Foreshadowing is a literary device used in fiction that drops hints and clues as to what will happen later in the story in order to give readers the sensations of shock but satisfaction when they finish the book.
Foreshadowing can be used in a number of ways but the point of it is to ensure that your book and the outcome of it makes sense but is still shocking to the readers.
If you’ve ever read a book and thought, “I should have seen that coming!”, then you understand the impact foreshadowing can have.
This is one of the most important things that makes for a good book.
What does foreshadowing mean?
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which the writer gives advanced warning that something specific is going to happen later in the story. Through foreshadowing, you are preparing the reader for an event that will eventually take place in your story.
In other words, the writer is managing reader expectations by giving them a heads up.
And the better you set those expectations, the faster the reader will turn those pages to see how it will happen.
But what does a writer foreshadow? Anything really. A character’s action, reaction, victory, defeat or even death. The st
One of the best ways to learn any skill, including foreshadowing, is to look at examples and understand why they were done.
Here are some of our top foreshadowing examples (you probably recognize) that you can learn from in order to put these writing tips to use.
Foreshadowing Example #1 – Nightlock in Hunger Games
By now, we all pretty much know the story of Katniss Everdeen, the selfless sister who bravely sacrificed herself as a Hunger Game competition in order to save her younger sister.
This series has a number of fantastic foreshadowing examples, but one that sticks out to us the most is the prevalence of nightlock, a poisonous berry that causes death upon consumption.
These are the instances in which the use of nightlock is used as foreshadowing:
In the beginning of the book, we learn that Katniss is well-versed in which wilderness elements are poisonous and which aren’t
The second time we see nightlock is when Katniss is at the Capital, training for the games and we learn more of it
Later, while in the competition, Katniss has a run-in with Peeta and recalls her father telling her of nightlock’s dangers
Lastly, during the Hunger Games, Katniss wanders near a dead competitor, who had died by eating nightlock
All of these instances are meant to show us just how important nightlock is to the story. And later, when Katniss and Peeta nearly eat the berries on purpose, we know just how fatal the result of this would be.
Foreshadowing Example #2 – Obi-Wan’s Death in Starwars
This one might speak to all of you Star Wars fans out there.
Obi Wan’s death (spoiler alert) was foreshadowed very early on—to the point of how he would die…and by whom.
There’s actually a moment when Obi-Wan Kenobi is talking to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II when he says, “Why do I get the feeling, you will be the death of me?”
This was a complete foreshadowing of what happened later in the book. However, readers can mistake this for a side comment and not take it too seriously.
Foreshadowing Example #3 – Lennie Killing in Of Mice and Men
If you’re familiar with Of Mice and Men (meaning, if your teachers made you read it in school), you know that Lennie, a mentally delayed man, kills his puppy by being too rough with it—unintentionally, of course.
This foreshadows Lennie accidentally killing Candy, a woman who mirrors the puppy in various ways.
Because we learn early on that Lennie is strong enough to kill, this makes moments of him interacting with others more foreboding.
Foreshadowing Example #4 – The Prologue in Game of Thrones
If you’ve read George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, you know just how vital the prologue of the series is—they even recreated this perfectly in the HBO show.
The White Walkers in Game of Thrones are among the biggest threats in the world Martin has created. They become the center of conflict and dread.
Martin foreshadows this from the very, very beginning by narrating some men venturing beyond the wall, all thinking the White Walkers are just a myth—a legend meant to scare children at bedtime.
During this prologue (spoiler alert), all the men, aside from one man of the Night’s Watch, are killed.
This single man runs away (from The Wall) and is intercepted in Winterfell as a deserter, where he tells this story to those who don’t believe him. This is the key foreshadowing moment of the potential horror the white walkers induce in this series.
The Power of Foreshadowing and the Writer’s 6th Sense
Let’s talk about one of the greatest plot twists in modern cinematic history: The 6th Sense.
Before I go on, spoiler alert!.. you have been warned!
If we weren’t prepared for the surprising fact that Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead, we’d meet that final, climactic reveal with confusion and anger. Instead, M. Night Shyamalan painstakingly prepares us with visual effects like one’s misty breath when a ghost appears, he has Haley Joel Osment tells out outright that some ghosts, “Don’t even know that they’re dead,” and when the reveal finally happens, it’s met with a montage of all the moments that M. Night Shyamalan foreshadowed that shocking plot twist.
And most of us still left the theatre going: “I didn’t see that coming.”
What none of us did do was leave the theater disappointed or confused, saying, “Well that came out of nowhere.”
Make no mistake, when used correctly, foreshadowing can be more of your most powerful tools in keeping your reader hooked.
How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Novel
There are five common foreshadowing techniques that will never get old.
Use them wisely and readers will be hooked for life (and give you those 5-star Amazon reviews).
#1 – Prophecy
With ultimate power comes ultimate…knowledge? Wait…that’s not right.
But what is right is that as the author, you possess god-like powers over your characters. You make them do, say or think anything. You know what is going to happen to them down to the last word they utter. You’ve seen it all.
You can see the future!
Trouble is, it’s all in your head.
That’s when you can use a prophetic character or event in your book to foreshadow what’s coming. It could come in the form of an actual prophet screaming from the hilltops that the ‘end is nigh’… and then the end actually becomes nigh.
Or some wise old man who says something like, “When I was a young lad, those dark clouds meant a storm was coming.”
One example of this foreshadowing in books is Professor Trelawney in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
Professor Trelawney is seen as a “fraud” by many (if not all) of her students, particularly when she has her “episodes.” However, Rowling wrote this in such a way that you as a reader also don’t believe what she’s saying is true…when in fact, it is.
Whatever you choose to do, use your secondary characters in your book to prophesize (foreshadow) events yet to come.
# 2 – Chekov’s Gun
There is an old rule in writing, known as Checkov’s Gun: If you see a gun in Act One, it better go off in Act Three.
I find that the opposite is equally true. If a gun goes off in Act Three, you better have shown it earlier.
By focusing on some detail, especially one that isn’t immediately obvious as important, you are essentially giving your reader a heads up that this will come back in some significant way later on in the story.
A famous (non-gun) example of this is the Nightlock poisonous berries in the Hunger Games, as we mentioned in the examples above. At the climax of the book (spoiler alert), Katniss threatens to commit suicide by eating the berries.
This is foreshadowed three times:
First, at the beginning of the book when we see her out in the wilderness, foraging for food. We learn that she knows what’s poisonous and what’s not.
The second time occurs at the Capital when she is training for the Games. In that scene, we actually read about Nightlock.
The third time is when, during the Games, Katniss finds a dead tribute who accidently poisoned herself by eating the berries.
We saw the gun, ahhh, I mean berries, several times before that big climactic moment.
And because of that, we knew they’d be important (and we also didn’t think, “Well, isn’t that convenient” when they did show up.
In other words, the author foreshadowed that big final moment.
#3 – Omens
“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.”
OK, so if your main character is a shepherd and it’s about to go down, then delight your readers with a dawn that lights the sky blood red.
What are omens?
Omens, or common cultural symbols, can be extremely effective tools when foreshadowing a coming plot point.
Here are some examples of common omens in fiction:
A black cat for bad luck
A four-leaf clover for good luck
Walking under a ladder
Finding a penny heads up
A crow symbolizing death
NOTE for foreshadowing with omens: You don’t have to stick to omens from our world. Make them up! For example, if you’re writing a novel that’s set in some magical kingdom or a distant planet, ask yourself, “What are the ‘omens’ they have?”
It could be anything… touching a Minotaur’s horn, seeing a mermaid, the three moons simultaneously appearing in the morning sky, etc.,…
Just make sure that whatever you decide, you adequately explain it to the reader, too.
#4 – “I Got This Weird Feeling”
Three characters walk into an abandoned cabin. One of them says, “I got a bad feeling about this…” and BOOM!
You’re away to the foreshadowing races!
Here’s the literary schtick: In real life, when your mom calls you because she had a bad dream about you getting hit by a bus, it’s just her being overprotective. (Jeez mom, chill. I’ll look both ways when I cross the road. I promise.)
But in fiction, if a character’s mother calls them with that same bad dream, it better be foreshadowing events to come (or don’t include that little tidbit at all).
#5 – Outline your book for better foreshadowing
It’s very, very hard to drop foreshadowing hints if you have no idea where your book is going.
For that reason, outlining your book will help you create much stronger (and sneakier) foreshadowing elements.
Think of it this way: the more you know about your own story, the better foreshadowing bits and pieces you can leave behind in order to hide them better from your readers.
#6 – Flashbacks/Flash Forwards
Setting a scene outside of the narrative timeline can also be an effective foreshadowing tool.
For example, you could have a flash forward scene with a sinking ship, then return to the story’s present time, three hours earlier, and the reader can watch with delight as the hero boards that very same ship.
Oh boy—someone gonna drown!
Or, a character could walk into a room and smell a strange, meaty odor that leads to a flashback of a time when he was fighting a gang of cannibals who were barbequing his buddy.
Oh wait—someone is getting grilled!
These elements are very helpful in creating foreshadowing but remember that flashbacks and flash-forwards should also show up elsewhere in your novel instead of just for a single foreshadowing event.
So there you have it, foreshadowing and all its mighty powers. Use this tool wisely, young Padowan, and I promise, you’ll have your reader frantically turning the pages until the glorious end.
They’re longer and take a lot more time and discipline to finish.
Most writers are going through the process of writing and publishing a book blind. And without the right process (or help) in place, it’s easy to fall off the rails and end up with only half a manuscript shoved in a desk drawer somewhere collecting dust.
Most writers fail to finish writing a book because they don’t have a process to keep them accountable in order to finish.
But that’s where we come in.
How to Finish Writing a Book
Obviously you’re ready to commit—to take the leap and actually finish your book.
Maybe you’ve struggled for a few months or maybe you’ve been trying to finish your book for years. Either way, we’ve got the best tips to actually complete your manuscript.
#1 – Outline
The best way to finish a project (and finish it quickly!) is to have a plan. A book’s plan is your outline.
Now, not everyone is on board with book outlines. There are “plotters,” there are “pantsers,” and there are the in-betweeners (which we affectionately call “plotsers”).
However, even writers who finish books regularly and claim they are vehemently against outlines are usually outlining.
What’s the difference between pantsers and plotters?
“Pantsers” tend to call their first draft something like a discovery draft, or draft zero, or, as Nora Roberts calls it, the piece of shit draft.
Even though they say they don’t outline, this first draft is a type of outline.
Even though Stephen King says, “Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers,” we know what he really means is, “My first draft is actually a type of outline, and that’s the method I’ve found that works for me, personally.”
“Prose is architecture. It’s not interior design.” – Ernest Hemingway
Some people love every single detail planned before they begin writing, while others think outlines make their stories too formulaic. The good news is, there’s a type of outline for everyone! If there isn’t one already penned in existence, you can make. one. up. 😮
There are so many different kinds of outlines:
Extremely detailed outlines with a sentence for every action in each scene
Basic bullet points of the ideas you want to cover, or “first draft” outlines where you plan your book by writing a version of it
“Draft zero,” a pansted first draft, is one you can finish in roughly the same amount of time it takes you to plan and outline your book
You don’t have to follow certain outline rules or guidelines–your outline is a tool for you and the way you work. So find a system that works best and utilize it!
Pro Outlining Tip: If you’re more of a “pantser,” use what I call a “liquid outline.” Let it be flexible as your project progresses. For example, start with a bullet point outline of what you expect to happen, then as you write each chapter, go back and revise your outline when things change. This will keep you on track and organized, but it will also allow you the freedom and on-the-spot creativity of “pantsing” your book.
#2 – Schedule your writing time
A great way to stay productive is to set a writing schedule in order to develop a writing habit.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to finish writing your book:
Which days and times will you write?
How long will you write in each session?
Will you hit a time limit each day, or do you want to reach a certain word count?
Further than scheduling your writing, you can schedule the entire publication process to keep your book on track through production and into marketing!
Having a timeline for drafting, editing, beta rounds, cover, and interior design, book release, marketing, etc., will help you work more efficiently and coordinate the steps that require other people.
For example, many cover designers require you to book months, or even years, in advance! Scheduling and planning will help you stay ahead of possible roadblocks.
#3 – Budget and save
Self-publishing might be more expensive than you think it will be! If you haven’t done it yet, take some time to research possible costs of publishing a book.
For example, do you want a cover designer? A professional editor? Special marketing? Determine out how much it will cost and how long you have to save, then set up a savings plan to be sure you can cover these costs.
Here’s a breakdown of potential costs you have to consider when writing your book:
If you have no idea how to set up a savings plan, Jenna Moreci has a great video on budgeting and savings basics!
If you don’t take the time to budget for book production and save ahead of time, you may happen upon a charge you weren’t expecting and aren’t prepared to pay. Then your options are to halt production to save for it, go without, or take a loan.
Saving ahead of time is much better than all three of those options, so do your research!
If you want more information on the publishing expenses you can expect, check out the video below—and the biggest cost might be the most surprising.
#4 – Be realistic
In scheduling, budgeting, and saving, be realistic about your goals and timelines.
If you convince yourself you have four hours of writing time each day to finish a draft in a month, but you have a full-time job and three kids? That’s probably not a realistic goal.
Maybe you can only write for twenty minutes a day. Maybe you can only write on weekends. Maybe writing a few paragraphs during lunch breaks is your only option for now.
Be honest, be logical, and set goals you have a chance of achieving. While you can always find ways to write faster in order to make the most of that writing time, you still have to set reasonable goals.
Nothing is more demoralizing than never reaching your goals.
#5 – Consider finding a team to hold yourself accountable
I have a critique group with two other writers who are also writing fantasy novels. Every Sunday, we exchange the chapter we wrote that week, as well as the other two writer’s chapters from the previous week with our critique comments.
When utilizing a critique partner or group, I recommend the following:
Find people with similar WIPs
Set up a schedule for swapping chapters, stories, poems, scripts, etc.
Keep open lines of communication!
Having other people expect your routine updates, as well as having other people to discuss issues and setbacks, will help to keep you on track with a writing schedule.
At Self-Publishing School, there’s actually a Mastermind Community each student gets to be a part of where accountability partners run rampant. All these writers are looking for others to help them finish writing their books.
#6 – Make your WIP a part of your life
Let your book take up a lot of real estate in your mind, your home, and your daily life.
As you grow your writing platform and market your book, talk about your work in progress. Tell your friends and family about it.
The more people who know you’re writing a book, the more they’ll ask you about it.
This hold you accountable to actually finish writing your book.
You can even make a Youtube channel, like mine, in order to have more people familiar with you writing a book. (This is also a great strategy to market yourself as a writer)
If you make a physical outline or a moodboard, hang it by your desk where you can see it. Set your main character’s profile sketch as your phone background.
Make it where you can’t skip a writing day without thinking about it.
This will keep your mind working toward solutions for your project every day.
#7 – Power through!
Don’t let yourself get hung up on edits before your draft is finished. Don’t overthink it–just focus on getting through your first draft.
Of course it won’t be perfect!
But, like Nora Roberts said, “you can fix anything but a blank page.”
You can’t edit nothing! Don’t slow down, keep your momentum, and pound out that first draft!
The hardest part of writing a book is finishing the first draft. After that, it’s all downhill so just get it done!
#8 – Avoid burnout
Writing burnout is when you feel like your work is trash. You think you have nothing important to say. Maybe you think no one cares about what you’re writing or maybe you’ve fallen into a pit of writer’s block.
Don’t fall into this hole!
Your first instinct when confronted with writing burnout is usually to stop writing. Never stop writing. Maybe this WIP is sucking your joy, but realize that it isn’t you, and it isn’t your writing–it’s the project.
Try swapping to something a little easier, like a short story or a poem, but set a time to return to your book.
Don’t let so much time slip away that you get too far away to return.
For example, most lists only take into account the number of book sales in a very specific time period and from very specific places—and most of them don’t count online book sales the same as in-store sales.
What does this mean for you and your desire to be on a bestseller list?
While bestseller lists aren’t exactly a “lie,” they don’t paint the whole picture. Someone who sells a lot of books right at launch and then nothing for a while can still make the New York Times bestseller list…even though they might sell far fewer books than someone else who just didn’t have as many sales at once.
Essentially, it means that becoming a New York Times bestseller is a great goal to have, but it doesn’t mean that your book is any better than the millions of others out there.
That being said, many of us love the title of becoming a bestseller, so I’m here to walk you through how to do that in the way that makes the most sense for you.
Benefits of being a bestselling author
Even if most of the popular bestseller lists aren’t necessarily “fair,” there are still some perks to becoming a bestselling author.
Here are some benefits of landing your name on a bestseller list:
The title. There’s really nothing that has quite as satisfying of a ring to it as “bestselling author” does. It makes you feel good and rightfully so! It’s an accomplishment no matter how it happened and the confidence boost alone is enough of a reason to work hard to reach that goal.
The credibility. People just take bestselling authors more seriously. Because there’s some sort of proof that your book sold more, people think that means it’s better. When they feel that way about you being a bestselling author, they’re far more likely to respect you, your book, and anything else you put in front of them—like a business.
It helps you sell more books. Just like I mentioned above, being a bestselling author increases credibility. That means people will buy your book simply because it has that title—even if they’re not quite sure who you are or what’s in your book. It’s a simple way to increase your book sales.
It’s easier to sell future books. Once you hit bestseller status once, you can then add that title to your future books. Because of the same reason I mentioned in the point above, people are more likely to buy your book because the public perceived a bestseller status as an indicator of a good book.
You can charge more for non-author gigs. This includes if you want to be a speaker or any other side business connected to your book. Because you have that bestseller status, you can charge more.
How to become a bestselling author
If your heart is set on becoming a bestselling author and reaping all the rewards associated with it, we can help you get there
No matter if you want to become a New York Times bestselling author or an Amazon bestselling author, we’ve got you covered.
#1 – Decide which bestseller list you want to get on
This will ultimately define which path you follow to get published.
Our list above details a couple bestseller lists you can aim to get on, or you can shoot for all of them if you’re really ambitious.
Here at Self-Publishing School, we teach our students how to excel in becoming Amazon bestselling authors in order to gain authority, increase your book’s rankings on the #1 platform for book sales in the world, and ultimately, sell more of their books.
It’s up to you to determine if you want to get on one, two, or even all of the bestseller lists available.
#2 – Write an amazing book
Obviously, your book is important. While there is a lot of strategy involved in becoming a bestselling author, you do have to write a book worthy of selling.
Here’s how you can write an amazing book:
Decide if you want to write fiction or nonfiction. Both types of books can land on their respective bestseller list. This is a fairly easy decision—just go with the first idea you have.
Come up with a book idea. This can be made a lot easier with a list of writing prompts like this one right here. Remember that you have to be passionate about your book because if you’re not, your readers will be able to tell. No “bestseller” banner will save you from negative reviews.
Outline your book. One of the best ways I’ve learned how to write a good book is to outline it. When you know where you’re going, everything in between is easier to write, and that means you can focus on writing with quality.
Write your book. It may take time, but if you follow our process for writing a quality book, you will be proud to have it out into the world. Keep our tips in mind throughout the process and you’ll write a better book, faster.
#3 – Build an author platform
This should happen before you write your book—or during it, if you just decided you want to become an author at all, let alone a bestselling author.
What is an author platform?
Your platform is your audience. In order to sell your book and on a consistent basis (which is key if you want to be a full-time author), people need to:
know you exist and
that you’re writing books for them to read.
In order to do this, you have to be present on social media, have an author website, and market yourself as an author regularly.
Where you spend your most time and how you go about that marketing will depend on what type of book you’re writing and who your audience.
As an example, if your intended audience is an older generation between the ages of 45-60, they’re more likely to be on Facebook than other social platforms simply because those are Facebook’s deomgraphics.
Here are the demographics for social platforms so you can determine where you’ll focus your efforts:
Facebook: 54% female, 46% male, 65% between 50-64 years old
Twitter: 24% women, 23% men, 40% between 18-29 years old
Instagram: 39% women, 30% men, 72% between 13-17 years old
Pinterest: 41% women, 16% men, 34% between 40-49 years old
Using these numbers, you can get a better idea of where you should start building up your author platform first.
#4 – Market your book NOW
Yes, before it’s even done.
If you start on your author platform like I mentioned above, you can start marketing by simply creating social posts, videos, and more content related to your book and its contents.
Here are some ideas for marketing your book before it’s done:
Create social posts with tips and tricks related to your book’s contents
Update your followers on your book’s progress
Talk about the process of writing a book
Voice your challenges with the writing or content itself
Create countdown posts when it gets closer to time to launch
Engage with your followers by asking them to comment below—and then have conversations with them
#5 – Decide to pursue self-publishing or traditional publishing
This is where your earlier decision of which bestseller list you want to be on comes into play.
If your goal is to become a New York Times bestselling author (which isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but you do you), you’ll have to go the traditional publishing route and commit to spending a couple years mostly waiting.
However, if you want to become an Amazon bestselling author, that achievement is right around the corner.
Ultimately, we here at Self-Publishing School believe becoming an Amazon bestseller is not only the most attainable goal of becoming a bestseller author, but it also grants the same rewards as the others.
Here at Self-Publishing School, our goal is to improve this arduous writing process. Right now, we coach our students to routinely complete a new book in just 90 days, finishing their first draft in as little as 30 days!
They are able to accomplish this by following a simple step-by-step guide that we’re going to share with you today.
How long does it take to write a book?
Many authors report that it takes up to a year to write a book, but more recently, authors are finishing their books in as little as a month to 90 days.
How long it takes to write a book largely depends on how much time the writer puts in to actually writing it, though.
The truth about how long it takes to write a book depends on how many words are in it.
Here’s a guideline for how long it takes to write a book:
Want to receive personalized tips on how to sell more books right in your inbox?
Following the guidelines below, you can learn to supercharge your own book writing process, and you’ll become a published author much faster.
How to Write a Book Faster so it Doesn’t Take as Long
If you want to know how to write a book faster so it doesn’t take as long, here are our best tips.
#1 – Establishing a Strategic Deadline
Deadlines are designed to help you inch closer to completing your book by giving yourself a writing habit. It also encourages you to work every day hitting both short-term and long-term goals.
However, you won’t find success by setting arbitrary due dates. They must be set up for your book’s success.
Here are 3 ways to establish strategic deadlines:
Define realistic deadlines. Set short term and long term deadlines for each portion of your draft that breaks down your entire book.
Set honest expectations. If you’re only able to write 500 words a day, so be it. Don’t push yourself into thinking that you can complete an unrealistic task. Be honest with your abilities and align it with your deadline.
Implement rewards. Don’t make writing a book feel like a tedious job. Reward yourself for achieving your goals! Attaching rewards to each accomplishment will make finishing your book much more aspiring to complete.
#2 – Prioritizing Your Writing Into Tasks
What separates those who can write multiple books to those who can barely write a page is the ability to prioritize. Because there are so many competing factors that pull away our time and energy, prioritizing is actually a very hard concept to implement.
But in order to write your book, you need to establish clear priorities to get anything done.
Here are some ways to prioritize your work:
List out every detail of your book and turn them into tasks
Assess each task to identify what carries the biggest value to completing your book
Order tasks by its immediate priority and length of time to complete
Anticipate unexpected changes to your schedule, and plan an alternative schedule to stay on track
Make the effort and spend a few hours prioritizing your writing process. You will be surprised with how much writing you can accomplish with a well thought out task plan.
#3 – Creating Word Count Goals
One of the best ways to accelerate the writing process is to set word count goals. Like training intervals, setting up word count goals will pace how many words to write a day.
First you have to understand how many words in a novel for your genre. Once you know this, you can work backward to figure out how much you have to write each day in order to reach your deadline.
By establishing these parameters for your own success, not only will you be more likely to accomplish these goals, but you will also notice improvements to your writing.
Here’s an example of a tracking sheet you can set up in order to accomplish your word count goals:
We recommend writing down your daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals to not only show your current progress, but to keep you motivated until you reach the end.
It also helps to include rewards for every new milestone!
Start your daily word count goal to 500-1,000 words per day. By completing 1,000 words per day, you’ll be looking at your completed 30,000 word first draft in one month!
#4 – Finding Your Accountability Partner
A supportive partner can be a great soundboard, a first pair of eyes, and a protector of your sanity. They can also be the extrinsic motivation you need to meet your own deadlines and word counts.
When you have an accountability partner backing you up, it makes it harder to procrastinate because they expect great results from you!
At Self-Publishing School, we believe in the accountability system and encourage our students to pair up with other like-minded students to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for reaching goals and deadlines.
A self-publishing company is a business dedicated to helping you achieve your desired level of success within your self-publishing journey.
They detail the process and streamline otherwise difficult avenues you might not be able to maneuver yourself.
But every self-publishing company is different.
