how to write a memoir

How to Write a Memoir: 13 Actionable Steps to Tell Your Influential Story

Learning how to write a memoir might seem simple. You may think it easy to jot down details about your life in a cohesive, entertaining fashion…but there’s quite a bit more to it.

Memoirs can be very complex pieces of work. It takes a lot of skill and craft to be able to write down intimate details about your life for others to read and learn from. Which means learning how to write a memoir can be really hard.

But the great part?

Writing a memoir is both empowering and rewarding, and when broken down into these feasible steps, it’s something you can learn to master in no time.

How many people can say they wrote a book detailing the most impactful moments of their lives?

Not many.

And by taking this leap and diving head first into your memories and entire life, you’re reaching new heights for yourself and you may even enlighten others by the end of your journey.

What is a memoir?

how to write a memoir free downloadWe all typically think of a memoir and cringe a little at the idea of a book about someone else’s life. But that’s not all a memoir is!

The memoir definition is: a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources.”

Essentially, this is a book written by you about key moments in your life. You bring your memories to life in order to touch on an overarching message others can learn and grow from.

It’s like the highlight reel from your diary (if you ever had one) about the experiences that shaped your life.

Memoir VS Autobiography

I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t they the same thing?”

With so many genres and writing terminology out there, knowing the differences between a memoir vs autobiography, (aka works of writing that are basically the same) can be confusing.

They’re both about someone’s life written by themselves, right? Right.

But they do differ in a single way that really makes a memoir vs an autobiography completely different in terms of their end results.

A memoir typically covers one aspect of a writer’s life (or a continuous theme through memories), while an autobiography is a chronological account of the writer’s life.

So if you want to write a play-by-play of your entire life from the moment you popped into this world to the very second you started writing, you’d write an autobiography.

But if you’re looking to share a profound message with the world through your own real-life experiences, you’ll write a memoir.

Memoir Meaning and Influence

Writing a memoir can not only be a valuable experience for you, but the impact it may have on other people is astounding too.

You have a life worth something. You have experiences that led you to a very specific place in life, and you know what?

Others have undoubtedly been in your shoes before and will benefit from your journey.

Essentially, you can teach others how to get through what you did or even how to learn from their own journeys just as you have yours.

That’s the meaning of a memoir and its influence knows no bounds.

How to Write a Memoir

Writing a memoir can be difficult simply because it’s about your life. Somehow, we find it too hard to put our own lives into words through a meaningful message.

How do you really sum up an accumulation of years and years of experience in only a couple hundred pages?

We’ll help you learn how to write a memoir worth reading.

#1 – Choose your focus or theme

A memoir isn’t just a list of all the experiences in your life. If it were, you’d call it an autobiography.

What sets memoirs apart from a simple retelling of your life is an overarching theme or message that others can take away from it – and that you personally learned from the stories you share.

Think about what you want others to take away from reading your memoir.

What will they learn or realize or gain from reading about your life? You can ask yourself those very same questions about your life to find the answer.

What have you learned throughout your life? What’s the number 1 message that your experiences have taught you?

Once you have that big, broad idea, the real work begins.

#2 – List all associating memories

It’s time to do a little mind mapping.

Now that you know the overall theme and message of your memoir and what will set it apart, you have to connect the dots of your life to that core focus.

Here are a few areas to think about specifically to help jog some of those memories:

  • Childhood influenceshow to write a memoir memories checklist
  • Grade school
  • Teenage years
  • First job/s
  • First love/s
  • Parents
  • Siblings/family
  • Friends
  • College/post high school
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Failures
  • Successes
  • Regrets
  • Resentments

There are so many areas that have a direct influence over how you perceive life as a whole. You just have to do a little digging to spark some specific memories that can circle back to the overarching theme of your memoir.

#3 – Add others’ related stories

I know this is a book about your life but it never hurts to back up your own experiences with someone else’s – or many other people’s.

Knowing how to write a memoir involves knowing when your message will be loudest. And that’s often with additional stories from others. 

One of the most powerful connections you can make to benefit from the message of your memoir is to show your readers that it’s not just you.

Others have gone through the same situations you have and came out with the same perspective.

This one requires some extensive research (and maybe even an interview or two), but possessing the ability to be credible in your readers’ eyes is crucial. And obviously, you’ll want to make sure you’re using their experiences legally in your memoir.

You can even interview family or friends who might see an experience you share differently than you.

Adding those details will strengthen your core message.

how to write a memoir content checklist

#4 – Write truthfully

One of the hardest parts about writing a memoir is the fact that we tend to be a wee bit biased with ourselves.

*Gasp* You don’t say!

It’s true. Nobody really likes to admit their faults.

It’s one thing to recognize when you were wrong in life, it’s another to actually write it down for the world to see.

It’s hard. We want everyone to see the best version of ourselves and therefore, we leave out details or flat out lie to seem “better” in their eyes.

But that’s not what makes a good memoir.

In order to learn how to write a memoir that really touches people in deep, emotional ways, you have to learn to be honest.

#5 – Show, don’t tell

No, this doesn’t mean you have to write a picture book. That’s not what “show” means in this case.

When it comes to creating intrigue with your writing – and trust me, you want to do this, especially for a memoir – you have to write by showing, not telling.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll just give you an overview of this writing technique, but if you’re interested in mastering the ability to pull readers in, you can check out this detailed explanation.

Essentially, showing versus telling is the way in which you describe your experiences with an emphasis on emotion.

But that doesn’t mean you should write down every feeling you had during a specific time. In fact, that’s what you want to avoid.

We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here’s a great video outlining this method 

#6 – Get vulnerable

Memoirs are not a time to distance yourself from your inner feelings.

Quite the opposite, actually.

It’s time to dig deep and show the world what kind of author you are through your life experiences by getting vulnerable.

Open yourself up to the truth behind who you are today. If you shield yourself in any way, it’s going to be obvious on the pages of your memoir and therefore, not as effective.

At first, you may want to cringe while writing certain memories but after a few days, you’ll find it easier to share your truth.

And best of all? You’ll be happy you did.

#7 – Make connections with each story

You have your focus, right? Having that overarching message is going to help you tie all of your memories together in a cohesive manner.

Each story you tell – whether it’s yours or someone else’s – has to connect to your focus in order for that theme to come across to your readers.

But they don’t all have to directly relate to your focus.

Some experiences may have led you to moments of realization that then led you to other events that tie into the main message you want others to gain from reading your memoir.

Think of it this way: you want to connect the dots so by the time the reader is finished, the message comes full circle.

#8 – Talk about how everything affects your life today

Usually, writing a memoir is about looking back on your life and determining how you made it to who you are today. What events lead to the very core of who you are right now?

That means your memoir will include inside peeks into your life as you live it now.

Each chapter should bring your readers back to your present-day life and how each memory affected where you are today.how to write a memoir with personality

#9 – Put your personality into it

Nobody wants to read a stiff retelling of your life.

