a romantic notion that to produce worthy writing, your creative space should show off some kind of dreamy aesthetic. That’s simply not realistic: If you wait for the “perfect” setting and the “perfect” time to write, you’ll go to the grave without ever sharing your story.

All you really need to write is a way to get words on the page and a place to sit, so you don’t need to overthink this. The tame backdrop of a home office may be your happy place. Maybe sitting at a picnic table in the park helps your words flow onto the page.

Wherever you chose, your writing place should make you feel relaxed and inspired. You probably already know where that may be, but it’s worthwhile to experiment with what actually works best.

7. Set the Scene with Props

A sampling of your favorite creature comforts can help you associate writing with things you enjoy. A scented candle, a special tea, and your own unique playlist can make writing feel like a pleasure, rather than a chore. The more you condition yourself to appreciate and embrace the writing process, the more creative you’ll feel.

Part of setting the scene is establishing a familiar routine. Your routine primes your body and brain for what to expect next. Cue up your playlist and fill your water bottle with lemon water and then start hand-writing. Put on your fluffy socks and light the fireplace. Whatever cues your brain that now is the time to write will prompt you to drop into the role of writer, each and every time.

8. Make Yourself Comfy (but not too Comfy)

You’ve spent time creating the perfect writing environment and cultivating your perfect routine, so now you should exclusively write in that same way, in that one spot. Until one day when you can’t. You’ve hit a mental wall, or—eek! You’re infected with an awful case of writer’s block! What do you do?

The easiest way to jump start your creativity is to shake something up. Rather than your usual coffee house, sit in a bar or a restaurant to write. If you type pages on your laptop, trying handwriting for a few days. Attack your draft from the last page instead of working sequentially. Get out of the house and move—sometimes a brisk walk can recharge your brain. Turn on loud music, stand up and dance, or sing.

Whatever you do, change something to inspire a burst of creative energy. If all else fails, call it a day and start fresh the next. Sometimes we all need a break to reset. But don’t let one day become two days. It’s a slippery slope to abandoning a manuscript.

9. Don’t Research

Wait, WHAT? How do you write a book without researching? We aren’t saying don’t research ever, just that the writing process should be keep separate from the research process.

One of the common mistakes new writers make is getting lost in their research while they’re trying to write chapters. You’re humming along, banging out pages, and all of sudden you realize you forgot the name of that café in Paris. So you consult Mr. Google and 45 minutes later, you’ve lost your train of thought and your writing time is over for the day. Farewell, progress.

What should you do if you’re mid-sentence and need a placeholder for research you’ll fill in later? Publishers recommend using the letters “TK” to note that you need to come back to a place in your draft. Then when it’s time to fill in the gaps with research, you can use the “Control F” command to find where you placed TK. 

10. Avoid the ‘Eat, Sleep, and Write’ Myth

We’ve all heard this old wives’ tale, the myth of how author’s work best: type furiously for eighteen hours a day, subsisting only on black coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and self-aggrandizing thoughts until your book is done. Bathe as little as possible, slam the door on your family, and only leave the house once your first draft is completed. The problem with this approach is that you’ll end up stressed, burnt-out, in need of an intervention, and possibly divorced.

Don’t make your manuscript an all-consuming process which removes you from everyday life. Your creative process can (and should!) involve having a life outside of writing books. In fact, creativity thrives when you allow yourself time away from your material to recharge and gain fresh inspiration. Healthy food, sleep, exercise, and conversations with people who aren’t book characters are necessary for your mental health and your ongoing creativity.

Once you’ve found a writing process that works for you, keep it up! When you stick to a daily writing routine, your creativity will thrive. You’ll feel empowered to keep your writing sessions going so you can feel the rush of seeing your name on the cover of your very own book.

Book Formatting

5 Book Formatting Mistakes to Avoid

There are many benefits to self-publishing your book versus a traditional publishing deal. One aspect in favor of self-publishing is the control you have over all aspects of your finished manuscript—including book formatting.

However, one downfall of the self-published author is a messy manuscript. Your book’s formatting is a crucial part of your readers’ experience. An unprofessional looking book layout will both distract readers—and make you look like an amateur. You want your completed self-published book to convey professionalism in all aspects.

The 5 Most Common Book Formatting Errors

In this article, you’re going to learn what the most common book formatting errors are and how to avoid them. If you’ve got a completed manuscript with botched formatting on your hands, this article will teach you how to fix it using Microsoft Word.