Here at Self-Publishing School, our mission is to make the process as easy as possible for you while ensuring you do everything you can to succeed the right way.
Sure, you can throw your book online with a cover you created in Canva and call yourself a self-published author. But will that yield book sales? Will that give you the authority, recognition, and fulfillment you’re looking for?
How is a Self-Publishing Company Different than a Traditional Publishing House?
Traditional publishing houses are where you first land an agent, and then they submit your manuscript, and they take care of the printing/editing/publishing – at the expense of your hard earned royalties, of course.
Here’s a table detailing the differences between self-publishing companies and traditional publishing.
What You Get
Sole control of your book's outcome
Sole control of your book's rights
Control over the story
Control over the cover
100% of royalties
Why Use a Self-Publishing Company?
After all, you want to do this yourself, right? Self-publish. But like I mentioned before, you don’t know everything about self-publishing.
Do you know the best book launch process for getting your book with the coveted orange “Bestseller” banner (that also increases your book’s ranking, and sales!)?
There is far more to self-publishing than simply hitting “publish” on Amazon, and without the right process, your book might end up as one of those stereotypical self-published books that sells 3 copies – to family members.
And that’s why you use a self-publishing company. Someone else has already done the research, the work, and has the experience to guide you through the process.
If you’re someone who wants to see real book sales and achieve other goals, like growing a business or becoming a full-time author, then a self-publishing company will help.
What You Can Expect with a Self-Publishing Company
What does working with a self-publishing company look like?
While not all self-publishing companies are the same or provide the same type of information and training for you, it’s important to understand what you’ll take away from working with one.
This is what you can expect when working with a company that helps you self-publish.
#1 – You keep all rights to your book
Unlike traditional publishing houses, you actually get to keep all the rights to your books.
What does this mean?
It mean that, when you publish, you are the sole owner of the book and all of its contents. It’s copyrighted under your name and the self-publishing companies will not have any of their information inside of the book (unless you want to thank them for everything they’ve helped you with).
This is a major benefit because with self-publishing companies, you can keep the book in print for however long you want.
On the flip side, traditional publishing houses can choose when to pull your book from shelves and simply no longer print or sell it. And since you no longer own the rights, you can’t self-publish that book unless you buy the rights back (which some publishing houses don’t even offer you the option of).
#2 – You’ll save time
Time is our most valuable asset. It’s the one thing in our lives we can never get back no matter what.
Unless you’re a secret time traveler and have uncovered the secrets of bending and warping time (and if you are, PLEASE SHARE), you have to treat time like it’s precious.
One of the biggest perks of using self-publishing companies to help you get your book published is the simple fact thatthey tell you what needs to be done, when, and how.
Not only will you save time actually writing the book (assuming the company gives you instructions on how to write faster, like we do here at Self-Publishing School), but you won’t have to go through the hours upon hours of research in order to get it right.
And, you don’t have to waste time making mistakes and adjusting them.
#3 – You keep 100% of royalties
Everything you earn, you keep. Now, there may be self-publishing companies out there who require a percentage of your royalties, since they helped you, but here at Self-Publishing School don’t’ believe in that.
After all, you did the work. You put forth the time and effort. This is your book. Therefore, you keep what you actually earn.
Aside from what Amazon takes for allowing you to use their platform, 100% of your profit is yours to keep.
This is much different than traditional publishing houses in the sense that through them, you’re only pocketing about 10% of royalties (and sometimes even less).
#4 – You’re kept accountable
The hardship is in the name itself: self-publishing.
It’s a very lonely process if you don’t have anyone else going through it with you. And we all know how much easier it is to stay on track when we have someone else rooting for (or hollering at) us.
Many self-publishing companies have some sort of progress tracking, coaching, or community to help keep you motivated and working to achieve your dream.
How we do that here at Self-Publishing School is through all three of those methods, including a Facebook Mastermind Community with hundreds of dedicated current and past students ready to help.
#5 – You get coached by experts
At least here at Self-Publishing School, you do. Not all programs have this perk, and boy is it a perk.
Our coaches are all experts in their field. You get one-on-one coaching that allows you to take personalized tips and put them to use in your own publishing journey.
Since coaches have been exactly where you are and have come out on top, and maintained book sales themselves, you get a leg up on anyone else doing this without that help.
Take a look at one of our amazing coaches, Lise Cartwright, and how she still manages to bring in $4,000 on her self-published books, all while helping our students learn to do the same.
Again, not all self-publishing companies offer this service to their students, but if they do, it can help you understand a side of the industry you likely wouldn’t get to see otherwise.
#6 – You make connections
This is particularly true for programs that include access to a community of somesort.
You never know who you’ll get to know, like, and befriend. These are all like-minded people who are after the same things as you.
You can make dear friends, get even more advice when needed, and maintain a sense of purpose when you’re constantly fed motivation from them.
#7 – You create a bigger impact with your book
What’s the reason you’re self-publishing. Why do you really want to get your book out into the world?
I’m willing to bet it has something meaningful to you. You want to help others, share information, or show the world a theme or message that’s important to you.
By using one of the self-publishing companies out there, you’re able to create a bigger impact with your book.
Because you will write it better, market it smarter, and sell more. And after all, that’s the point. Right? You want to get as many eyes on it as you possibly can.
#8 – You gain more opportunities
Because your book will do better than it would if you didn’t have that outside help, you gain many more opportunities.
Becoming a published author places you as an authority in any field you’re writing in. Not only does this help your business grow, if that’s your goal, but it also helps you sell more books through new and better opportunities than you’d have otherwise.
Take these students of ours for example:
After publishing their books, they have been either contacted or pursued speaking engagements on their own along with other opportunities to grow their book and platform.
#9 – Your business will grow
Leveraging your book to grow your business is one of the best methods out there.
Chandler Bolt, you know him—the guy who built this 8 figure business from his first bestselling book—swears by it.
But he’s not the only expert out there who agrees.
Ryan Deiss, CEO of DigitalMarketer, also uses a book to grow his business. You can check out how he does so in the video above, but the point remains: self-publishing is a perfect way to grow your business.
And if that’s your goal, then you want to make sure you’re self-publishing for success. Otherwise, your book won’t make nearly as big of an impact on your business, which is why working with a self-publishing company can help.
#10 – You have a repeatable, successful process
Many of our students write multiple books with our program – not just one.
As one of our favorite author says, if you write one book and you enjoy it, you will write another book.
The most successful self-published authors out there are those who write more than one book. Not only do they maintain a steady stream of passive income this way, but since they have a reliable, repeatable process, it makes it easy for them to publish multiple.
So long as the self-publishing company you’re working with has lifetime access (like we do), you can hop on and go through the system every time you want to.
Plus, imagine how nice it would feel to say, “Yes, I’m a published author of multiple books.” Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid
Not all self-publishing companies are created equal. Unfortunately, there are some self-publishing companies who only want your money and don’t want to see you succeed.
These are some red flags to keep a lookout for when researching self-publishing companies to help you get your book out there.
#1 – They take a cut of your royalties
Why even self-publish if you don’t actually get to keep your hard earned money?
This won’t necessarily mean that self-publishing company is a scam or fraudulent in any way. However, it is something to think about and be wary of.
You want to make sure you’re actually benefiting fairly for your book’s success. So working with a company that allows you to keep every cent is essential.
#2 – They make you sign over your book rights
As mentioned earlier, traditional publishing houses technically “purchase” your book from you. It’s why you get that nice big (usually not big, though) advance.
However, self-publishing companies should not require this. Since you are self-publishing, all of the rights should remains 100% yours.
#3 – They maintain creative control
Obviously, self-publishing companies are meant to help you.
That being said, they can certainly offer advice on your book title, subtitle, cover, and even contents, but they should never demand something of your book in order for you to continue with their program.
#4 – Unrealistic expectations
Self-publishing is a varied game. No two authors can expect the exact same outcome and your results largely vary on how much you’re willing to work and how well you’re following their program.
However, self-publishing companies also shouldn’t guarantee crazy expectations—especially without having the proof to back it up.
Guarantees of making $10,000 in the first month are often unfounded. Look for company promises that you feel good about actually being able to achieve them.
#5 – There are a large number of complaints online
Not every self-publishing company can meet everyone’s expectations. Not every single review will be positive – and that’s understandable.
What you do want to lookout for is a large number of negative reviews, complaints, or claims of fraud or scams. These are certainly something to be wary of, but make sure you research some positives as well.
Marketing takes planning, organization, and consistent action; it’s hard work. But the good news is that marketing is also about fostering connections and relationships, which can be rewarding to you and your fan base.
And since you’re the one who knows your book from cover to cover, your backstory, your reasons for writing it, and who your ideal reader is, it’s your duty to put a plan in place to best connect with your intended audience and share your story.
We know, we know…you’ve put a ton of effort into writing, editing, and getting your book ready for publication that the thought of adding another layer of “work” is not the most appealing idea.
But realize that if you launch your book without a marketing plan, FAR fewer people will read it.
It will hamper the success of the book you’re working on now, as well as others you plan on publishing in the future. So if you dream of becoming a New York Times bestselling author, or if you want your book to help you reach other lifestyle goals, a book marketing strategy is your essential key to success.
Book Profit Calculator
If you want to know why you have to market your book, the profits will explain it.
If you want to make a living writing your books, it’s important to understand exactly what that means.
In order to earn a living writing your books, understanding how many books you need to sell and what you’ll bring home for each is vital.
Having a quick overview of exactly what you can do and how much time and effort each will take can help you better plan for your book marketing plan.
Here are our recommended book marketing strategies and what you need for each.
Book Marketing Platform
What to do
- use appropriate hashtags - post relatable tweets to increase shares - engage by liking and replying to others - search common hashtags to find your audience
- use appropriate hashtags - post photos related to the content of your book - engage by liking and replying to others - ask questions in photos to increase engagement - search common hashtags to find your audience
- create a page for yourself or your book - post video content - go Live to answer questions or discuss your book - post blog posts supporting your topic/ideas/book
- create pins linking back to your website - repin content related to your genre - create appropriate boards for your content - optimize pins with keywords - join group boards - connect with others who pin similar ideas
- great for business-related topics - share insights/stats - share blog posts supporting your ideas/topics - connect with leaders in your industry
- create a website - maintain a blog with posts about your main topic - use this to create an email list - keep this updated regularly
Free Book Marketing Plan
Having seen and been involved in so many book launches ourselves, we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to book marketing.
We’ll walk you through a play-by-play of exactly what you need to do so that your readers can find your book and buy it.
We’ve broken this guide down into three main sections for learning book marketing:
Pre-Launch: Building Your Book Marketing Launch Team
Pricing Your Book for Maximum Sales
Post-Launch: 8 Strategies for Selling More Books
Let’s get started!
Pre-Launch: Build Your Book Marketing Launch Team
The first step of preparing for your book launch, and the marketing behind it, is to build your launch team or street team, as it’s also commonly referred to.
What is a launch team?
The ideal launch team, also known as a “street team,” is a dedicated, hand-selected group eager to make your launch successful. If you use your team’s talent and communicate well, there’s nothing your launch team can’t accomplish!
This video does a great job of detailing what a launch team is and exactly what they do:
#1 – Launch Team Size
The first step is to determine the projected size of your book marketing launch team based on the size of your audience.
Your audience is anyone interested in you, your book, and your product.
They could be five of your lifelong friends, members of your community, big organizations you’re connected to, social media followers, email subscribers, anyone who might be interested in what you’re sharing.
If you have a smaller following, we suggest you aim for a launch team of 10-50. Those with hundreds in their network can aim for 100-250 team members.
How to Find a Launch Team
If you don’t have much of a following right now, start by looking at your personal inner circle— your family, your close friends—then branch out to their connections, families, and colleagues.
You can reach out to peers from college, your volunteer work, or even your first job. You may even consider parents at your child’s school, fellow dog owners, or members of your yoga class.
Even though you may not know these people well, they are a part of your network, and you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that they’re inspired by your book and would be eager to share it.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, you should have an initial list of potential launch team members!
#2 – Recruit Quality People for Your Launch Team
Now that you’ve determined your potential recruitment pool, the second step is to initiate contact and gauge their interest level.
The most important lesson to consider about your book marketing launch team is thatQUALITY trumps QUANTITY.
One top-quality, dedicated team member trumps a handful of mediocre ones.
To begin recruitment for your launch team, create a simple questionnaire process that describes your book, your expectations of the team, and questions asking:
Why are you interested in supporting my book?
What part of my book speaks to you?
What specialized skills can you contribute?
What’s your available time commitment?
Who are influential people you can reach out to?
Why would these influential people be interested?
To sweeten the recruitment deal, feel free to offer a free signed copy of your book or an inclusion in the “acknowledgments” section. You can easily do this through email, or through online forms like Typeform.
#3 – Record a Welcome Video
Take the time to record a warm welcome video for your new supporters! In your video, first, congratulate your team for being selected and express gratitude for their help.
This welcome video will help you create a more personal connection with your book launch team, and show them a bit more about why you’re creating it and what message you’re trying to convey.
Be sure to send it to everyone who completes your questionnaire!
#4 – Establish a Communication Style
Here’s the secret to a successful book marketing launch team: Effective communication.
Communicate with your team regularly to keep them focused on weekly tasks, progress, and innovative ideas by doing the following:
Strive to send one email per week preceding launch then increase it to three or more during launch week.
Use a Facebook group to engage, share ideas, and post feedback. Set the tone by posting “Dos and Don’ts” to keep conversations focused and positive.
Boost morale and build rapport by sharing inspiring quotes, gifts, and goofy photos to keep energy high and build vital connections.
No matter which mode of communication you’re using, remember people like to be treated well.
Always make sure your team knows how grateful you are to them and their dedication!
#5 – Book Marketing Launch Team Assignments
You can’t just build up a catalog of supporters and not use them, though. You have to give them small assignments to help you with launching and the book marketing process in general.
It might feel weird telling people to help you, but don’t worry about it!
They’re here because they want to support your project, and as long as you’re gracious and ask nicely, they’ll be happy to support your work.
Facebook Groups will be the most effective way to dole out weekly team assignments.
Here are some book marketing initiatives you can assign your team to do:
Share snippets of content from your book across social media
Submit reviews on Amazon
Add their reviews to Goodreads
Share a book review on their YouTube channel
Record a testimonial for your book
Buy extra copies to give to their friends
Give you more marketing ideas!
#6 – Utilize Talents
Your team members will have a different variety of skills and talents, and it’s your job to effectively manage your team by assigning work based on their strengths.
To identify your team’s talents, write a post during the introductory week and say the following:
“If you have any special talents or connections you’d like to lend towards my book launch, please comment on this post and let me know. I’m looking for ways to help spread my book’s message to a wider audience.”
#7 – Have Fun and Say “Thank You!”
Your launch team will commit weeks of their time, energy, and talent, so make sure you thank each and every person for their contribution!
Ensure that each person on your team feels valued and appreciated for their efforts.
And most importantly, let them know how to get your book for free (or at least at a deep discount)!
Which brings us to…
How to Price Your Book
One of the most important factors in how successful your book launch is will be how you price it.
To find out how to price your book for success, we recommend reading Book Launch.
But for the sake of this article, here are some of Self-Publishing School’s biggest secrets that will get your book to soar up the Amazon’s charts:
If you have a sizable audience, we recommend launching your book for $0.99, and then increasing the price to $2.99 or higher after about a week.
Although you won’t get paid by putting your book out for free, realize that it will be featured on another author’s page which instantaneously increases your exposure and recognition.
Once the free promotion has ended, switch your book’s price to $0.99 for the following week, then slowly increase the price by $1 per week until sales stagnate.
Post-Launch: 8 Book Marketing Strategies for Selling More Books
All marketing—no matter which market or industry—is fundamentally about people and making connections.
Part of pitching your book will be figuring out how your book relates to your readers and how they will benefit from it.
Now that your book is out in the wild, you want to get as many people to it as possible. Here are the eight best strategies for doing just that.
NOTE: We cover everything in this post-launch marketing section and much more about how to build a platform and maintain consistent book sales in our Sell More Books Program. Learn more about it here
#1 – Build Your Book Website
Can you imagine if you came home one day and your house was…missing?
Well, that is what an author’s life can be like without a website to post fresh content.
You’ll always be missing a home where you can park your books. Many authors think they don’t need a website because they can promote their books through social media or the author platform on Amazon.
Sorry, not exactly.
There is a huge difference. Having an author website is the difference between renting or buying a piece of property. When you rent, you are living in someone else’s space.
It doesn’t belong to you and they can cancel your lease at any time. Maintaining your own website on a hosted server with your domain name is the same as having that piece of real estate.
You can customize your site your way, publish your own content, and you are always in complete control of how it looks and what gets published.
When it comes to book marketing with your own website, the sky’s the limit. You can:
– Publish your book’s landing page on your site. – Post blogs about your upcoming book – Create a countdown timer for the book’s release date. – Set up an affiliate link to your Amazon page so you get commissions on book sales Include sample chapters from your book – Link to video clips about the book on your website – Communicate directly with your email subscribers about new releases or your current blog post
And you can also set up a Google Alert so you can be notified about where your name and your book show up online.
If someone gives you good feedback or a stellar review, reach out and thank them and ask them to link back to your book’s website.
If your book doesn’t already have a website, get one started! To set up your website and personal blog on a paid server, you can try Bluehost or Godaddy and use WordPress for building your site.
#2 – Build Your Email List
There is a saying going around that says: “the money is in the list.” Why? It’s simple. A list of followers who are in love with your writing will be the first to line up when you have a new product to sell.
These people are essentially your customers.
Your email list is yours. It doesn’t belong to Amazon or social media. You control what you want to say, how you say it, and when. Imagine if every time you had a new book ready to launch, hundreds or thousands of people were waiting for it so they could get it first.
If you are serious about your book marketing your current project and all future ones as well, building your list should be a top priority. Nothing else comes close.
Although building a list takes time, in the long run it is the easiest way to market.
These are the true fans that will get the word out and be the first to leave verified reviews after buying your new release at the special price of 0.99. But that is just the beginning.
You can continue to build your list by including a reader magnet at the front and back of your book. Get people hooked on your brand and then keep them there by writing your next book, and then, including them in your next launch.
As your book reaches more people, and you get more signups, your marketing capacity grows…exponentially.
If you haven’t started on your list building, go to an email management system such as Mailchimp or AWeber and sign up for an account. Then get building and start to funnel your fans into your books today.
#3 – Reach Out to Influencers
When it comes to book promoting, nothing can have a bigger impact on your book than influencers through book endorsements.
Even Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the most influential and knowledgable people in the marketing game, thinks so.
What is an influencer?
Influencers can be podcasters, bloggers, or authors with strong email lists. It’s someone with an established platform that can get you noticed if they notice you.
An influencer is someone who has a lot of promotional weight and can spread the word about your book to thousands of people with just a brief mention to their email list, on their blog, or by sharing on social media, for example.
Influencers have a long reach. What you can do is identify the influencers in your niche and reach out to them. Tell them who you are and ask if they can help to promote your latest book.
A lot of the time, they’ll want a free copy to read and review. You can also offer to support their future endeavors as a way of giving back.
Influencers can have a major impact on your exposure as an author, so try to set up interviews in your hometown or reach out tosomeone online and offer to do an interview so you can deliver value to their target audience.
Guest post blogging on an influencer’s blog or website is another way to market your book.
For example, if you wrote a book on recipes for Italian food, you could try connecting with people in the Italian cooking niche.
They may have a blog, podcast, or a webinar on which you want to appear.
Identify at least one influencer in your market and reach out to that person. Tell them who you are and what you do. Get on their podcast or get interviewed. Exposure to fans in your niche will have a big influence on book sales.
#4 – Leverage Two Social Media Platforms
Social media is a powerful way to promote your book to potential readers. We can engage with thousands of people just by hitting a few buttons.
But with social media sites, the big scare is the amount of time we can get sucked into trying to do everything. If you try to connect with everyone, you’ll match up with nobody.
When promoting and marketing your book, you can’t be everywhere doing all things at once.
That is why we recommend you choose two social media sites to work with and post your content regularly on these two sites.
For example, you can have a YouTube channel and post weekly videos covering a wide range of topics centering around your book. After a few months, you could build up a library of content that will bring in the right audience, engage with new subscribers, and even create a course out of your videos.
Here’s an example of Youtube content from a writer currently working on her first fiction novel. She created a Youtube channel to engage fellow writers, who are also readers:
By creating a Youtube channel and giving advice about writing, she’s appealing to writers while also advertising that she is also a writer and has a book in progress.
Switching gears to Facebook, you can promote your book or blog using Facebook ads that drive new readers to your Facebook page or your book’s website.
You could also post popular quotes or snippets of material from your upcoming book. With Twitter, you can post multiple times a day with brief quotes or messages under 280 characters. Twitter has proven to be a powerful platform for authors when it comes time to promote and market a book.
And if your book is more business-focused, you may find that LinkedIn works best for you, since it allows you to connect with new readers on a more professional platform.
We recommend choosing two social media platforms and focusing on consistent engagement. This will keep your book’s appearance fresh and invite new people in to check out your work.
Using Specific Hashtags to Grow on Social Media
In the writing community, there are a number of very popular hashtags authors and writers use to connect with each other.
Why make connections with other authors? Because almost every other is also a reader!
Here are some of the top hashtags you can use on each platform:
#amwriting (as in, “I am writing”)
#fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
#amwriting (as in, “I am writing”)
#fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
#fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
Choose two social media platforms and commit to publishing content regularly. If you only want to focus on one, master it, and then move to another that is perfectly fine! It is better to do one thing and get it right then do two things poorly.
#5 – Get on Bookbub
Bookbub is the cream of the crop when it comes to promoting and marketing your book. In fact, you should submit your book for promotion as either free or for 99 cents right after your book launch.
Bookbub has a massive following and can get your book delivered to thousands of readers. It really is the “Big One” when it comes to book marketing.
The cost isn’t cheap and can run you anywhere from $200 to $2,000 for a promo, depending on the genre, category, and the price of your book.
But is it worth it?Yes. Definitely.
For example, if you are running a promo for 99 cents in general nonfiction, you could potentially sell, on average, 2,000 copies of your book. Not only will you make a profit, but this could bring in hundreds of subscribers and leads to your email list.
From there you can upsell readers on your other books or even a course if you have one.
Go here for Bookbub submission requirements. You can also check out the pricing here and submit your book here.
#6 – Interviews and Podcasts
A local radio or podcast interview can introduce you to new readers. While this may sound intimidating, you can pull this off like a pro with a little preparation.
Look to local colleges, podcast hosts, or local radio stations for interview opportunities
(Pro Tip: Hosts love to interview up-and-coming authors, so you may be surprised at the many offers that come your way when you reach out).
Reach out, let them know a little bit about your book and why it might be interesting to their audience, and include a free sample of it so they can see if you’d be a good fit.
If you have a press release describing what your book is about, feel free to include that as well to give them more context.
Then be sure that when you go on, you present a great story about your book and get their listeners excited to read it!
What are three podcasts or radio shows you could go on to talk about your book? Find their contact info and reach out with a pitch about having you on.
#7 – Book Clubs
Local book clubs are another goldmine of new readers; you already know they like books! Find and connect with these groups.
You can offer to attend a meet-and-greet and hand out copies of your free signed book. You can also get your book listed in Facebook Groups and other groups dedicated to readers.
There are also paid lists, such as Buck Books, that can reach tens to hundreds of thousands of readers. Book Launch also teaches what lists are out there, and which ones are the best to use.
Are there any book clubs you could join? Look on Facebook for groups that would be a good fit for your book.
#8 – Write Another Book
Publishing another book is great for brand building. In fact, it’s much harder to market just one book unless it is a ground-breaking phenomenal masterpiece.
Your book may be great, but you can compound that greatness by writing more books, preferably in a series.
With every new book you put out there, you increase the chances of your work getting recognized by influencers and people online who are hanging out in all the places you can target for promotion and sharing.
Amazon is the biggest retailer online and with the world of book-buying migrating and settling on the internet, Amazon is the place to publish.
Here’s how you can publish an ebook on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing.
#1 – Write a book worth buying
There’s no point in publishing a book that’s not your best work. But if you’re not much of a writer or have no idea how to write a book in the first place, that can make this entire process much more daunting.
This is a very simple step for publishing an ebook. All you really have to do is “plug and chug,” as they say.
You have all of the information you need and now it’s just about uploading your formatted manuscript to your KDP account and filling in the information you need to.
That means you’ll need to fill out the title, subtitle, and the description.
Now, you really don’t want to write a boring “filler” description. After the cover, this is the single most important part of publishing an ebook.
If people aren’t sucked in by your description, they won’t buy your book.