I’m sorry, but I’m not really. I’m here to help. And that means I have to be real with you and tell you that people want to hear your personality!

They’re reading about your life and that means they want more of you in the writing. Learning how to write a memoir includes figuring out how to put more of you into the pages.

Don’t be afraid to write how you speak. Talk to them as if you were talking to a friend.

Here are a few ways you can add more personality into your memoir:

  • Tell jokes
  • Use cuss words (if that’s how you really speak!)
  • Add your personal lingo (we all have phrases we use regularly)
  • Italicize words you emphasize when speaking
  • If you have the urge to write something you think is funny or witty, do it!

You want your readers to gain a sense of who you are not only through your stories but through the voice in your writing as well.

#10 Write a memoir you’d want to read

How do you ensure others will like our memoir? Write it in a way that makes it an entertaining read for yourself!

This has a lot to do with putting your own personality into it but it’s also about crafting the structure of your novel in an entertaining manner, too.

Even though this is a memoir, there should still be a climax to keep readers intrigued. This would be when your life came to a head; where you struggled but was able to pull yourself out of the trenches and forge your own path.

How to Start a Memoir

We all know the very beginning of every book is important. Writing a strong introduction is everything.

Without the ability to hook readers, convincing someone to buy and read your book will be a bit harder than anticipated.

That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you learn how to start a memoir that’s captivating and intriguing.

Let’s draw those readers in!

how to write a memoir starter kit

#1 – Be relatable

Nobody wants to read a book that’s preachy or condescending.

One major mistake many make when writing a memoir is not starting it off in a way that makes the readers connect with them.

This is one of the most important aspects of your memoir.

Do you really think people will want to read about a person’s life if they can’t relate to them?

Think about when you were most invested in a book (or even a TV show or movie). What did you like most? Could you relate to the author or the characters?

Did you understand their pain and triumph and hardships?

This is typically the best way to not only create invested readers but to gain fans. When others relate to you and see themselves in your journey, they’ll want to stick around to see how it plays out.

And that means they’ll read your whole book and any others you write.

#2 – Use emotion by showing, not telling

If you want to give a play-by-play of your life with nothing more than a list of experiences you’ve gone through, that’s fine.

Just know that doing it that way won’t hook your readers and it certainly won’t keep them.

A memoir can be a powerful tool for educating others through your life journeys, but if they’re not intrigued enough to keep reading, it’ll render your memoir pointless.

And we don’t want that.

By showing and not telling, you’ll put more emotion into your writing. This technique might sound confusing but it’s actually quite easy once you learn how to do it.

Here are the basics for showing versus telling:

  • Use fewer tell words like “I heard,” “I felt,” “I smelled,” “I saw,” to bring readers closer
  • Stop explaining emotions and instead explain physical reactions of those emotions (If you want to say “I was scared,” describe your heart hammering against your chest or the sweat beading your forehead instead)
  • Describe body language in more detail
  • Use “strong” language that coincides with the emotions you’re trying to convey (writing “crashed to the floor” instead of “fell to the floor” creates more impact)

This writing method can be tricky to master but thankfully, there are countless resources to help you figure it out.

how to write a memoir with show don't tell

#3 – Make the message clear right away

What is it you’re trying to say through your memoir? Why did you want to start writing one in the first place?

Everybody has an interesting life if you look deep enough. What you have to determine is how your life experiences can aid and shape the lives of others.

Think about how that will manifest from what you’ve lived through before and make sure your readers know what it is from the start (which can also be done through a powerful book title).

How to Write a Memoir Tips from the Experienced

The best advice you can receive is from someone who’s done it before. These Self-Publishing School students (and graduates!) have first-hand knowledge when it comes to the difficulties of writing your life down on paper.

Here’s what these memoir writers want you to know.

#1 – Write from the heart

Christopher Moss, author of Hope Over Anxiety, says the best way to write your memoir is to be open about your experiences.

“Write from the heart. Show people your experience. Be as vulnerable and honest as you can. If it scares you a little, what you are writing that’s good. The reader has to feel what you are going through.”

#2 – Don’t be afraid to go with the flow

Lou A. Vendetti, who’s in the thick of writing and working toward publication of his memoir, has a few pieces of advice for you.

“Do not be afraid to deviate. If your book doesn’t follow your outline one hundred percent, then that’s okay! Don’t feel like you have to only talk about what’s in your outline. You are the author; you are the publisher, so you are the one making all of the decisions (sounds scary, huh?). In the beginning, I thought it was.”

“Don’t think that the memoir is supposed to be ‘formal.’ As an example, I use contractions in mine, which would not necessarily be used in a nonfiction book. Yes, I wanted my book to be professional, but I didn’t want to make it sound like I’m not ‘on my audience’s level.’ I wanted to keep my voice and make it as if I’m talking to my audience; as if I’m having a conversation with them.”

#3 – Review old photos and videos

Toni Crowe, author of Never a $7 Whore, says it’s best to relive your memories the best you can through photos and videos.

“My advice to new memoir writers is to take the time to review any old documents or photos that exist and to pull those memories out to examine. Doing this during the map mapping process helped me immensely.”

Telling Your Story, Your Way

The biggest takeaway here is that this is your story, it’s your life, and therefore, it should be told just as you want it to be.

There’s nothing more freeing than having the ability to articulate your life experiences in a way that will truly speak to others and potentially change their lives.

Do you want to change lives and help others through the same turmoil you’ve experienced?

By self-publishing your memoir, you’ll be rewarded for all of your honest hard work with more than just additional income.

You will be responsible for changing and shaping the lives of others.

 What to do Next

The work doesn’t just stop when you learn how to write a memoir.

In fact, it’s just beginning! Here are a few steps you can use to start your memoir and make some progress.

#1 – Determine your overarching message

You already know how important this is and how to discover it. Now it’s time to actually start right now!

Grab a piece of paper (or open a Word Doc, whichever you prefer) and quickly jot down some single words or phrases of the first ideas that pop into your mind when you think about the way you live your life.

They could be as simple as these:

  • Free
  • Against society
  • Helping others
  • Self-gain
  • Unique
  • Nontraditional
  • Love wholly

I think you get the idea. These are very basic concepts of how people choose to live that may have taken some learning to get to.

What are yours?

#2 – Start your mind map [FREE DOWNLOAD!]

This is where it all starts!

You have the very core of what your memoir will encompass. Let’s start that mind map!

I’ve attached a free downloadable mind map template specifically for a memoir you can use to brainstorm the memories and stories you’ll include.

You can fill this out on your computer or print it out if you’re the type who benefits from writing details down.

Once this is done, you can start outlining your memoir!

→ FREE DOWNLOAD OF OUR MEMOIR MIND MAP TEMPLATE HERE

how to write a Memoir Mind Map template

#3 – Learn more!

Memoirs can be tricky. How do you actually ensure people will buy your book?