1. Just Say “No!” to Hard Indents

A hard indent is when paragraph indentations are created by manual use of the keyboard’s Tab key. Many of us learned how to type using the Tab key to create an indent at the start of each paragraph, so this can be a tough habit to break. When it comes to book formatting, use of the Tab key is a no-no, because it results in an indent that’s far larger than you need.

When it comes to writing fiction, you want to have just a small indent at the start of each paragraph. If your book is non-fiction, generally speaking, you want to use block paragraphs rather than indents, unless your book is a memoir or historical fiction. (More on that in tip #2.)

If your book is fiction, you may be wondering how to create paragraphs without the Tab key. The fix is simple: In Microsoft Word, set the Paragraph settings to automatically create indentations for the first line in each paragraph. This simple auto fix will make your book formatting process way easier.

If you’re wondering how big to make your indents, my advice is pull your favorite book off the shelf, open it up, and take a peek. How big are the paragraph indents? Experiment with making yours larger or smaller, printing out the page, and comparing them to the book in your hand.

But what if your 535-page tome has already been drafted, using the dreaded Tab key for each and every paragraph? No need to set fire to your laptop! Here’s what to do to clean it up:

  • Use the Find and Replace
  • Enter ^t in the Find (This will help you find every “Tab” in the document.)
  • Leave the Replace field blank.
  • Hit Replace All.

Going forward, set your Paragraph settings so that you don’t have to remove hard indents again. Presto! You now have a much prettier, easier-to-convert document through the magic of technology.

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2. Choose Carefully: Indentation vs. Block Paragraphs

Works of non-fiction today typically don’t use indentation, except for some notable exceptions we will discuss momentarily. Rather, a popular format for modern non-fiction books is the block paragraph.

What’s a block paragraph? A block paragraph doesn’t have indentation on the opening line, but instead uses a horizontal line of white space beneath each paragraph. This helps to delineate separation between paragraphs.

The reasoning behind whether you should use indentation vs. block paragraphs is this: in works where one thought should flow smoothly into the next, such as in a novel, paragraph indentations are used with no line spacing between paragraphs. In books where complicated information is being consumed, having a single line space between paragraphs aids the brain in processing one piece of information before moving on to the next.

An exception to the block paragraph for non-fiction / indents for fiction guideline: non-fiction narrative, such as a memoir or historical fiction, should use the same indent style described above in tip #1.

In non-fiction works where some information should flow, and other sections require more brain power to comprehend, some authors decide to mix formatting types and use indentation where appropriate and block paragraphs where useful. But in general, to avoid confusing the reader and to make your book look uniform, clean, and as if you didn’t make a book formatting error, it’s best to choose one style or the other and stick with it throughout your book.

However, if you insist on getting crazy and mixing it up, knowing how and when to use block paragraphs versus when to indent results in a more professional manuscript. 

3. Avoid Double Spaces After Periods

Here’s the truth: Two spaces after a period is wrong. Period. (Ha!)

Just as with the good old-fashioned Tab key indent, two spaces after a period may have been the norm back when you were learning to type. This is because with typewriters, characters were all the same width, so the two-space rule allowed for greater readability. With modern computer fonts, the characters all fit closer together in proportional fashion, thereby eradicating the need for that one additional space.

Most major style guides—including the Chicago Manual of Style, which is used by traditional publishers—now formally recognize the more modern single-space rule. From an aesthetics angle, one space looks neater, which your readers’ eyes will appreciate.

Before you convert your manuscript, change all double spaces to single spaces. The result will be a better formatted, stylistically correct book. You’re going to use that super handy “Find and Replace” function again:

  • Enter two spaces in the Find (This will help you find every double space in the document.)
  • Enter a single space into the Replace field.
  • Hit Replace All.

Voila! Like magic. 

4. Be Cautious With Hyphens

Improper hyphenation is a common error that may be harder to stay on top of because the rules of hyphenation differ depending on the grammatical situation. Generally, keep these three rules in mind while you write to stay on top of your hyphens:

  • Two or more words that, together, function as an adjective are joined with a hyphen. For example, dark-pink skirt or two-way street.
  • Two words or more that form a number are joined with a hyphen. For example, twenty-one.
  • Compound words, which are two words that are joined together to make a single word, do not require a hyphen. For example, toothbrush or starfish.