Here’s an example of a killer description that has helped sell thousands of copies of this book:
#5 – Choose a launch date
Believe it or not, there are actually good and bad days to launch your book. Typically speaking, the winter holiday season is the worst time to publish a book simply because the advertising market will be super saturated.
Everyone is putting their best ads forward so they can reap the rewards of those holiday spending dollars.
And although this might seem like the perfect time to launch, it’s actually one of the worst.
Your book can easily become lost in the hype of literally every other book and product marketed during that time.
If you want to launch a book during the best possible time for its sales, use this guide below:
#7 – Build hype for your ebook on your website or blog
Many who publish ebooks usually have a website or blog they can use to drive traffic to it. Not only that, but some actually use the ebook as a lead magnet and even the main source of income on their site.
What you have to do before your launch is to build interest about the ebook.
Here’s how you can build hype for publishing your ebook:
Link to your book within blog posts
Create blog posts related to the topic of your book
Create graphics for your book and place in your sidebar and within blog posts
Create a graphic to use on the front page of your website
Create an email sequence to sell your book (this is for those more advanced with a larger email list)
Continuously look for ways to integrate your book into blog post ideas and on social media
The idea with optimizing your website with your book is to convert your blog followers into customers and to give those coming to your website from your book the content they’re actually looking for.
All of this builds fans and most importantly, a loyal and engaged following!
For example, we use Chandler Bolt’s book Published. as a main point of interest on our website. This gives those who are already interested in the publishing industry something of high value right off the bat.
#8 – Publish your ebook!
It’s time to kick off your ebook and launch! If you’ve followed the steps above, then you’re ready to get your book published and start reaping the rewards.
The best part about publishing an ebook is that you don’t have to worry about ordering prints and going through the proofs and the entire process of adjusting how they look.
Once the ebook format is complete, that’s all you need to concern yourself with in terms of delivery!
Your launch day is very important and exciting.
Make sure your launch team is ready for a day of sharing and even some activities.
It’s best to host activities that your audience can actually engage in. Some fun launch day activities include things like hosting a live webinar, doing a Q&A on Twitter or Facebook or your preferred platform, sending out an email to your entire email list, and any other fun pursuit your readers will benefit from.
Get together with your launch team beforehand and have everyone brainstorm some launch day events.
You can even give prizes to those whose ideas get used!
#9 – Create emphasis of your book on your webiste, social, or email list
Now is the time to leverage that book!
Writing the ebook itself isn’t the hardest part of this process; making continuous sales is. And the best way to ensure you keep pushing buyers to your book is to make it the focus of your blog and website.
Plus, if you have those great reviews from your launch team, you can actually leverage those to make more sales.
Place reviews on your website on the same page your book is linked to. They’re kind of like testimonials for a service. Except, in this case, your service is a book.
You can feature them on your website wherever you want.
Obviously, if you’re someone who only wants to sell your ebook, a blog or website might not even be something on your ebook publishing to-do list.
You should, however, think about creating a website to at least host your book and information on in case others want to find you and even connect with you about speaking engagements and other amazing opportunities a book can grant you.
When Amazon ranks your book, the ranking is based on the volume of downloads your book gets and, the amount of reviews stacked on the book’s review page.
Amazon’s system is designed to take notice of books that are getting steady traction when reviews get posted.
This is why it is critical that when you launch your book you set everything up to get as many reviews as possible to get momentum going, increase organic traffic, and drive your rankings in the search engines. This means a higher percentage of people writing reviews for your book, not just at launch, but for months (and years) down the road.
The bottom line is, reviews carry big weight in the form of social proof that can drive your book to a bestseller and continue to bring in healthy passive income every month.
Why do book reviews matter?
Because of Amazon’s algorithm, maintaining a steady income of new book reviews is vital for your book to rise in the rankings. Meaning that if you want your book to continue to sell, you need to obtain real and fresh book reviews.
This is a breakdown of why book reviews matter:
The more reviews you get, the more visibility your book gets. This means more sales and potential organic reviews.
A boatload of reviews adds credibility to your book and brand.
Book reviews for your book on Amazon are one of the defining factors that determine if a potential reader will click the BUY NOW button or not. In fact, if your book has less than 10 reviews, there is a strong chance that your book will get passed over.
People want validation before purchasing, and the best way to make that decision is on the front of the product page: reviews.
Amazon Reviewer Guidelines
You can find everything you need to know about posting reviews on Amazon right here under the Community Guidelines.
Amazon has tightened the ropes on reviews and as an author, you have to be aware of the tactics that are prohibited.
Here is what not to do when it comes to getting book reviews on Amazon:
Pay someone to leave a review. This not only goes against Amazon’s terms, but it could get your book removed from the shelf and your account banned.
Offer a free ‘gift’ in exchange for a review. No gifts allowed. This is still considered payment for a review.
Join Facebook groups offering book review swaps. These sites are bad news. Amazon prohibits review swapping and is considered gaming the system. The Amazon algorithm can easily trace reviews back to these sources.
Offer an Amazon gift card after a review has been published. It works like this: “You download the book and leave a review, and I will send you a gift card.” Again, this is against policy and is considered paying for a review.
Leave a review for an author, then contact that person requesting they leave a review in return. This would be a form blackmail or trapping the other author into guilt. But this doesn’t work and if you receive any such email, inform the other author that you don’t work that way. I did this once and they just removed their review.
What’s the Difference Between Verified and Unverified Book Reviews?
According to Amazon, an “Amazon Verified Purchase” review means they’ve verified that the person writing the review purchased the product at Amazon and didn’t receive the product at a deep discount
Product reviews that are not marked “Amazon Verified Purchase” are valuable as well, but we either can’t confirm that the product was purchased at Amazon or the customer did not pay a price available to most Amazon shoppers.
Verified reviews are favorable and are social proof that the reader did in fact buy the book and has potentially read through it before posting a review. A verified review shows up as a yellow banner that says “Verified Purchase,” as seen in the example below:
For unverified reviews, in most cases, the reviewer received an advance copy of the book and was possibly on a launch team to support the book’s release.
While this is still a legit practice for garnering reviews for your book, if the majority of reviews are non-verified, this could affect your potential customer’s decision to buy or not.
How long does it take for reviews to go live on Amazon?
Typically, it takes up to 72 hours for a book review to be posted on Amazon.
Some may take much shorter and other times it can take longer. If there’s a book review that should be live but has not been posted, you can contact Amazon for information on it.
How to Get More Amazon Book Reviews
There are many ways to get reviews but searching for reviewers to review your book is a time-consuming process. You could waste precious time chasing bad leads and end up with nothing for your effort.
So where do you get reviews without spending hordes of time?
No matter how you do it, remember that it isn’t just about quantity but quality as well. While we can’t control what reviewers will say about our work, we can stay focused on writing great content that adds value in order to increase our chances of getting positive reviews.
To get Amazon reviews for your next book launch, or to add reviews to an existing book, consider taking action on these following strategies:
#1 – Build a launch team
There are many ways to hunt down reviewers for your book. As we have seen, you can contact the top reviewers, target free book review sites, or reach out to book bloggers.
These methods, while they may get you a handful of reviews, is time intensive and a lot of work.
I have found, after running over two dozen book launches, that the most effective way to get reviews fast on launch is through setting up a launch team.
Your launch team is a group of people who have agreed to read your book in advance and follow up with a review immediately after the book is live.
When it comes to building a launch team, it is about building relationships over the long term. This is why, in order to run an effective launch team, you should focus on the relationship with your early-bird reviewers.
Here is a step-by-step process for organizing your team:
How to Set Up a Launch Team
1. Start building your relationships early. Launch teams don’t just happen. They take work, months of outreaching, and asking the right people if they want to help launch your book when the time is right. You can generate interest by posting snippets of the book on Social media, sharing chapters of your work with your list, and promoting your cover to people.
Share your content and advertise your brand. Communicate with people in person and through online channels about your writing. Keep in mind the purpose for this is to make genuine relationships with people and not to just add them to your launch. And most importantly, to make friends with people who read in your niche, so that your book gets recommended alongside the other books they’re reading.
2. Create your list of potential reviewers. As you build these relationships with your fanbase, start making a list of people who express interest in joining your launch. If you have multiple books and have been through the publishing process already, take note of the readers who have left reviews already.
Contact them closer to the launch of your next book to get them on board. Set up an excel spreadsheet and keep track of the names of people who sign up.
Contact people directly and invite them to the launch team. Keep track of early-bird reviewers in excel.
3. Set up an email template through your email server. Add everyone to the list. If you aren’t using an email server yet you can check out Mailchimp, Convert Kit or Mailerlite. Make it as easy as possible so you aren’t wasting time searching for contact information.
Send out a welcome email with a link to your book in PDF or/and Mobi form. You can create a folder in Dropbox and just include the link to a shared folder. Make it easy for them to access the material.
Import your list of emails onto an email server list.
4. Send out the Welcome email. Ideally you want to send out your book at least two weeks before launch. This gives people enough time to read it through. In the welcome email I include details for the launch date and any other expectations. At this stage the book isn’t live yet so you will send another email on that day with the link.
For the book delivery, you can upload a PDF version as well as a Mobi version of the book. To create a MOBI, PDF or EPUB file you can check out the Calibre ebook management software.
If any top reviewers agreed to leave a review, you absolutely want to message them to follow up.
Create a welcome email template. Send out your welcome message to the team. Include a link to your book content.
5. Send out your ‘Take Action’ email on launch day. Your book is live and it is time for people to step up. Contact the team on launch day as soon as the book is live. After publishing a book it should take 12-24 hours for Amazon to get it posted. In the email, include a link to your book. More specifically, a link to the review page so that team members can go straight to the page with one click.
6. Day 3: Reminder email. I wait 3 days and send out a reminder email. In this email I thank everyone who has left a review and thank people in advance who are still working on the book and haven’t posted yet.
7. Final Call: This is the last email I will send out. Similar to the previous email, reminding people the book is live and is ready for a review whenever you are. You can remind your team that book is at a special discounted price if you are launching it at 0.99 or it’s free.
8. Contact Your List: If you have a list, this is gold for getting paid downloads and possible reviews. You should contact your list on the first day the book is live and let people know that the book has just launched. Then, several days later, email them again asking if they had a chance to get into the material. You could add something of value here just to show subscribers how much you value their support. This is the email where I include a ‘leave a review’ invite.
These are the steps I use to communicate with my launch team. Generally speaking, if you want 100 reviews for your book, you should aim for at least 200 people.
That is a lot of emails but, what I have experienced is that, on average, you are batting a 50% success rate. What happens to those other 50% who don’t review?
Here’s why some people won’t review your book:
They didn’t like the book.
They forgot to review altogether.
They didn’t read the book.
They couldn’t be bothered to review.
If you can get 20+ reviews on launch after one week you are looking very good. This is enough to get momentum moving and the Amazon algorithm will see that your book is doing well.
#2 – Contact Amazon Top Reviewers
There is a list of top 1000 reviewers on Amazon. These people review everything via the Amazon vine program, although certain reviewers target books specifically. If you can get an Amazon Top Reviewer to look at your book, this is well worth it.
Here’s how to get more reviews on Amazon with top reviewers:
Go into the reviewer’s profile and check the books they have reviewed. To be specific, you want to check for books in your genre. If you wrote a book on weight loss and the reviewer has written most of their reviews for romance novels, it’s a good indication of what they favor. Target the reviewers interested in your topic.
Check for contact information. Due to the large volume of spam and requests for reviews, most top reviewers have removed their personal email. If they have a website set up, you can send a direct email to request a review.
Wait for a reply. Most reviewers, from my own experience, did not reply. I would recommend targeting 20 reviewers and wait one week. You can then resend the request again.
This is a time-consuming process but, if you get a top reviewer to agree to a review, keep that person’s contact information in an excel file. Then, when you launch your next book, you can reach out to them again and again.
#3 – Book Review Sites
There are a number of sites out there that will find reviewers for your book. This is not the same as buying reviews for your book which, I’ll restate again, goes against Amazon’s review policy and should be avoided.
In fact, Amazon has taken action against over 1000 sites on Fiverr that were selling incentivized reviews and fake review services. Yes, avoid.
Review services, however, can speed up the process and find reviewers for your book. One of my favorites is BookRazor. It is a paid site but they promote a system of honest reviewers for your book by providing a contact list of potential readers.
There are many other sites you can check out as well, and many of them are free while some are paid:
Here is a tactic that works well. Did you know that you can include insert a request in your book for readers to leave a review? It’s a great way to invite people to review your book.
I have a page at the back of my books that looks like this:
What Did You Think of [Your Book Title Here]?
First of all, thank you for purchasing this book [Your Book Title Here]. I know you could have picked any number of books to read, but you picked this book and for that I am extremely grateful.
I hope that it added at value and quality to your everyday life. If so, it would be really nice if you could share this book with your friends and family by posting to Facebook and Twitter.
If you enjoyed this book and found some benefit in reading this, I’d like to hear from you and hope that you could take some time to post a review on Amazon. Your feedback and support will help this author to greatly improve his writing craft for future projects and make this book even better.
You can follow this link to [Book link here] now.
I want you, the reader, to know that your review is very important and so, if you’d like to leave a review, all you have to do is click here and away you go. I wish you all the best in your future success!
When you do this, you want to have a link directing customers right back to the review page on Amazon. Make it so easy for them that it requires as little effort as possible.
Many authors will include a cute ‘cat photo’ or even pictures of their kids begging asking for a review. This strategy can work well if you sell a large volume of books during the initial launch phase.
But remember it takes readers time to go through your book and so, if you don’t see the reviews appear in the first week, you might get them trickling in weeks or even months later.
#5 – Relaunch Your Book
You can relaunch your book if book sales drop and the reviews stop coming in. When you relaunch your book, you can put together a new launch team, and even add a new chapter to the book to generate a renewed interest in your book.
I have tried this strategy several times in the past year and, by relaunching the book, adding new value to the content, I put together another small launch team of 30-40 people. This brought in another 20+ reviews for a book that was suffering from lack of sales and poor rankings.
It happens, so we have to stay on top of keeping the book active.
How to Deal with Negative Reviews
Getting positive reviews on your book is a great feeling. In a perfect world, we all want to have just the good stuff when it comes to our review platform. But alas, there will always be that dissatisfied reader that was expecting something much different than what your book was offering.
Readers will leave a negative review for various reasons, and in most cases, there is nothing we can do.
But first of all, receiving a negative review isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can lend to a book’s credibility. Look at it from a reader’s perspective. If a book has 100 positive 5-star reviews, although the reviews may be legitimate, we know that not every book is perfect.
Having a load of good reviews and nothing that is under three stars could create doubt for the browser, just as having a book with only a handful of reviews turns browsers the other way.
While negative reviews aren’t all bad, there are steps we can take to reduce the amount.
So how can we prevent our book from getting a lot of negative reviews and turning away potential book sales?
Here are four areas to pay attention to:
Book quality: the single biggest reason a book will get panned by negative reviews is poor quality. This is credited to sloppy editing. A book that is not up to the quality expected by readers will get hit with a high amount of bad reviews. Then, it could get pulled off the shelf by Amazon until the author upgrades to better quality. Make sure your book is up the high standards people expect. Always respect your readers. The book business is like any other business, make good products, and your customers will love you.
Inaccurate description of the book: make sure that your book description, title and cover all point towards the theme of the book. If your book is titled, “How to become rich in 21 days” and, after reading through the book the reader isn’t rich, well, they bought the book because of the promise you made. So, if reading a book delivers a negative outcome for your audience, someone is going to shout about it in a review.
Your book is a sales pitch for your other products. If there is one thing that readers don’t like, it is being hit up with offers and the push to check out other services or products in the book. This could come across as spammy and devalues the content that the readers paid for. While your goal may be to use the book to attract customers for your online business, you want to avoid any sales pitches in the book.
How to Write and Submit a Review
Writing a review for a book you like is a great way to drive potential readers to the title. If you read a great book recently and you want to tell people about it, you can take a few minutes to write up a positive review.
Writing a review is easy. Just go to the book’s front page and, under the heading Customer Reviews, you will see a button for write a customer review. Click on that and you will be taken to a page set up for ‘Your Reviews’ where you can write reviews for your purchases.
What you do is:
Select the rating of the book from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the best score.
Write your book description in the box provided. Keep in mind that if you leave this page before submitting your review, you’ll have to start over again. I would recommend writing the review first in Word or Evernote and then copy and paste.
Create a headline for the review.
Hit submit. Your review will go live within a couple of hours, although it could take up to 24 hours.
One point to note here is that, with Amazon’s policy for posting reviews, you have to have an account that has made a purchase of at least $50 using a valid credit or debit card.
Checklist for Getting Amazon Book Reviews
If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to get more book reviews and in turn, sell more books.
Set up a launch team for your book. Send your team a PDF/MOBI/EPUB file and follow up with email right up until launch. Follow up with several reminders after the launch.
Include a ‘Review Request’ page at the back of your book. Insert the link taking customers directly to the review page. Make it so easy they don’t have to search around for the book on Amazon.
Contact Amazon Top Reviewers. Send a personalized email to each, targeting the people who review books similar to your genre. Wait at least two weeks before following up.
Contact people in your business. This doesn’t include friends and family. Contact professionals in your field who would be willing to read the book with the possibility of leaving an honest review.
Hire a site that specializes in finding honest reviewers for your book. I recommend BookRazor.
Relaunch your book. Add more content, a new book cover, or make it appealing for people to join your relaunch of an existing book. You can relaunch a book as many times as you want.
There are a lot of strategies out there to get reviews for your books, most are legit, and some are not. As an author, make sure you are aware of what Amazon considers to be authentic reviews when it comes to gathering reviews for your next book, and steer clear of anything it considers to be “incentivized reviews”.
If a site promises to get you positive reviews in return for cash, stay away. It isn’t worth it, trust me. Keep hunting and adding reviews to your book.
Book reviews are the secret sauce to adding value and credibility to your work, boosting sales and making your book stick on the bestseller lists. Don’t skimp out on them.
This is an obvious question. You already run your business every day, what good could come from writing a book about it?
Here are some benefits of writing a book about your business:
You gain authority
You reach new potential customers
You gain opportunities for speaking engagements
You can capture more leads by using your book
You gain credibility to both potential customers and others in your field
This very blog is built on the back of a website that was started with a book. Chandler Bolt published his first bestselling book at the age of 19 and since, has built an 8-figure business from the process—while using his latest book Published. to make it more successful.
Brainstorm Your Business Book’s Content
You have already experienced the step-by-step process of establishing your own livelihood whether it is full time or a sideline. Now all you have to do is explain what you did to grow your business.
One strategy is to pretend you are advising a close friend what steps to take.
Here are some ways to come up with your book idea:
Brainstorm a random list of everything you remember doing when you started your business.
Don’t stop now; keep brainstorming! List everything you want to include in the book–and even things that won’t go in the book. If it crosses your mind, write it down. We’ll put all of that into a book outline later.
Take a break. Walk away from the computer! Eat, drink, walk, or talk.
Break’s over. You’ve got a book to write!
List the process of how you created and grew your business in chronological order. This list is your reference point for an informal outline and table of contents.
Prioritize. What are the top topics that you want to emphasize in your book? What do you wish you would have known when first starting your business? Most importantly, what will your readers gain from learning about your business? Let them learn from your mistakes and share in your successes.
Make each topic a separate chapter even if it is really short.
People like concise information, so keep your paragraphs short. Incorporate bullet points that shoot straight to the core matter for easier skimming.
Look through old computer files and photographs to remind you of things that you may have forgotten connected directly or indirectly with your business.
Check your lists more than twice. Did you remember to include everything that matters?
Once you’ve got the gist of what content your book will be, you’ll be ready for the next step in your business-to-book writing process.
What to Consider When Writing a Book About Your Business
There are a few things you’ll want to think about when writing your book about your business.
Here are some thins to consider before writing your book.
#1 – Do I want photographs in my book?
Depending on your business, you may find it worthwhile to add pictures in your book for explanation purposes or something just as relevant.
Ultimately, it’s recommended to publish a version of each in order to maximize your audience, but do what works best for you.
Choosing a Title for Your Book
People like knowing other people’s business. Call them curious, call them snoopy, just call to them to buy your book to learn about your business. Teach them your secrets.
Here are some overall tips for titling a book from the Self-Publishing School Youtube Channel.
If you want some additional tips for choosing a book title, here’s what worked for me:
A book about a business is a niche market, so make sure that your title makes the topic clear. For example,The Craft Fair Vendor Guidebooklets the reader know that the book is a guide about being a craft fair vendor. The subtitle, Ideas to Inspire, adds another element to the reader’s expectations. The cover’s photograph shows a booth with handcrafted jewelry, another clue.
In your book’s description, clearly explain what type(s) of business you will be covering. People like to know what to expect and may feel tricked if the book’s description isn’t comprehensive enough. A suggestion is to write your book’s description before writing the book. It’s like a “thesis paragraph” to keep yourself focused. You can keep revising the overview to fit the book as it develops. Also, that gives you more time to decide if the description is its absolute best before uploading it onto your publishing site.
Spell out examples of how your business practices can be applied to other ventures. The more crossover applications, the more types of people will be interested in your book.
Although you want all of the book to be appealing, you want the first pages to be extra engaging because those are the pages that potential readers will see if they use the “Look inside” feature on Amazon.
If you searched for a book about someone else’s business, what details did you want to learn? Cover these topics in your book and then some—bonus points if you use a unique take on them.
Writing a Book About Your Business
Now that you’ve got to the meat of what you’re writing about, you have a clear outline for your book, and you even have a title on hand, it’s time to write your book.
These are my best tips for writing a book about your business in order to get it right.
#1 – Look over your brainstorming notes
It always pays to have your notes handy in case there are items you forgot about that are beneficial to include.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when going back over your notes:
Are there any important pieces of information that didn’t make it into the outline?
What bits and pieces of your notes can make your book more unique than others on the market?
Is there anything you feel you need in your book that you didn’t include in the outline before?
Once you’ve got those notes, move on to the next step.
#2 – Get feedback from friends
Tell a friend who doesn’t know much about business about your book.
Notice the questions your friend asks because readers will most likely have the same questions. These are very important to take note of because they’re what you’ll directly answer and address in your book.
Take those questions and create sections in your chapters to answer them specifically.
#3 – Develop a writing time and habit
The best way you’ll get your book done is to form a writing routine that will enable you to finish your book faster.
You can set a scheduled time each day to write and notify those around you that it is your time to work on your book.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your publishing platform is that KDP and Barnes and Noble offer free ISBNs (only for distribution on their channels), while Ingramspark does not.
However, Self-Publishing School students are recommended to buy unique ISBNs anyways, so you can distribute on multiple platforms in the future.
#7 – Read each chapter aloud
You can do this to yourself or even to others to see how it flows and to see what questions or suggestions your listeners may have.
The reason for this is because you can often catch a lot of issues like your style, flow, or even sentence structure when reading aloud that you won’t catch if you read it in your head.
This is a great way to proof and self-edit your book.
#8 – Just keep writing
Until you have covered everything important, just keep writing. It’s the best way to write faster and finish your first draft.
Don’t think about anything else and just write.
When you start worrying about your book or how it’ll be received, cast the thoughts aside and get back to it. You’ll never publish a book if you can’t finish it.
#9 – Proofread and revise
The next step for writing a book about your business is to proofread it and revise…until you can’t stand to look at your book any longer.
Make notes in areas you want to change or you want your editor to pay special attention to.
A great way to do this is to type “TK” into the text of your document so you can later do a search and find all “TK”s in your manuscript. This will only bring up those areas for you to rewrite or proof because “TK” doesn’t appear next to each other in the English language.
#10 – Get feedback on the whole book
Ask people to give you feedback on the full book. They need to have excellent grammar skills and be detail-oriented.
This is also known as the beta reading process or less commonly, the alpha reading process.
The idea here is to have others give you direct and raw feedback about your book and what you can do to make it better.
Here are some questions to ask people giving you feedback on your book:
Was everything clear and easy to understand?
What was your biggest takeaway from it?
Did you find any parts boring or slow?
What other feedback do you have that I didn’t ask you about?
Doing this will help ensure your published product is the best it can be for new readers.
#11 – Let it sit
When you feel like you are done, don’t look at your manuscript for days, maybe even a week or two. Then go back with fresh eyes.
You will find more errors to fix!
The reason for this is to separate yourself from your work a bit. The longer you’re away from your own work, the easier it is to determine its flaws, which will help you write a better book overall.
#12 – Publish Your Book About Your Business
When you believe that your book is at its best, it is time to publish it.
Search for the advantages and disadvantages of the publishing options and make your decision. Obviously, I’m a big proponent of self-publishing a book, but you can check out this blog post about the differences between self-publishing vs traditional publishing.