Doing some extended research into what it really takes to write, market, and publish a book will put you ahead of the curve.

Which is exactly why Chandler Bolt created this FREE Webinar Training to show you his exact methods for writing and self-publishing not one, but 6 bestselling books.

Don’t miss out! Make sure to save your spot because the more you know, the better your chances of having success with your memoir!

Sign up here!

 

Are you ready to start your memoir? If not, what’s stopping you from turning your life experiences into an everlasting footprint in the literary world?

Book Outline: 11 Ways to Outline Your Book self-publishingschool book outline

Book Outline: How to Outline A Book with 11 Key Steps for Success

Outlining. That word may conjure images of 7th Grade English, scribbling at your desk in frustration while a stern teacher looks over your shoulder as you try to learn how to outline.

A book outline can be almost as intimidating as that teacher’s blatant glare.

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. But have no fear! You’re a grown-up now, and this project isn’t being graded, which means learning how to outline a book can (wane will!) be pain-free.

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.

Us at Self-Publishing School? We love this tried-and-true Mindmap to Outline procedure

What is a Book Outline?

book outlineIt’s easy to see this term and wonder exactly what that means. Is it a bullet list of topics for your book? Is it a chapter by chapter overview written in paragraphs?

No matter how you write an outline, the purpose is the same.

A book outline is a roadmap for your story.

It tells you where you need to go and when. Think of it as a GPS of sorts but instead of giving you driving directions, your outline will give you writing directions.

 

Why Should I Write a Book Outline?

No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. It’s not just about getting your thoughts on the paper, either. It’s about so much more than the actual writing.

Outlines can do a number of things for you:

You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time learning how to outline a book, 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!

And 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.

book outline mindmap

Mindmap by Sonia Weyers

Are you writing a fiction or non-fiction book? Depending on which you’re working on, the outlining process may look be different.

Thankfully, 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 books 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. These are some of the beneficial methods we recommend for you.

#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.

We also recommend doing a mindmap for each chapter you select from your original mindmap. It will help you structure your entire book chapter by chapter.

Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless!

book outline mindmap

Mindmap by Camille Nelson

At Self-Publishing School, we encourage students to make a mess with their mindmap. Regardless of what your mind map looks like in the end, it is an essential element to your book writing process.

This mind map will be the jumping off point for you to begin your outline. In this brief video, Chandler explains how to turn your mindmap into an outline:

#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 simplify 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 a color medium on canvas-sized paper.

Others find satisfaction in sketching ideas with dry erase markers on a whiteboard or the old-fashioned feel of chalk on a 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 learn more about the program and its uses here or check out this tutorial for an overview.

How to Outline a Novel in 6 Ways

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, the 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 doodle 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!

book outline: how to outline your book

Post-It wall by Wendy Van de Poll

#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 backward to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.

For more ideas and creatives ways to jump-start your novel outline, check out How to Write a Novel Outline.

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 and try another. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.”

Discover what works best for you and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.

Get Started on Your Outline By Signing Up for Your FREE Training!

Make sure to take advantage of this free training. It will take you through everything you need to go from blank page to published author in as little as 90 days! You’ll have your outline started before your training is even finished.

Click right here to sign up to save your spot!

how to publish an ebook free training

Are you an outliner? What’s the best method you’ve used and how did it help you the most?

Show Don’t Tell in Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Finally Getting it Right

When you start writing a book, it’s as if everyone around you becomes the expert. You’ll hear that you should show don’t tell, start with action, or even embellish your stories to sound “better.”

People start spitting advice in your face like they’ve been through it all before even though most of them have hardly even thought about writing a book, let alone put forth an ounce of work to get started with tips like show don’t tell.

So how do you know which advice is garbage and which you should actually take?

It’s safe to say that the idea of showing not telling is one all writers should pay close attention to.

Show don’t tell in writing is a piece of advice that’s been around for longer than you might realize. Even if it didn’t have a phrase attached to it yet, the best authors out there have been using it for the duration of their careers (and even before, most likely).

In fact, it’s why they’re known as the best writers of all time.

But although these writers knew how to bring their writing to life instinctually, not all of us are so lucky. We have to learn the process of show don’t tell, which can be tricky if you don’t know where to start.

show don't tell

What does show don’t tell mean?

At a first glance, this writing rule could be confused for the best day in Kindergarten when you bring your pet lizard in to show the class.

show don't tell in writingBut in actuality, show don’t tell refers to the way in which you describe the experience you (or your character) went through.

It’s about showing the actions and relationships and feelings instead of just telling the reader what happened. This creates a much deeper connection and brings readers closer to you (or the main character).

And that makes them feel deeper and stronger about the story. It creates empathy and invests the reader – which is exactly what you need

Writing your book introduction with an abundance of showing not telling is a powerful way to draw readers in for the duration of your entire book.

But this technique is much easier shown than told (hehe – see what I did there?).

Show Don’t Tell Examples:

These examples are pretty basic but that’s the best way to gain an understanding of what this looks like. Keep in mind that your sentences may be more complex than these examples, but still full of “tell” words or phrases.

Be on the lookout for the details.

Example #1:

Tell – “I heard footsteps creeping behind me and it made the whole situation scarier.”

Show – “Crunching hit my ears from behind, accelerating the already rampant pounding of my heart against my ribs.”

Why it’s better – In an instance such as this, you want the reader to feel what you did: the surprise and the sense of urgency, the fear. Describing the crunching that hit your ears even through the pounding of your heart not only creates a powerful visual, but it also tells the reader the state your body was in during that intense moment. The first example is weak and does little to explain how you actually felt in that moment.

Example #2:

Tell – “She was my best friend. I could tell her almost anything.”

Show – “I met her at the town square, running in for our usual hug that carried on for far too long as we gushed about our lives with smiles lighting our faces.”

Why it’s better – The first example of telling is shorter, but it doesn’t do a great job of really showing the impact you have on each other. Anyone can think of “best friend” and form an overall thought about what that looks like. But this isn’t just “anyone.” This is your best friend. Showing your relationship with one another is vital to forging that deeper connection.

Why should you show don’t tell in writing?

The entire point of showing versus telling in writing is to make a stronger emotional connection with your readers and hook them.

They already picked up your book for the killer title and eye-grabbing cover, but they need a reason to stay.

The idea behind this writing technique is to put the reader in your shoes. Make them feel, hear, and sense the situation as you did.

It’s about creating an experience for the reader instead of just a recount of events.

Doing this makes the reader want to root for you. They want to hear your whole story and in turn, they’ll read your whole book.

Why is showing not telling important for non-fiction specifically?

If you write fiction, you hear this advice all the time. However, all of you non-fiction writers out there, this piece of writing advice might be new to you.

Show don’t tell isn’t always the first thing a non-fiction writer thinks of when it comes to adding more intrigue to your story.

But it is the most vital for pulling your reader in and not only hooking them, but keeping them with you throughout the duration of your book.