When in doubt, look it up! For a more detailed treatment of the hyphen, here is an important source to consider: Elements of Style.

5. Know When to Use Quotes vs. an Apostrophe

Few things scream “new writer” like punctuation errors. You want to make sure you’re using quotes and apostrophes correctly so you don’t lose credibility with your readers. Here are a few quick rules of thumb:

Use of Quotes 

  • When you’re quoting someone, use quotes! This means either a person is speaking—like in fiction—or you are borrowing material verbatim from another source, like in non-fiction.
  • Use of quotes is rarely needed for common expressions.
  • Ironic terms can be set off in quotes.
  • Overuse of quotes can get annoying, so be judicious in their application.

Use of Apostrophes

  • Use an apostrophe for possessive form (except the word its). For example: The cat’s toys are blue.
  • Use an apostrophe for contractions, such as it is. For example: The cat’s playing with its toys. It’s a happy cat.
  • Avoid using an apostrophe for plural forms. For example: Five cats ran past her.

Again, the rules can be complicated such as when to use an apostrophe when dealing with an acronym, so when in doubt, look it up.

Conclusion

Of course you want your book to stand out because of its invaluable content and amazing writing. Don’t let book formatting or grammar errors hamper your book’s success. You have all the tools you need to produce a flawless manuscript, so take the time to review your book—and hire an editor—to make sure your book formatting is perfectly professional.

Book Outline

Book Outline: 11 Ways to Outline Your Book

Outlining. That word may conjure images of 7th Grade English, scribbling at your desk in frustration while a stern teacher looks over your shoulder. Many of us learned how to outline in middle school, and it’s a skill we haven’t revisited since our braces came off and the acne faded away. Have no fear! You’re a grown-up now, and this project isn’t being graded. You have free reign to structure your book outline to benefit your writing process—whether that’s a spaghetti-on-the-wall approach or a color-coded Excel spreadsheet.

Why Should I Create a Book Outline?

No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. Outlining can help you define your goals, stay focused, and finish your manuscript quicker. You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time outlining, but some (mostly painless!) prep before writing will be time well-spent since you won’t be spinning your wheels by staring at the blank screen of death.

When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing. Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating. Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.

Once you have a plan to write your book in outline form, you’ll be better able to put these thoughts to paper and compose your chapters when you do sit down to write. This means a finished book in less time!

So, I have some good news: there’s no “right” way to outline. Each writer will have their own process that’s personal to them. Keep reading for tips on how to outline different ways. If one of these exact methods doesn’t strike a chord with you, you can combine methods to create your own way that works best for your unique book.

We’re going to start with ways to outline a non-fiction book. If you’re writing a novel, there are plenty of relevant tips you can apply in the section about outlining a non-fiction book. Likewise, even if you’re writing non-fiction, the section on how to write a fiction outline can help spark some ideas for your process, so we recommend authors of all types of book read the full list: 

5 Ways to Write a Non-Fiction Book Outline

Most non-fiction authors find outlines useful due to the nature of their books. Generally, works of non-fiction require research and citation of sources (although many novels require their own research!)

An outline can help organize your research so it doesn’t overwhelm you, plus your outline will help you create the best structure for your finished book.

1. Mindmap + Book Outline

This is the main method of outlining that we teach in Self-Publishing School. The mindmap method requires you to create a brain dump based on your book’s topic. Write your topic in the center of a piece of paper, then use lines and words to draw as many connections as you can. It doesn’t need to make perfect sense from the get go—the goal is free-form thinking to get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.

You’ll start to notice connections between different categories of information. This makes it easier to spot the relevant “book-worthy” ideas. Then you can pluck those ideas out of your mindmap and put them into a cohesive book outline. Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless! 

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2. Simple Book Outline

A simple book outline is just as it sounds; keep it basic and brief. Start with the title. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect title at this stage of the process; you just want to come up with a good-for-now placeholder. You can always change the title later—in fact, you probably will—but starting with some kind of title gives you a better idea of where you want your book to go. Plus, it jump starts the creative process.

Next, you’ll list all of the key points that cover your book’s overall theme and message. You’ll use these key points to generate your notes. Later, you’ll flesh out these notes to draft your book chapters.

