how to write a children's book

How to Write a Children’s Book with 11 Easy Steps for Success

Learning how to write a children’s book involves a number of steps. It’s more than just writing out a story idea and drawing pictures…

Have you written a book for children that has been rejected by agents and publishers over and over? Or do you have a page full of kids’ writing prompts or book ideas but no idea what to do with them?

If you’re like me, this has made you wonder if you’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or just plain enough for this writing and publishing for kids gig…

write a children's book

I’ve met my fair share of authors who’ve been swindled by hybrid publishers or spent years investing time, money, and energy into an industry that has given them little in return.

Never fear! We are here to help you!

Here are the steps for how to write a children’s book:

  1. Determine who you’re writing for
  2. Learn what makes a good children’s book
  3. Read a lot of children’s books
  4. Flesh out your own book idea
  5. Outline your children’s book
  6. Narrow the details
  7. Write your children’s book!
  8. Re-read and revise your first draft
  9. Get your book edited
  10. Find a children’s book illustrator
  11. Celebrate writing a children’s book!

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program (Yes! We even pair you up with a children’s book coach if that’s what you’re writing!).
Learn more about it here

What is a Children’s Book?

Children’s books are everything from Young Adult down to board books for your teething kiddo, however, a book is considered a children’s book when it’s intended for an audience between 0-8 years old.

But there are a wide variety of standards and skill between these opposite ends.

For example, books for young adults are full of detail, world-building, plots and subplots, setting creation, and strong character development, with no pictures, for thousands of words.

Picture books, on the other hand, serve our 0 to 8-year-old audience and have very few words, lots of pictures, simple plots but intense engagement.

For our purposes here, let’s think Early Reader down to Mom-or-Dad-reads-it-to-you. Everything else is essentially novel writing for an older child audience.

Why write a children’s book?

There are a number of reasons to write for children. The bonuses and motivation for writing children’s books will often be much different than if you want to write a full novel.

Here are some of the wrong reasons to write a children’s book:

  • “I’m retired now and want to make a livable wage doing something easy.”
  • “Children’s books are short so I know they’re easy to write and fast to the money.”
  • “I want to write but I’m not sure what. Kids don’t expect much so I’ll write for them.”
  • “There are some awful children’s books out there. I know I can do at least that well.”

Here are some of the right reasons to publish a children’s book:

  • “Children are the present and future of our world. I really want to impact them.”
  • “I want to make writing for kids my business and have a plan to write many books.”
  • “I LOVE children’s books (even though I’m an adult) and want to write them so much, that I’m willing to learn how to write well in order to exceed their expectations.”
  • “There are some awful children’s books out there. I want to improve the quality of children’s literature to give kids a better reading experience.”

The reality is, children’s books are the most difficult type of literature to write and produce.

You have to engage an adult audience (the people who hand over the money and are likely to be the one reading your book Every. Single. Day.) but you also have to engage the children, who will beg their money-wielding parent to buy the book and read it to them Every. Single. Day.

Additionally, you only have zero to 700 words to communicate an entire story, with inciting incident, climactic moment, and final resolution, to the full satisfaction of both adult and child—much like when writing short stories. On repeat.

writing children's book

Children’s Books Are on the Rise

The good news is that children’s book sales are on the rise. According to a 2017 article in Publisher’s Weekly, children’s books have become a centerpiece for many traditional publishers because the increase has surpassed those of every other book genre counterpart.

Between 2012 and 2017 children’s book sales doubled, with a trajectory to continue increasing.

In 2018, 31 out of the UK’s 100 bestselling books were children’s books. That’s a huge percentage!

If I’m honest, I didn’t enter the children’s industry for the “right” reasons. I have always been a writer and was finally ready to pursue that professionally.

So, in 2007, I began the hunt toward publishing. Self-publishing was nearly unheard of and I knew enough about traditional publishing to know that who you know matters as much as the quality of your work.

What I learned Writing Children’s Books

Before we teach you how to write a children’s book, it’s important to understand a few key things I wish I knew when I got started.

Here’s what I learned writing a children’s book:

  1. The children’s industry is highly competitive. So even though sales are on the rise, so are people writing and publishing them.
  2. Books that thrive in the industry are extremely well written and well marketed.
  3. It takes time to study the craft of writing for children well and of marketing and selling your book well. Thus, it also takes time to make money.
  4. Self-publishing children’s books is a totally viable and profitable way to produce your stories. From conversations I’ve had, I learned that I make more money per book sold than my traditionally published counterparts, have to do the same level of marketing as they do, have more creative control, and can get my book out in three months instead of one to two years. (I have many friends in the traditional industry and I love their contribution to market research and high-quality value. Together, we partner to impact children.)
  5. Writing for children is the best. Fan mail for kids? Nothing else like it. Experiencing the giggles and gasps of kids who are caught up in your words is life-giving. And knowing that your story is a safe space, gives kids permission to be uniquely them, and passes on important life skills to our upcoming generation is among the highest of honors.

With time and practice, I learned how to set my expectations correctly, develop a writing habit, and produce high quality, professional, and engaging children’s books.

If, after reading the right reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then stick with me a bit longer and I’ll walk you through some standard first steps.

If, after reading the wrong reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then consider writing a book for adults. We have some great resources on how to determine what you should write, starting with something that gets you excited, that you can write quickly, and that you can write easily.

For the rest of you, there are a number of standards and steps to get you going on writing your first children’s book.

How to Write a Children’s Book Step by Step

Writing a children’s book has a different overall book writing process than say, when you’re writing a novel.

We’ve broken down the steps for writing children’s books with a strategy that works.

#1 – Determine your children’s book’s audience

Everything about how you start your book: your story idea, book layout, page count, number of illustrations, and depth of the plot depend on who you are writing for.

A picture book, for example, is normally ready aloud by an adult. The child is captivated by full spreads of illustration and relies almost entirely on listening to the story.

Language can be a little more developed, poetic, and nuanced since the book is as much for the reading adult as it is for the child. Early chapter books, on the other hand, are for the older budding reader who still relies on some artwork while gaining vocabulary.

If you don’t know the age and stage of the child you’re writing for, you might lose their interest. The following is a guide for your book according to age group.

Determine What You’re Writing:

Children’s books length varies depending on the age group you want to write for and the detail of the story you want to tell.

If you want to write for children 0 – 4 years old, then you’re most likely writing a board book or a very simple, short concept book.

These books often teach children their colors or how to count or demonstrate a routine like bath time or bedtime, in 0 – 100 words.

Children ages 3 – 8 love picture books. These are stories 0 – 700 words (1000 at the most) that use full page images to tell a story.

These books are often read aloud to children by an adult. Picture books rely in part on the quality of the story as told through text and the work of the illustration to communicate the story. With so few words, picture books must be compelling and tell a complete story, meaning that every word must be purposeful in moving the story forward.

Early Readers are short chapter books aimed at 5 – 7 year-olds and range from 200 – 5000 words. This youngest chapter book is designed for kiddos who see big kids reading chapter books and really want to read them, too.

However, these kids are still developing reading skills and need simple language because they are reading it solo. Chapters are short so kids can feel successful as they make their way through such a “big” book. These are most popular in the educational market as a bridge for younger readers between picture books and chapter books.

Here’s a handy table for an easier overview:

Children's AgeBook Length
0 - 4 years old
0 - 100 words
3 - 8 years old0 - 700 words
5 - 7 years old200 - 5000 words
6 - 7 years old5000 - 20,000 words
8 - 10 years old20,000 - 35,000 words
Tweens40,000 - 55,000 words
Young Adult50,000 - 70,000

Naturally, as age of target child increases, word count increases, and the depth of the plot increases as well. These books include illustrations, in lesser measure as the word count increases, stopping around Middle Grade.

This is a great resource for determining what you want to write (and for whom). This article was written primarily for writers in the traditional industry but is a great standard for us as well.

#2 – Know What Makes a Good Children’s Book

Children’s books are unique in the sense that their lesson and what children learn are so very important, but you also have to create this in a way that holds their attention.