From there, you can prepare a launch party and gather your launch team. Upload your book and congratulate yourself!
Exciting days are ahead!
My Experience Writing a Book About My Business
Since it is often helpful to know how someone else did something, I will share my story. I had always wanted to write a book but thought it would be a novel since I read lots of fiction. It remained just a dream.
Meanwhile, I started wire-wrapping healing crystals to make jewelry. I opened an Etsy store and started selling jewelry and related items at craft fairs and holistic health expos.
After I thought of a way to make portable folding jewelry cases from children’s art kits, I wanted to share my idea with other jewelry vendors. I posted pictures in my Rockin’ Crystals Etsy store and briefly considered making a brochure to sell.
Then I thought, “A brochure? The heck with a brochure–I need to write a book!”
I searched online for craft fair books to see what was available. I already knew how difficult it was to find pictures of displays that worked well for a temporary situation like a craft fair, so my book was going to help fill that void.
With a background in education and library, I had a lot to learn about starting and operating a home-based business. I wrote my book to help the other newbie business entrepreneurs. Far from being a business expert, I focused on my own experience because I did qualify as an “expert” regarding my personal business.
I had taken pictures at every craft fair and learned how to use photo editing apps like Photofy and WordSwag. The photos were what made my book flow. They reminded me of what was involved in the craft fair business.
After I decided to write a book, I attended events with a different perspective.
I needed examples beyond jewelry, and other vendors were happy to let me photograph their displays. I wanted the principles in the book to apply to a variety of products.
I started with publishing on Amazon and released Kindle and paperback versions. Fortunately, it is free to upload and free to revise. As a former English teacher, I revise and revise and revise. Each time I think that I am DONE, that the book is the best of my abilities. Then I think of something that would improve the book in my mind, even if nobody else would notice the difference. And there I go again!
My book has 97 color photographs, and I was beyond frustrated working with Kindle Create. The final file usually wouldn’t upload. I asked for advice in the KDP Community Forum.
Another author explained a way to upload the Kindle book that worked fairly painlessly:
Save the Word file as Web Page, Filtered.
Find the HTML document (wherever you’d saved it)
Right click on it and send to a Compressed (zipped) folder.
Find a folder with the same name that contains your photos.
Drag in into the Compressed (zipped) folder.
Use the Compressed folder for uploading the digital book on KDP.
My book about my business has outsold my other books. This may be because many people would like to have their own business and want to learn what to do. They would like to read about your business, so let’s get that book written. Future business owners are counting on you!
Starting your short story is the most important part.
Without being able to hook your readers with a strong introduction, they won’t get to enjoy the entirety of the journey through your story.
Whether you’re writing a short story or looking for your next big book idea, we’ve got tips to help you start it off right.
These are our tips for starting your short story:
Shock your readers by writing something they wouldn’t expect or something that doesn’t quite make sense. This is often done by creating confusion, starting by instilling sympathy for your character, or writing something downright shocking to read.
Create sympathy for your character by throwing them in the middle of a struggle. Humans are empathetic beings and making something awful happen right off the bat to an unsuspecting character will help draw intrigue.
Avoid info-dumping by beginning your story with action instead of information. If all you do is give your character’s entire background (which is indicative that’ you’re now following the rules of showing versus telling), your readers won’t be sucked in.
No matter how many short stories idea you have, without the right story structure, they’ll be nothing more than just…ideas.
Let’s go over proper story structure so you can do these story ideas justice.
There are 5 key milestones in every novel, and for short stories, there are typically 4 (due to word count and lack of longevity in general).
Story Structure Milestone 1 – The Setup
Every story needs a setup in which to move from. This is the very beginning of your story.
You may decide to use one of these short story ideas and in that case, you’ll have to construct a catchy and enticing first paragraph/s in order to pull readers in.
The difference between writing a novel and writing a short story is the fact that your short story introduction has to be short, snappy, and filled with intrigue.
Here are a few ways to write a good story beginning:
Start in medias res, which means “in the middle.” This is in reference to the action and how you start a story. Starting in the middle gives the story a more natural beginning and helps you avoid info-dumping.
Introduce a major story element within the first page. This gives your readers a clear idea about what your story will involve. By “main element,” I mean magic or flying spacecraft or a love interest. You want your readers to know the type of story they’re getting in the opening so they can become more interested in its ending.
Make us care about the main character in some way through strong character development. The more your reader can bond with the focus of your story, the more likely it is they’ll stick around to find out what happens to them.
Story Structure Milestone 2 – The Inciting Incident
There’s always one thing that happens in any story or book or even movie that kicks off the chain of events.
Your story needs to have an inciting incident as part of its story structure too.
For example, the inciting incident in Game of Thrones that kicks off the entire Stark VS Lannister war that’s ultimately the reason behind all the heartache, death, and drama is when Jaime Lannister pushes Bran Stark out of the window. This puts a target on Bran’s back since he didn’t actually die and then he was nearly killed by a “hitman” with a Lannister blade.
That is the inciting incident for both the first book and the whole of the war for the iron throne.
Figure out what your (probably smaller) inciting incident is, whether that’s a stranger wandering in to your character’s classroom or some unknown object smacking your character in the back of the head while they jogged past their favorite, and oddly empty, coffee shop one morning.
Story Structure Milestone 3 – The Slap
When writing a novel, there are two of these “slaps,” the second worse than the first. No matter if you’re writing a short story or a full novel, your story will still get a slap.
These slaps are critical and harrowing events that halt the progression of your story and make it harder for your character to succeed in whatever it is they’re trying to do.
During this slap, your character’s world and hope and whatever they’re working toward comes to a standstill as they face this obstacle in their journey.
For a short story, this can range from your character losing all the money they had to get home to the death of their loved one. Choose something that’s shocking but will still leave your readers with some hope.
Story Structure Milestone 4 – The Climax
You know what the story climax is. It’s the point in your story where all the events come to a head with the biggest event in your story.
The climax is when your character either succeeds or loses what they’re after.
Oftentimes, authors choose this time to provide readers with an unexpected twist. No matter how you decide to write your story’s climax, make sure it’s the highlight of your story.
The falling action, otherwise known as the resolution, comes directly after and is how you end your story. (We suggest making sure it’s satisfying instead of just dropping off the end of the climax)
How to Think of Your Own Story Ideas
Coming up with story ideas can take some time and practice—especially when your imagination has been at a standstill for a long time.
In order to come up with your own story ideas, use the “what if” method. Think of a situation and then ask yourself, “what if…” and fill in the end.
For example, your situation may be a character who wants to ditch school.
To create your own story idea, ask yourself, “What if…that character ditches school and then runs into their teacher.”
And then, “what if…that teacher is also playing hooky.”
This allows you to craft story ideas centering around one main idea with multiple possibilities.
Ultimately, coming up with your own story ideas from nothing can be much more difficult than expanding on story ideas someone else has come up with—like us.
Here are over 300 story ideas for you to use and write about.
300+ Short Story Ideas to Use Today
Write a story about a new strain of flower and how its scent is intoxicating to humans, but also deadly.
Write a story about the first stranger you see today.
Write about a lizard that’s living in your character’s walls.
Write a story about a city that has hidden from civilized society for thousands of years until an unsuspecting traveler walks right into the heart of it.
Write a story from the perspective of a mouse.
Write about the worst lie you’ve ever told.
Write a story that starts in a room of windows.
Write about a little girl who purposely leaves a backpack of bombs in a local coffee shop.
Write a story involving two people from opposite sides of a massive town with a long history of rivalry.
Write about another planet that has life just like Earth’s—everything is exactly the same only there were 1/3 of the Earth’s population.
Write about a chair sitting on the old, broken down front porch.
Write a story about a girl walking down the center of the street.
Write about apples falling from the sky.
Write about the incessant shrill of a morning bird outside the barely cracked window.
Write a story involving three women and a stolen cane.
Write a story that starts with, “She was aware of just how much she was making things harder for herself.”
Write a story about a cold house in the depths of an overpopulated town.
Write about two birds and their role in a heist.
Write about what it’s like to be fully submerged in jelly.
Write a story that starts with the smell of salt in an open field.
Write a story involving a teacher and a 217-year-old child.
Write about succulents drying up on a windowsill.
Write a story that starts with, “And now I actually have to figure out what I did wrong.”
Write a story about a character who forgets one person in his life every day, though not always the same person.
Write about a character who wants nothing more than to learn how to build a house.
Write a story involving fish crackers and a rogue lemon.
Write a short story about an orphan who can hear whispers.
Write a story that starts with, “She was filled with the sense that her work here wasn’t done just yet.”
Write about black curtains in a room of white.
Write about a new packet of dried fruit sent through the mail.
Write a story about a guitar with a unique signature on the inside.
Write about bananas and what they mean for a future society.
Write about a dog that loses a paw.
Write about a nice meal that was had over poison wine.
Write a story about one man and the lost scarf.
Write a story that starts with, “After what seemed like the longest night of his life, he had only one more thing to do.”
Write about the sun filtering through countless leaves before finding your cheek in the morning.
Write a story involving a really strong cup of coffee and the worst churro ever.
Write a story that takes place on the middle floor in the middle suite in a 56 story hotel.
Write about the rattling your character regularly hears coming from the basement.
Write a story involving a song your character knows but doesn’t remember.
Write a story that starts with, “How he waited this long without killing someone was beyond him. But he made it through…mostly.”
Write a story that takes place on a crowded beach in the middle of summer.
Write a story about a rooftop bar and an unlikely accident.
Write a story involving three roles of tape and a garden hose.
Write about flying on an airplane for the first time.
Write a story from the perspective of a plant.
Write the story of an old baseball cap now bleaching on a headstone.
Write a story that begins with an old man tapping his toes.
Write about one character who has too much love for pepper.
Write a story about a cactus left on the front porch of your character’s new house.
Write about cascading doubt infiltrating a woman’s unusually high self-esteem.
Write a story involving a camera and a pack of ice.
Write about what it’s like to be the only person who knows the true purpose of life.
Write a story that starts with, “You never know just how bad things can get until you’re waist-deep in the sandpit you used to play in as a child.”
Write about that one time your character forgot to wear shoes to school.
Write a story about a bookcase floating down a river.
Write about what happens when an ex-convict opens an ice cream shop.
Write about two flowers smushed on a doorstep.
Write a story the begins with your character watching rain flood their dirty streets.
Write a story about a single sticky note worn with folds and faded with time.
Write about a girl gifted with an award for something she must’ve done, but doesn’t remember.
Write a story using the words “trial” and “reckoning”.
Write a story that starts with, “I knew that mongrel was a problem the second I set eyes on him.”
Write a story that involves a unique hat, two bottles, and a disgruntled bee.
Write about the first person who comes to mind.
Write a narrative of your day as if you were in the 1800s.
Write a story about how much a soldier misses the taste of honey buttered biscuits.
Write about a character who just found out they have a rare disease that makes their skin change colors to match their surroundings.
Write about a faraway world where humans are not the most intelligent life form.
Write a story about six kids on their quest to uncover a hidden lair deep in the forest.
Write a story involving a wrench, a flower pot, and two teenagers.
Write about what happens when the government puts secret viruses in essential oils in order to dull the minds of its users.
Write a story that starts with, “What happened to me was…meant to happen. At least that’s what I tell myself.”
Write about an old woman’s journey to relocate someone she had a passionate fling with in her younger years.
Write about how love can become muddled in difficult families.
Write a story involving a rare book and two people fighting over it.
Write a story in a world where books are outlawed.
Write about a time you thought you would explode with some sort of emotion.
Write a story about a character who finds a perfect sketch of themselves for sale in a coffee shop…2,000 miles from where they live.
Write about a lime tree and its worst predator.
Write a story about a dog who won’t stop digging at one specific spot.
Write about what would happen in a world where children are regarded as the most precious beings to the point of being worshiped.
Write about a girl in an ancient society who hears voices in her head that aren’t her own.
Write a story about an antique cash register and a type of money that nobody can place.
Write about a life-changing book and its journey through multiple readers and its home on the library shelf.
Write a story that beings with, “His hand fell from the gash in his eyebrow, red trickling down his hand to do his tattered jeans.”
Write about a wheelbarrow, a young boy, and a snake hiding in the backyard.
Write a story that involves a glass koala.
Write about what it means to be fully awake.
Write a story about a girl who spends half her night awake…as someone else.
Write a story about a man who can see a person’s worst day ever whenever he touches them.
Write a story that begins with the patter of baby footsteps on the hardwood floor.
Write a story involving a broken car trunk, a DVD, and batteries.
Write a story that starts with, “They never tell you what it’s like when your world gets turned upside down.”
Write about how the sticky note pile on your desk keeps dwindling day after day, without you using it.
Write a story about a lie told over breakfast.
Write about your life as if you were telling it from a bystander’s perspective.
Write a story about how you take a bit of an eggroll only to discover a scroll inside.
Write a story that begins with a warm breeze blowing off a house that’s on fire in the middle of winter.
Write about a card game that goes wrong.
Write a story from the perspective of an owl flying around a campground at night.
Write about a lost bracelet.
Write a story about how to find your way back home.
Write a story that starts with, “His pack was heavy, no doubt about that with what he hid inside.”
Write a story like you were the only person left in an amusement park at night.
Write about a time when your friends made you feel betrayed for the first time.
Write about a journey to discover what happens when you reach the bottom of a waterfall.
Write about the lives of two hamsters as they squeeze out of their cage.
Write a story from the perspective of yourself as a 3-year-old.
Write about a story that begins with a bird flying through a window.
Write a story about a character who can’t stop lying to those closest to them.
Write about a brand new couch found sitting in the middle of a back country road.
Write a story about what was found beneath a palm tree during a beach party.
Write about a bathtub and a drawing pad.
Write a story about how a character finds a message in the bottom of their coffee cup.
Write a story about what would happen if food manufacturing companies shut down.
Write a story that starts with, “That oil spill was the least of his problems.”
Write about a character who discovers why nobody can find a cure for cancer.
Write a story detailing the process of creating a bouquet from homegrown florals.
Write about a high school graduation that gets a major surprise.
Write a story involving a rare coin and two thieves fighting over it.
Write about climbing a tree for the first time.
Write a story involving a water spigot and a nest of baby bunnies.
Write about a secret room beneath an open field.
Write a story about a character who discovers their parents’ hidden library.
Write a story involving a notepad, a flashlight, and a goat.
Write a story about holding your breath.
Write about what happens at night inside the small town’s antique shop.
Write a story about a character who lives in a future society that’s struggling to produce enough food.
Write about a secret government’s method of population control.
Write a story about a writer who gets their ideas from the remnants of dreams.
Write a story that starts with, “In any other time, what she did would be considered heroic.”
Write about how dropping their ice cream as a little boy changed your main character completely.
Write a story in which two people argue about who has the worse sleeping problems.
Write about a psychic who wants nothing more than to be believed in a world that shuns psychics.
Write a story that begins with the sound of raindrops on a tin can.
Write about flooding in a society that hasn’t seen good rain in years.
Write about what it would be like to lose every possession you own.
Write a story about the struggles of being born with purple hair in a world where color is frowned upon.
Write about the smell of banana bread and coffee as your character skips downstairs for breakfast.
Write about what it’s like to live in a small shed that’s half buried from before the sickness took nearly half the population.
Write a story that begins with, “She scuttled backward, shoving herself against the wall, sweat bleeding through her torn shirt. It’s worth it.“
Write about a time your character slipped and broke an arm outside a donut shop.
Write about a reserved, creepy EMT who draws your character’s blood for seemingly no reason.
Write about someone who’s afraid to feel the wind.
Write a story that starts with car tires crunching over an abandoned road.
Write a story about a haunted barn.
Write a story involving an air freshener, a trailer, and a basketball.
Write a story about what happens in a small town surrounded by militant forces.
Write about a character who’s never read a book, lost in a library.
Write a story that involves seashells and a stolen ring.
Write a story that starts with, “Her hair was parted on the right side.”
Write about a journal that made everything written in it come to life.
Write about an old woman who spends her whole days gardening.
Write about a time when you forgot something very important.
Write about a whale and a little girl’s toy boat.
Write a story using the words “exposure” and “calamity.”
Write a one-sentence story using the word “charcuterie.”
Write a story about an underdeveloped society learning that their government is listening in on them daily.
Write about a string and a broken cello.
Write a story involving a bar stool and a farm.
Write about what it would be like to step foot on another planet for the first time.
Write about a parade from the perspective of a child.
Write a short story centering around a little boy’s trip to the emergency room in the back of an ambulance.
Overall, author interviews can only help you in your quest to become a full-time author by offering you book marketing opportunities.
Check out this example of how beneficial an author interview of our very own Student Success Coach, Lise Cartwright, can be below. It’s available both on our Youtube channel and Podcast.
With over 8700 views on Youtube and many listens on the podcast, this interview certainly helped maintain her passive income through books.
How to Get Author Interviews on Podcasts
Below, you’ll discover 9 simple strategies to stand out in the eyes of podcasters and land author interviews on their shows.
#1 – Do your research
First of all, listen to the show before reaching out to podcast hosts. Podcasters are often approached by an author who sends generic emails proclaiming “I love your show,” and then ask to become a guest to promote their book.
Other times, they’re approached with specific pitch letters, but the fit isn’t right.
The reason for the mismatch usually is that the author who is pitching hasn’t listened to the show.
If it feels like a chore to listen to the podcast, that’s a sign that you might be better off reaching out to a different podcast host.
After all, you want to find podcasts that are in your niche, which usually happens to be those you listen to anyways.
Here are a few things to ask yourself when you want to reach out to a podcast for an interview:
Do you listen to them on your own?
Do you resonate with their core message/theme?
Are you involved in their community on a regular basis?
Would you be proud to be a featured guest on their podcast?
Are you a fan of past featured guests?
Answering these positively will help you determine which podcasts to reach out to. Without doing the proper research, you could wind up upsetting the hosts and burning those bridges.
#2 – Rate and review the show
Once you’ve listened to a show, subscribe to it on iTunes. Then, rate and review, too.
Ratings, reviews, and subscriptions help the podcast’s ranking. Most importantly, reviews are a powerful form of social proof that will encourage new people to listen.
Mention the review when you submit your pitch.
For example, you could write, “Listening to John Doe’s description of his struggle to grow his business in spite of his terminal disease was truly inspiring. Now, when things get tough, that message keeps me going. That’s why it was such a pleasure to write a 5-star review of your show on iTunes.”
Your message will bring awareness to what you’ve done to support the show, greatly increasing your chances of landing a guest spot.
#3 – Feature the podcast hosts
If you currently have a podcast or YouTube channel, invite the host to be featured as a guest.
By being on your show, the podcasters will learn about your background, and most importantly, about your book. In many cases, they’ll be compelled to invite you as a guest.
Even if the podcast hosts don’t ask you to be on their show, they’re still much more likely to say yes when you ask them.
Also, I send a copy of my book to my podcast guests, who in many cases write a review of the book on Amazon and then offer to have me on their show.
If you don’t have a podcast, then feature them on your social media or website.
You could also write a blog post about the main lessons learned from the show, and tag the host on social media when the article is published. Be cautious when applying this strategy, however.
A subpar article, a half-hearted effort to capture what’s valuable about the show, or overblown praise will probably backfire.
#4 – Tailor your pitch to the host’s story and the mission of the show
When I first pitched my ideas to Dave Lukas, host of the Misfit Entrepreneur Podcast, I mentioned how much I loved that he’d created the show as a legacy for his daughter.
When he learned that I related to and understood his mission, it was easy for him to agree to have me on his show.
You can do the same. Find out why they do what they do, and if it resonates with you, then center your pitch around that.
Here are a few tips for tailoring your pitch to land your author interview:
Mention something you learned from their show
Make a connection from yourself to the show’s mission and theme
Connect your book’s message with their show’s
Doing this will help you reach podcast hosts much more effectively and show them you’re a great fit for their show.
#5 – Offer three unique ideas related to your book
Before I submit a pitch, I research the episodes in the past two to three months to see if anyone has explored the topics I have in mind.
If my topics are fresh, I submit them. If not, I reposition my expertise with a different angle.
My book is about influencer marketing. If I notice that only three weeks prior, another guest talked about influencer marketing as part of a business’s marketing mix, I pitch a different aspect of the topic, such as “how to build a list of subscribers with influencer marketing,” or “how to initiate connections with social media influencers to launch your book.”
Resist the temptation to speak about a topic that deviates from your book. If you do that, your interview will probably not bring in new book sales.
I encourage you to take a moment right now and write down three to five topic ideas based on the core message in your book, which you can modify depending on the targeted show.
#6 – Leverage common connections you have with the host
Who do you think has a better chance to get a last-minute appointment with a busy hair stylist: a complete stranger or the friend of a current customer?
The same idea applies to landing guest appearances on a podcast. Common connections matter.
Often, when I appear on a podcast, the host will offer to introduce me to other podcast hosts who might want to have me as a guest.
This is one of the easiest ways to secure future guest appearances.
You might not even need a formal introduction. When you pitch, just mention that you know one or more of their previous guests.
The idea is to find common ground.
#7 – Send samples of previous interviews
In every podcast pitch I submit, I include links to three of my most relevant and significant podcast appearances.
Those podcast interviews are relevant because they’re ideal for the audience of the new podcast I’m targeting, and they’re significant because they have reached large audiences.
If you haven’t had podcast appearances yet, I encourage you to create audio or video clips with valuable content relevant to your audience that you publish on your site, and use those links as samples for the host.
Even though samples of actual podcast interviews are much more powerful, the mere fact that you have a sample of your work will help you stand out among the competition.
#8 – Create a one-sheet
To save yourself time and effort, and to show your professionalism, I suggest you create a “one-sheet.”
A one-sheet is a document that’s a summary of who you are and what you offer as a guest.
You could send the link to your one-sheet with your pitch, or use the information within the one-sheet to complete your guest request form or email pitch.
Regardless of the situation, having this document readily available will save you time and effort.
The main elements of a one-sheet are:
Potential interview topics
Here’s an example of my own, personal one-sheet and what all the below information looks like compiled into, well, one sheet.
Now let’s delve into what each of these sections needs.
Create different versions of your bio (50-, 100-, 150-, and 200-word bios) so you’re ready when the podcast host asks you for a specific length. If you’re submitting the entire one-sheet, include the 100-word version of your bio in it.
The bio should mention your book (even if you haven’t published it yet), and other credentials as proof of your expertise, along with at least one personal tidbit about yourself.
It’s standard for all podcast guests to submit their profile picture before they’re interviewed. Invest in a professional photographer.
No selfies, please!
Potential interview topics
List no more than seven topics related to your book you could explore as a guest.
You can check back to step number 5 if you need to generate some.
Some hosts will ask you to provide talking points for the topic you’ll explore. Others favor a free-form style, and will lead the interview as an informal conversation.
In either case, you should be prepared to provide talking points within 48 hours of being approved as a guest, though you can double check with the podcast host for specifics about this.
Include links to your main website, your book, your free offer for the listeners, and your primary social media pages.
Depending on the host, you might also be asked to provide an affiliate link to a free download or low-ticket offer. In most cases, providing affiliate links isn’t required, but having the ability to create such a link on demand will help you stand out.
If you’re submitting the one-sheet, then just write “Affiliate link for free download available.”
Include your email address and phone number.
Having your one-sheet ready will allow you to simply copy and paste the information when you complete guest request forms or pitch via email.
#9 – Always aim to deliver value first
Above all, remember that your primary goal is to deliver value to your audience, and book sales will be a natural result of that value. If instead you approach the podcasters with the only intention to sell more books, they might simply ignore you.
When you submit your pitch, always start what ifs a personalized explanation of why you are a fan of the show and how you can inspire and educate its audience.
Then, mention your book as an additional asset listeners may benefit from.
Good luck landing your author interview!
After you land your first podcast appearance, it’ll be much easier for you to land the next. When you least expect it, the word about your book will have spread and you will make a much greater impact with your message.
What matters most is that you take action and start reaching out to podcast hosts. You—and your book—deserve to be known!
The success of my books has been directly responsible for the strong performance of my business, which has grown to over 7 figures in less than 2 years.
Self-publishing a book is done with these steps:
Write a book you’re proud of
Decide which self-publishing platform to use
Get your book edited, a cover designed, and it formatted
Upload your manuscript and accompanying assets
Hit “Publish” when you’re read
Your book is self-published!
It’s really that easy.
Five years ago, in order to achieve this level of publishing success, you would have needed to be extremely lucky to even land an agent who would attempt to find you a deal at one of the “Big 5” publishing houses.
I’ve created a step-by-step comprehensive self-publishing guide that will walk you through the beginning steps of how to write your book all the way to how to self-publish it on Amazon’s Kindle (KDP) Network.
Let’s get started so you can get started!
Do you have what it takes to become a published author?