3. Chapter-by-Chapter Book Outline

Your chapter-by-chapter book outline is a pumped-up version of the simple book outline. To get started, first create a complete chapter list. With each chapter listed as a heading, you’ll later add material or shift chapters around as the draft evolves.

Create a working title for each chapter, and list them in a logical order. After that, you’ll fill in the key points of each chapter. Finally, you’ll link your resources as they would appear in each chapter, including books, interviews, and Web links.

4. Sketch Your Book Outline

Perhaps you find the idea of a written outline confining. That’s OK — there’s another option which might appeal to your artistic side. Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, wrote about how sketching your ideas can simply complex thoughts.

To create this type of book outline, hand-draw your book concept in sequential order. This may be as simple or as elaborate as you desire. Feel free to use a Bic pen and a spiral notebook, or take it to the next level with color medium on canvas-sized paper. Others find satisfaction in sketching ideas with dry erase markers on a white board, or the old-fashioned feel of chalk on blackboard.

5. Book Outline With Scrivener

If you like being uber-organized, then the writing software Scrivener might appeal to you. Their book outline program allows you to upload your research, organize it by moving it around, and filing it into folders.

The program does have a fairly extensive learning curve, which can be a major downside—especially if you tend to procrastinate and really want to get your book published quickly. However, some writers say it revolutionized their organizational process for longer works. You can read more about the program and its uses here.

6 Ways to Outline Your Novel

While you can incorporate the book outlining tips we shared in the non-fiction section above, creating an outline for your novel will be inherently different from creating a non-fiction outline. Your novel outline will require character development, evolution of plot points, and resolution of conflict. While the methods may be different, the goal is the same—organization and pre-planning so that you can write a great, cohesive book much faster.

1. Basic Document

Your goal with the Basic Document format is to use a Word or Excel table to give structure to your theme. Create a table and organize and summarize your key points and plot. You’ll then create a separate section for characters and themes, and an additional section with relevant research. 

2. Post-It Wall

This is for the creative mind, and another method we teach in Self-Publishing School. All you need is a blank wall and a box of Post-It notes. Carry a pad of Post-Its with you wherever you go, and noodle your book on the fly. Write your ideas and inspiration on your Post-Its when the mood strikes you.

Next, affix the Post-Its containing words, snippets, doodles, and phrases to the wall. After a week of this exercise, organize these words into novel outline form. Voila—simple, effective, creative!

3. The Snowflake Method

The Snowflake Method was created by fiction writing coach Randy Ingermanson based on the notion, “Good fiction doesn’t just happen. It’s designed.”

The process of the snowflake method focuses on starting small, then expanding. For example, you’d start with one line from your book, then add a paragraph, then add a chapter. Since the snowflake method is fairly detailed and based on scientific theory, Randy’s article is worth a read so you can review the detailed steps involved in this outlining method.

4. The Skeletal Outline

If you’ve ever written a term paper or thesis, then you’re probably familiar with the skeletal outline. You’ll lay out your narrative points in the order they’ll appear in your story, which involves a broad 7-step story arch. This gives you a big picture idea of the flow of your story, so you can adjust your story and add subplots for maximum impact.

5. Novel Outline Template

Why reinvent the wheel? If you’re impatient to jump right into the fun part—writing!—or you aren’t sure exactly how to format your novel outline, then a pre-formatted template outline might be your saving grace. A fill-in-the-blank novel outline can help you develop your plot, characters, and ideas without getting bogged down with the notion of striving for “proper” outline form.

6. The Reverse Outline

Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can give you the answer to the question. The same applies to outlining. Reverse outlining is exactly what it sounds like: Write down how your novel ends. Then once you know the ending, outline backwards to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.

Here’s the take-away: No matter which option you choose, ultimately, you’ll write faster and better with a book outline. If one way doesn’t work well for you, then experiment. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.” Experiment, find a format which works for you, and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.

How to Become an Author

How to Become an Author

How do you become an author? Well, the short answer is that you write and self-publish a book. But you know there’s obviously more to it than that.

Once you’re published, it may seem as though the heavy lifting is over. It may be tempting to order those “Professional Author” embroidered towels for the guest bath and start practicing your humble half-smile for when Oprah’s team calls for that interview. After you’ve called your mom to brag, updated your Facebook profile with your new title and a link to your book, and sent autographed copies to all of your adoring fans, you may wonder what’s left to do.