Here are some criteria for writing a good children’s book:

  1. It has an important lesson
  2. The story is easy to follow for your chosen age-range
  3. The illustrations are high-quality and professional
  4. It’s relatable to a wide range of children
  5. It can entertain adults at the same time

Using these criteria can help you structure your story, create a better story setting, and ensure you’re hitting the milestones needed for a good children’s book.

#3 – Read LOTS of books in your category

There are many different genres to choose from when writing for children and the best way to write them well is to read them often.

The following are a sampling of the options:

  • Realistic Fiction: Made up stories that could happen today in real life (but didn’t).
  • Historical Fiction: Made up stories based on actual historical events.
  • Biography: A story like this, or a memoir, is based on the life of a real person.
  • Fantasy: Made up stories that involve ideas that don’t happen in real life.
  • Science Fiction: Made up stories that generally aren’t plausible and are normally set in the future involving some level of science and technology.
  • Poetry: Writing poetry is telling stories told in verse, rhyming or not, mean to communicate in such a way as to evoke emotion.
  • Non Fiction: True stories that are informational (to teach facts) or based on actual real-life stories.
  • Folklore: These are the stories, often told orally first, that represent our history, our culture, our stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, songs of the past, and even some passed on fairy tales. These are often retold since we don’t know the original author.

Reading books in your genre can help you understand the story structure that works, including how to start your story, the maturity of the content for your intended audience, and more.

#4 – Come up with a children’s book idea

Children’s story ideas can be silly, deep, inspiring, hilarious, zany, serious, and straight up weird. They can make you laugh, cry, gasp, squeal, giggle and guffaw.

Ideas like these come from so many places: the kids around you (eavesdrop on ‘em, it’s great), adults around you (eavesdropping actually goes a long way as a writer), nature, books, movies, newspaper articles, youtube videos, animals… be an observer and you’ll find ideas everywhere!

Here are a few of my favorites places to come up with children’s book ideas:

  • Fractured Fairy Tales: Take a commonly known myth or legend and retell it in a new and creative way. Think “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” (as told by the wolf), Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, or my very own book, Tercules. I took the legend of Hercules, combined him with a wild turkey chick, and voila.
  • Unlikely Characters and Settings: Speaking of Tercules, another great place to get ideas is by throwing together two very unlikely characters and dropping them in an unlikely setting. Shark versus Train is a great example of this.
  • Putting Characters in Child-like Settings and Circumstances: Some book ideas are life skills we want to teach our kids in creative ways. The Princess and the Potty worked magic with my daughter. Or Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, illustrated by my friend, Daniel. Taking a unique character and putting them in the position of a child will help kids catch all sorts of great life skills. Or on a more serious note, my own Speranza’s Sweater: A Child’s Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption, gives children permission to experience the many conflicting feelings of adoption through the lens of Speranza. Our own SPS coach, Jed Jurchenko, also does this with his recent release, The Stormy Secret, helping kids navigate the safe places to share secrets imposed on them.

#5 – Outline the Story

Once you have an idea, start laying it out in a book format. Yes, this is essentially outlining. Depending on the book category and genre, this outline will look different. For a picture book, the story will be, on average, 28 pages of story.

Create a book dummy and fill in the pages with your idea. (To make a book dummy, take 16 pages of regular paper and fold them together in half to make a small booklet.

This should create a 32 page “book.” The first few pages are your title page and copyright page, 28 pages of story, and then any end matter you’d like to include, like “About the Author” or an author’s note.

Use this book dummy to layout your scenes and choose where in your story you want the page to turn.

If you’re writing a chapter book, make sure to outline the entire story with the five important milestones of a strong plotline, as well as the individual chapters. If you’re more of a pantzer, writing by the seat of your pants, then at the very least have a framework for your story so you don’t get lost on rabbit trails.

If you get lost, your readers will too.

#6 – Nail Down the Details

Choose whether you’ll write the book in poetry or prose, first person or third person, past tense or present tense.

Use other books in your genre to guide you as a standard.

If you choose to write in poetry, be aware that if you can’t do it perfectly, you really shouldn’t do it at all. Writing poetry is much more than rhyming words. It’s meter. Rhythm. Timing. Pacing.

If one of these is off, it throws your reader off and discredits your book and your storytelling skills. If it can be told just as well in prose, do it. If you have mastered poetry, do it.

#7 – Write that first draft!

Don’t stress the details, just get the story down.

One of the biggest hangups preventing all authors from being successful is finishing writing a book.

If you can accomplish this, you’re further along in the process than most other writers you never get past the idea phase.

Here are a few tips to finish your draft:

  • Schedule writing time
  • Get an accountability partner for external motivation
  • Set a deadline
  • Get rid of distractions while writing
  • Focus on just FINISHING, no editing along the way

#8 – Re-read and revise your first draft

Do you have enough words? Too many words? Add or cut as necessary.

Does your story make sense? Are there plot holes you need to address? Did you break any of the “rules”? If so, why? If not, why?

Tighten up your draft.

This self-editing process can take a while, but you’ll feel better sending a cleaner, tighter manuscript to the editor because it can only get even better from there.

#9 – Get a critique and/or an edit.

Getting a book critique gives you a chance to get a children’s book professional’s feedback on the marketability of your book, the content of your book, and to address any grammatical issues.

No matter how well you think you’ve nailed grammar or understand a child’s brain, your set of eyes alone will never be sufficient for a perfect draft.

I’m a seasoned writer and editor and I still don’t trust myself to catch every grammatical issue or plot hole. Invite a professional to give you content feedback as well as outside eyes on your grammar and syntax.

But not just any professional! Make sure they have strong experience in the children’s writing industry and credibility to back up their work.

Editing for children’s book is not the same as editing for books for adults.

Trust me, I do both. Consider the editors feedback and make any necessary changes. Stay true to your voice and your story while honoring the tradition of literature and writing quality books.

#10 – Find a children’s book illustrator

This is the most fun part! Your book will now come to life in the hands of someone amazing.

The illustration in your book are extremely important. You have to think about which style you want and find someone who can bring that to life.

Here are a few places you can find a children’s book illustrator:

P.S. — Do you know any great children’s book illustrators? Drop their names in comments below so we can check them out!

#10 – Celebrate!

This is huge! These words you’ve been pouring over are about to be read by children!

Take a minute and have a dance party before stepping into book production, including formatting your book and even getting a book cover design.

You did it!

Are you ready to become a published children’s book author?

If you’re ready to finally take this idea you’ve had forever and do something about it, we’ve got just what you need.

Check out this free training to learn which steps you’ll need to take in order to not only self-publish a book, but do it successfully.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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faith based book

How to Write a Book About Your Faith: A Guide for More Impact

Simply writing a book is a step of faith. So, if you are interested in writing a book about your faith, you will need to exercise some.

Writing a book about your faith is so much more than simply jotting down your thoughts and opinions—at least if you want your story and message to be impactful…

The following principals, when applied, will help you with your journey.

how to write a faith based book

Here are the steps to write a faith-based book:

  1. Notice the similarities and differences with other books
  2. Convey hope in your writing
  3. Write a story, not just a list
  4. Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books
  5. Draw on your own experiences
  6. Trust your faith
  7. Create flaws
  8. Write your faith-based book so they understand
  9. Have faith
  10. Create overwhelming odds against you/the protagonist
  11. Learn lessons from those who have done it before
  12. How to start writing your faith-based book today

NOTE: If you’re ready to share your message and faith with the world, we can help! Check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program to learn how to do this in 90 days. Learn more about it here

How to Write a Faith-Based Book in 9 Easy Steps

There’s more to writing a faith-based book than jotting down your feelings and interpretations.

These steps will help you take your idea and vision to the next step and write a good book about your faith and understandings of it.

#1 – Similarities and differences between Faith Books and other books

The main difference between a book about faith and other books is not so much what is seen, but what is unseen.

According to one Biblical writer: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

While this is a Christian scripture, it could apply to writing a book about any faith. One goal of writing about faith is to convey hope to those who are hurting.

So, in order to write and publish a book your audience will want to read…

#2 – Convey Hope in your writing

You hope your work will be published and, I assume, that it helps your readers.