Come up with at least 10 valid reasons why you want to write a book. Use the questions above as a starting guide to brainstorm.
#2 – Write Your Book
If you’ve ever tried to start writing a book, you might have had moments where you’ve stared at a blank page for hours with nothing to show for it. Feeling frustrated, you resort to procrastinating and get nothing done!
This is normal, writing a book is hard work.
In fact, coming up with a book ideain general can be very tricky. But in order to start writing your book, you must develop a writing process.
Here’s are some effective ways to write a book worth self-publishing:
Buy a calendar. The best way to have your book complete is to have a calendar that schedules your goals per day/week.
Create an outline. An outline is like a map of your book that provides direction to your story. It keeps you on track and ensures that your ideas are organized.
Develop a writing habit. Condition yourself to write at the same time every day. With this practice, it will soon become a habit that will make writing a book automatic.
Get an accountability partner. You can hold each other accountable to write and finish your by your “draft done” date.
Build your writing environment. Yes, this can be a blanket for if you choose to use “build” literally or you can simply find an area where your head is clear, there are no distractions, and where you can write in peace.
To learn more tips on how to write faster, here’s a tutorial video of the simple process I use to write over 1500 words per hour:
Create a resistance plan! Figure out which methods best filter out the negative noise to get you into the writing process.
#3 – Get Feedback on Your Book Before Publishing
When writing your book, it’s important to get as much feedback as early in the process as possible.
It’s essential to get this feedback in order to improve your writing.
Everything from creative writing to factual, non-fiction works needs feedback in order to produce a polished publication.
As writers, it’s all too easy to retreat into your cave for a long period of time, spend countless hours writing what you think is the perfect first draft, only to find that a) your draft doesn’t make sense to anyone else or b) no one else is as interested in the topic as you originally thought.
Writing tips can come from anywhere and the best usually come from those reading your book for the first time.
Not only can a fresh set of eyes on your book help you catch typos and grammatical errors, but a new perspective can give you ideas for tightening up your story and making the theme more clear, like in the example below.
Giving your book to one (or more) “beta readers” before giving it to an editor and self-publishing can also cut down on the time and cost of paying a professional editor.
Reach out to a few friends who could provide good (preferably unbiased) feedback, and ask them if they’ll be willing to read a chapter or two (or the whole book!) as you finish writing
#4 – Choose a Book Title
Contrary to popular belief, you should never decide on a book title until after you are done writing your first draft.
This is because choosing a book title first often results in you “writing yourself into a corner” because you’re trying so hard to align your story to the title of the book instead of writing what needs to be written.
Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.
As you’re brainstorming ideas, always remember to keep it simple.
Your title should also be clear on what your readers will receive by reading your book. This is because experts state that a clear promise or a guarantee of results will further intrigue your readers.
Here are some questions to consider when creating your memorable book title:
Is your title going to teach a high demand skill?
Can your title impact someone’s life?
Can your book solve a very difficult problem?
Is it short enough to read in a thumbnail image on Amazon?
Does it elicit an emotional response?
Once you’ve narrowed down your book titles, send out an email to your friends and family or put a poll up to your audience asking what title they’d prefer. You could also ask a community of other authors what they think.
Start there. If you don’t, then do you know someone who knows an editor? If you don’t have any luck finding an editor within your personal network, don’t worry!
Depending on your budget, you can either hire a professional book editor or hire a more budget-friendly editor from Upwork. But be careful and always check references and portfolios of work.
As a Self-Publishing School student, we will also provide you with a Rolodex of approved and vetted book editors who all do a great job, as you can see in the example below.
No matter how you find your editor, make sure you’re a good fit before committing to the full book by paying them a small sum ($25 or so) to edit a few pages or a chapter of your book.
Make sure the editor is interested in the subject matter, that they can get your whole book edited in 3.5 weeks or less including back-and-forth revisions, and that their edits are both accurate and make sense to you.
If you don’t feel you’re a good fit following a sample edit, then let that $25 go and find an editor who’s going to work out rather than sinking more money into a relationship that might be a mistake.
Whatever you do, don’t give up during the editorial process! If one editor isn’t working out for you or meeting your needs, find another.
Find a friend or professional editor who can make sure your book is error-free, and start working with them sooner rather than later!
#6 – Design a Book Cover that Converts
When it comes to self-publishing, a high-quality book cover is one of the most important elements that will get your book to convert into sales!
The reason is that yourbook cover design is what readers see first and will immediately determine whether they want to read your book or not.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” simply doesn’t apply to actual book covers, as much as we wish it did.
The hard truth is that everyone judges a book by its cover whether they realize it or not.
So you must make sure that it is created professionally and that it will stand apart from the rest of the books in your genre or category.
What makes a good book cover?
Simplistic styling. Too much going on will make readers unable to figure out what your book is about. Keep the cover minimalistic and it will convert more readers.
Professionally designed. Book cover designers know how to create book covers that convert. They have industry knowledge and have studied what works and what doesn’t.
Clear title and subtitle. The title on your cover does matter. The easier it is to read, the better. This allows your readers to clearly see what your book is about as they scroll through Amazon or other book retailers.
A design style that fits your intended audience. If you’re writing a faith-based book intended for an audience of faith, having an overly dark, devilish cover doesn’t make sense.
You can find amazing book cover designers on freelancing sites such as:
You can also use KDP’s free resources to help format your book. Formatting can be a frustrating experience for the uninitiated though, so if you have a few bucks to spare, you might consider paying someone to help you.
Also keep in mind that formatting will look different for fiction versus nonfiction books.
Typically, nonfiction books don’t have an indent between paragraphs but instead, they have spaces whereas fiction books are indented with each new paragraph.
If you want to pay for formatting, Liber Writeris a low-cost, effective option for converting a Microsoft Word file to Amazon’s Kindle format. If $60 is too much, you can also find people on Fiverr to format your book for Kindle.
Just be sure you hire someone who knows how to format your specific book genre.
Make sure your book is formatted properly by using the free online resource above or hiring someone who can handle the formatting process for you.
#9 – Self-Publish Your Book
When you feel confident your book is ready for the public, you can create a KDP account and upload your book.
This is how to upload your book on KDP:
On the KDP mainpage, locate and click on “Your Bookshelf”.
Locate and click on “Kindle eBook Actions”.
Then, locate and click on “Edit eBook Content”.
Finally, click on “Upload eBook Manuscript”, and upload your manuscript file from your computer.
It’s highly recommended you also select two different categories on Amazon your book might fit into so you can reach a broader audience.
To select keywords and categories, look at other best-selling books in your niche and notice what keywords and categories those authors chose.
Once Amazon finishes uploading your file, a confirmation message will be sent and you can preview the uploaded file to check for any errors. Create your Amazon author central account after uploading your book.
Include a bio, photo, and link to your website or blog to help you stand out among authors. After a few more steps, you’ll be ready to publish your book, at which time you’ll click “save & publish” in your KDP book dashboard.
Afterward, you should be ready to publish your book! Just click “save & publish” in the book editing screen!
Follow these steps to upload your book. You are allowed to upload your manuscript as many times as you want with each upload overriding the previous.
#10 – Price Your Book
One of the most important decisions when it comes to self-publishing a book is how to price it. The most common question I get from new writers is, “How much should my book cost?”
To answer this, my general rule of thumb is to have your book priced is between $2.99 to $5.99. To be more specific, when beginning a launch, I would begin by pricing the book at $0.99 for the launch period.
Then I would set the price to 2.99, and I would moderately increase the price by $1 every week and measure how well the new price performs. Once you see a sales dip, that will determine the exact price of your book that will guarantee book sales.
Find the perfect price by using this strategy that will attract your readers and best drive long-term success.
#11 – Form a Launch Team
Your launch team is the group of people who are dedicated to helping make your book successful.
They should be a passionate group of individuals who are eager to make your book launch successful. Remember, one highly skilled team member is better than a group of mediocre ones!
Here’s a video detailing how to use a launch team effectively:
To find quality candidates, here’s a questionnaire you can use to assess applicants and see if they’re qualified to market your book:
Why do you want to support my book?
What goals are you trying to reach with this project?
How would you market this book?
Which influencers would you reach out to and why?
Do you have a genuine interest in my book and its genre?
Create an application with questions that align with your thought process. Try to be open-minded with those who think outside the box – they may be the perfect candidates that can get your book to become a bestseller.
#12 – Maximize Book Launch Exposure with Reviews
It’s not enough to learn how to publish a book and be done with it. You still have to take action even after your official launch.
As soon as your book goes live on Amazon, be sure to leverage your launch team and your audience to help you market your book! It may be odd to ask your fans for help, but your fans are there to support your project and want to see you succeed.
You might be surprised how willing they’ll be to help you if you just ask!
Here are some marketing initiatives you can assign your team and audience to do:
Share content from your book as blog posts across social media
Reach out to influencers for a future guest post or podcast feature
Share a book review on their YouTube channel
Buy extra copies to gift their friends
The additional exposure generated from your launch team and audience will help push your book up Amazon’s rankings, which will drive more sales!
Create your book marketing launch plan using these methods. Measure each of these methods to see which will best get your book in the hands of new readers and convert into sales.
#13 – Celebrate Learning How to Self-Publish a Book!
Publishing after writing a book is just the beginning. Depending on your goals for your book, self-publishing can get you more customers, free publicity, and establish you as an expert in your niche.
This can help you land speaking gigs and build a business within your area of expertise.
Your book sales can also help fund your lifestyle with passive income.
Dream big about what you want your book to do for you. When you have a vision for where you want your book to take you, it will be easier to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Getting clear on what you want will also help you to be more effective when expanding your network along on your journey.
What to do Now
Now that you’ve learned how to publish a book, it’s time to take action and bring yourself one step closer to your goals and dreams.
If self-publishing a bestseller is something you want to do, and you’re serious about changing your life and your business for the better by getting your book out there in the world, then you need a step-by-step system to follow to take action.
Picture this: your imagination is a match…and you need to light it.
There are a number of different methods of setting a match ablaze and come up with story ideas. You can swipe it on the ground, against a rough surface, use your own nail, or even light it with another match that’s already burning.
But the best (and easiest) way? Striking it against the matchbox it came in. That’s what it’s for, after all.
Here are the best writing prompts we have for you:
You know what you want to write about: life’s happenings, a tragedy in your life, a deep memoir, magic, advanced science, realistic contemporary stories, but you just can’t figure out how to go from the genre and character development to a writing a novel.
200+ Creative Writing Prompts for Fiction Book Ideas
If you’re ready to take the plunge and finally start writing a book like you’ve always talked about, we can help you get started.
These are 100% original, never-before-seen creative writing prompts you won’t find anywhere else.
If you want to keep this list of creative writing prompts for future use, download the entire list now!
Download over 200 fiction prompts here!
But if you’re ready to start right now, here are a few to set the creative wheel of your imagination in motion so you can find your writing style and master your craft.
30 Fantasy Writing Prompts
Fantasy is all about magic, creatures, and abilities. The possibilities with a fantasy world are nearly endless.
You can literally make up anything you want. This is why fantasy is my preferred genre to write in.
Here are 30 original fantasy writing prompts:
Write about a character who finds an odd-looking egg in the forest. When they take it home, they never could have predicted what was inside it.
Write a book about a character who has always had the ability to change how they looked, and so they hid their true appearance behind attractive façades. Now, their abilities aren’t working, exposing what they truly look like.
Write a story about once peaceful water dwellers who have suddenly declared war on a settlement that was its only true ally. Your character has no idea why and is thrust into the war against their will.
Write about how magic is the norm. Some excel at it, some are only okay, and others are against it completely, despite being able to use it. Your main character is the latter.
Write a story about how time has always been a constant in a world where reality can be warped and stretched. Then your character, through research and hard work, discovers you can even alter time.
Write about a character who researches untouched societies as a living. While deep in the jungle on an assignment, they accidentally allow themselves to be seen by someone from the society, a big no-no. What that person is capable of is beyond the world your character knew existed.
Write about a character whose world is dying. The actual earth is sick and killing all the plants and probably life as they know it.
Write a story about one of your characters who has magic. The other wants nothing more than to have magic. How far is that one person willing to go to make that magic theirs?
Your character and their brother have always been best friends. They know practically everything about each other. Until they catch him do something they never thought possible.
Write a book about an ancient society where your character hears a voice within their own mind. Shunned by their village, they spend their life as a near-slave, waiting on others, doing the hardest work, and granted little freedom. Well, they did, anyway, until they uncovered who the voice belonged to.
Your character boards a ship to sail across to a newly discovered land. What they find when they get there are undiscovered species – both animal and humanoid.
Non-magic people are outlawed. Your character has no magic and their older sibling has been ensuring nobody knows since your character was born. One missed moment might ruin everything.
Write about a character who needs a miracle, and they meet one too! Who knew miracles were actually beings and not just something that happens? Your character makes a bad first impression when their miracle shows up to help them out.
Write a story about how all types of magic exists in your character’s world. While drinking liquid happiness (magic drink) from a local tavern, they’re hit with a vision that overpowered every drop of happiness consumed. They’ve never had visions before, either.
Your character has always believed magic exists. They just didn’t know how close it really was.
Write a book about how after an accident that killed your character’s father, they uncover secrets they can’t even understand. Then their father’s friend shows up out of nowhere and explains all of it.
Write about how your character teaches children magic. When one kid proves to be way more than expected, they have to help them understand exactly what they can do – and stop them from doing something that could be dangerous.
Write a story about your character and while awaiting test results in the hospital, they encounter an…odd person who teaches them about a world beyond their own – and better than their own.
Write about a character who embarks on a quest to locate a special type of rock that lights fires almost instantly – something their settlement needs. What they didn’t expect to find, however, was a mermaid-like species living in the cave that houses most of that rock.
Write a fantasy story about a character who wakes up every day feeling the same thing: that something in their life is just…missing. When they realize their frequent nightmares are actually memories, it all becomes clear.
Emotions can be controlled. Thoughts can be stolen. In the world your character lives in, holding on to your own sanity is the difference between destruction and thriving. They must learn to push out anyone who tries to alter their perception of reality.
Write about your character, who gets caught in the middle of an ancient feud between two families as a result of one of their failures. In order to make things right, they have to dive head first into a world they’d rather not know even existed.
Your character is short on food, shelter, and even patience. When they (literally) run into someone from their past, their reality starts to make sense. If only that person could undo what’s been done to them.
Magic is the currency. Your character is a rare breed who was born without it. When they find themselves in a dangerous challenge to prove their worth to the settlement, magic would’ve come in handy.
Write a book about a character who can teleport – but only to places they’ve been before. Their dream? To backpack across each of your world’s countries in order to acquire the most locations. The only thing stopping them is a past that’s sprinting to catch up to them.
Your character’s country is the best…until a new ruler steals the throne by force…of magic. The most shocking part? Nobody from that country knows magic exists…and everybody with magic didn’t know those without it exist.
Write about a character who wants to do everything on their “bucket list.” But when they’re kidnapped and shipped off to the unknown, there’s only one thing left on their list: survive. It just so happens the place they end up stuck is one of dreams.
Your character hears a language they’ve never heard uttered before that day…yet they understood every single word. Turns out, they’re not really from where they think.
Your character is a compulsive liar, unable to stop themselves from spinning tales that make them the envy of everyone around them. Then they wake up one day to discover that their lies have all come true…
Write about a character who goes looking for magic out of curiosity. They find more than magic in their family history.
How to Write Fantasy Stories:
Fantasy is a wildly popular genre. There are countless fantasy worlds out there and that means you really have to focus on being unique within your world.
Here are a few ideas to do these writing prompts justice:
Are you one who loves advanced technology, diseases, and even space travel? If so, science fiction writing is right up your alley.
When it comes to creating new technologies and advanced societies, you really have to think outside the box.
Here are 30 sci-fi creative writing prompts:
Write about a character who wakes up in a space pod alone…next to a ship so massive it’s actually carrying a planet beneath it. Your character has no memory from before they wake.
Write a story about a character who lives in a world where every single person’s DNA is carefully genetically designed for something to help the community. Your main character despises what they were created for. This has never happened before.
Write about how your character lives on a planet other than Earth. In fact, they don’t even know Earth exists. Well, they didn’t until some sort of advanced, technical probe crash-landed in their settlement, exposing the fact that they’re not alone. Now they have to decide what’s best for their settlement.
Write a book about how the world used to be plagued with war and famine and inhumanity. But after years and years of developing a technical system that is the center of and controls everything, it’s almost completely peaceful. Your character is the engineer keeping the system running and when they uncover how it works, they contemplate abandoning everything they know.
Write about the newest advancement in virtual reality that adds a physical sense. Now your characters can even hook up with people through your phone, all while staying at home. But when a glitch alters the mechanisms, what was once pleasure becomes pain and the user gets trapped in a VR state.
Write a story about how others have been keeping your character alive for over 300 years because of a secret they know. When someone new finally learns the truth, reality becomes…confusing. Now, with only a short adulthood left to live, your character must ensure nobody else learns of this secret. But…well, news spreads fast.
Write about how they didn’t mean to, but in an attempt to build a time traveling machine, your character actually discovered alternate universes – and then accidentally trapped themselves there. Oh, and this alternate universe hasn’t discovered electricity yet.
Write a story about a character who lives in an ancient society. When a shiny, unnatural looking contraption touches down and creatures emerge, everything they once knew changes.
Write about how the only reason your character is alive is because of a test device implanted around their heart. It wasn’t supposed to work and now, they’re not only healed, but they’re also changing. Just what exactly was that device made out of?
Write about a character who wakes up in a dark, hot room dressed in hardly anything. Their memory is foggy but clearing up, and they have some sort of technical device securing their hands together. They stumble over to a tiny window that gives them a clear view of a world far below them.
Write about your character’s sister who is discovered dead and the cause of death ruled an overdose. Your character knows better. She was the only person in the family who never had an issue with drugs. In fact, she was developing a cure for cancer in the most advanced research center in the world. Your character finds that…suspicious.
Write a story about how computers are outlawed. Having access to technology is punishable by life in prison. Your character runs an underground cyber center that gets crashed by local law enforcement. But during interrogation, they get hired instead of prosecuted…because something unworldly has touched down.
Write about a character who accidentally created a virtual reality software that taps into the user’s psyche and creates their ultimate dream reality. They were on track to become a billionaire until some users became addicted and unable to free themselves from its hold.
Write a story about how the world your character currently lives on is nearing its breaking point. While the rest of the world rushes to evacuate everyone to a space pod with a destination of a livable planet, your character remains behind bars, left to die with the rest of the world’s prisoners. The kicker? They’re wrongfully convicted.
Write about how disease is finally eradicated. Cancer is nothing more than an old nightmare. Your character spent years working his way into a lab dedicated to making sure it stays that way. Their secret? They’re a hardcore believer in natural selection. He decides to take Darwinism into his own hands.
Write a book about a city that’s the first to implement an entirely technological government. It’s under strict surveillance from the outside in order to determine if this is the future of your country…and the world. Your character stumbles into trouble when they discover that technology isn’t in charge at all – a group of people they’ve never seen or heard of are.
Write about hot time altering is possible, but fatally illegal. In this world, characters can bend, pause, rewind, and even fast forward time…but at the risk of their lives. Your character, in a midst of panic, accidentally alters time…by going 300 years into the past.
Write a story about how the outdoors is plagued with radioactive particles created by a new technology once thought to eradicate airborne diseases. People are confined to the indoors unless they use a special, very expensive suit. Citizens who can’t afford them are driven mad by confinement. Your character wants to find a way for everyone to have a suit – no matter what law enforcement says.
Write about a character who invents airborne particles with the intent to eradicate diseases. Unfortunately, they become radioactive, toxic, and severely deadly to anyone who breathes in even a tiny amount.
Scientists have created a man-made atmosphere around the planet of Mars in order to make it completely livable. Your character is one of the lucky few who are chosen to be among the first to inhabit the planet. What they don’t know is that there is no atmosphere…and others already inhabit it.
Write about your character who lives in a world where the outdoors is plagued with natural disasters daily. Venturing outside is dangerous and rarely done. When they’re forced to leave their home to rush to the aid of someone struggling outside, they learn that those “natural” disasters are completely fabricated. Their new life mission is to find out why.
Write a story about how in your character’s world, identity is implanted into your forearm at birth. It’s scannable and contains any information someone would ever need to know, including age, overall health, risk for diseases, and more. Your character, having spent their life in a type of foster care, applies for a job only to realize that now, at the age of 18, their identity is showing two different sets of information.
Your character’s job is to lead the mission of colonizing new planets – even if there’s life present. When the truth of how they manage to find habitable planets surfaces, a new recruit shows them just how wrong it really is. Your characters new goal? To stop it.
Write about how oceanic cities have been built for the rich. They float atop the ocean, traveling hundreds of miles a day, all while its citizens go about their everyday life. Unfortunately, your character discovers a superstorm developing below the ocean’s surface, something that has never happened before – something they are wildly unprepared for.
Your character develops a new device you implant in your ear that reads the minds of those they focus on. After light testing, they accidentally discover that the local baker has a massive, dangerous, potentially even deadly secret.
Write about how in the distant future, magic is discovered as being real…at least for the humanoid creatures inhabiting an Earth-like planet. Your main character is among the few chosen to venture to the planet and study them. They just never expected to discover the source of the magic like they did in the process.
Write a story about how oxygen levels on Earth have been plummeting for centuries. Now, with the population dwindling due to suffocation and disease, your main character has to find a way off the dying planet without attracting too much attention from the Keeps, also known as the highly deadly enforcement force tasked with making sure only certain individuals leave.
Write a story about how centuries ago, a solar flare damaged the Earth’s atmosphere in the opposite way expected; it actually made it stronger. But now the sun’s rays have difficulty penetrating it and the world is slowly growing colder. Your character is among the many determined to find a way to fix it.
Happiness is an illusion, as are every other emotion. In your futuristic society, humans are bred in a lab without them as a means of creating equality. The only problem is that your main character was born the natural way…with every emotion intact. If this is discovered, they’ll have to fend for their life.
Write about how your main character was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tasked with delivering something seemingly unimportant, they witness something they shouldn’t have and are pulled into a world of secrecy, dangerous weapon manufacturing, and a virtual war the public is blind to.
How to Write Science Fiction:
This genre is another very popular one, and for good reason. You can imagine a realistic, yet very different future than what we currently have.
But you also want to make sure to remember a few of these guidelines when creating your science fiction world from these writing prompts:
Decide if the story will take place in this world or a completely unique one
Create realistic advanced technology that your characters would actually use
Avoid modern-day slang unless the story takes place here
Write about a character who finds an odd-looking egg in the forest. When they take it home, they never could have predicted what was inside it.
Write a story about how natural farming doesn’t exist anymore. Due to climate change, all food has to be manufactured in bulk and distributed. There is no flavor and is the same every day. Your character, who has spent their entire life in this world, takes a trip to the mountains far away from their home. There, they discover real plants, and on them, berries.
Write about nature extremists taking over the government, stopping at nothing to ensure all man-made harm on the planet is eradicated. Your character ends up in their clutches, forced to do their bidding.
Write a story about how, due to climate change, wildfires have engulfed the large majority of living land. Your character is one of many attempting to board a ship set for a new in-ocean settlement. The problem? That settlement doesn’t actually exist.
Write about how after a devastating illness that rocked only the wildlife population over 200 years ago, a scientist created a virus that strengthens animal’s immune systems with the purpose of creating balance and stabilizing the wildlife population once again. The problem is that it worked too well and the wildlife has exceeded (and reduced) the world’s population
Write a book about how after a devastating storm that encompassed the entire world, the population has thinned significantly and your character, who lost all of their family but their youngest sibling, has to go up against the new “government” with a group of allies as they attempt to gain control over the living population of the world – in the worst way.
Write about how over the course of a few hundred years, cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses caused the death and destruction of generations. Then an airborne substance was created to balance all levels of each person so they’re created 100% equal in every way. Turns out, your character is immune to the substance.
Write about how the third World War is done and over with for many years now. It was the downfall of the world’s economic system. Now your main character must navigate a world where governments no longer exist, money is useless, and survival is the only objective. Oh, and they have a debilitating medical condition to look after, too
Write a story about how two thousand years after a massive wave of a fatal illness swept over the entire world, your character navigates a life of poverty and hardship, struggling to feed their very young twin siblings and alcoholic father. That is, until a new form of choosing a leader is proposed. Now they can finally compete to rule over their settlement.
Write about how books have nearly been abolished. Your country is separated into three main regions with a dangerous “neutral” zone in the center. With a rumor of a way out located in the midst of the neutral zone, your main character must venture through two other regions to get there.
Write a book about a character who is fortunate to have been born into a powerful family after the downfall of the world. They have everything they would ever hope to have…except for a clue as to what happens outside their very large, protective walls. Once they find out, they can’t help but need to change it.