The answer is A LOT. It’s a rookie mistake to pat yourself on the back and declare yourself done. Your first self-published book is a dynamic entity which needs your attention in order to flourish. Once you’ve published a book, you’ve certainly earned the right to take a break and bask in your daydreams, but then it’s time to refocus.

How to Become an Author

Your ongoing success as a professional author is built on the next steps. It’s time to harness the momentum of your first book, and become proactive about building your author brand. The next phase of your book’s journey is about to begin—promotions, marketing, networking, branding, and new products and projects.

We’ll show how to capitalize on your first self-published book’s moment in the sun, and use it as your springboard to even greater success!

The Power of your Own Name

It’s time to take the next step and spread the word about your book. You need to get out of the house (physically or virtually) and interact with readers.

The good news is, once you have a book out, it’s much easier to find opportunities to open doors that were previously closed to you. As a freshly-minted author, your name has power—so, get your name (and face!) out there.

For example, if your local TV news station is looking for an expert to talk about the best fishing holes in your area, who do you think they are more likely to choose to appear on the segment: the guy who published a book about the best places to fish, or the guy who just happens to like fishing?

Once your name appears on a book cover, it’s much easier to get attention—whether it’s by being accepted as a guest blogger on a popular web site, getting booked as a guest on a TV show or a podcast, or being interviewed in a newspaper or magazine.

All of this recognition and publicity can help you meet any lifestyle goals you might have, such as getting more customers for your business, getting donations for a charity or a passion project, and to call attention to any other endeavors that are important to you. And of course, the more attention you get, the more books you can sell.

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Cultivating a Professional Aura (a.k.a Fake it ‘til You Make it)

It’s an intoxicating feeling to be a fresh-off-the-press debut author—but it’s also intimidating, as you’re navigating a brand-new world. Your first instinct might be to hide until the fuss dies down. Or perhaps you long for accolades and attention for your work, as you settle into a new role and industry. You’re in the trial-by-fire phase, and you want to get it right. It’s okay to feel as though you’re trying to find your footing and play-acting in a new part.

First step: start calling yourself an author, not a writer. It might sound picky to make the distinction between an “Author” versus a “Writer” but here’s why semantics matter. Every professional writer used to be an amateur writer, but not every professional writer will become a professional author.

That sounds a little like a SAT logic problem, doesn’t it? In short, you are no longer “just a writer” once you’ve published your book. You have earned the distinction and title of “Professional Author.” This is true whether your book sells a single copy or a billion. You’re now a member of an exclusive professional group, and it’s to your benefit to think of yourself in that regard.

In terms of acclimating to a new professional industry, you’ve picked a terrific time to publish and join the ranks of other authors. The era of the indie author is happening now. As a self-published author, you are a pioneer on the cusp of a publishing revolution.

Big publishing houses are even seeing established authors walk away from lucrative deals in favor of self-publication. You’re in a favorable position since you’re not beholden to a publishing houses’ restrictions and deep cuts into your profits. It’s an exciting time to be a self-published author.

Developing Your Author Brand

Let’s talk about building on your success. You’ve flying high right now—you’re published, something only 1% of the population has accomplished. Welcome to the club; look around and take in the view from the top. One of the keys to continued success is capturing the proud feeling of this moment and using that to buoy your journey as an author. It’s onward and upward from here on out.

That said, just publishing your book won’t mean a thing unless you do the work to drive traffic to your book. One of the biggest mistakes a new author can make is to finish a book and never touch it again. You can’t just let it sit out there alone and untended. Your new job as author is to generate buzz, traffic, and sales.

Building on Your Debut Book

You’ve just finished learning the ropes of writing and publishing. Now, it’s time to focus on learning a new skill set that all self-published authors need to know: Quality self-promotion. One caveat, don’t get discouraged, this will inherently take trial-and-error. You’ll soon discover what resonates with your audience, and what doesn’t.

The logical first place to start with self-promotion is by looking at the following 4 must-do’s for the DIY self-promoter.

1. Build an Author Website

You’re an author now and, as such, you need your own professional website. Think of your website as your virtual business storefront and your marketing and PR teams. Keep it clean, easy-to-use, and attractive. You can work with a web developer, or if you’re even just barely tech-savvy, it’s fairly easy to create your own using tools such as SquareSpace or Wix.