Pass hope onto your readers with examples of how faith “moves mountains,” and your book will have a higher chance of success in selling more books and becoming an enjoyable experience for everyone who encounters it.

Here are a few examples of how you can convey hope in your writing:

  • Display your own or others’ struggles
  • Make a point to develop a full range of emotions by the “show, don’t tell” rule in writing
  • Focus your book to look on the bright side
  • Show the steps from struggle to hope so readers can understand how it’s done

#3 – Write a story; not just a list

The most popular faith-based books have story settings where people overcoming impossible challenges.

Perhaps the most famous example is David and Goliath.

You know how it goes; an unknown boy destined to become king slays an evil giant. Even if you heard this only once, you would never forget it.

faith based story

Keep this in mind when looking to convey faith through your words. 

Faith comes to life through stories, and those stories will be remembered longer than any list of does and don’ts. Not that I’m against lists; I’m writing some here. However, this is an article, not a book.

A good story helps ensure your words have staying power. Do you know anyone who doesn’t remember the story of David and Goliath? Exactly!

#4 – Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books

While far from fantasy, Cori Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place reveals parallel worlds.

Outwardly Ten Boom endures a brutal concentration camp while inwardly she lives in a world of faith. Faith, in this case, is essential to her survival. While the threat of death is ever-present, the main character and author find freedom against the ultimate antagonist. 

faith based books

After becoming friends with many ex gangsters, I wrote the book in the middle.

Fiction needs to be as real as nonfiction!

The more implausible the story, the more you need to anchor it in details that make it seem real. 

This is one of the biggest writing mistakes new aspiring authors can make.

The people we met long ago in a galaxy far away behave like we on earth—they are sometimes petty and self-centered and at other times noble and selfless.

#5 – Draw on your own experiences

Recall a time when you needed a certain amount of money, and it came just in time.

If you are writing a fictitious book like The Shack, you can use the feelings you encountered in life, and exaggerate them to make your point. Can you remember needing a certain amount of cash on the first of the month and receiving near that amount in the mail, just in time?

Take the amount you received and multiply it along with the penalty for not coming up with the money.

Turn things from difficult to desperate in order to further your message and story.

#6 – Trust your faith

Trust in the force!

Star Wars may not seem like a faith story, but it is. An entire galaxy is under the boot of darkness when Princess Leah suddenly appears and utters those desperate and now famous words, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!” 

The story of Moses who, with Pharos’s army before him and the sea behind him is similar.

The only option for Moses and the people he led was a great miracle. What is the only hope for the characters you want to write about?

Make the obstacles insurmountable, the solution nearly impossible, the resolution semi miraculous and you’ll even maintain that writing motivation on your way to a great faith book.

# 7 – Flawed, but not too flawed

When it comes to stories like this, you want to make sure you never write it as anything being “perfect.”

Firstly, no reader will want that type of character development or story structure as a whole because it’s not realistic and therefore, not interesting.

Here are some tips to avoid creating not enough or too many flaws:

  1. Don’t make your faith hero too good. Nobody is perfect, and your characters should not be perfect either.
  2. On the other hand, don’t give your characters fatal flaws. Some flaws are endearing while others are repulsive. Readers will easily forgive a woman who chews gum constantly while a man who runs over a puppy for the fun of it will remain beyond redemption to them.
  3. Make flaws relatable. If your reader thinks, I do that, or if they know someone with similar quirks to your characters, they will most likely relate to your creations and enjoy the story.
writing a faith based book

Tip for writing flaws in your faith-based book:

Think of it this way: You are on a bus. It is crowded and noisy with all sorts of distractions. Someone takes a seat across the aisle from you. You have something important to tell them…

Hold that image; the person you envision is your audience.

Write to them alone. The first thing out of your mouth should be more attractive to them than anything competing for their attention. Also, everything that follows after those initial words should hold that attention.

Lose them for a moment, and you may never get them back. 

By the time you reach your destination, your imaginary friend should be so intrigued by what you have said that he or she will follow you when you exit the bus.

# 8 – Write so they understand

Know what moves your readers and talk to them like you would any other friend, in terms they understand.

Everyone understands words like hope, faith, and love.

What you want to avoid is speaking in terms and scriptures and such in a way that those even looking to build their faith won’t understand.

#9 – Have a strong faith

One of the most famous writing tips, and wisely so, is that you write on what you know.

To write about faith, you will need to exercise faith. That starts by getting up early and writing.

Tip: I begin fiction drafts first thing in the morning, pre-coffee (tea in my case) while still in pajamas. Being nearly half asleep tends to bring out a loose, dreamy quality. While this style is good for fiction when getting the framework of the story down, it is not recommended for non-fiction or final drafts.

Nonfiction and self-editing require concrete logic. I suggest attempting them later in the day, when well fed, fully caffeinated, and wide-awake. You can then correct the mistakes you made while floating in that pleasant morning haze.

#10 – The Protagonist needs to face overwhelming odds

Hosoi, my life as a skateboarder, junkie, inmate and Pastor is a book I co-authored for HarperOne.

faith based book example

The memoir follows famed skateboarder Christian Hosoi, who became one of the world’s top skateboarders before falling to meth addiction.

After his incarceration, Hosoi faces himself for the first time, a showdown that ends at the feet of faith.

Immersed in fame, money, and vice since his childhood, the character has little chance of surviving, much less in becoming what he is now—a faithful husband, attentive father of four and a church pastor.

The example here is that your protagonist has to face challenges and odds stacked against them.

And if you’re writing a nonfiction book, your job is to ensure that your own struggles are evident.

When others relate to hardship, it creates a more powerful emotional impact in your faith-based book.

#11 – Learn lessons from those experienced

Some of the most powerful lessons can be learned by those who have experience. I learned as much when interviewing Shack author, William Paul Young.

faith based book author

In the last century writers like C.S Lewis and G.K. Chesterton led the faith-based fiction pack.

More recently, William Paul Young made a big splash with a small volume called The Shack

I interviewed Young a short while ago, and he mentioned that Shack began as a hand-stapled gift for his grandchildren.

As you may know it went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.

C.S. Lewis had similar success with a book he wrote for his grandchildren, The Chronicles of Narnia

While these are extraordinary examples, they illustrate two things: The power of faith and focusing on a narrow audience.

While written thousands of years after the books in the bible, both Lewis’s and Young’s tales weave in some timeless common threads: For one, the main characters have little or no chance of succeeding in their goals. Similar to the story of young King David, a cursed land is liberated by a band of children in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Start Writing Your Faith-Based Book Today!

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With the proper system (hint: ours), you can save a ton of time while maximizing the quality and impact of your book.

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writing tips

17 Writing Tips & Actionable Exercises to Write Better Today [VIDEO]

Writing tips have aided every writer out there—from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King.

And now you’re here for a reason…

You want to learn how to write better through specific writing tips. Because let’s be honest…we all feel like our writing could use some improvement.

What you didn’t know is that you’ll learn a whole lot more than that by reading this post – and you’ll find out exactly what if you stick with us.

Writing is a skill you can never be the “best” at. You will always be able to grow and expand on your writing skills. Once you’ve reached what you believe is your very best, there is still mountains more you can improve upon.

That’s part of the magic of being a writer.

tips for writing

But it can be hard to know where you actually need the improvement. Which areas are your weakest and which do you excel in?

Here are 17 strong writing tips:

  1. Write what you want to read
  2. Write with intention
  3. Use psychology
  4. Write as often as you can
  5. Eliminate distractions
  6. Research storytelling and story structure
  7. Always get feedback
  8. Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals
  9. Practice writing when you’re not writing
  10. Use strong language
  11. Just write to write
  12. “Just do it.”
  13. “You’ve got to work.”
  14. “Write for yourself first.”
  15. “Quantity will make up for quality.”
  16. “Tell the truth.”
  17. “You can’t edit a blank page.”

It’s one thing to improve your grammar, it’s another to work on bettering the actual writing.

If you’re like me (and almost all writers out there), you likely struggle with insecurity in your writing. Us writers have a tendency to focus on the bad without knowing how to make it better, and this can often cost us our writing motivation.