Many fiction writers hear this writing advice often because it’s one of the best ways to make real people feel deeply for fictional characters.

When it comes to writing a story about your life and something you went through, the idea is the same. By showing and not telling, you’ll be able to guide them through your real-life situation as an experience and not just some book they’re reading while the kids are yelling at their video games and the oven alarm is blaring in the distance.

If you can show don’t tell the right way, the reader won’t even notice those distractions.

show don't tell

How to Show Don’t Tell in Writing

So now you know what it is and why it’s important, but how the heck do you actually do it? The process of taking a single story and crafting it to create more emotion can be difficult.

Thankfully, we have some of the best tips for showing not telling in writing.

#1 – Get rid of all basic sensory words

Phrases like, “I heard,” “I felt,” and “I smelled,” are all very weak. These are “telling” words and phrases that force the reader further away from you and your experience.

That’s exactly what you want to avoid.

Instead, you need to pull them into your world and into your psyche the very moment you were encountering the situation.

Writing Exercise #1:

Read through your writing and circle every telling word you can find. Anything that explains one of the 5 senses.

show don't tell writing exercise

Then write down specifics for each. If you heard someone creeping up behind you, how did you hear it? Was it crunching on gravel? Was it the shuffling of shoes against carpet?

show don't tell writing exercise

Once you have these, rewrite those sections by explaining how the senses manifested to you and not just what you sensed (detailed below in the next writing exercise).

#2 – Don’t use “emotion explaining” words

This might be a bit tricky and you certainly don’t have to follow this one 100% of the time, but if you can get this right, it’ll make showing versus telling so much easier to grasp.

Think of any word to describe an emotion. I’ll help you out a little:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Excited
  • Giddy
  • Love
  • Anxious
  • Joy
  • Disgust

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

These are all great words to describe how someone felt. However, they’re also very weak, unexciting ways to do so.

If you need your readers to understand how excited you were at any given time, show them. Don’t just tell them, “I was so excited!”

Show them the sweat beading your forehead as you raced to your destination. Show them the lifting of your cheeks as your lips parted way for an uncontrollable smile.

Writing Exercise #2:

Skim through your writing and circle every word that’s an emotion.

show don't tell writing exercise

Then, for every emotion-explaining word you find, write down physical reactions of feeling that way.

show don't tell writing exercise

Once you have a small list for each circled word, use it to craft a couple sentences to describe (and show!) just what that looked like.

show don't tell writing exercise

You can see the difference alone between these two paragraphs. By replacing all of the “telling” words and phrases, it develops into an experience for the reader and not just a retelling of what happened.

show don't tell writing exercise

#3 – Describe body language

One of the best ways you can show not tell in writing is to use strong descriptive language when it comes to body language.

A person’s actions are really a gateway to their mind and how they feel.

You can tell if another person has a crush on someone just by paying attention to the way their body adjusts when in that person’s presence, right?

Showing versus telling in writing is exactly that. You want to show the reader what is happening and allow them to form a conclusion about how you or others in your story felt based on what they look like.

In all honesty, a lot of this one is about having faith that your audience can put two and two together.

Oftentimes, we tend to over explain in an effort to make something obvious when really, the emotion is in the guesswork; it’s in allowing someone to draw their own conclusions. That over-explaining is what comes across as “telly” and not as emotionally compelling.

And honestly? It’s also pretty boring and flat.

If you do a great job of showing what you want readers to see, they’ll understand how someone feels – and they’ll even feel that way themselves.

That’s the power of showing not telling.

#4 – Use strong language

Showing itself can be extremely impactful, but using strong language and verbs in specific situations is even more powerful for adding depth to your story.

The way you make someone else actually feel how you did as you were going through the experience is to make sure the words you’re using directly reflect the emotions.

This can be a difficult task for those who aren’t sure what “strong language” looks likes, but I’ll make it easier for you.

Writing Exercise #3:

Think of a situation you want to explain in your book (or maybe something you already have written out).

show don't tell writing exercise 2

Now imagine what feeling you want to convey through that scene. What do you want your readers to take away from that specific moment in your story? List those emotions so you can see all of them.

show don't tell writing exercise 2

Take that list and start writing ways in which you can bring those emotions to life. What do those things mean for you? How would these emotions manifest during that specific time?

show don't tell writing exercise 2

Now take those stronger verbs and words that depict a deeper emotion and craft your sentence or paragraph with those to reflect how you truly felt.

show don't tell writing exercise 2

show don't tell writing exercise 2

How does this sentence make you feel? Do you feel comfort, relaxation, and a sense that I love being there?

That was the purpose.

It’s about taking one specific idea or vibe or feeling and using what you know to transform it into something that’s showing not telling.

This specific example for show don’t tell can be a little time-consuming at first, but you will get the hang of it and these methods will soon become second nature to you.

What to do Next?

Show don’t tell can be difficult to master unless you’re constantly thinking about it. But because this specific writing skill is vital for building strong emotional connections, you have to implement this information.

Here’s what you can do going forward.

#1 – Practice

There are 3 writing exercises listed above. As you write going forward, keep showing not telling in the forefront of your mind to foster a more compelling emotional connection.

You can use these exercises every single time you sit down to write or you can take a day of editing to go through each section you think needs more showing.

If your manuscript is finished and you’re ready for a full self-edit, these exercises are also extremely helpful editing guidelines.

Either way, practicing will help this technique become easy and even natural – which will allow you to write more, faster.

#2 – Watch for it in books you read

You’ll quickly learn that any good books you’ve read that make you feel something will have an abundance of show don’t tell examples.

If you’re okay with scribbling in your books, you can even highlight examples to learn from when you feel stuck.

Not only will doing this help you to recognize these instances more, you’ll also get better at writing it yourself. The easier showing not telling is for you, the stronger your writing will be.

#3 – Learn more!

You can’t have too much knowledge when it comes to writing and publishing.

If you’re looking to start writing a book or need help getting started, tune into Chandler Bolt’s FREE Webinar Training where he takes you through everything you need to know to get started.

show don't tell webinar training

Being informed and increasing your writing knowledge is essential because the more you know, the better your writing, and in turn, the better your book will be.

Let’s get your story heard!

Are you a master of show don’t tell or are you just getting started? Let us know what works best for you when it comes to forging a deeper connection with your readers through your writing!

book launch

Book Launch: How to Run Yours Like a Pro & Sell More Books

“Build it and they will come” is advice that rarely works when trying to sell books. Amazon is full of self-published books that have barely made any sales, leaving many writers dejected.

If you want your books to succeed, to get into the hands of your readers, to potentially achieve bestseller status…. you need a book launch plan.

After all, you’ve already spent months (or even years) crafting your manuscript. You’ve also spent a small fortune on a book cover, hiring an editor, proofreading, formatting, and other related expenses.

The last thing you need after all you’ve invested is for your book to fail, to make exactly zero sales.