Write about a single tower that powers what’s left of the country’s population. When an outsider tampers with its mechanisms, the tower breaks down, leaving your main character and everyone else struggling to survive.
Write about how the birthrate has dropped significantly. So much so that children are now worth millions. Your main character, a very poor woman, just found out she’s pregnant – and won’t be able to hide it for long. Kidnapping and worse await her if anyone finds out that she can reproduce, and will soon have a child up for “grabs.” In order to save herself – and her child – she must confess her pregnancy to the father, a very wealthy man in politics.
Write a story about a character who ventures away from the only town they’ve ever known, despite warnings and many attempts to make them stay. What they find is emptiness…for miles and miles and miles.
Write a story about a hidden temple is the only thing standing in the way of your character becoming the next ruler of a post-apocalyptic, off-the-grid society. When a newcomer ventures into their land, their chance of finding the temple becomes dangerous…maybe even impossible.
Write a book about how they really thought they were helping by creating a single drug with the power to eradicate diseases, illnesses, and even cancer. What they didn’t anticipate was the massive super virus 100% resistant to the drug. Your main character seems to be the only one who can’t catch it…that they know of.
Write about how society has collapsed over hundreds of years, not with war or a single event like they always thought would happen. Your main character discovers a voice message from 700 years prior detailing the downfall’s construction. The 300 years it took to destroy society was completely planned. But why?
Since the manmade radioactive superstorm that destroyed most of life as they knew it, extreme measures have been taken to document every move of every person. Your main character scans a chip when they eat, sleep, travel, and even when they have sex. When offered a way out, your main character takes it without question…which might be their biggest mistake.
Write a story about how the government was taken over by the rich nearly 50 years ago. Your main character was lucky enough to be born into the wealthiest family. What they never thought of, though, was the fact that one day, the could be kidnapped and used as leverage.
Write about a character who, after witnessing horrors of rising crime and drug rates, ran away at the age of 12 to live on their own in a secluded wooded area. Now, after 10 years of solitude, people start filing into their neck of the woods covered in wounds, tattered clothing, and bruises.
Write about a super tsunami that’s demolished the eastern portion of the United States. But contrary to what was expected, the water is actually creeping inland, not back out to sea. Your main character’s home is a victim of the ocean.
Write a story about how electricity is scarce…and very expensive. Your main character walks home one night to discover a brand-new electric car sitting idle in behind a forest tree line. They follow its tire tracks to find a massive house lit up and blasting music. A stranger waves at them to come in.
Write a book about how at the height of your character’s career – and life as a whole – an attack destroys their city, kills their spouse, and forces them into poverty…and maybe even war. With new laws, new standards, and new rulers in place, their life obtains a whole new purpose.
Write a story about how a little boy is running toward your main character, a look of absolute joy lighting up their face. Then they freeze, their joy turning to anger, rage. Your character cocks their head, confused, and then the truth hits them. He must be one of the Ruin Children, born from the people affected by the Great Tragedy.
Write about a trial being the only way your character can ever hope to rise above their current abysmal ranking. Your world’s current society is one bred for advancement. Anyone who can’t meet the standards is done for. Your character needs a near miracle to pass their trial.
Due to an error made by someone in the distant future when time traveling, the world’s societal (and time) structure has collapsed. Each day may produce a completely different reality than the one before. Survival isn’t guaranteed and strangers could have been your best friend – or more – only yesterday.
Your character’s world is what happens when an experimental chemical compound intended to sustain plant life is pumped into the atmosphere. Now trees have overgrown, plants are squeezing into homes, and the Earth’s oxygen levels are (if you can believe it) too high.
Tagged, chipped, and shuffled into line. That’s your character’s everyday reality. They’re herded like cattle…to be used in the same way as cattle. Then a single guard takes pity on your character and offers them a way out.
Write a story about a main character who’s read all about the warning signs of a solar flare and the flipping of the Earth’s magnetic field. They’ve scoured through studies and research papers depicting what would happen. Since both occurred within the same year over a century ago, they’re stuck to live in the aftermath.
Peace. The world is ruled by one person dedicated to keeping the peace. There’s been no war or poverty or famine in centuries. Your main character is newly employed to be the ruler’s personal assistant. When they discover how the world is kept at peace, their life changes forever.
How to write Dystopian books:
Dystopian novels are one of the biggest trends sweeping the literary world. With books like The Handmaid’s Tale stirring more post-apocalyptic stories, it’s easy to get stuck in the same mindset as many other dystopian novelists.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to write dystopian using these writing prompts:
Paint a very clear picture of everyday life for your character from the very first page
Get creative with the laws, culture, and customs
Don’t just “go with the flow”:The Handmaid’s Tale is so popular largely due to the fact that it’s unique. Not many people would have thought of a world that was overrun by a religion – and that’s what makes it so tantalizing; it’s unexpected.
28 Contemporary Writing Prompts
Some people don’t necessarily want to escape from this world. In fact, they just want to escape from their own life for a little bit but prefer to read something realistic, something they can relate to.
Contemporary writing is all about forming connections with readers.
Here are 28 contemporary writing prompts:
Write about a character who’s done everything they’re told. They just graduated high school and are off to a very good college to get their degree in something reliable. But when they get there, they realize there’s a whole world of opportunity they never knew existed. Now they have to maintain the façade of going to college even though they decided to pursue a different endeavor.
Write a story involving a character who answers the door to nothing but an intricate envelope on the ground; an invitation. After attending the secret underground event, they become a part of the biggest activist group out there…and nobody even knows who they are.
Write about how, while on a hike with friends, your main character discovers a small tower buried beneath the ground. After some digging, they realize it’s filled with scrolls they can hardly make out. What they contain will change your character’s view of life forever.
Write a book about how a character has been living a very sheltered, very dangerous life. After the death of their overbearing father, they’re thrust into the real world – only to realize just how different their life really is from those around them.
Write a book about how your main character gets called out of school/work by someone they don’t know for something they are clueless about. But for some reason, the person addressing them thinks they already know everything about it.
Write a story about how, as an artist, your main character has it well. But when everything they’ve worked for is burned in a tragic fire, they have to start all over with nothing to their name and a roommate determined to hold them back.
Write about how life for your main character has never been easy. After venturing in and out of foster homes, they’re finally an adult and on their own. When their birth mother reaches out to reconnect, they never could’ve predicted what’s kept her away for so long. Now your character has to decide between getting involved with their real mother or cutting ties forever.
Write about how death is a natural part of life. Your main character has been feared it or been affected by it. But when their best friend goes missing and their body shows up in front of their house, your character makes it their mission to find out who’s responsible – even if it means breaking the law…a lot of laws.
Write a story about a character who’s in an accident that leaves them blind. When they meet a stranger who shows them how to enjoy life again, everything seems to be perfect. Until tragedy strikes that stranger.
A strange person approaches your character claiming to be their long-lost parent. But your character isn’t adopted…so they think. Now they have to make sense of a new reality and an identity that’s shocking.
Write about how a half-eaten apple flies through the air and smacks your character on the head. There’s nobody around and no way for anyone to hide. Then it happens again the next day. They do some digging and discover the source…a small child with rags for clothes and hollow cheeks.
Your character’s identity is stolen, racking up thousands of dollars in debt. They were just fired, and to top it all off, their long-term significant other just broke up with them for their friend. And they said your twenties would be the best years of your life.
Your character was adopted from foster care when she was 5. Their memories of their time in that foster home are almost non-existent. All they can remember is feeling scared and a distinct song that gets stuck in their head from time to time. As they’re walking to class one day, they hear that familiar song in the distance.
Write a story about how your character woke up in a stranger’s home with a gaping, painful wound on their leg. They have no idea where they are, how they go there, or who the strange man in the corner of the room watching them is.
Write about how your character had been studying their whole life. With everyone in their family having gone to an ivy league school, your main character feels the pressure to get in and get A’s. They even stoop to low levels to do so.
Your character embarks on a mission to prove that the key to happiness is doing whatever they want, whenever they want. But that mentality quickly lands them in serious trouble with drugs, new “friends,” and decisions they can’t undo.
Write a story about a dimly lit street at 3 am. Your character strolls by like they have many nights before after a long shift at the bar. A building they’ve never noticed before flashing an “OPEN” sign catches their attention. Once inside, the direction of their entire life changes.
Write about how nothing has ever really been difficult for your main character. They’ve been able to coast through life, get a good job, make good friends, and are happy. Then a social worker shows up at their door with a six-year-old child – the same child that was adopted six years prior. Turns out, raising a six-year-old is very, very difficult.
Your main character has worked their entire life to make their dreams of curing cancer a reality. But when it seems like a cure is within reach, a suspicious fire burns all of their research…or so it seemed.
Write about a character who survived an accident that killed one of their siblings. When they thought life couldn’t get any harder, a scary diagnosis rocks their already unstable boat. Dealing with grief, your family blaming you for a sibling’s death, and a debilitating disease isn’t easy. Thank goodness they make a new friend.
Write about purple glasses. Black hair. Polka dot shoes. Your main character has seen this person on the subway every day for two years. When they notice their absence for a week straight, they decide to find out who they are. Turns out, your character shouldn’t have gone snooping.
Your character lines up at the bank very early in the morning, dreading another day of mind-numbing work ahead at their corporate job. A gentleman in a grey suit with white hair greets them and engages in some small talk. Then, out of nowhere, he hands your character a gun, takes a few steps back, and fires a couple of rounds into the ceiling.
Write about how fire is your main character’s solace – their addiction. Their home is littered with candles, a lighter is never more than a foot from them, and bonfires are a nightly occurrence. Addiction of any kind can be a very dangerous thing.
Write a story about how your character sees balloons – hundreds of them – floating toward the sky from miles away. They go to investigate the cause and end up really regretting that decision. They get pulled into something that could change their life forever.
It’s been two years since your character has actually had a steady job. After growing increasingly desperate, they answer an ad for a personal assistant position. They just didn’t expect it to be for a major drug cartel leader.
Hospitals have never been your character’s favorite. They think they smell…weird. Unnatural. But they work there now and will have to get used to it. They throw on their white coat and enter the building. Ugh. The psychiatric ward always smells the worst; like wet stone and rotting wood mixed with subpar antiseptics.
Your main character starts to hear voices shortly after experiencing a trauma. Now they’re in therapy, fighting with their own mind in order to sort out what really happened that day and why they can’t stop hearing another voice.
Write about how children are the future. They have the power to right our wrongs and start anew. Your main character befriends an orphaned child and learns more from them than they realized was possible.
How to Write in the Contemporary genre:
I personally believe contemporary can be one of the hardest genres to write because you have the least wiggle room when it comes to creativity.
Everything has to be realistic in today’s society.
“Realistic dialogue is important. All the characters should sound different from one another, their vernacular should make sense for their background, and the writer should read it out loud.”
“Tiny details are hella dope in descriptions. It should be so specific and vivid that when the reader finishes the story, they feel like they’ve lost a bit of reality.”
“Imagining characters complexly is also important. Work on understanding real people. If you understand people and why they do what they do, you can understand characters and what they do”
Create a conflict many can relate to or sympathize with
Spend a lot of time on the character arc as many contemporary novels are primarily character-driven
Contemporary Writing Exercise From Hannah Lee Kidder: Sit in public and pick a random person, then write a completely made up story on them.
30 Romance Writing Prompts
Romance is the most popular book genre out there right now. People love reading about love!
But that doesn’t mean you can think of any love story and get to work.
Here are 30 romance writing prompts for you:
Write about how your character has gone through life believing that love is a choice. Their decision? To never get involved because love can only lead to pain and hardship. But after an argument with a stranger, their view of love, and life itself, is changed.
Write a story about how marriage is just what happens when you’ve been with someone forever. For your main character, that seems obvious. But when they’re months away from their wedding and an old friend barges into their life unannounced, a wedding seems like the furthest thing from their desires.
Write about a character who is up for a big promotion within their company. They’ve put everything on hold for it – including their love life. But when an outsider is hired instead, they lose it, focusing all their energy on bringing this newcomer down. They just didn’t think about the fact that they might end up likingthem.
Write a book about how a character and their significant other have been together since childhood. After a war between their people rips them away from each other, they’ll have to fight, manipulate, and fool in order to get each other back.
Write about how a package is mailed to your main character. It’s filled with what seems like hundreds of letters all to a single person. Memories and confessions of love are penned within those letters. Your main character feels drawn to the person on the other end and sets out to find them – and the letter’s true destination.
Write a story about how arranged marriages are the standard. In fact, nobody marries for love. Love doesn’t even exist in your character’s world. But when they’re drawn to someone who’s already spoken for, they start to question everything they know about love.
Write about how your main character lives in a society of slavery. If you’re not born in a certain family, you’re shipped off and sold. When your character is sold for the 8th time in their short 20 years, then end up at one of the top houses – and become a personal servant to the next leader of their settlement. Soon, they’re enthralled in a romance that could get them both killed…because he’s already promised to another…a very dangerous other.
Write a story about how cheating is wrong. Your character’s society puts emphasis on loyalty above anything else. In fact, cheating and betrayal of any kind in any relationship are punishable by life in prison (and even death in extreme cases). So why does something that’s been illegal for as long as they can remember feel so right when your character meets someone new? Avoiding jail just became the most difficult part of your character’s life.
Write about how your character started going blind at the age of six. Fifteen years later, they meet someone who makes their life better in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Then they realize that they’ve actually met that person before.
Your main character has seen the same person at the bus stop every day for what seems like over a year. They also bump into them frequently at coffee shops, grocery stores, and even restaurants. Finally, they decide to introduce themselves to the person who Fate seems to be pushing their way.
It had been 10 years since your character last saw their biggest crush. How they both ended up in the same city away from their hometowns makes no sense to them. It’s got to be more than a coincidence, right?
A waft of something flowery washes over your main character as they jog down the street. They turn and follow the scent to someone dancing in the middle of the street to no music while reading a book.
Write a book. about how your character runs away from their tribe in the dead of night. After an injury leaves them exposed, an unlikely ally of a rivaling clan saves their life.
Reading minds might seem like an advantage in the dating world. But when your character can hear every single thought someone has about them, it quickly reduces their chances at finding love.
Write a. story about how a treehouse in the deep woods is your character’s favorite place to relax. But when they get interrupted by the weird kid at school, they have to set some ground rules for its use. Sharing a treehouse with the weirdo might just be the best thing they’ve ever done.
Write about how it’s rare to find true love as a child. Your main character did – and they grew up to marry their childhood sweetheart. But after an unexpected death, your character is forced to live without their true love. Oh…and they have a one-year-old to take care of on top of it.
Write a book about how your character waited two weeks for their date to call. What seemed like a perfect evening must’ve not been all that great for them. Then their date’s sibling called…to tell them they had died. But they did leave a few notes with your character’s name on them before it happened.
Her brother’s friends are off limits. Her dad’s friends are off limits. She knows those rules. But when a new coworker of her dad’s enters the picture, she’ll have to find a way around her father’s rules.
Write a story about how many memories of love and loss come to your character’s mind when they’re invited to an all-adult summer camp. They decide to go for it and spend 6 weeks in paradise with complete strangers.
Write a romance story about how you don’t know unconditional love until you’ve ever felt it at your core. And once you do, you can never settle for anything less ever again.
“Marry your best friend,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. But when your best friend turns out to be the complete opposite of how you thought, a relationship can get tricky. Your character is on the lookout for a new best friend.
Write a romance about how your character is basically a “starving artist,” an art student just barely getting by. Their roommate, another art student and your character’s crush, opens a gallery featuring breathtaking paintings of your character. It’s everything your character could want…and then they meet the person who pays thousands for their portrait. Now their roommate is hardly on their mind.
In an ancient world, your character is getting ready for a life partner ceremony. Their partner – someone they’ve known their whole life – is already chosen and it’s time to secure the bond. But when someone your character has never met before steps up to challenge your supposed-to-be life partner, they’re forced to be with a stranger.
Write about how two old bicycles are embedded in a tree – grown into it from years of being chained to it. Upon further inspection, your character finds a bottle in one of the baskets and in that bottle, a letter. They attempt to return the letter to its owner to find someone else entirely.
Write a story about how in order to marry in your character’s society, suitors have to fight a person’s entire family for their hand. On the same day your character challenges their love’s family of 8, someone else challenges theirs – a family of only 3.
“All’s fair in love and war.” Does this still ring true when your character is fighting a war for love? Some say they’ll move mountains to get to the love of their life. Others will move kingdoms.
Write a romance about how falling in love is dangerous – especially for your character, who must stay focused if they want to rule someday. But when their mother’s friend brings her daughter to their palace, their entire focus changes. If only she would notice your character.
Write about what happens when your very particular character meets the least likely person to ever be a good match for them.
Falling in love is never easy. It’s even more difficult, however, when you find out the person you’re head over heels for is a torturer. And worse…they enjoy it.
Write about a character who decides to take a vacation for themselves to a secluded little town in order to figure out what to do with their life after college. Little did they know that this small town could house so much of what they’re really looking for in life – including a hottie with a less-than-favorable reputation.
How to Write Romance:
Even though romance is an extremely popular genre doesn’t mean you can be lazy when it comes to the actual romance and creative writing prompts isn’t always enough to help you develop a full-blown romance.
People read romance to be invested, to feel something real.
NEVER romanticize abuse as “love” (AKA, a jealous boyfriend should never be praised for “loving your character more” because this is harmful to readers)
Create real chemistry by giving your characters qualities that would actually foster a connection
Avoid “insta-love” by giving your characters time to bond and get to know each other
Look out for serious romance cliches and overused plot lines like love triangles, forbidden romances (these can be great if done uniquely!), and crazy exes
Continuously up the stakes whenever the reader gets comfortable with the relationship
30 Horror/Thriller Writing Prompts
Because being terrified is entertaining to some people, horror and thriller books exist and are quite popular!
The great thing about this genre is that you can get really creative and really dark.
Here are our 30 horror and thriller writing prompts:
Write a book about how your main character is home alone, just like most nights. This time, however, a new neighbor pays them a visit. And it wasn’t for the last time.
Write a story about how eight murders have taken place in your character’s town in the past 8 weeks. Once a week, on the same day, at the same time. When your character gets abducted after being out past the town’s new curfew, they have only 48 hours to discover why this is happening and how to get free…all while being tortured by the murderer.
Write a horror story about how it’s a day of celebration in your character’s hometown! A 100-year-old time capsule is about to be opened, so of course, they go, just like most of the town. When a deceased human hand with a sinister note attached to it is the only thing in the capsule, questions start to buzz. The first being, who is the person who wrote the note? Oddly enough, the note is written in your main character’s handwriting…with their signature…dated 82 years before they were even born.
Write about how your main character suffers from a condition that gives them periodic blackouts for seemingly no reason. The only thing they can seem to remember from before each blackout is a bike. A red bike with a white basket and muddy tires. One day, they see that very bike leaning up against their house but this time, they don’t blackout.
Write a thriller about how odd and unexplainable events are said to happen in a certain seaside town. Your main character takes it upon themselves to visit in an effort to see just how accurate the sightings are. What they find is beyond anything they imagined. But now they can’t seem to escape the town.
Write a story about how your main character and a couple of friends take a boat trip to a tiny, vacant, off-limits island for a night of celebration. When the sun goes down, they realize just how occupied the island actually is…and there’s a reason it’s off-limits.
Write a book about a character who’s in therapy because whenever they close their eyes at night, they see (very vividly) someone’s tragic death. Some say it’s just their twisted imagination, their new therapist thinks it is something much, much different…and dangerous.
Write a story about how your main character gets into an accident. While they make a seemingly full recovery, something has just been off inside their head since the crash. When they wake up next to a mutilated body in an unrecognizable place, they start to worry.
A new town, a new job, a new life. Your character moved away to start over and become someone they’ve always wanted to be. The problem? They just can’t seem to stop killing people.
The lure of a mysterious person will never get old. Their dark hat, sly smirk, and inquisitive eyes pull your main character in…until they can’t get out.
Write about a dare. That’s how it all started, like all those horror movies your main character loves. They venture into that basement from the outside with confidence…only to discover two kids and a decaying body chained up. Now they have to make sure they don’t get caught. The hidden camera on the basement stairs doesn’t help with that.
Write a horror about how your character gets a new job in a restaurant as a waiter. The tight-knit family running the place welcomes them with open arms…and then invites them to take part in what really happens when they close at night.
Your character’s significant other has always talked in their sleep; it’s nothing new. But when their voice changes and their words take a dark turn, your character can’t help but do some digging into why that is…and they don’t like what they find.
Your character thinks they must be the last person left on Earth. After a devastating disease swept over the entire world, they wander aimlessly. Then they come across a town that seems unchanged, inhabiting seemingly normal people. They learn that’s far from the truth.
Write about how after wandering into a brand-new book store, your character thoroughly enjoys the last few books they’ve read. When they go to buy another, the owner recommends a very specific book. They start reading only to realize it’s about that very town, 50 years earlier, about a book shop owner who preys on customers.
Your character is walking home midday when they hear an usual sound coming from an ordinary house in the suburbs. They soon forget about it for the rest of the day. Then, when they’re falling asleep, they hear that same sound outside their window.
A boot, a broken glass bottle, and a scuba diving mask show up on your character’s front lawn after a city-wide festival. Thinking nothing of it, they toss them in the garbage…only for them to reappear the next morning.
Write a story involving a character who officially meets the person they’ve been bumping into all over town. After hitting it off, they go out on a date that ends very poorly for one of them.
Write about how the painting that’s been in your character’s home for over 50 years starts screaming.
They said not to visit the museum at night. They said strange things might happen. Your character never imagined just how much they should’ve listened.
Your character’s best friend just got back from some intense rehab. They seem better than ever…until your character discovers their method of staying clean; a new addiction has taken its place.
Write a thriller novel about how your character wakes up to a door slamming. They rush to their toddler’s room only for them to be missing. A single gardening glove is in their place on the bed.
Your character’s mom is caught sneaking into their house in the middle of the night…a trail of mud patterning the floor in the shape of her heels. She’s in a trance and won’t answer to her name.
Write about how your character gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and is alarmed to see their dad standing in the hallway. After shaking it off, they ask him what he’s doing. Without a word, his eyes start to bleed.
Write a book about a character who’s known the neighbor across the street for years. But after witnessing them limping into their home, covered in something dark at 4 am, your character has questions. Getting close to them might be the only way to find out their secret.
Write about how all the pictures of your character and their sister go missing from their home…one by one.
Your character wakes up one morning and all the candles in their house are lit. They haven’t lit them for weeks.
Witnessing someone’s descent into madness is something your character never thought they’d experience. It soon becomes increasingly clear that they might not witness it in its entirety.
Write about how the school gym is filled. It’s a day of celebration. Your main character graduates today and when it’s their time to take the stage, a scream is released from someone in the stands.
Write a horror book about how there have been attacks in your character’s town as of late. Instead of physical injury or even death…the victims are injected with heroin over and over and over until they’re completely addicted. Then they’re released.
Scaring people so much so that they sweat while simply reading is a difficult task. You really have to focus on the structure of your writing in order to create that reaction.
Here are a few things to remember if you use these writing prompts:
Building anticipation will be your #1 focus
Readers need to feel surprised and scared so dig deep and get twisted
Plot twists are a must; never let your characters or readers see what’s coming
Continuously up the stakes
Focus on building deep sympathy for your character from the very beginning. This will make the stakes seem even higher and increase tension, just as Stephen King does in his infamous novel, IT, pictured below.
30 Mystery Writing Prompts
Human curiosity is what makes this genre so incredibly popular. We always want to figure out what happened. Mystery books are natural page-turners because we just aren’t satisfied until we find out what happened.
But that can be difficult to create from nothing.
Here are 30 mystery creative writing prompts:
Write a mystery about how your character is 16 and just learned they were the last person to see their crush the night they were murdered. But when they come forward with these details, they become the new main suspect. They’re determined to solve their crushes murder or risk going to jail for something they didn’t do.
Write a story about how recently, there’s been a number of abandoned cars scattered throughout the city. Nobody knows where they’re coming from and there’s not a single personal item in them. That is, until one is discovered with a freshly removed human scalp on the dashboard.
Write about how for the past month, your character has received a number of disturbing and detailed drawings in their mailbox. After chalking it up to immature kid stunts, they try to forget about it. But when the drawings come to life in brutal, horrific ways, they’re the only person who knows of the drawings and therefore, knows what one will come next.
Write about a character who gets a DNA test for fun – just to see where they really come from. After becoming obsessed with one little detail, they soon discover a number of their ancestors from all over the world were once located in a single, unpopulated place; a gathering of sorts.