NOTE: We cover a number of writing tips in our VIP Self-Publishing program, along with everything you’ll need to write, market, and publish your book to bestseller status.

Click here to learn more

Let’s get started.

Writing Tips to Help You Become an Author

If you’re looking for a way to get your book done quickly and with quality, you’re in the right place.

We put together this free training for you to learn exactly the writing tips that helped Chandler Bolt hit bestseller status with all 6 of his books.

Join your FREE training and learn how you can write a better book – in as little as 90 days if you really focus.

Just click the button below to watch!

Click here to start your training TODAY

How to Improve Writing with Tips for Writing a Book

In order to improve your writing skills, you have to commit to writing as much as you can, using different writing exercises, and reading often. You have to form a writing habit in order to do this.

But there is good news about this.

Your writing skills are not stagnant. They change and grow as you do.

Think of it as running. The more you run and train, the better you become. It can be really hard to write a book at first but as you learn new techniques, how to use literary devices, and new methods for making it easier, you become a stronger, better runner.

Writing is exactly the same.

The way you improve your writing skills is by making a commitment to you, your work in progress, and all the people who can benefit from your book.

How do You Become a Good Beginner Writer?

Being a good beginner writer is about learning the craft of writing and learning specific techniques that make writing good in the first place.

In fact, becoming a good beginner writer is all about reading as much as you can and writing as much as you can. This is what will help you recognize those literary elements you can then replicate and make your own when writing and editing.

Just like I mentioned above, the more you can write, the better you will get, and this makes publishing your book and showing it to the world much easier.

But it’s also about consuming content about becoming a better writer, like podcasts, blog posts, and videos around the craft of writing.

These are our favorite writing tips resources:

What are some writing tips for beginners?

Being a newbie writer is not easy. These are some of the top writing tips we suggest in order to improve your writing skills as a beginner.

Writing Tip #1 – Write what you want to read

If you yourself wouldn’t pick up the book or story you’re writing and read it with joy, then you shouldn’t’ be writing it.

“But what if I think other people will like it even if I don’t?”

This is a very common argument against this writing tip but it’s not sound. And the reason for that is because you’ll lack the passion.

When you create a story that you love yourself, it comes through in the writing. It’ll read as if the words and your protagonist and characters as a whole pop off the page instead of lying flat.

It will also be much easier to write and you’ll want to write it more than if you didn’t enjoy the story or topic as much.

So for this writing tip, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you pick it up to read the back cover?
  • Would you personally look for a book like this?
  • Is this a book genre you personally enjoy?
  • Will you develop the characters in a way that makes you root for them?
  • Is the story structure captivating to you?
  • Have you read and loved other books with similar worlds/characters/stories?

If you can’t answer these questions with a confident “yes,” skip the book idea and write one you actually want to.

Writing Tip#2 – Write with intention

All writing has a purpose – and it needs a purpose if you want your writing to get better and read as something enjoyable.

When you have a reason for writing what you’re writing, it becomes so much easier and it feels like you’re fulfilling a purpose rather than just writing a book.

If all you’re doing is writing a book to make money, then your heart (and therefore your passion) is in the wrong place. This makes it very clear to readers through your writing.

Below is a writing tips exercise to help you achieve writing with intention.

writing tips

Writing Tip#3 – Use psychology to write better

Yes, there is research involved no matter what kind of book you’re writing.

“But how can psychology actually help my writing improve?”

In order to craft your book in a way that speaks to readers how you intend it to, you have to understand how the human mind works.

This is how using psychology as a writing tip helps you get better:

  • You’ll craft more realistic characters
  • Your antagonist’s and protagonist’s motives will be more realistic
  • You can take your readers on a better experience by learning to manipulate their emotions with your plot
  • You can easily hit emotional triggers in readers that prompt them to keep turning pages
  • You’ll better understand what it takes to write a novel that’s engaging

The Write Practice has a fantastic resource for how to use psychology to become a better writer.

Once you know how people interpret different events, messages, and themes, you can weave them into your book so it has more impact when they’re finished reading.

And for the fiction writers out there, psychology helps you create real and lifelike characters that leave readers itching to turn that page and read more about them and their journey.

Writing Tips Action Step:

In order to accurately research for your book, think about what you want your readers to take away from each chapter, and then the book as a whole.

Then research how real people interpret those specific messages.

For example:

If you want readers to feel inspired during a certain part of your book, research “psychology of inspiration” and read how one can build up to feel inspired and even how it affects their outlook in order to better craft the next chapters.

Writing Tip#4 – Write as often as you can

Even if all you’re writing is a paragraph, it’s better than not writing at all.

And if you can’t add on to your book for whatever reason (maybe a lack of an outline?), then write something else.

Here are a few ways you can utilize this writing tip by writing something else:

The point is to write as often as you can because the more you write, the better you will get. It will help you pinpoint weaknesses in your writing and you’ll notice improvements as you write.

Writing more often also allows you to flex your imagination, which is indeed much like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets and therefore, you’ll be able to write with more creativity.

Writing Tip#5 – Eliminate distractions

In this age of technology and helpful writing software, there are endless amounts of distractions.

We almost always have our phones within reach, a computer right at our fingertips (literally, if you’re writing), and a TV nearby with access to Netflix, Hulu, and other attention-sucking programs.

If you want to write better, you have to eliminate distractions that keep you from writing.

Here are our writing tips to get rid of distractions:

  • Use a distraction-blocking App like Freedom or PauseFor
  • Shut your phone off and put it in another room
  • Close out of all apps or windows on your computer
  • Spend 15 minutes listening to music that reminds you of your book to get you in the zone
  • Tell all your friends/family to leave you alone for writing time

As mentioned above, the more you write, the better you get. But you can’t write if you’re constantly checking your phone, email, or watching TV.

writing tips for beginners

Writing Tip#6 – Research storytelling and story structure

This is largely for the fiction writers out there, but all writers can benefit from this writing tip of improving your storytelling.

Storytelling and writing are not the same things.

Writing is the way in which you describe what’s happening within the story. The story itself is a whole other piece of the puzzle – and is arguably the most important piece.

When you have a story idea worth writing, there’s a few things to remember.

Here are our top writing tips for learning the craft of storytelling:

  • Study comedians – the reason comedy is, well, funny is because comedians know how to tell stories in a way that keep us on the edge of our seat, and then they surprise us, which often initiates the laughter.
  • Learn from great storytellers – Stephen King is one of the best storytellers of all time. He has a book, On Writing, that touches on this craft. Give it a read for some of the best writing tips you’ll find.
  • Read as much as you can – Writers learn how to write through reading. The more you read, and the wider variety of genres, the more you’ll naturally pick up on the art of storytelling.
  • Get feedback on your stories – This is the hardest, but most crucial writing tip to help you improve. You have to understand your weaknesses in order to make them stronger. Ask friends and family for help in order to learn how to make your stories better.

Writing Tips Action Step:

Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos about the art of crafting a story.

Another great way to learn the ins and outs of storytelling is to watch great comedians. The reason they can make you laugh is how they craft what they’re saying.

Notice the pauses, when they speed through what they’re saying, and how they deliver that final line.

These are all techniques you can use on a larger scale when writing your book.

Writing Tip#7 – Always get feedback

This will always be the hardest, but most important part of improving your writing. Of all the writing tips to take and execute, this is the best one.

It’s very difficult to gauge your own writing – because you wrote it.

This is much like trying to tickle yourself. It just doesn’t work because you’re the person doing it and is much more effective when someone else does it.

That’s why the beta reading process is so vital. It’s when you let others read your book in order to gain feedback from people in your intended audience.

That’s what it’s like for your writing. You need an outside set of eyes on your work.

Jenna Moreci has a great resource on the beta reading process you can check out.

Here are some specific questions to ask others for this tip to improve writing:

  1. Did you find anything confusing or unclear?
  2. Did you understand why InsertNameHere did what they did?
  3. Were you able to easily follow the dialogue?
  4. Was the dialogue in writing clear and concise?
  5. Which character did you empathize with more?
  6. Do you have any predictions about what will happen?
  7. Do you have any feedback I didn’t ask you about?