(Okay you might make a few, to friends and family. But that’s not why you wrote your book, right?)

If you have a book, or are looking to write a book, and are already thinking about promotion, then this is for you. Contrary to what you might expect, launching a book isn’t hard, and it doesn’t need to break the bank (although you do need to invest some money).

By focusing on the minimal book launch strategy I’ll outline here, you’ll avoid being overwhelmed and launch your book on Amazon like a pro.

We’ll guide you through how to:

  • Price your book during launch
  • Set up your complete launch strategy during soft launch
  • Collect reviews from your launch team
  • Set your book up with the best promo sites for both paid and free
  • Stick to a minimalist launch plan

book launch

Pre Book Launch Checklist

Before you go any further, there are a few things you need to do in between finishing your manuscript and launching your book. I put together a 13-point checklist of these action items.

You don’t need to carry them out with perfection since they can be tweaked later. But don’t launch your book without doing them.

  • Book Description — Create your book description using the Book Description Generator at Kindlepreneur.com.
  • Keywords — Select 7 keywords for your book. I use KDP Rocket and Kindlespy. There is also Merchant Words and Google AdWords.
  • Categories — Choose 2 main categories for your book in the KDP dashboard. Once your book is live you can email Amazon and request to have your book put into eight additional categories.
  • Landing Page — Create a landing page for your book. This can be used to collect email addresses and give away a chapter of your book before its release (optional).
  • Upload Manuscript — Upload your manuscript to KDP. Proofread your book using the KDP online previewer.
  • Upload Cover — Upload your Kindle cover to KDP.
  • Launch Price — Set your launch price at 0.99.
  • Lead Magnet — Insert a lead magnet into your book, both at the front and back. Connect this to your email list provider such as Mailchimp or ConvertKit.
  • Audiobook (Optional) — Get your audiobook created. Plan to release your book through Audible or ACX.
  • Paperback — Get your paperback version created. You can set up your paperback at CreateSpace. Optional: Your paperback can be launched after the Kindle release.
  • Emails — Pre-write emails that you’ll send to your launch team.
  • GoodreadsGoodreads account created and author profile setup. Your book will end up there either way, so it’s worth setting up an account to associate the book with.
  • Launch Plan Model — Map out the specific action steps you are taking for each day of your launch. I have provided a model for this further down the post.

Just like there are a variety of business models to choose from when planning your venture, there are a variety of book launch strategies to choose from.

For example, you could follow Steve Scott’s 5-Day Launch Plan That Works which he used to effectively launch the bestselling book 10-Minute Digital Declutter that he co-authored with Barrie Davenport. Or you could emulate Nick Loper, of Side Hustle Nation fame, and his successful launch strategy which sold 2600+ copies of his book Buy Buttons. There’s even the detailed launch plan of Rob Cubbon, the author of The New Freedom.

book launch checklist

These are all plans that work because of one thing:

They are strategic in their planning and strategic in their execution.

However, while there seems to be a lot of steps, an effective book launch plan isn’t complicated. Your launch plan will depend largely on:

  1. Your objectives and purpose.
  2. Your platform. The bigger your platform and access to influencers, the bigger (and more diverse) your launch.

In the strategy I’ll show you, I keep things simple. It’s a 12-day launch, including a 3-day free promo through Amazon.

If you’ve ticked everything on that checklist, then it’s time to hit publish on your book and to start your launch strategy.

But, before we dive into that, there are a few things you need to know about Amazon’s algorithm as it informs your book launch strategy.

The Amazon Algorithm: A Few Basics for Your Book Launch

Amazon uses an algorithm to measure and track book sales, and everything else on their platform. It’s worth remembering that Amazon wants you to succeed: if you make money, Amazon makes money. Knowing a few basics of it can help you to have a greater launch and to sustain the life of your book for months (and years) after the launch buzz wears off.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

Your book starts ranking as soon as someone buys a copy. Every purchase of your book pushes the ranking up the ladder. As a book moves up, it jumps ahead of the other books in your selected category. The rankings are based on recent sales and Amazon favors a book that is getting consistent, ongoing sales.

A book that runs a promo and gets 200 sales in one day, but then nothing else for the week, will not perform as well as a book that gets the same number of downloads over the course of a ten-day period.

Slow, steady traffic and a long-term plan is the way to succeed with your book.

Steady, organic growth will always outperform a sudden burst of downloads.

It’s worth noting also that while reviews and the price of your book do not affect your sales rank, they’re still worth having. The more quality reviews you have, the more credible your book will be to shoppers. This affects their decision-making power to buy, which translates into more downloads and an increase in sales rank. Focus on getting as many quality reviews as you can during this launch phase. Then, continue to work on getting reviews from organic traffic.

With that out of the way, let’s look at two necessary steps you need to do before you promote your book.

book launch

Setting Up Your Amazon Bestseller

There’s a very specific formula to follow during your book launch that will have you hitting those Amazon bestseller lists. And you definitely want to become a bestseller so you can increase your sales and maintain your position at the top.

The $0.99 Launch Strategy

I know what you’re thinking, “$0.99? Why would I essentially give my book away for free? I didn’t get into this business to fulfill the starving artist stereotype.”

I know how you feel, but trust me, there’s a good reason for launching it at this price. You may be selling it at a super-low point now, but the rewards are coming later. Remember: think long term. It’s better to have a book that has steady sales in the long term than to just have a burst of downloads now, then zero in the future.

Action Item: Go to the KDP dashboard and set your book at $0.99. With the exception of the free promo period (which we’ll get to shortly), your book will be at $0.99 for the duration of the launch.

The Free Book Launch Strategy

I mentioned that our strategy will have a 3-day free launch. Setting this up is easy. If you plan to run a free promo for your book, you can set this up as soon as your book is live on Amazon. To run a free promotion, your book has to be enrolled in the KDP Select program for 90 days.

A book that is listed for free will be ranked in the free store and books set at a price are ranked in the paid store.

If you don’t have a following (email list) or you are just getting started, I suggest you do the free promo. The free promo gets your book into more hands (that will hopefully read it) and increases its visibility across more platforms.

Action Item: Go to the KDP dashboard, and under “Kindle eBook Actions,” enroll into the KDP Select program. While enrolled in the KDP select program your book has to be exclusive to the Kindle Store.

Book Promotion Sites: Free and Paid

When launching your book, especially during your free promo, you want to put it into the hands of as many readers as possible. Amazon ranks your book in the free store based on how many downloads it gets.

The higher you rank, the more downloads you’ll get from Amazon browsers. Which means to maximize your launch, you need an initial surge of readers that don’t come from Amazon.

This is where book promotion sites come in. You can use them for both your paid and free launch. In the launch scenario later on in the post, I’ll show you how to batch these sites together to give your book the boost it needs.

An aside if you have a healthy email list: you won’t need to rely on these sites as much. This is especially beneficial for authors who are just starting out and don’t yet have a strong platform.