Write a mystery about how your character’s spouse nearly falls through the door, beaten nearly to requiring hospitalization. When an unknown but distinct brand marking is discovered between their shoulder blades, your character has to find out who they are and why they did it.
Write about a single member of each noble family who has been murdered every week for the past two months. Your character is of a very noble household and can barely sleep each night. So they decide to find out who is responsible.
Write a story about a character whose religion has a talisman as old as the religion itself. After it goes missing, all fingers point to the chief’s oldest child of 19 years, engaged to the healer’s oldest child. But they never could’ve done it. They were (romantically involved) with your main character when the theft occurred.
Write about how your main character wakes up every morning feeling as though they didn’t get more than a couple of hours of sleep. After sleep studies, medications, and trying everything available, nothing seems to work. They decide to videotape a night of sleep to determine if maybe they’re sleepwalking. Turns out, they are. Except they seem completely conscious. In fact, in the video, they approach the camera, smirk, and walk away with a wave before disappearing for nearly the entire night.
Write about how your main character is a key witness for a murder case. Video footage of them at the scene during the murder shows that clearly. The only problem? They can’t remember anything from that night.
Write a story about a character living in an average sized town. As of late, a very large number of people have been going missing. They leave no trace. There’s nothing connecting them. It’s as if they all vanish in the middle of the day.
Two years after your character’s significant other goes missing, presumed dead, they start getting messages that could only be from them.
Your character is going about their normal day when suddenly, a low sound blares outside and doesn’t stop. For weeks. Nobody knows what’s causing it.
During a follow-up set of interviews, your character conducts around a certain mob member, long thought to have put an end to that very mob, they find out that the mob member has been lying – for 30 years…about everything.
Write about how, to make some extra money, your character puts their spare room on Airbnb. The first few people seem fine and the extra income is great. Then someone comes to stay for a week and very…odd events keep taking place in that room.
Your character is a professional photographer. When processing images from a recent event, they notice a single person on the outskirts of every photo…and it’s not a coincidence.
Your character opens an old sketchbook to try their hand at it again after years of being too busy with their corporate job. When they open it, their half-finished pieces are completed…and it wasn’t their doing.
All the plants in and around houses in your character’s town are dying even though all other foliage is left untouched. It started happening after the last meteor shower.
In your character’s world, crime is nonexistent. Everyone lives in harmony with each other. That’s why the murdered child found in the street sets the town into complete and utter chaos.
Write a mystery about how when the Internet was first invented, warnings of sharing your personal information were everywhere. Now your character knows why. Cyber information is being used to frame innocents in extreme crime cases.
Write a book about how a crack in the window was all the thief needed to secure the right position that allowed them access to the town’s most famous piece of history. Your character is the one who was supposed to keep it safe.
Your character’s people believe a certain boulder is sacred. It’s the heart of their civilization and religion. One day the town wakes to find it pulverized, reduced to nothing but dust and sand.
Write about how there’s a house at a dead end that’s not abandoned, but hardly anyone has even caught sight of who lives there. Your character decides to pay them a visit and discovers why nobody has seen them.
Your character is introduced to someone that seems perfect for them. After digging into their past, a string of crimes has followed them but your character can’t necessarily prove it was them. So they decide to ask about them.
Someone left their bag on the bus. Your character, being the good person they naturally are, grabs it and rushes after the person. They never turn around and your character is left with a bag full disturbing ransom notes.
All the statues in your character’s entire town go missing. They were carefully removed from building, monuments, and schools. Nobody knows how or where they are now.
Write about how your character moves to a new town with hopes of finally settling into real adult life. But they soon realize that nobody remembers who they are day after day, despite making very clear and memorable introductions.
The leaves on all the trees have turned black but refuse to fall off the branches. It’s the middle of spring.
A number of dead bodies are uncovered when your character decides to participate in the upkeep of the city’s public garden. No wonder the food has been so great – it’s been freshly fertilized.
Write a story about how your character wakes up to a little girl’s screams outside. They rush to her but she’s not hurt. She just has no idea who she is, where she’s from, or how she got there.
Write about how your character receives a number of letters in the mail to a name they don’t recognize. After weeks of letters piling up, they finally decide to read one. The first letter contains nothing more than a set of coordinates…so do the rest.
How to Write Mystery:
Mystery is a very difficult genre to write. You have to ensure that you don’t give away too much information so the readers don’t figure it out.
Make readers think they know what will happen by planting false foreshadowing along with real hints
Make the antagonist very likable
Juxtapose tense scenes with mellow ones to increase tension
Keep the story moving forward always
Reddit Writing Prompts
Reddit is home to many different things—including writing prompts that you’d never find anywhere else.
Oftentimes, people go ahead and create threads expanding on a writing prompts they read.
Here are some of the best Reddit writing prompts:
#1 – “You have a machine that tells you the effect of an action you are thinking about making, but you can only activate/use it once.”
#2 – “Well…you never asked.”
#3 – And to top it all off, they give you a medal for it.
#4 – Every Christmas, Santa delivers gifts to the children who have been ‘nice’. But there’s a lesser known brother Santa who every five years takes gifts away from children who have been ‘naughty’ even once. You just don’t know when…
#5 – You are casually walking down a deserted road when you fall into an open man-hole.
#6 – You weren’t sure which was real.
#7 – People thought society would be better if we killed the worst 1% every year. Today is the hundredth anniversary, and the notion of the “worst” is getting really tricky.
#8 – Absolutely everything that makes you uncomfortable is beneficial for you. Weakened viruses train your immune system, small muscle tears make you stronger…and small bullets make you more resistant to larger bullets. Turns out, the government is awfully interested in your unusual ability.
#9 – Before you, the villain holds your sidekick and love interest over a cliff, taunting you to choose one to save. You take one (1) second to think about it. You then shoot them both, to the shock and horror of your archenemisis.
#10 – You’re a man/woman happily married with kids but in severe financial difficulty. A genie gives you the chance to irreversibly rewind time back to the date of your tenth birthday and you accept, hoping to make your current life better with the knowledge you have…
#11 – Every time you die, you are reincarnated into a new body. Unfortunately, the first few times, you failed to act as a normal child after being reborn. You are now a known factor for world powers, crazy nutjobs, major religions, and people who would give anything for the immortality you possess.
#12 –You have a name in your contacts that isn’t in any language you know, you delete it but the next day the number appears again. And that’s when life becomes a little weirder.
#13 – You get to heaven only to find that the judgement is entirely based on how many promises you’ve broken.
#14 – Before you became apprentice, nobody told you learning a new spell is the easiest part of your studies. The real challenge is learning to survive the diverse and alien consequences of casting a spell.
#15 – A war-thirsty species is finally defeated after rampaging through the galaxy for decades, and their remains are exiled to a far away and dangerous planet. Everyone panics when, millennia later, Humanity comes out of that planet asking where is everybody.
Non-fiction Writing Prompts
I bet I know you.
You’re the type of person who has dreamt of writing a book for however many years, only held back by the lack of ideas – or good ideas, rather.
Or maybe you’re the type who has tons of ideas but aren’t sure if they’re worth pursuing.
It’s hard. I get it. A book is a big commitment and one you might actually want to go through with. But without having a clear idea of what to write about, that dream can seem too far out of reach.
But I’m telling you, it’s not.
In fact, using writing prompts can help you free your mind from its current constraints so you can explore ideas you might not have otherwise thought of yourself – in addition to a number of other benefits.
If you want to keep this list of writing prompts for future use, download the entire list now!
Download over 200 nonfiction prompts here!
Nonfiction Writing Prompts for Good Book Ideas
It’s one thing to use a writing prompt, it’s another to ensure that idea is actually a good one. We put together a list of tried-and-true writing prompts that can help you understand what’s most important to you and what you should pursue.
While reading these, note which ones cause you to pause and think – if only for a moment longer than the rest.
Those are the ideas to ponder and create a mind map for.
Here are a few writing prompts for a number of different broader categories that have proven to be prosperous.
Writing Prompts about Morals and Values
This is one of the top book ideas right now. Writing about your personal beliefs, how you came to them, and how they steer your life is something almost everyone can relate to.
And in a time where morality is being questioned time and time again by the media, it’s the best time to write on this topic.
Here are 25 writing prompts about morals and values:
Write about a time when you were wrong and didn’t realize it for maybe years.
Write about morals and how one discovers what truly matters to them.
Write about the biggest value in your life.
Write about the biggest problems in the world and how it impacts us every day.
Write about problems in the world nobody is paying attention to.
Write about a time your morals were compromised and how it affected your life.
Write about a time your values were challenged and you had to face it.
Write about the difference between a value and a moral.
Write about societal values that actually negatively impact our lives.
Write about morals that have inadvertently negative impacts.
Write about an inner struggle between what’s morally right and what feels right.
Write about how to find what you value in life.
Write about what life would look life if morals were not in place.
Write about the idea of values affecting your morals in life.
Write about popular moral dilemmas in the world.
Write about how morals and values differ within different cultures and regions.
Write about a time when you had to debate morals and values.
Write about your idea of the best combination of morals and values.
Write about a conflict you once endured because of mismatched morals.
Write about how to overcome doubting your morals and beliefs.
Write about how morals and values shape happiness in life.
Write about the importance of matching morals and values in relationships.
Write about how to share your morals with others.
Write about ways in which one can develop new morals and values.
Write about how our morals and values change as we grow up.
Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:
Be honest but don’t force your ideas on someone else
This is another book topic that has seen a rise in sales and engagement over the past few years. Society is starting to focus on health and well-being more so than many other important life ventures and now is the time to write about it!
Here are 25 healthy and wellness writing prompts:
Write about your struggle with an addiction of some kind and how you overcame it.
Write a book about your journey to become healthy.
Write about what being healthy inside and out means to you.
Write about how others can overcome unhealthy habits.
Write a book about the importance of mental health and wellness.
Write about how to form healthy habits.
Write about how to find the best exercise type for your needs.
Write a book about the idea of self-care and what it means to you.
Write about how to find health through personal reflection.
Write about the technicalities of being “healthy.”
Write about the different ways in which someone can find health and wellness.
Write about how others can affect your health.
Write about the impact of mental health on your physical health.
Write about a specific form of exercise you’ve grown to love and why.
Write about what it means to have overall life wellness.
Write about the impact of who you surround yourself with on your mental health.
Write about how learning can impact your health.
Write about dietary needs and how they affect your mental health.
Write about how to break unhealthy habits that drag you down.
Write about how negativity can greatly impact your health.
Write about your ideal health and wellness system for long-term success.
Write about a time when you had to overcome super unhealthy ways.
Write about what you’ve learned about yourself through pursuing wellness.
Write about how professional athletes approach health and wellness.
Write about societal standards of health and wellness.
Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:
Always use facts and research with something as sensitive as health
Talk about what has worked for you personally and why
Feature advice from experts in the field
Include actionable steps others can learn from
Writing Prompts about Love and Relationships
This can be a tricky topic to write about because love is different for everyone.
Each relationship has different needs and trying to tell someone what their relationship needs can often cause issues if it’s not actually what their specific relationship can benefit from.
That being said, keeping your message broad enough to impact a lot of people while also hitting specific key points can make it easier.
Here are 25 writing prompts about relationships and love:
Tell a story about how you see love.
Write about what’s most important in a relationship.
Write about how to enjoy your relationship in every phase of life.
Write about your idea of a successful relationship.
Write about what it really takes to have a> successful relationship.
Write about how your friendships play a part in your relationships.
Write about how self-doubt can affect your search for love.
Write about how to love someone else in a way they need.
Write about how to find what you truly enjoy in a life partner.
Write about becoming open-minded in your pursuit of love.
Write about the importance of loving yourself before loving someone else.
Write about your journey to find love and what it’s meant for you.
Write about a time you thought you found love but were very wrong.
Write about how finding love has changed the way you care for others.
Write about how to develop healthy and nurturing relationships.
Write about friendships and how they play a role in your happiness.
Write about creating relationships that lift you up and not drag you down.
Write about what it means to truly love unconditionally.
Write about how intimacy can help your self-esteem.
Write about ways in which you can improve your sex life.
Write about ways in which you can improve your romantic relationship.
Write about ways in which you can improve your platonic relationships.
Write about loving yourself and what that fully means.
Write about building strong relationship foundations in a family.
Write about how to communicate in relationships.
Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:
Never assume every single person loves and wants love the same way
Tell personal, real-life stories to build relatability
Keep your advice open-ended and always encourage communication
Writing Prompts about Childhood and Family
We all had a childhood and we all have a family – even if we’ve decided to adopt friends to be a part of our family.
That means everyone can relate to being a child and having a family.
That being said, it’s hard to decide on which direction you can take when writing about your childhood or family.
Here are 25 writing prompts about childhood and family:
Write to your parents about all they’ve taught you about life, love, and happiness.
Write to your family about what they mean to you.
Write about parenthood and how it’s changed you.
Write about your parents and what they taught you.
Write about what your parents didn’t teach you and how it affected your life.
Write about how not having parents impacted your life.
Write about your childhood and how it shaped you.
Write about what the definition of family truly means to you.
Write about finding family in the least expected places.
Write about discovering who you are within your family.
Write about the lessons you didn’t realize you learned as a child.
Write about how your childhood friends affected your adult life.
Write about whether or not your family can truly impact who you are as an adult.
Write about how to have healthy communication in your family.
Write about the trials and tribulations of a blended family.
Write about your journey as an adopted child.
Write about whether or not emotional closeness with family affects your life.
Write about your vision as a child and whether or not you lived up to it.
Write about childhood pains that have followed you into adulthood.
Write about how to let go of a crappy childhood to find happiness as an adult.
Write about how your family doesn’t define you.
Write about letting go of toxic family members to find happiness.
Write about how you’d change your childhood if given the chance.
Write about the journey of parenting and what it’s taught you about yourself.
Write about how to make your own family when you can’t rely on your own.
Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:
Family can be a sensitive subject so avoid hard “facts” about “all” families
Make sure to include details about differences
Tell stories others can easily relate to at the beginning
Writing Prompts about Happiness
Happiness is very subjective. We all have very different ideas about what true happiness is and how it comes about.
What you have to remember, though, is that everybody wants to be happy.
Here are 26 writing prompts about happiness:
Write about the idea of wants versus needs in life.
Write about work and finding happiness in your career.
Write about not being happy in your career and how to conquer it.
Write about finding success in your career.
Write about finding success in every aspect of your life.
Write about building a successful love life, family life, and career.
Write about balancing a career and family life.
Write about being open-minded in life.
Write about what rewards you can reap from being kind.
Write about what you can gain from being open-minded in every aspect of life.
Write about goals in life and how to accomplish them.
Write about what living a happy life is defined as according to you.
Write about a time you had very little happiness and how you found it again.
Write about the ups and downs of life and how to get through them.
Write about what truly contributes to happiness in life.
Write about the true measures of happiness in life.
Write about how success ties into happiness and how to define them separately.
Write about the difference between how you view happiness now versus when you were a kid.
Write about the biggest life lessons one can learn through finding happiness.
Write about what people should focus on instead of happiness in life.
Write about the difference between self-fulfillment and happiness.
Write about the biggest problem in today’s society revolving around happiness.
Write about the idea of NOT looking for happiness in order to find it.
Write about how self-reflection can increase happiness.
Write about what you expected happiness to be versus how it truly is.
Write about how to include the people in your life when finding happiness.
Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:
Remember that your happiness is not what makes everyone else happy
Focus on helping others find what makes them happy
Talk about times you were unhappy frequently to drive the point home
Take it from someone who figured out how to make a living writing after only a few months…you can do it the same way I did (which I’ll explain in this post).
Do you want to work from home?
Do you want to work for yourself?
Do you want to make a living doing something meaningful and fulfilling?
The answer is obvious and the only question is…
Whether you want to be your own boss, spend your day doing something you love and are good at, or even if you’re just looking for a new career opportunity, learning how to make money writing and which writing jobs are even available to you is worth it.
How to Make Money Writing
So you’ve already determined you want to write. You love it, it’s fulfilling, and you don’t despise it nearly as much as you do that 9-5 you’ve got now (or are still avoiding like the plague).
Firstly, that’s fantastic (we love writing here at Self-Publishing School, if you haven’t noticed)!
Secondly, now the work begins because writing jobs won’t just start falling from the sky and landing in your lap.
And that’s why you’ll have to learn how to make money writing, since there are far more opportunities than you think exist out there…
The more you work and market and push for more book sales, the better you’ll do. And therefore, this has the highest earning potential.
#2 – Screenwriter $$$$$
If you’re someone who would rather write movies or TV shows than books or novels, this could be the path for you.
Screenwriters—especially if you work hard and make it to the “big leagues”—have extremely high earning potential.
A screenwriter writes TV shows and movies. Contrary to what many believe, there are typically several writers who work on one show and movie, but it’s not necessarily easy to become a Hollywood screenwriter.
That means if you work hard, play your cards right, and focus on committing to this path, you can potentially make a lot of money writing.
If you’ve decided what you want to write about, it’s your job to do research so you can find the best job that fits what you’re looking to do.
There are two methods for finding writing jobs online:
Outreach – you personally find websites and platforms you want to work for and reach out via email cold pitching your writing services.
Respond to job postings – this is the more traditional method in which you visit job boards (like the ones listed above) and respond to job postings with your resume.
Outreach for Writing Jobs:
This method often takes the most finesse in order to get right. After my stint with Upwork and Fiverr ended, personally used outreach to land some of my most consistent and highest paying clients.
Here’s how you can do outreach to land writing jobs:
Determine your niche and the type of content you want to write. This can be beauty, fashion, education, parenting, movies, television, fitness, lifestyle, and any category you’re interested in. We recommend choosing one you both enjoy and know a lot about (less research means you can do more and therefore get paid more).
Visit websites you know have content in this niche. For example: if you want to write about food and travel, Thrillist.com might be your best bet. Choosing a niche like wellness might land you on sites like TheGreatist.com. If you’re not sure which sites cover your niche, just do a quick google search for, “[your niche] websites”.
Scroll down to the very bottom of the site’s homepage and look for “write for us” link. Not all websites will have this but many that are primarily content usually have a means for you to write for them, as seen in the example below from IntrovertDear.com.
Click on the “write for us” or equivalent page. Read over their guidelines to see if this is a good fit for you. If you want to know about compensation and they don’t list any, simply location a contact email or fill out a contact form and ask!
Cold pitch your idea. Technically, since they are accepting writers, it’s not considered a “cold” pitch, but you do still have to sell them on your ideas. Focus on what they can gain from working with you and less on you. This becomes easier with experience and proven results.
Responding to Job Postings for Writing Jobs:
This one is just like any other job you apply for online.
After searching for writing jobs via the job boards listed above, simply send in your resume and CV if applicable.
However, please keep in mind that if you hire someone to design your book cover, they may not have availability right away. Meaning, reach out a few months before you want to launch your book in order to hire someone.
Design your own book cover
If you’re not quite ready to put your book in the hands of a professional designer, we have methods to help you design your own book cover.
#1 – Develop book cover ideas
We all typically have a thought about what we want our book covers to look like. Sometimes we even save images to our phone of covers we really like or want to emulate.
Your first step for designing your own book cover is compiling all these ideas into a single place.
You can find book cover ideas in all of these places:
Pinterest – sign on to Pinterest and look up “book covers” to get a ton of brilliant covers all in one place. This is also a great place to create a board specifically to save book covers for future reference.
Goodreads – There are so many books on Goodreads for you to look at as covers inspiration. You can even simply add these to your “to be read” list in order to save them for reference as well.
Google book cover ideas – Others have already done the work for you! Just go to Google and type in “book cover inspiration” and click on the “images” tab to be greeted with tons of great options you can save. Or you can check out helpful blog posts like this one on the 100 most creative book cover ideas.
Peruse Amazon in your book’s genre – This is by far the best method for coming up with book cover ideas. Simply go to your book’s genre by navigating to books > your genre > subgenre and look at the typical covers of bestselling books, like in the image below.
#2 – Use free stock images for your book cover
Once you have an idea for your book, you may need to outsource the images by using free stock photo sites.
We highly recommend stock photos (if you can’t have professional ones taken) because they are readily available for use, unlike some you might find on Google and want to use.
Here are a few places you can get free photos for your book cover:
Fonts matter! Depending on your genre, the style of your book, and even the vibe or voice you want to convey, your book cover fonts can make a major difference in how potential readers view your book.
For example, I used three different fonts to make up the covers in the images below. Depending on which font used, the title suddenly has a new meaning—and a new audience.
You have to make sure you’re using a font for your cover that coincides with its message, tone, and the audience you’re trying to reach.
#4 – Find the right book cover dimensions
You can’t design a book cover all willy nilly. The right book cover dimensions are crucial.
What are the proper book cover dimensions?
This is often your call and depends on your book formatting, but the most common paperback book dimensions are 6″ by 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm).
This doesn’t mean you have to use this size, but this is the most common size for a paperback book, and is Amazon’s default book dimension option if you publish through them.
Here are more book cover dimensions for the multiple platforms you may publish on:
Book Cover Size (suggested)
Cover Size Requirements
JPEG or TIFF
- 2560 x 1600 pixels - Ratio of 1.6:1
Between 1000 x 625 pixels AND 10000 x 10000 pixels. One side must be at least 1000 pixels long/wide.
Barnes & Noble
JPG or PNG
- Height and width of 1400 pixels minimum
750 pixels minimum for height and width
JPG or PNG
- 1400 x 1873 px - 1600 x 2400 px
1400 pixels wide as a minimum
Draft 2 Digital
- 1600 x 2400 pixels
Tall rectangle of 1600 wide and 2400 pixels long
JPG or PNG
- 1600 x 2400 pixels
1400 pixels wide as a minimum
#5 – Use free or paid cover design software
Now it’s time to put everything you’ve created and gathered together and design your actual book cover.
There are many different options to choose from, some of which don’t cost you additional money, while others do.
You don’t have to be an expert designer to create a great cover, but you do have to use certain methods to make it look like your book cover was designed by an expert (and we’ll cover professional book designs in a bit).
Using different design softwares, much like writing softwares, allows you to upload your work in a way that provides you with a clean finished results.
Here are our top free book cover designs softwares to use:
Instead of creating one solid cover, make three very different cover options. You never know what your audience will find most appealing.
When you only make one cover, you’re limiting yourself to only one option, which might not be what’s best to maintain high book sales.
For that reason, we always recommend to our students to have at least three different book cover options available for them to narrow it down from.
#7 – Test your book cover options with an audience
You can’t possibly know what will resonate well with your audience. Sure, if you’ve done your book research on your specific genre, you’ll have a good idea, but that’s not always a sure thing.
We’re often too closeto our books to accurately determine what’s best for it.
This is why we have someone else edit it. Fresh eyes can make a major difference on deciding what’s best.
We recommend joining a group (for our students, it’s our Mastermind Facebook group) or sending your cover options out to a group of people in order to get feedback.
Here’s an example of one of our students posting their cover for feedback in our group:
Hire a professional book cover designer
Sometimes you just have to leave the professional work to, well, the professionals.
There are tons of advantages to using a professional book cover designer instead of doing it yourself:
They can create custom designs, instead of using stock photos
They have inside knowledge about the book cover world
They will almost always make something of higher quality
You can trust that your cover will be good for its genre
There are many ways you can go about hiring a cover designer, one of which we discuss in the video below, but following our steps for working with a professional will help you come away with the best book cover you can.
We mentioned perusing Pinterest, searching for book cover inspiration on Google, and even heading to your book’s genre on Amazon to find what covers are performing best.
The main difference when working with a professional designer is that you should compile these ideas somewhere you can share with them.
Ultimately, they will create a cover they know to be great for your book, but they also want to know your vision for the project as well.
#2 – Research popular book covers in your genre
We touched on this in the above section as well, but when looking for book cover ideas, spend some time to research what’s populat in your genere.
Your cover designer will likely have experience creating in your genre (if you chose one wisely, at least) and can help with this but giving them a starting point will help you get to the cover you’ve always wanted, faster.
#3 – Hire a book cover designer you like
Finding a cover designer can be tricky. Here are Self-Publishing School, we actually provide a Rolodex of talented book cover designers (as seen in the image below) in order to allow our students to cut down on expenses and time spent searching.
That being said, there are many methods for finding cover designers.
Here are the many places you can find book cover designers for hire:
If you’re a student of ours, the Rolodex featured above in your course
Once you find a book cover designer you want to work with, the rest of this process continues.
#4 – Communicate your ideas about the book cover
Be as clear with your design as you can about what you want and expect for your book cover.
Remember, they’re not miracle workers, but if their experience is in line with what you’re looking for, be very upfront about what you want.
Share your book cover inspiration ideas with them in order to give them an idea of what to create for you.
Another thing they’ll ask is what your book is about. Give them the core elements, the style of it, and the tone you want it to have along with who your core audience is.