Writing Tip#8 –  Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals

One of the best ways you can strengthen your creativity is by consciously thinking about how you can describe common things in new, interesting ways.

You want to make people see that common item or situation or visual in a brand new light.

The way you can do this is to pause when you’re describing something in your writing and think to yourself, “how else can I explain this to create a stronger emotional impact?”

Here’s an example of this writing tip if you’re still a little confused:

“The sun set behind the trees and the world fell quiet.”

Is this a bad way to describe a sunset and night beginning? No. However, you can easily get more creative about how to illustrate this to readers through words.

Like this:

“Night yanked the horizon over the sun, silencing the world with its absence.”

This is saying relatively the same thing, but in a way that stops and makes someone appreciate the way in which it was crafted.

Writing Tip#9 – Practice writing in your head

This might sound a bit confusing, so let me elaborate.

When you look at the world, how do you see it? Probably the same way everyone else does.

Here’s an example of how you can practice writing – but only in your own head. This can help you learn how to craft your prose to read in a beautiful, elegant fashion while also being unique and interesting to readers.

Right now, I’m looking out my window into the backyard. It has snow, the trees are bare, and the sky is a muted gray at the horizon, fading to a very faint blue as you look higher up.

This is a very typical visual for winter (especially in Wisconsin).

Now, in order to practice writing without writing, all you have to do is start describing what you see in prose that you would write in your own head.

Like this:

“Stillness hung in the air thicker than Christmas morning eggnog, the ground covered in a thin sheet of white speckled with brown where the snow failed to make its mark. Bare branches reached toward the absent sun, reluctantly accepting the gray of winter in its place.”

This example is more prose than reality, but this is how you can sharpen those skill by just thinking in this way.

Notice the world around you in the way you would write it in a book.

The more you practice this when you’re on the subway, making dinner, or even watching your family and friends interact, the easier it will be to write those situations in your book.

Think like a writer in order to become a better one.

Writing Tip#10 – Use strong language

This writing tip can completely transform your writing for the better.

It’s the single best way to make your writing more captivating without really adding anything new. You just simply have to replace weak language with stronger, more descriptive writing.

This can take some time to get used to but the more you do it, the easier it will get.

So how do you recognize weak language?

Here are some mistakes to look for in your writing to utilizing this writing tip:

  • Passive voice – Passive voice is any use of a “to be” past participle. Now, that’s just a fancy way of saying that if you have something was done by something, it’s passive voice. An example of this is: “The chicken was beheaded by the farmer.” That is passive voice, whereas, “The farmer beheaded the chicken.” is active voice.
  • Weak verbs – These are the basic, non-detailed version of better verbs. An example would be, “She walked to the store.” In this case, “walked” is the weak verb. You can use another form of this verb to create a stronger visual for your reader. Here’s what that would look like: “She strutted to the store.”
  • Emotion explaining – Using words that are emotions in your writing is a pretty clear indicator you have to show and not tell. Saying, “She was scared,” is telling. You can create a better experience for the reader by showing that she’s scared through body language, dialogue, and description.
writing tips for beginners

We even make it simpler for you with our strong verbs list. It has over 200 strong verbs and includes the common weak verbs you can replace.

Writing Tips Action Step:

Fill out your information for instant access to your strong verbs list of over 300+ verbs to use!



Writing Tip#11 – Just write to write

Forget about your goals. Forget about how anyone else will interpret what you’ve wrote and just write.

Do it for you. Write what you like and what makes you happy.

Don’t think about the future or publishing or where you’re going from here. Just grab that outline, sit down, and write because it’s fun.

Believe it or not, this frees up a lot of mental space and allows you to write without thinking too much, which often helps you write better.

One of the best writing tips I ever received was to always have a side project going on, something you have no intention of ever publishing. This is where your real writing happens.

It’s a place for you to experiment, discover your writing voice, and learn what you truly love to write while still working on your main project and accomplishing those goals.

Writing Tips from Famous Authors

What better way to improve your writing than to practice writing tips from those who have mastered the craft?

Here are our top writing tips from professional writers like Stephen King, JK Rowling, and even Margaret Atwood.

#1 – “Just do it.”

Much like we mentioned above, Margaret Atwood is a huge advocate of diving right in and just writing, despite your fears, insecurities, or lack of direction.

“I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’

And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.”

As someone who has made waves with a number of her novels, including the masterpiece that landed her an entire TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, she is someone you want to take advice from—especially now that Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass is available.

#2 – “You’ve got to work for it.”

writing tips jk rowling

Much to every writer’s dismay, books don’t actually write themselves. If there was a special machine we could plug into our brain that would spit out a perfect copy of the story inside our minds, we would all opt for that instead of sitting down and plucking away at the keyboard.

But that’s not a reality (at least not yet).

Someone who knows the value of hard work when it comes to writing is J.K. Rowling. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?

“You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. It’s all these deadly things that your school teacher told you you needed…

You need it.”

As hard as it can be, Rowling’s advice is as sound as any. Work for your book. Work hard so others can benefit from the worth you’re holding onto.

#3 – “Write for yourself first.”

writing tips stephen king

Stephen King has an entire memoir-ish that doubles as writing tips simply because writing has been nearly his entire life.

One of the best lessons King says he ever learned was from a newspaper editor he worked for while he was in high school (which he discusses in his memoir/writing book On Writing) and he has maintained that voice in his head throughout each work he writes.

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.

Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

On Writing by Stephen King continues to be a source of inspiration and help for writers everywhere. King has a way of pulling you in and giving you the BS-free advice all writers want – and, in most cases, desperately need.

#4 – “Quantity will make up for quality.”

writing tips

Ray Bradbury is one of the most quoted authors out there. He shares his methods for writing and how to actually succeed in this industry.

His best advice, in my opinion, comes from his book Zen in the Art of Writing, where he says you have to schedule the time to write – and write daily because quantity will make up for quality.

In fact, quantity is what leads you to quality.

“Michelangelo’s, da Vinci’s, Tintoretto’s billion sketches, the quantitative, prepared them for the qualitative, single sketches further down the line, single portraits, single landscapes of incredible control and beauty.”

In essence, the more you practice writing, the better you’ll become and that makes all the difference when it comes to separating yourself form other writers.

#5 – “Tell the truth.”

writing tips maya angelou

Miss Angelou is an inspiration to writers everywhere. She’s a personal favorite of mine and her quotes and advice for both writing and life has always spoken to me on a different level than others.

One of the best writing tips I’ve read of her is the fact that you have to write the truth.

“I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth.

The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.”

When you have a truth worth sharing, writing becomes easier, more meaningful, and therefore more impactful for those reading it.

This ties into our writing tip above about writing what you want to read. Focus on telling your truth.

#6 – “You can’t edit a blank page.”

tips for writing a book

Are you sensing a theme within these writing tips yet?

Even Jodi Picoult agrees that you can’t become a better writer if you never write.

“You can always edit a bad page.

You can’t edit a blank page.”

The best of all writing tips is this one. You have to actually write if you want to get better because the great writing doesn’t happen on the first try. It happens on the second, fifth, and even tenth.

You first have to write the words in order to make them better.

Writing Tips to Get You Started TODAY

If you’re here, it means you’re ready to take the leap and start writing.

We can even help you have your book outlined today – but only if you take action now.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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What are some of the best writing tips you’ve seen or heard? Drop them down below so we can all benefit from them!

how to get an isbn

How to Get an ISBN: An Author’s Guide For All Things ISBN

Knowing how to get an ISBN as a self-published author is crucial.

Since you can’t publish without an ISBN, we’re helping you learn how in order to publish the right way and why you even need an ISBN number in the first place.

But you don’t have to even worry about an ISBN number if you don’t have a book ready to publish, right? And it won’t even matter if you don’t publish that book the right way

False. Becoming an author is about more than just the book, it’s about the business as well, and we’ll break down a very important part of that.

isbn

If you’re ready to get to the point and get your ISBN, here is the step-by-step breakdown of how to get an ISBN.