Keep in mind that results vary for each site and your performance will largely depend on your book’s quality. You still need the essentials: a great cover, a compelling book description, and an eye-catching book title.

Below is a list of my favorites that I have personally used, in combination with an email list to launch multiple bestsellers. You can also check out Dave Chesson’s blog on this as he covers the best sites to use for both free and paid.

The price for each promo site varies depending on the niche and category.

The Best Book Launch Promo Sites

  1. Buckbooks. If you can get onto any of these promo sites, Buckbooks is the one you want to try to get into. You need 10 reviews before they’ll schedule you. Note: You can promote the 2nd book on the same day for only 25% of the price. Great deal. But you can only promote once every 6 months for each book. If you use their Archangel Ink book production services you’ll get a guaranteed placement.
  2. Robin Reads — (need 10 reviews and a 4.9 rating) Takes a couple days to get approved ($55). Great results. I usually get anywhere from 60-100 downloads with this one. https://robinreads.com/author-signup/ Note: They have a calendar that is usually booked out weeks in advance. In this case, consider using Robin Reads for future promos of existing books already launched.
  3. BookSends — $40. If you can match this up with Robin Reads or Bucks on the same day it’s a great little boost. https://booksends.com/
  4. BKnights (Fiverr) You can’t go wrong for $5. I would also take the extra gig for $5 and get in on their daily newsletter. Downloads average 12-30 depending on the book.
  5. eReader News — Great gig but hard to get approved at times. takes several days for a response. Various prices. https://ereadernewstoday.com/
  6. Booksbutterfly. You are basically paying for downloads, one of the few (if only) sites that do that. They have various packages for everything. I recommend the Silver Eagle ($90) that gets you 50+ downloads + KU borrows. (https://www.booksbutterfly.com/bookpromo…/paidbookpromotion/)
  7. The Fussy Librarian (https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/). Great promo but very hard to book in advance. They are usually booked out 2-3 weeks ahead. Need 10 reviews to get accepted. Various price ranges. Strong results.
  8. Bargain Booksy. I love this one, no reviews needed and you can sign up right away and get approved. $25 for nonfiction. Lots of categories and good results. https://www.bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/
  9. eBooks Habit. Great little promo, I recommend the guaranteed placement for $10. https://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
  10. Awesome Gang. This one is great for the price, $10. They have a free option but go with the paid. https://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/
  11. Many Books. Great little gig, average returns, $29. You can also sign up to become a featured author. https://manybooks.net/promote
  12. Digital Book Today ($40). Good gig, average returns and works better with fiction than non-fiction. https://digitalbooktoday.com/
  13. eBook Stage. Another great little promo site, reasonably priced. $10. https://ebookstage.com/
  14. Book Runes (https://bookrunes.com/). Global reach with over 50k mailing list, $25. Average to very good results.
  15. BookBub. This is by far the biggest and the best promo site. Very tough to get accepted and it is expensive, but worth every dime. At the very least you should set up an Author profile on BookBub and start to get people to follow you. They have a great blog too that gives powerful tips on how to get a BookBub feature. https://insights.bookbub.com
  16. Email your list (if you have one). if you don’t, BUILD one. This is by far better than all of the promo sites combined. If you don’t have a list yet, start building one with Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Convertkit.

The Book Launch Sequence and Set-Up

To keep things simple, I’m giving you an example of a book launch that covers 12 days. This is similar to the launch that I did for my book Relaunch Your Life, except that I didn’t run a free promo. However, for this post, I will look at how to include a free promo as well.

Your launch will look and perform differently than this, but you can use this as a model and tweak as required. This launch assumes you are launching your book at $0.99 with a free promo set up through KDP for 2-3 days.

What is the difference between a soft launch and the actual launch?

I use the term soft launch below, which is different from your actual book launch. Your soft launch begins from the moment you hit publish.

As Amazon takes about 24 hours to set up your book, I recommend hitting the publish button at least 24 hours before you begin your actual launch. For example, if your launch plan beings on a Sunday, then publish your book on a Saturday.

book launch model

The 12-Day Book Launch Model

Ready for your book launch? In this book launch model we use 3 days for our soft launch window, and then begin the actual launch on day 4.

Day 1: First Day of Soft Book Launch

The first day of your soft launch is critical. This is the day when you are going to set up your book to successfully launch over the next 11 days. The price point is set at $0.99.

Here is a brief checklist of what to do on day 1 of the soft launch:

  1. Create your Amazon Author Page. Set up your bio and upload an author pic.
  2. Claim your book by hitting the ‘add more books’ tab. This will appear on your author page within 24 hours.
  3. Email your launch team. Let them know the book is ready for verified reviews.
  4. Email Amazon customer support. Request that your book is placed in additional categories.
  5. Set up a few promo sites for days 2 or 3 while your book is at 0.99. This starts to build momentum. Recommended Awesome Gang, Bknights, and Booksbutterfly.
  6. As soon as you have ten reviews, set up the rest of your promo sites for the week. Not all of these promo sites require a set number of reviews. Check the list for links to the sites and submission requirements.
  7. Set up your Free promo in the KDP dashboard. Your free promo will be 2-3 days. This will start on day 4 (or however long you decide to run your soft launch). If you do a 5-day soft launch your free promo will start on day 6. Set up several paid promo sites to advertise your book for free. Although your book is free, the promos will cost you.

For your free promo on days 4-5 contact:

If you combine these promo sites with the organic traffic you’ll get from Amazon, you should do very well for free downloads.

Day 2-3: Soft Book Launch (Optional: You can extend this up to 5 days)

Social media burst to your FB page, mastermind groups, and other sources to spread the word. Don’t forget about other social platforms with large reader audiences like Twitter and Tumblr.

Day 4-6: FREE Promo

The promotional sites you got in touch with on day 1 will be advertising your book. Send an email to your team to notify them that your book is now free. Promote to social media!

Day 7-10: Paid Promo Sites

Run paid promo sites recommended from the list above. You can cluster these a day apart or combine 2-3 promos a day.

Day 11-12: Winding Down the Book Launch

If you followed the plan you should have had a considerable number of downloads for both your free promo and your $0.99 promo. Remember that your numbers will vary depending on your platform, book quality, niche, and sometimes, luck.

Email your list and remind them the book will be 0.99 for only one more day. Contact your launch team and thank them for reviews and their support.

This is the last call for reviews and downloads.

Day 13: Increase the Price to $2.99

Leave it there for one week and raise it to $3.99. You can test the pricing by going up to $4.99 and watching what happens. Monitor the sales and adjust accordingly.

I usually spend around $300-$400 per launch minimum on promo sites but how much you spend is up to you. Stagger them out over the course of 10-12 days.

Beyond the Book Launch

One of the biggest challenges authors have is where to go after the initial book launch is over.