Here are the basic elements to include on your author website:

  • A Page Featuring Your Book
  • Blog
  • Bio or About Page
  • Events page
  • Contact

Of course, you want your book to stand out on your site, so direct traffic toward it with a separate, standalone page devoted to your book and book sales. Up the visual appeal with an enticing cover shot and crisp graphics. Include an intriguing blurb which leaves readers eager to read your book. Of course, include a link to purchase so your readers can buy it.

Did you know that Amazon has a unique feature to promote your book sales on your own website? If you join Amazon Associates, then you’re provided a sales link to your book, which you can then use on your web site. You will earn a commission (on top of your book royalties) for any books you sell via your Amazon Associates link.

Creating a professional webpage can take your book to the next level. As you grow your brand and your body of work, you can update your website to reflect new projects.

2. Promote Your Book on Social Media

A clue to promotions on social media is in the very title: social media is intended to be social. Use your social media accounts, not just to churn out links and self-promotions, but to connect and engage with your audience and network. Building relationships is vital in this business—so share, like, comment, and write back. Your friends and fans will love to hear from you, and in turn, may do some promoting on your behalf.

The beauty of social media is that you can let your fans speak for you. If people like your work, and you, they’ll share it and you’ll gain new fans. Interacting with your audience will build buzz for your book, so no matter which social media platform you’re on, it’s vital to use your accounts to connect and build relationships.

When it comes to Facebook, one problem with book promotions is that so many people use it for sales, peoples’ feeds are saturated with ads. Plus, Facebook often hides business pages from readers’ feeds unless you pay for ads. So how do you get noticed on Facebook?

Start a Facebook group for readers and others who are interested in your topic of expertise. This is an especially good tactic with authors who like to discuss personal development topics. This lets you have an ongoing connection with your readership and a direct line to test new ideas for the next book.

3. Start Blogging

Blogging can be a virtual gold mine for your book. Did you know that companies that blog get 55% more traffic than sites without a blog? When you blog about topics that are relevant to your readership, then they’re more likely to find out about you and your book when they stumble upon your web site via an internet search. Blogging helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your author web site by keeping your content updated.

Besides, continued writing in the form of blogging helps exercise your creativity muscle while sharing your works with the world and building community. Don’t let your creative well run drive after your book is published; use blogging to keep your skills sharp. Writing and posting prolifically keeps you fresh, and if people like what you post, they’ll want to read your words in book form, too. Blogging can also lead you to start compiling material for your next book.

4. Speaking Engagements and Media Appearances

When you hear of speaking engagements and media appearances, you may think of hiring a PR firm and booking an international book tour. As a self-published author, you may think this is outside of your grasp. The truth is that local speaking engagements (and potentially a few carefully-chosen, far-flung events) can be a fantastic way to promote your book.

Look for local book fairs, chances to donate your book, and events held at colleges or public schools. If you want ideas for speaking engagements, you can also check out writer’s forums to see what others are doing. And you can pitch yourself to local TV and radio stations if your book is on a topic that conflates with current events.

When you book a gig, share the details on social media so your fans can find you. You should also create an event page on your web site and on Facebook to invite friends and readers. You’ll have fun and make new connections. It’s a win-win.

If you’re nervous about speaking in public, here’s how to handle your first appearances like the polished professional author you are: practice, practice, practice. Be prepared with answers to questions you might be asked. You’ll want to also prepare and rehearse a brief synopses of your book which will intrigue potential readers.

While speaking—and this applies to TV, radio, or any other arena where you’ll be talking—one rule to remember is to leave them wanting more! Give just enough detail about your book so your audience will have to buy it.

Finally, relax: you can handle this. There’s literally nobody in the world who knows as much as your book as you do.

Your Next Book

Now that you’re an author, one question you might get asked a lot is, “Are you going to write another book?” Depending on how you feel about the writing and publishing process, that question might make you feel excited or scared.

If you really do want to be a professional author, the question isn’t “will you” write another book, it’s a matter of “when” you’ll get started. So when should you get started writing your next book? The answer can best be summed up with this quote:

“Next morning I went over to Paul’s for coffee and told him I had finished. ‘Good for you,’ he said without looking up. ‘Start the next one today.’” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

If you’re going to fulfill your dream of being an author, write and publish one book. If you want to be a professional author, then keep on writing and publishing books. Don’t stop now, or you stop living your dream.