Here’s what to know about an ISBN as an author:

  1. What does ISBN stand for?
  2. What is an ISBN number used for?
  3. How much does an ISBN cost?
  4. What is the purpose of an ISBN?
  5. How to read an ISBN with examples
  6. What is the ISBN number on books?
  7. Do ISBNs expire?
  8. ISBN search
  9. How to read a barcode
  10. The difference between ASIN and ISBN
  11. Reasons self-published authors need ISBNs
  12. How to buy an ISBN
  13. Problems with multiple ISBNs
  14. Libraries and ISBNs
  15. How to get an ISBN
  16. How to register your book and ISBN
  17. How many ISBNs to get
  18. ISBN resources to make it easier

Before you read another section, make sure to take advantage of this FREE training we offer that will teach you what you need to know about self-publishing your book.

An ISBN number will go to waste without the proper system in place.

With your FREE training, we can help you develop your book and messages that speak to readers on deep levels – and we even help you understand HOW to self-publish it so the maximum number of people can enjoy it.

Just click the button below to TAKE ACTION on your dream – and let’s do this together.

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What does ISBN stand for?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book number and is a 13-digit code used to uniquely identify your book amongst the millions out there.

What is an ISBN number used for?

Essentially, an ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number, is a regulated 10- or 13-digit identification number which allows libraries, publishers, and book dealers to locate and identify specific books.

But where did these ISBN numbers even start and why do we have them?

In the early days of World War 2, the Japanese military sent messages back and forth and the Allies needed to crack their intricate numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables.

But how did they crack this complex system?

MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code.

Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking program in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith, a British retailer, to write a report on how to create such a system.

This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967 and eventually led to the ISBN system used worldwide.

Several years later, this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when a policy was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format and is now the standard used everywhere.

How much does an ISBN cost?

ISBNs cost about $125 for one number in the US. However, if you purchase more than one at a time, this cost could be lowered.

Here are a few tips for buying an ISBN:

  • If you publish physical copies through IngramSpark, you get your ISBN for only $85
  • Buying your ISBNs in bulk can save you money if you intend to publish more than one book
  • Amazon issues you an ISBN for “free,” but you have to list Amazon as a publisher along with other limitations
  • If you’re in Canada or South African, it’s possible to get an ISBN issued through your government
  • Australians pay about $40 for an ISBN
  • UK residents will pay somewhere around 89 pounds for an ISBN

Here’s a table of the ISBN prices and what you can expect to pay:

Number of ISBNsCost
1$125
10$295
100$575

What is the purpose of an ISBN number?

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and before it was implemented in 1967, the method and system for cataloging, ordering, organizing, and locating a specific book was a chaotic mess.

Today, to get your book into a bookstore, a library, or almost any book distribution channel on the planet, you need an ISBN number.

But the process can be really confusing for new authors. There are a number of questions you might be asking yourself about ISBN numbers:

  • How does this long string of numbers on the back of books work?
  • How do you get it?
  • If you’re a self-published author, do you need an ISBN?
  • Why would you need one?

These are all questions answered in this article.

Let’s unweave the intricate web of how to get an ISBN and how they work in the publishing industry.

how to get an isbn number

How To Read an ISBN number with an ISBN Example

As of 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. This came about in part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year.

Knowing how to break down and interpret these 13 digits aren’t of much use and interest to most book readers, but for publishers and distributors, it’s a necessity.

If you want to publish lots of books under your own publishing name then it’s something you may want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book and its author by reading the ISBN number.

The 13 digit ISBN number helps:

  • Identify the specific title
  • Identify the author
  • Identify the type of book they are buying
  • Identify the physical properties of that particular book
  • Identify the geographical location of the publisher

Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.

isbn number example

Here is the ISBN for a particular book:

978-3-16-148410-0

You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “978” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. If we remove these digits we have:

3-16-148410-0

First is the initial digit, in this case: 3

The 3 is the language group identifier which here indicates German. For English speaking countries a 0 or 1 is used. Numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.

Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:

0 or 1 for English

2 for French

3 for German

4 for Japan

5 for Russian

7 for People’s Republic of China

It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944. You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency.

Next is “16”. This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number. This number can be as long as 9 digits.

“148410” — This six-digit series represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.

“0” is the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always a single digit.

This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and is calculated based on the other digits in the code.

Where is the ISBN number on books?

The ISBN is usually found above the barcode on the back of the book. However, they’re not the same.

The barcode is much different than the ISBN number.

This is an important distinction because:

  • When you purchase an ISBN you don’t automatically get a barcode
  • The barcode of your book can change, while your ISBN can remain the same.

We’ve already discussed what data the ISBN carries, however, the barcode includes extra information such as the book’s fixed price and the currency it’s being sold in.

Barcodes are a necessary element of your book as they allow for most retailers and distributors to scan your ISBN for retail and inventory reasons.

The standard barcode is known as the EAN (European Article Number) barcode, and your barcode must be in this format to sell your book in bookstores.

(Breakdown of the typical EAN barcode on the back of a book by Publisher Services)

Do ISBNs expire?

No, ISBN numbers never expire or go bad. In fact, if you have one from a long time ago, you can simply reconstruct it for use.

But what if my old ISBN is really old and only has 10 digits?

That’s not a problem, either. With this handy tool from Bowker, you can convert the ISBN easily and immediately.

The Book Designer also has a great resource for learning how to reconstruct an ISBN if you finally decided to write and self-publish the book you’ve been thinking about since you bought the ISBN.

If you want to look up the ISBN of any book out there, you can do so easily by visiting the website ISBNSearch.org.

where to get isbn

You’ll be greeted with a screen like the one above where you will be prompted to type in the ISBN, author name, or book title.

After hitting “search,” you will have a list of books matching your searched items with the both the 13-digit ISBN and the 10-digit, like in the example below.

isbn example

How to Read a Barcode

If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number.

The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5 and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.

For example, if the number reads 52995, this means the price of the book is set at $29.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, though the ISBN wouldn’t change.

This would only be replaced by a new ISBN number if the book is published as a new edition or as a new version.

To buy a barcode you must first purchase an ISBN. You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:

  • 1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
  • 1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.

The Difference Between ASIN and ISBN

If you’ve used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program you’ve probably come across an ASIN. ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners.

You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.

However, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms or in brick and mortar stores, you’re going to need an ISBN.

Reasons Self-Published Authors Need an ISBN

If you want to publish and sell your eBook on Amazon, then the quick answer is no, it isn’t necessary. Amazon will assign your eBook an ASIN number which will be used to identify and track your title.

However, that’s only with Amazon, and only with eBooks.

If you want your readers to get a hold of a print version of your book, then you’re going to need an ISBN.

This might be important if you have a brick and mortar marketing strategy, or if you want your book to be accessible through libraries (more on this later), or if you’re looking to deal with wholesalers or other online retailers.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you want to sell your book by means other than as an ebook on Amazon, then you’ll need an ISBN.

How do I buy an ISBN Number?

You might not even have to buy your ISBN number because of services offered to self-published authors. You can get assigned a free ISBN by Createspace, the On-Demand publishing company that has now merged with Amazon.

You can also get an ISBN when dealing with a whole host of On-Demand or self-publishing companies, like Draft2Digital, Smashwords or IngramSpark, and even Lulu.

If you can get a free or cheap ISBN with them, then what’s the use in paying for your own one?

Here’s the problem: most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.

Let’s say you get a free ISBN with Draft2Digital, but then you notice that there are some retail channels you can access through Smashwords that you can’t with Draft2Digital.

You can’t use the Draft2Digital ISBN with Smashwords.

Smashwords will only let you use your own ISBN or an ISBN they assign to you. So what do you do?

You get a free ISBN with Smashwords.

And now you have two ISBNs for the same book. Same book title, same book format, but two ISBNs.

You then hear of some exclusive channels you can get through eBookPartnership. The only wrinkle? You need an ISBN and they won’t take your Smashwords’ or Draft2Digital’s ISBN. So you sign up for their free ISBN instead.

Now you have three ISBNs for the same book.