#5 – Ask for 1-3 options
At minimum, you should have 2 different cover options completed, though we highly recommend 3 in order to get a wider range of what you truly want.
This allows you to find the cover that BEST suits what you’re looking for.
Like in the example from our very own team member, Michael Lachance’s book, Land Your Dream Job, these cover design options should vary greatly from one another, and not just be different in their text or colors. Make this very clear to your designer—most offer 3-4 cover options within their packages already.
#6 – Test your book cover options with an audience
The above image is an example of getting feedback of your cover design. It’s always a good idea to run the final cover options through a feedback group in order to see what OTHER people resonate with.
Sometimes your target market will like a book cover that isn’t your favorite.
While it’s completely up to you which cover to go with, remember to keep your audience in mind. After all, your book is for them, not for you.
#7 – Finalize your cover options
The final step for your book cover design is to finalize it! Work with yoru designer to choose your favorite design, finalize the color and font options, and that’s it!
We recommend hosting a book cover reveal as a way to stir up more anticipation for your novel before your book launch as well!
Knowing how to copyright a book — the right way — is something that scares the crap out of most authors!
After all, if you get it wrong, someone could steal your work and pass it off as their own. It’s practically an author’s worst nightmare – for good reason.
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.
Navigate to “Register a Literary Work” on the right sidebar
Select either “new user” or login with your account
If you’re a new user, fill out your information
Navigate to “Copyright Registration” on the left and select “Register A New Claim”
Select “Start Registration”
Fill out the copyright form
Pay your $85 copyright fee to complete registration
Submit your finished manuscript to the U.S. Copyright Office
Copyrighting your book is much easier than it seems
Create 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.
You 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.
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.
Here’s an example of what your book copyright page would look like for a fiction book.
#2 – Nonfiction Copyright 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.
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.
This is what a copyright page looks from our own student, Nadine Blase Psareas’s memoir Hope Dealers, that you can emulate if you’re writing a memoir:
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.
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: 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:
What can I actually use?
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.
#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.
#6 – Are authors liable for content used in a book?
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.
Your launch team, also known as a street team, is a group of people who are going to set you up for success when your book launches. They could be fans of your previous work, readers of your blog, friends who want to support you, or the members in your mastermind group.
And, ideally, a combination of all of the above.
The launch team has a massive impact on, not only the success of your book launch but, the long term success of the book. They are a group of people who are passionate about your book, your brand, and they want you to succeed as much as you do.
Your job, as the author of the book, is to guide your team to take action both before the book is launched and then during the launch window.
Why do you need a book launch team?
Launch team members will help you to get reviews during the launch and, help you to share the book launch as well as get downloads for your book.
If you have a weak launch, you have weak book sales and you’ll be forever struggling to drive traffic towards your book.
Your launch team will read the book before anyone else and prepare an honest review of the work to be posted during launch week. Amazon favors books with review activity.
The more Amazon reviews you can get posted, your book moves up the rankings faster and gets promoted by Amazon under the “books you also might like” section.
Reviews also increase book sales. If you manage to get 20-30 reviews in the first week, this would create serious momentum for your book rankings. It is the best social proof that your book is getting read and people are taking an interest in the content.
The bottom line: Reviews convince browsers to buy. Amazon will rank your book higher as well if there is activity taking place.
Building Your Team: Where do I recruit?
The question that I often get is, “Where do I find people to join my team?” This is a challenge if you don’t have much of a following and have never launched a book before.
Let’s assume that this is your first book launch and you are looking for people to join your launch team. Where do we begin to build? Who can we ask?
Here are a few suggestions for building a book launch team:
Make a list of 20-30 people you can contact directly.These can be business contacts, online relationships, or subscribers to your email list. This list functions as your core team, what I call your level 1 launch team. They are the most committed to your launch. Perhaps they joined a previous launch you had and now they want to sign up for this one as well.
Post to your Facebook/Social Media Platforms/Mastermind Groups.This is where you can gather a lot of your level 2 launch team members. If you are going for a large launch team, this would be the next phase. If you want to keep it more personal and limit the number of people, just follow through with the first step and leave it at that.
Keep in mind, with your level 2 launch team, you could get anywhere from 20-200 people sign up. The reason we call it a level 2 group is, many of the people joining may not know you personally, but they have an interest in your book.
But the question is, how committed are they to following through?
It is just a fact that not everyone on your team is going to follow through. Maybe they didn’t like the book, they had no time to read it, or, they were uncertain what to do during the launch. There is the possibility that they won’t leave a review for whatever reasons.
This is why we have to be clear with our launch team as to:
What actions to take
When to take it, and;
How to implement the action plan
The best you can do is encourage people throughout the launch and keep the pressure momentum turned on. This is where team incentives and providing value will deliver in the end.
When people feel as if they are a part of something important, they are more likely to follow through.
Team Incentives: What to offer?
This is the part of the process in launch building that you can really make a difference to the strength of your team. By adding incentives to what you can give your team, you will increase the commitment of your team.
Decide what you will give to your team to offer quality incentives that makes them feel a part of the team.
Some of these perks included membership into a Mastermind Group on Facebook and an exclusive “ask me anything” webinar before the launch.
Likewise Michael Hyatt, when he launched Living Forward, offered launch members an exclusive look into how the book launch was structured as well as access to a special 30-minute group phone session with him prior to launching the book.
So, what you can offer your launch team is:
The digital version of the book way before anyone else sees it. This can be in PDF or Mobi file. For creating a PDF or mobi file of the book, check out the free calibre software.
A free hardcopy of the book delivered right to your door.
A free webinar or a facebook Live Q&A session: you can get close and personal with your team by hosting a live webinar where you talk about the book, get into behind-the-scenes strategies of the launch, and share inside tactics that nobody else can get.
Exclusive access to a private Facebook group. Here you can post videos, share posts, and converse with your team in real time as they get excited about the launch
Free training videos based on the content of your book
Additional freebies that you want to share with your team.
An advance copy of a workbook that you will be offering to subscribers
Early access to course material that won’t be available until the book is launched.
The goal is to provide your team with a lot of value so that they know they are part of something important. This will increase the level of commitment you will get from members reading and promoting the book during launch week.
Building a Quality Launch Team
When it comes to launch team members joining your team, it isn’t about the numbers. It is the quality of the team. It is much better to have 40 people who are committed than 200 that just sign up and don’t do anything.
You want your team to be involved and take action. So, how do you build a quality street team fully committed to launching your book to bestseller status?
Here are four strategies for building a quality launch team:
Reach out to people personally. By contacting people you know on a personal basis you can get a solid commitment from that person with a personal email.
Create an application form process. This creates a barrier to entry. The people who are serious players will fill out and commit. You can check out an application form template right here. In the application process you let the potential member know what is expected and what they will be responsible for. The application process creates accountability and exclusive access to the launch team material.
Invite people who you have worked with and trust, such as podcasters, bloggers and influencers, to help you with the launch.
Create a team of committed reviewers and promoters to set the launch on fire when it takes off.
How to Manage Launch Team Expectations
This is when you are up front with the launch team about what is to be expected during the launch. What actions are you asking them to do? On what days will they take these actions? What is at stake as far as the success of the book is concerned.
Remember: The success of your launch plan is critical, and the launch team is the all-important component to making it happen.
Expectations should be made clear from the beginning. When you put up a post for early bird readers, let them know that taking action is a must. This is the big ask and what you will expect from the team if they are selected to join your launch.
Here is what you could ask of your launch team:
Read the book before the launch day. Provide feedback if they pick up on such as formatting problems, misspellings, etc…
Write up an honest review of the book and post it during launch week.
Share word of the launch through your social platforms, mentioning the book in a weekly blog post, and starting a discussion about the book in chat forums. This could also include tweets, Facebook posts, or post the cover to Pinterest and Instagram.
Share promotional ideas within the launch group. This is where a Facebook Group would come in. Members can easily post ideas and swap strategies for promoting the book.
Take a photo of you holding up a copy of the paperback. This would require that the paperback be ready in advance to send to select team members so they have time to take the photo before launch.
Provide your team with a list of action strategies they can take during launch week. Let them choose what strategies they like and fits into their schedule. You can encourage the team by adding a points system.
The members who take action and complete each promotional strategy earn a number of points. This could lead to receiving even more freebies.
Launch Team Communication
Now that you have your team together with emails, you have set the expectations and outlined the launch plan, now you have to decide how you will communicate with your team.
People need to feel connected to you during the launch or else they lose interest and you lose the trust of your team. Set up your method of communication and invite everyone into the launch.
Set up at least 6-10 emails to be delivered throughout the launch. You can add your team emails to a campaign in your email service provider such as Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Convert Kit. You can set up email autoresponders to go out on certain dates, or customize your emails as you go.
Launch Team Emails: How often and how many?
One question that comes up often is, “how many emails do I send out, how often and what should the content look like? Once again, if you are running a Facebook Group and using that as your main source of communication, I still recommend you have a set of emails set up to be delivered throughout the launch.
I send out an email every second day.
Here is a breakdown of what these launch team emails would look like:
Email #1: Welcome Email: Includes Intro to the team and the PDF of the book.
Email #2: How is the book reading? General overview of the launch plan.
Email #3: 5 Days Before Launch. Include a video of how to leave a review on Amazon
Email #4: The day before launch—Are you ready?
Email #5: LAUNCH DAY! It is time to take action.
Email #6: Review reminder, update on book status and current ranking.
Email #7: Final reminder. Leave a review and FREE paperback giveaway reminder.
Email #8: Final email. Thank you for joining the launch team.
What you want to do is take time to customize your own emails. You can space the emails out accordingly. I like to keep them balanced so that the team is getting the support they need without feeling too overwhelmed.
A group you can add your members to for easy access and communication. You can post regularly and easily add video and communicate with regular updates. Members can, as we mentioned, share ideas for promoting the book during the launch day.
Even if you do a Facebook Group, I recommend sending out regular emails regardless. Not everyone is going to be into joining a Facebook Group, so communicating with regular emails set up to be delivered on select dates will cover all the bases.
Sending Out Your Book to Your Launch Team
There are three ways you can get the advance copy to your team.
PDF Form. Attach the PDF to the welcome email if you are delivering it this way. For larger files, you can drop the book in Dropbox and share the link with your team. Dropbox allows people to download the book without having to sign up for an account.
Bookfunnel.com This is a great way to deliver your book. BookFunnel has a yearly subscription fee but it’s worth it if you launch regularly. The basic price is $20 a month for 1 pen name and 500 downloads per month. You can check out the features of bookfunnel right here.
The pigeonhole. I’ve used the pigeonhole before and I really liked it. How it works is like this. You upload your book in PDF form to the team at Pigeonhole. You provide them with your launch team emails and then, Pigeonhole posts a chapter a day of your book on their site. Members read right on line and can comment on the book as they work through it.
This is a great platform for improving the quality of the book as well. Early readers catch the small mistakes that were missed and you can fix everything up before launching.
4 Common Launch Team Mistakes to Avoid
In order to make the most of your launch team, there are different mistakes we see often that you want to avoid.
#1 – Sending out emails with long gaps in between
You want to be consistent in communicating with your launch team. Long gaps in between emails will result in people losing interest and not following through when they should. I average an email every 2-3 days. For a Facebook group, you could post something everyday, even if it is just a short blurb.
#2 – Failing to set expectations
Remember the list of expectations we looked at in the beginning? By not setting your expectations you are leaving the launch wide open to chaos. Be sure people know what they need to do and when they need to do it. Don’t just assume people will take action. They need you, the author, to lead them. Be upfront and let them know they are with you until the end to take action.
#3 – Setting your initial price point too high
Okay, you might think this is common sense but, you want to launch your book right away at the lowest price point possible. That would be 0.99, and then possibly free after you’ve set set your promo up in the KDP dashboard.
If your price is upwards of $5-10, people may not download it. You want your price to be low so the launch team especially can download it to leave a verified purchase.
When it comes to Amazon rankings, a book that has the verified purchase tag weighs more than a non verified review. Make it easy for people to download. Set your price low and get the rankings moving. You can increase your price point after the launch.
#4 – Giving unclear directions
You want everything to be so easy for your team that it can literally run itself. What this means is, setting up all the steps so that people know exactly what to so. Some of the questions I have had from team members were:
Where do I leave review?
How do I leave a review?
Where is the link for the book?
What is this Goodreads website?
You can eliminate confusion and wasting time answering basic questions by setting up the steps so it is like paint-by-numbers. For example, shoot a short video of how to set up a review.
Walk people through the process. Video is a fantastic way to visually teach the steps and can be done easily. You can then post it in the Facebook feed or embed the link in an email to be downloaded from Dropbox or Vimeo.
It all comes down to planning ahead. By foreseeing possible problems that can slow down your launch, prepare ahead of time and set your team up for success.
The Power of Sharing
Swipe Copy for Your Team is a set of pre-formatted/written emails and/or posts that the launch team can use to share either via email or online. You want this to be as simple as possible so people can just copy and paste to their social media platforms or deliver by email without it taking too much of their time.
The easier it is for your team to deliver, the better.
Create swipe copy for your book launch and make this available to your team via dropbox or upload to your Facebook Group. The swipe copy should be easy to use and provide material for sharing online or via email.
You should include specific instructions as to how to use the swipe copy. Not everyone has used this before and you will get questions from people if they have difficulty.
I would recommend shooting a short video explaining how to set this up on launch day. Show people how easy it is. Encourage them to share where they can and as often as possible.
If each of the people on you team threw up a post on their Facebook page, and they had an average of 500 friends each, that would exponentially share your book with a large community that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.
Setting up a Launch Team Roster for Future Books
Once the launch is over, your facebook group will most likely be disbanded. You could try to keep it going but after the launch is over, but without a specific purpose for the group that extends beyond the launch, it is a lot of work to keep the interest going.
This is where a long term strategy for your books could be put into play.
Are you planning to launch another book? Do you want to use some of your core launch members for another book launch?
In that case, you could set up a street team of reviewers that are ready to support you on, not only this launch, but all future launches.
Remember: a launch team is more than just getting someone to review your book. You could take the relationship to the next level. Consider setting up a private facebook group for people who want to stay in touch and support your work in future launches.
And, if they agree to this, it will be far easier to tap into a group that is already in place then recruiting new members.
Build Your Launch Team [Master Checklist]
Here is a review of the steps to build your launch team.
Reach out to at least 20-30 people directly to begin the recruitment process. Ask for permission to put them on your launch team.
Expand to social media circles like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Put together an incentive package: free digital copy, paperback, question and answer group call, or a sneak peak at the launch behind-the-scenes.
Choose your method of communication: email, a Facebook group, or both. [Both methods are recommended together]
Be clear about your expectations for the launch [launch goals for reviews, ranking, and book sales]
Create a series of emails to send to your group. You can set these up beforehand or create as you go for a more ‘on-the-spot customized feel.
Decide the method to deliver emails: gmail template or email server campaign template [recommended]. You can use Mailchimp, free up to 2000 subscribers.
Prepare a “Welcome to my launch team” Video or Post.
Send out your Welcome Email. This includes the digital copy of the book. In your email outline the expectations for being on the launch team.
Create a “Swipe File” for the team to share. Deliver this to your team the day before launch.
Keep track of your team emails using an excel sheet.
Send out a “review reminder” a week after the launch.
Final email/posting: Thank your team for their support during the launch. Follow up on any final incentives promised.
Stay in touch with members of your team. Continue to build relationships with people so that your book launch can get bigger with every new book release.
If you’re ready to learn what it takes to write (and then potentially publish a book of) good poetry, we’ve got the help you need.
Benefits of Learning How to Write a Poem
Even if you aren’t looking to become a full-time poet, or even attempt to publish a single poem, writing poetry can be beneficial in several ways.
It strengthens your skills in writing solid imagery.Poetry is a very image-based form of writing, so practicing poetry will improve your imagery in other forms as well.
Poetry is concise and impactful—it uses strong language, and no more words than are necessary. If you have an understanding of how to write a poem, your prose when writing a novel will become crisper and stronger.
Poetry helps you to connect with emotions in a tangible way. Other forms of writing have the plot to hide behind—with poetry, all you’ve got are emotions. (Unless it’s a narrative poem, of course.)
You can become a professional poet and earn a living writing. Even if you just want to enjoy poetry for the above reasons, you can also make a full-time income this way. A great way to get started is to apply for a poetry scholarship in addition to the rest of the tips here.
Types of Poetry
Not all types of poetry are the same, and that means learning how to write a poem involves being familiar with the different types.
Here are the different types of poetry:
Narrative – this kind of poem relies on a story. It tells an event and there are often a few extra elements, such as characters, a plot, and a strong narration.
Lyrical – a lyric poem is similar to a song, and it tends to describe a specific feeling, scene, or state of mind.
You may be familiar with these different types of poetry. For example, a lyrical poem is actually a song. Listening to your favorite radio station is just like hearing a collection of your favorite poems being read to you with some background music.
A narrative poem is, as mentioned above, more like a story told in poetic prose.
Here’s a small example of a part of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, The Raven:
8 Fundamentals for How to Write a Poem
Poetry can often be subjective. Not every poem will speak to every person.
That being said, there are different attributes that you should learn if you want to know how to write poetry well regardless.
#1 – Structure of writing a poem
The structure of a poem can refer to many different things, but we’re going to discuss some different forms of poetry, how to use punctuation, and last words.
Form of a Poem
The form of your poem is the physical structure. It can have requirements for rhyme, line length, number of lines/stanzas, etc.
Here are different types of poetry forms:
Sonnet – A short, rhyming poem of 14 lines
Haiku – A poem of 3 lines where the first is 5 syllables, the middle is 7 syllables, and the last is 5.
Acrostic – A poem where the first letter of each line spells a word that fits with the theme of the poem or exposes a deeper meaning.
Limerick – This is a 5-live witty poem with the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme as do the other two with each other.
Epic – This type of poetry is a lengthy narrative poem celebrating adventures or accomplishments of heroes.
Couplet – This can be a part of a poem or stand alone as a poem of two lines that rhyme.
Free verse – This type of poem doesn’t follow any rules and is free written poetry by the author.
The majority of poets, specifically less experienced ones, write what’s called free verse, which is a poem without a form, or with a form the poet has made up for that specific piece.
A poet may decide to have a certain rhyme scheme or might make their poems syllabic.
With a free verse poem, you can set up any theme or pattern you wish, or have none at all.
The great thing about poetry is that you can even start with a specific poem form, and then choose to alter it in order to make it unique and your own.
Writing a poem is difficult because you never know what the appropriate punctuation is, because it can be different from punctuation when writing a book.
There are essentially three ways to punctuate your poetry:
Grammatically – this means you use punctuation properly for every grammar rule; if you removed the lines and stanzas, it would work as a grammatically correct paragraph, and this even includes writing dialogue in your poem.
Stylistically – this means you use punctuation to serve the way you would like the poem to be read. A comma indicates a short pause, a period indicates a longer pause, a dash indicates a pause with a connection of thoughts. Using no punctuation at all would lend to a rushed feeling, which you may want. Your punctuation choices will depend on your goals when writing a poem.
A combination. Maybe you want to mostly follow punctuation rules, but you have a certain line you want read a certain way. It’s totally fine to deviate from standard rules if it serves a purpose—you just need to do whatever you’re doing intentionally. Know the rules before you can break them.
“In poetry, punctuation serves as the conductor. It sets the beat of a line or a stanza, telling you where to pause for breath. Conversely, enjambment—running lines of poetry together by not ending them with punctuation—can be extremely powerful, when used correctly. It keeps the line flowing without a pause or a full stop.” – Krystal Blaze Dean
Last words of a poem
The last word of a line, the last word of your poem, and the last line of your poem are very important—these are the bits that echo in your reader’s head and have the most emphasis.
Ending with punctuation (dash, period, comma) versus ending without punctuation will give you a dramatically different read, so consider the effect you’d like to have.
Tip for last words: read the poem out loud a few times to see where you’d like the inflection and emphasis to fall.
#2 – Imagery
Imagery is a literary device that’s a tangible description that appeals to one of the five senses.
The more imagery in a poem, the more the reader can connect with it.
Tip for imagery: focus on details. Instead of going for the obvious description, really put yourself in that moment or feeling—what details are the most impactful and real?
Here are some examples of imagery:
Pungent fumes lifted from the floor beneath her.
Burning light painted the insides of his eyelids red.
Hair from her ponytail bit at her face, swept into a frenzy by the furious winds.
Crackling popped in rhythm to the dancing flames.
#3 – Sound
While imagery is for the mind, sound is for the ear. How do your words and lines sound when read out loud?
The most basic sound style is a rhyme, however, you should never force a rhyme!
If you try for exact rhymes on every line, it becomes “sing songy,” and this is a big, red mark of an amateur. Sticking to a strict rhyme scheme can severely limit your word choice and creativity.
Instead of going for exact end rhymes, here are some options to achieve that appealing auditory effect of rhyming when writing poems:
Assonance – the repetition of a vowel sound in non-rhyming, stressed syllables. Assonance gives you the fun sound effect of a rhyme without sounding campy. An example of assonance is: “Hear the mellow wedding bells” by Edgar Allen Poe.
Alliteration – the repetition of a consonant at the beginning of words. Specifically hard consonant sounds like T, ST, and CH have a hard, staccato effect that a lot of poets like to use.
Internal rhymes – words inside of lines rhyme, rather than the end words. Like assonance, you get the effect of a rhyme without sound like a Dr. Seuss ripoff.
Tip for sound in poetry: Focus on beautiful, crisp imagery to carry your poem, rather than strictly relying on the sound and structure of it.
#4 – Meaning
Structure, imagery, and sound work together to make up the technical excellence of a poem. But if your words are empty of a deeper meaning, what’s the point in writing a poem at all?
“Poetry is a form of storytelling. The key to writing is making the audience feel. Give them something to remember and hold onto.” – Brookes Washington
Many new writers latch onto clichés and tired topics (peep that alliteration) for their poems, because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do.
But emulating something someone else has done, or some idea of what you should think a poem should be about, isn’t going to give you a genuine, emotional piece that other people can connect to.
So write the poem that only you can write.
Tips for how to write a poem with meaning:
Brainstorm poetry topics by looking at your own experiences. What do you know? When is a time you felt very deeply about something? Can you put that feeling into words? Can you make that feeling an image other people can see through your words? That is the poem you write.
You don’t need some grand, dramatic emotion to write about—think about the ordinary things that make us all human.
“Nothing ever ends poetically. It ends and we turn it into poetry. All that blood was never once beautiful. It was just red.” – Kait Rokowski
#5 – Have a goal
Have a goal with writing a poem—what do you want your audience to feel?
Are you just writing for fun or for yourself? Poetry is often a very personal form of writing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about your audience at the same time.
If you want to publish your poetry eventually, there are a few things to think about in terms of your goals.
What emotion or moral do you want to convey? What are you trying to express?
These are important questions to answer in order to write an impactful and memorable poem.
#6 – Avoid cliche phrases when writing poetry
There are many clichés you want to avoid when writing poetry.
Nothing really marks an amateur poet like clichés (and forced rhymes, like we mentioned before).
Despite the temptation, avoid cliché phrases. Go line by line and make your language as crisp and original as you can.
If there are pieces in your poem that seem like you’ve read or heard them before, try to reword it in order to make it more original.
#7 – Opt for minimalism
Err on the side of minimalism. Once you have a draft, cut it back to the bare, raw necessaries.
Every word should be heavy with emotion and meaning, and every word should be absolutely essential.
If your poem seems long-winded to you, imagine what that would be like for your reader. Be ready to edit your poem to get it down to its best form.
“Poetry is just word math. Every piece has mean something, and there can’t be any extraneous bits otherwise it gets confusing. It just becomes a puzzle made out of all the words that make you feel something.” – Abigail Giroir
#8 – Refine your poem
The real magic of poetry happens in the revising and refining.
Revise the ever-living heck out of it. To paraphrase an old professor of mine: Don’t be afraid to sit with it. For weeks, months, years—as long as the poem needs.
It’s great to have writing goals and timelines, but don’t rush a poem before you know it’s ready.
Avoid abstractions. An abstraction is a word that can only refer to a concept or feeling—it’s not a concrete, tangible thing. Some examples of this are liberty, love, bondage, aggression.
Abstractions make every person picture something different, so they are weak words, and they will weaken your poem.
Instead of using an abstraction, think of what imagery you can use to convey that emotion or concept. Liberty can become chains breaking or birds flying. Love can be bringing your spouse coffee in bed, petting a dog, cleaning a gravestone.
Think of the best images to convey your idea of that abstraction, so every reader can be on the same page with you.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a form that will stifle your creativity, utilize imagery and sound, have a meaning and a purpose for every poem, and revise until your fingers bleed.