How do you promote, market, and keep bringing in traffic so that your book doesn’t drop off into oblivion? Here are two things you can focus on:

#1 – Write another book

Multiple books create momentum. Look at the army of fans that Game of Thrones had before the TV Show launched. How did George R.R Martin build that? By setting up and writing the books as a series. Do you have a series of books you could write? A series is a great way to build your brand, a list, and to keep traffic growing with increased interest in your books.

#2 – Build your business on the back end

Create a business around your book with coaching, a course, or an automated email course that gets readers engaged after they are finished your book. They want to know more about you and so, if you have a business set up to kick in for subscribers, this is the start of what could be a great author business.

Wrap Up

Launching a book is a combination of strategy, imagination, and hard work. If you have a great book to promote and a team of people (a small team will do) backing you up, you can have a great launch that gets your book into the hands of your market.

With every book launch, there is more to learn. If you keep launching, you’ll get better. And as you get better, you’ll get more fans. Eventually, you can turn your launch into a massive movement with thousands of fans standing behind you pushing your book towards New York Times Bestseller status or get featured in The Wall Street Journal.

Imagine that.

book launch

What to do Next!

It’s not enough to just launch your book and leave it be. In truth, you should always be looking for new, better ways to maintain your book sales. Here’s what you can do right now to make a difference during your book launch.

#1 – Build a valuable launch team

Your book launch will only be as successful as the work you put into it. That includes the team you have assisting.

Building a launch team is essential but it’s also important to make sure that team is not only willing to help, but willing to go above and beyond for you because they believe in your book and your work.

Make sure you choose top-notch individuals who really want to push for your book. This will help you book launch reach heights you never imagined.

#2 – Learn more!

The learning never stops – not when it comes to this ever-changing (yet growing) field of self-publishing. And in order to stay ahead of the curve, you have to continue to invest in your knowledge.

Join Chandler Bolt on his FREE Webinar Training as he takes you through just what it takes to write, market, and publish your book. This webinar is full of valuable information that will only help you find success in your journey as an author.

Don’t miss out! Save your spot today!

What are some of your biggest concerns when it comes to your book launch? Comment below so we can help you out!

how to copyright a book

How to Copyright a Book – Understanding Copyright Law as an Author

Knowing how to copyright a book — the right way — is something that scares the crap out of most authors!

A lot of us get caught up in a confusing haze of copyright laws, infringement, and wondering how to stay out of hot water with the law and angry lawyers (okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic) while also protecting our book babies. Learning how to copyright a book can help alleviate all of that worry.

With the explosion of self-publishing, authors must be aware of what they can and can’t do when it comes to quoting, borrowing, and publishing works from other authors.

We’ll give you all the information and resources you need to protect yourself and your own work from being misused or stolen while keeping you from committing the same crimes against your fellow authors.

We’ll also look at the most frequently asked questions authors ask when it comes to copyright concerns, for both their own works and when borrowing from other sources.

It all begins with creating the copyright page in your book.

How to Copyright a Book: Your Copyright Page

The copyright page will appear in your book right after the title page and just before the table of contents. The copyright page needs to include some essential information in order to copyright your book.

The main components of your copyright page are:

  • The copyright notice. This has the little © symbol or you can use the word “copyright.” So it would look like this: ©2018 Jane Doe
  • The year of publication of the book
  • The name of the owner of the works, which is usually the author or publishing house name
  • Ordering information
  • Reservation of rights
  • Copyright notice
  • Book editions
  • ISBN Number
  • Your website (You need a site where they can learn more about you, your other books, and other opportunities.)
  • Credits to the book (cover designer, editor)
  • Disclaimer

Disclaimers When Copyrighting Your Book

how to copyright a bookYou may not think you really need a disclaimer but it’s essential for protecting yourself and potentially others.

So how does a simple sentence or two do this?

If you are writing a book on health and fitness, success as an entrepreneur, providing financial advice—anything that readers could fail at—an extended disclaimer is something you should consider.

If you give advice on earning a million dollars this year, and the reader ends up losing money, you could be blamed for their misfortune because of a promise you made. Consider putting an extended disclaimer in your book that comes after the copyright jargon to protect your opinions, advice, and information.

In other words, tell readers that they are reading your book and applying your advice at their own risk. The thing to be aware of that most authors don’t realize is that these don’t have to be boring.

On the contrary, the more personality these have, the more likely they’ll be read.

A disclaimer is meant to protect you, but it can’t hurt if your audience actually reads it.

Helen Sedwick did a great job collecting examples of authors who got creative with their disclaimers and made their work all the better for it.

Let’s take a look at some specific examples of different types of disclaimers for different types of books.

#1 – Fiction Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in works of fiction?

The characters in this book are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

How could this be “livened” up? See how Thomas Wolf in A Man in Full, acknowledges that parts of his story are from real life:

This novel’s story and characters are fictitious. Certain long-standing institutions, agencies, and public offices are mentioned, but the characters involved are wholly imaginary.

Or Margaret Atwood in Cat’s Eye tries to dispel readers’ assumption that the book is the alter-ego of the writer:

This is a work of fiction. Although its form is that of an autobiography, it is not one. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

If you’ve written about a prominent figure that people might be familiar with and don’t want confusion over whether you’re now writing history or still sticking with fiction, you can approach it similar to D. M. Thomas dealt with using Freud as a character in The White Hotel:

The role played by Freud in this narrative is entirely fictional. My imagined Freud does, however, abide by the generally known facts of the real Freud’s life, and I have sometimes quoted from his works and letters, passim. The letters . . . and all the passages relating to psychoanalysis . . . have no factual basis.

how to copyright a book legal terms#2 – Nonfiction Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in works of nonfiction?

The advice and strategies found within may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that neither the author nor the publisher are held responsible for the results accrued from the advice in this book.

However, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks found a way to get her disclaimer to speak to the honesty of the text:

This is a work of nonfiction. No names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated.

#3 – Memoir Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in memoirs?

This book is memoir. It reflects the author’s present recollections of experiences over time. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been recreated.

But in The Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolf, he buries his disclaimer in his acknowledgments. As he thanks those who read drafts of the book, he says:

I have been corrected on some points, mostly of chronology. Also my mother claims that a dog I describe as ugly was actually quite handsome. I’ve allowed some of these points to stand, because this is a book of memory, and memory has its own story to tell. But I have done my best to make it tell a truthful story.

For further examples of a book copyright page and disclaimers you can check out the Book Designer and Kindlepreneur.

How to Copyright a Book: Familiarize Yourself With Legal Terms

I know, I know…we would rather write books, rake in the cash, and sign autographs than worry about technical legal jargon.

I get it. It can seem boring but the better you understand how copyright law works, but the more you know, the more time you can spend writing without wondering, “Is this legal?”