The Problem with Multiple ISBNs

This problem can repeat itself again and again as you discover more ways to distribute your book. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the ISBN, sometimes you won’t. But it leads to you having several ISBNs, all from different publishers, for the same book.

Can you picture how unprofessional that looks to a bookstore?

Wouldn’t it have been easier to start off by buying your own ISBN? Wouldn’t that make you look more professional?

On top of this, each of those free ISBNs identifies the self-publishing company as a publisher. It’s the equivalent of using your business email address as [email protected] or [email protected] instead of [email protected] (assuming you’re named Matt).

Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but there are some stores that will refuse to stock your book on this basis. If you have a CreateSpace ISBN, there are a number of bookstores that will refuse to carry your book.

All of these issues can be sidestepped by simply purchasing your own ISBN through Bowker.

Libraries and ISBN Numbers

We briefly mentioned that if you want to stock your book in libraries, you’ll need an ISBN. However, that might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might have decided to focus purely on eBook publishing and what part do libraries play in eBooks?

A big one.

Libraries are becoming more important to the distribution of eBooks. Overdrive is the largest supplier to schools and libraries in the world (serving more than 30,000), and they circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014, a 33% increase from their previous year. They also supply to retail stores globally, making $100 million in sales in 2013.

And guess what you need to be able to partner with Overdrive? Yup. An ISBN.

How to get an ISBN

ISBNs are free in many countries, provided either by the government or a publicly administered branch. However, in the US and the UK, ISBN numbers are administered by Bowker and Nielsen respectively and require you to pay.

If you’re located outside the USA you can find out your local ISBN Agency here. While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.

If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com, run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.

How to Register Your Book and ISBN Number

As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker or the International equivalent in your local area, and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink.

This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print.

I recommend you download the free PDF “ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration” with step-by-step instructions on setting up your title.

How Many ISBN Numbers To Get

So how many ISBNs should you get?

First off let’s clarify a few common mistakes:

  • You can only use an ISBN once. The ISBN is a unique number for that particular book, and can be assigned once, and only once, to that title. It can’t be used with any other book in the future, even second versions of the same book.
  • You don’t need an ISBN to sell in each individual country. ISBNs are international, they are just assigned locally. A US-based publisher can purchase their ISBN through Bowker, but can stock their book worldwide using that ISBN.
  • You need an ISBN for every specific format of the book and any new versions. Want to sell your book in print, as an eBook, and also as an audiobook? That’s great, however, you need a different ISBN for each one. If you want to publish a revised and updated version you’ll also need a new ISBN. (This doesn’t cover fixing some typos and errors).
  • If you create a series of books you can’t use the same ISBN for them. You can use the same ISSN, however. Many fiction and nonfiction authors have an ISSN number assigned to their book series. ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number and can be purchased from the Library of Congress. However, each book in the series will need its own ISBN.

We mentioned that in the USA you can buy ISBNs as a single unit, a bulk of 10, 100 or 1000. Here are the prices:

Number of ISBNsCost
1$125
10$295
100$575

First off, it rarely makes sense to purchase a single ISBN. A single ISBN would cost you $125, but a bulk of 10 only costs $295. Meaning if you purchased 10, each ISBN would cost you $29.50, a 76% discount.

Buying a single ISBN might seem feasible if you only want to publish one title, but remember that you need an ISBN for each format. So if you want to publish your book as an audiobook, you’d need a brand new ISBN for that. As well as needing different ISBN numbers for your eBook and print versions.

Not to mention that you’ll need an ISBN number for any future books you publish, perhaps as sequels to your book.

We recommend that if you’re serious about making book sales, you should purchase at least a bulk of 10 ISBNs. That gives you 3 ISBN numbers to use for publishing as an eBook, in print, and as an audiobook. You can keep the remainder for any future books you might publish.

How to Get an ISBN final steps

Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBN numbers.

Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.

For more information, you can find out anything you want to know by visiting the official Bowker page or at myidentifiers.com

Here’s a simple actionable checklist for ISBNs.

To buy an ISBN for your next book, here is what you should do:

  1. Go to the website https://www.myidentifiers.com
  2. Under the ISBN drop down tab, click on ISBNs—Buy Here. You can select 1, 10 or 100. For a bulk purchase, go to “Buying ISBNs in Bulk” and you can contact Bowker directly to discuss your options.
  3. Once you have your ISBN assigned, you can then use it everywhere that requires your ISBN number.
  4. At Createspace, under the “Setup” channel, you can choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN. When you buy your own ISBN at Bowker, just put in the 13-digit number and Createspace will use this in your paperback.
  5. If you publish your paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can fill in your number in the “Paperback Content” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP.
  6. Register your ISBN here at Bowker as soon as your book is ready for sale. Download the free ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration step-by-step guide.

ISBN Links & Resources

These links appeared throughout the post but here they are for easy access.

International ISBN Agency

https://www.isbn-international.org

ISBN.org by Bowker

https://www.isbn.org/faqs_general_questions

Bowkerlink Publisher Access System

https://commerce.bowker.com/corrections/common/home.asp

Bowker Identifier Services

https://www.myidentifiers.com

U.S. Copyright Office

https://www.copyright.gov

ISBN Set Up Guide

ISBN Guides: Basic Information

Are you ready to self-publish your book?

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Are you clear on how to get an ISBN and why exactly you need one? Comment below if you bulked up and got your ISBNs for future books, too!

book genres

Book Genres: Writing Genres Dictionary [Examples & Word Counts]

As a writer (or author) knowing the different book genres is vital to your overall knowledge as a professional, and for your book’s success.

Not only is labeling your genre correctly important but…

Not doing so can result in low book sales, negative book reviews on Amazon, and unsatisfied readers overall.

book genres

When you’re writing a book, the genre you write in is super important because it will dictate the different literary elements within your book.

Here’s a list of the different book genres:

  1. Fantasy
  2. Adventure
  3. Romance
  4. Contemporary
  5. Dystopian
  6. Mystery
  7. Horror
  8. Thriller
  9. Paranormal
  10. Historical fiction
  11. Science Fiction
  12. Memoir
  13. Cooking
  14. Art
  15. Self-help / Personal
  16. Development
  17. Motivational
  18. Health
  19. History
  20. Travel
  21. Guide / How-to
  22. Families & Relationships
  23. Humor
  24. Children’s

NOTE: We cover what you need to know about selling in your specific genre in all of our Self-Publishing Programs. Learn more about it here

Knowing Your Book Genres is Important

When becoming an author, it’s important to know the differences in genres so you’re well informed about what you’re writing.

Obviously, your audience may change from genre to genre.

Not only that, but the “rules” for writing also vary depending on which genre you write in, which means you’ll have to understand them in order to get it right.

How many book genres are there?

There are more book genres than you might think. In this blog post, we’ll cover 22 of them, however, there are upwards for 40 genres and even more if you count sub-genres for books.

For example, you can have a book that’s a dystopian fantasy novel.

Dystopian and fantasy can be genres on their own but if you have a dystopian story that involves magic, your book will then have two genres.

This is also important to keep in mind when you have subplots within a novel that might fall into a separate genre.

You’ll see this most often with romantic subplots in broader genres like fantasy or sci-fi.

What are the main book genres?

There are such a large number of book genres that we can’t cover them all in this post, though we will cover 24 of them for you.

That being said, being familiar with the most common can help you identify which your book will fall under.

These are the main book genres:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Westerns
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary

Let’s go into more detail with these and nonfiction book genres as well.

List of Book Genres All Authors Should Know

If you’re looking to sharpen your knowledge as an author or are just trying to find which genre your book fits in specifically (perhaps to decide which Amazon categories to go after), we’ve got you covered.

Here are 22 book genres, both fiction and nonfiction, to help you understand which is which and how you should label your novel.

#1 – Fantasy

Fantasy encompasses a huge part of the book world. It’s one of the most popular book genres out there—a personal favorite of mine to read and write.

Fantasy is a genre that’s identified by the use of magic within it.

book genres

Overall, fantasy is the genre of possibility. You can write in a little magic, like Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion or you can write a book where magic is the forefront of the plot, like with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

To take this a step further, let’s look at the different categories within this genre that has more specific characteristics.