Here are some legal terms to keep you informed on your rights as a self-publisher and protect your works:

  • Copyright infringement: is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. The copyright holder is typically the work’s creator, or a publisher or other business to whom copyright has been assigned. Copyright holders routinely invoke legal and technological measures to prevent and penalize copyright infringement.
  • Intellectual property (or “IP”): is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It also includes other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs can all be protected as intellectual property.
  • Public Domain Work: refers to works whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, have been expressly waived, or are inapplicable. For example, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and most early silent films are in the public domain either by virtue of their having been created before copyright existed, or by their copyright term having expired. Some works are not covered by copyright, and are therefore in the public domain—among them the formulae of Newtonian physics, cooking recipes, and all computer software created prior to 1974. Other works are actively dedicated by their authors to the public domain; some examples include reference implementations of cryptographic algorithms, the image-processing software ImageJ, created by the National Institutes of Health, and the CIA’s World Factbook. The term public domain is not normally applied to situations where the creator of a work retains residual rights, in which case use of the work is referred to as “under license” or “with permission”.
  • Plagiarism: is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
  • First Amendment (Amendment I): to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
  • Fair use: in its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.
  • Libelous writing: can be personal libel or trade libel, which is also known as “product disparagement.” Product disparagement can include a product, service or entire company. Libelous statements, whether against persons or products, are published statements that are false and damaging. Slander is the same as libel in most states, but in spoken rather than written form. The terms “libel” and “slander” are often subsumed under the broader term “defamation.” It is a tort (a wrongful act) to harm another’s reputation by defaming them.

Before you publish your next book, take a few minutes to read over this “brief” report from the United States Copyright Office.

You can also check out this handy guideline for authors from Wiley on what needs permission vs. what you can use without asking.

When in doubt, consult with legal counsel or take the time to research the material you are either protecting or planning to borrow from another source. The time invested could save you an embarrassing or costly situation down the road.

Knowing what you can and shouldn’t do is a critical part of the publishing business.

When you write and publish your own works, you are now in business for yourself, and business owners protect their property by learning how to copyright a book the right way.  Don’t make things harder for yourself!

Like this post? Sign up below for a FREE video course and learn how to go from blank page to bestseller in 90 days!

how to copyright a book

How to Copyright a Book: The 9 Most Common Questions

Nowadays, with the massive expansion of self-publishing, it is more important than ever for authors, artists, and creatives putting their work out there to ensure that it is fully protected.

When we borrow work from other authors, living or dead, we have to consider:

  1. What can I actually use?
  2. When is permission needed?

Here is the golden rule when it comes to copyright laws: Never assume that anything is free!

Everything out there, including on the internet, has been created by someone. Here are common questions authors have about protecting themselves, their works, and others they may have quoted in their books:

#1 – Do I have to register my book before it is copyrighted?

Your book is legally copyrighted as soon as it is written.

But, to scale up your legal rights and protect your material to the fullest extent, register your book with the Federal Copyright Office. On the chance someone does attempt to pirate your book or portions of it, registering with the US Copyright Office will give you greater leverage if it comes to action being taken.

#2 – How many words can I quote from another book or source?

Generally speaking, there are no set rules on how much you can actually “borrow” from existing works. But, it’s best to exercise common sense here and keep it short, as a general rule under 300 words.

Paul Rapp, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights, says that, “if the quote drives your narrative, if you are using an author’s quote in your argument, or if you are giving an opinion on an author’s quote, then it is considered fair use.”

What is fair use? A legal concept that allows the reproduction of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research.

If you use something published by someone else with the sole purpose of monetary gain, this doesn’t constitute fair use.

#3 – Can I write about real people?

Especially in works of nonfiction, real people are often mentioned to express an opinion or as an example to clarify the writer’s fact or opinion. Generally, you can use the names of real people as long as the material isn’t damaging to their reputation or libelous.

Stick to the facts and write about what is true based on your research.

#4 – Can I borrow lyrics from songs?

Stephen King often used song lyrics for his books including Christine and The Stand. He obtained permission for these works. King says, “Lyrics quotes in this book [Christine] are assigned to the singer most commonly associated with them. This may offend the purist who feels that a song lyric belongs more to the writer than the singer.”

Basically, song lyrics fall under strict copyright even if it is just a single line used. Try to get permission if you use a song.

You can contact the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Once you find the rights owner, you have to ask for permission through writing.

#5 – Do I need permission to borrow material from a book that is over 100-years-old?

Once the copyright on a book or material has expired, or the author has been dead for seventy years, the work enters into the public domain and you can use it without permission or licensing.

BUT this does vary from country to country. You can check the copyright office in the US here.

how to copyright a book

#6 – Are authors liable for content used in a book?

Yup.

Even with traditional publishing houses, the author is still responsible for the content written and used in the book.

In fact, traditionally published authors usually have to sign a waiver that removes the publisher from any liability pertaining to the material the author used if the writer included that material without proper permission.

And you already know, as a self-published author, you’re on your own.

#7 – If I use an inspirational quote from another writer or famous person, do I need permission?

You don’t need permission to use quotes in a book provided that you credit the person who created it and/or spoke the quote.

For example: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream” – Edgar Allan Poe

#8 – What is the best way to protect my work from being stolen?

Your work is copyrighted as soon as it is written.

But you can register your work with the US copyright office. If you have a blog where you also post content, you need to have a Terms & Privacy disclaimer on your page. This would preferably be at the top where it is easy to see, although many writers and bloggers include this at the bottom of every page.

You should also include your Copyright on your blog that protects your content from being “copied and pasted” into another site without permission or recognition.

#9 – A royalty free stock photo means that I can use it for free and don’t have to get permission, right?

Wrong.

Most stock photos are copyrighted, even if they appear in search engines and we can easily download or copy them. If you grab a photo off the net and think you can slap it on a book cover or use it for free in your book, think again. It’s recommended you purchase photos through sites such as Shutterstock or Depositphotos.

how to copyright a bookWhat to do Next?

So now you’ve got all the information you really need when it comes to knowing how to copyright a book. But where do you go from here?

#1 – Finish your book

If it’s not already done, get on it! Writing a book can be difficult but we have a number of different resources available to make the process much easier –and faster.

Before you can really worry about knowing how to copyright a book, you have to actually have a book first. Get to work and put a schedule together so you can stay productive when writing your book.

#2 – Double check that you don’t violate any copyright laws

Depending on where you are in the book writing process, you have to check your work over to make sure you’re not using song lyrics without permission or violating any other copyright laws.

Do a once-over and, as always, make sure you work with an editor to ensure nothing is missed.

#3 – Keep learning!

There’s really no limit to the amount of knowledge you can have when it comes to getting a book written, marketed, and published.

Thankfully, Chandler Bolt has a wealth of information that he’s giving away FOR FREE!

If you’re ready to write now that you have all your safety precautions in check, join Chandler Bolt in his newest workshop! He’s sharing his process for going from blank page to published author in 90 days, as well as the strategies you need to know to leverage your book to grow your authority, income, and business. Save your spot and sign up here!

Do you have another question about copyrighting a book we didn’t answer above or any additional advice you’ve found helpful for you? Post it in the comments below!