Young Adult Fantasy Genre:

Young adult is typically meant for readers between the ages of 13-17. However, adults enjoy this category of writing just as much as teens.

One thing to keep in mind when writing young adult fantasy is that the themes and messages within the literature will often revolve around teen-aged problems, like coming of age and exploration of identity.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000 words

Adult Fantasy Genre:

When you think of adult fantasy, think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings versus Harry Potter or Children of Blood and Bone.

The main plots or themes in adult fantasy will likely revolve around more grown issues like the difference between right and wrong, death, adult relationships, and more.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 110,000

Epic Fantasy Genre:

An epic fantasy novel is characterizes by the overall lengthy and grandiose nature of its plot, characters, setting, or theme.

Books that tend to call into this book genre are Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, like we mentioned above. Most often, epic fantasies will also fall under fantasy adventures.

Average word count for this book genre: 100,000 – 200,000 +

Tips for Writing in the Fantasy Book Genre:

  • Spend time world building and understanding the setting of your story
  • Focus on strong character development (your magic system can’t carry the whole story—a bad plot still makes for a good book if you have great characters, but it doesn’t work the other way around)
  • Create rules for your world, and magic system specifically
  • Avoid over-used magic and story structures
  • Remember that your flora and fauna (plants/trees, etc.) can be magic and have fantastical elements as well

#2 – Adventure

Writing a novel in the adventure category will require a trip, journey, or quest of some kind as the overall plot.

Your average adventure novel often focuses on both the character’s physical journey as well as the journey they go through as a person throughout the novel.

Average word count for this book genre: 90,000 – 130,000

Epic Adventure Genre:

As stated above for an epic fantasy, any genre that’s “epic” is characterized by the magnitude of the plot, character, or themes themselves.

An example of an epic adventure novel is Moby Dick, which stands at about 190,000 words and 720 pages long.

Average word count for this book genre: 120,000 – 200,000

Tips for Writing in the Adventure Book Genre:

  • Focus on the ebb and flow of tension in your story structure
  • Outline your book so your structure works for this genre
  • Add a variety of types of adventures like both a journey or destination as well as smaller adventures on their way to the destination

#3 – Romance

Romance authors have one specific goal when it comes to their books: to make you fall in love with the characters just as much as the characters fall in love with each other.

In this book genre, the romance is the center point of the plot. The entire novel moves around the relationship, though other plot points may be present.

A classic example of a romance novel is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

When used as a sub plot:

Romance can also be used a subplot in many novels, and is, in fact, used quite often as a complementary element in books.

When romance is used as a sub plot, the main plot does not have to do with the relationship but rather, is something completely different. The romance simply adds to the plot in order to increase conflict or intrigue.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 100,000

Tips for Writing in the Romance Book Genre:

  • Never romanticize abuse (meaning, if there is a toxic element in the relationship, never make this seen appealing or “good”)
  • Write healthy, consensual, fitting romances by developing both character to work well together
  • Avoid these common mistakes when writing romance

#4 – Contemporary

This book genre is among the most popular, though most writers aren’t sure of what this category even is.

The contemporary book genre is simply books written in the current time period with most of the parts of the novel revolving around common issues in a character’s life.

But really, this genre is actually more of the absence of a genre. You may have heard this genre lumped in with others, like Contemporary Fantasy or Contemporary Romance.

The term is used to tell readers that this book takes place in current times, though it might cover other genres as well.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Contemporary Book Genre:

  • Create a realistic and widely-experience conflict in order to draw readers in
  • Create a sympathetic character readers will feel bad for
  • Up the stakes by introducing an element, character, or conflict completely out of left field to shock readers

#5 – Dystopian

This is a newer book genre that’s really been picking up popularity within the last 5 to 10 years.

Though many stories of this nature have been published prior, the term “dystopian” was recently coined to describe a book genre in which the current government or society has been destroyed and the book centers around the aftermath.

Writing Dystopian fiction can give you a ton of freedom in how you develop society while lowering the worldbuilding you’d have to do for a fantasy or sci-fi novel.

book genres dystopian

The dystopian genre can also be used as a secondary genre label in order to clarify the contents of the book, much like with contemporary.

For example, you can have a Dystopian Fantasy novel as well as a Dystopian Science Fiction novel.

Here are some examples of dystopian novels:

  • The Hunger Games
  • Young World
  • Handmaid’s Tale

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

Tips for Writing in the Dystopian Book Genre:

  • Learn what types of dystopian books have been done before (this genre blew up in recent years and is on the verge of becoming vampire-esque in the novel world, aka, overdone)
  • Mix this with another genre, like horror or mystery to add a something new
  • Get more creative with the reason for the collapse of society before your book happened as disease and/or zombies is far overdone

#6 – Mystery

We’ve all heard of the mystery book genres. It’s an extremely popular genre, and for a good reason.

This book genre is defined by the plot focusing on solving a mystery, most often with the mystery impacting the main character to the point where they’re the ones involved in solving it.

Many other genres can have mysteries within them (in fact, most do), but what makes a book specific to this genre is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Mystery Book Genre:

  • Outline your story thoroughly if you want to shock your readers with the twist as planning allows you to provide foreshadowing that makes sense
  • Know your ending before planning out the rest of the story
  • Make sure your main character is really, really interesting (the reason mystery novels work well is because of the protagonist, not always just the mystery)

#7 – Horror

Horror novels are characterized by the fact that the main plot revolves around something scary and terrifying.

Oftentimes, you can find that Horror and Thriller describe the same book, though we’ll touch more on why thrillers are not always horror novels in the next section.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Horror Book Genre:

  • Do what your readers least expect by setting up a scenario in which they can guess the result, and then do something completely different
  • Use strong verbs and the rule of “show don’t tell” to appeal to the senses in order to achieve a physiological response in readers
  • When thinking of your “horror” elements, add something real or common to them in order to make them more horrifying. An example is to have a serial murderer who is a huge fan of the local high school baseball team—and attends the games regularly

#8 – Thriller

If you’re writing a thriller novel, the book will focus around a high suspense and action-packed plot.

This book genre most often deals with danger and dread instead, with high emotional impact involving fear.

Here are some examples of popular thriller novels:

  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • The Woman in Cabin 10
  • The Shining
  • It

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

book genres thriller

Tips for Writing in the Thriller Book Genre:

  • Use the literary device of juxtaposition in order to increase the tension in those “thrilling” moments
  • Whenever you have a moment of high tension, add in a personal conflict to up the stakes in a non-physical way
  • Continuously ask yourself how you can increase the stakes in a realistic way that fits with your story idea

#9 – Paranormal

Paranormal books are characterized by including paranormal activity, like ghosts, clairvoyance, mediums, demons, vampires, and more.

The difference between fantasy and paranormal is the elements within. Paranormal doesn’t typically have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, and more.

But the paranormal book genre includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world, like fantasy sometimes can be.

However, keep in mind that you can have a paranormal fantasy novel if your book covers both types of abnormal occurrences.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Paranormal Book Genre:

  • Opt for paranormal beings from different cultures
  • Create your own paranormal beings for a culture or religion of your own creation
  • Use some of the writing tips for thriller novels in order to up the tension with your paranormal story

#10 – Historical Fiction

This book genre is exactly as it sounds: a fictional story that takes place in the past.

Usually, historical fiction centers around known events or problems that take place in a time significantly prior to the present.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Historical Fiction Book Genre:

  • Be sure to avoid the common excuse of “there weren’t many people of color” when writing historical fiction from any time period and any location. This is a cop-out and the world was just as diverse then as it is now
  • Research your book and its details for complete accuracy. Any slip-up in facts can pull a reader out of your book
  • Add in personal and emotional conflicts that make sense for the time period but are still relevant issues today so readers can connect to your book better

#11 – Science Fiction

Sci-fi is among the most popular book genre there is. With movie adaptations like Star Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this genre has exploded and is abundant in the book world.

Science fiction novels are those that take place in a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally otherworldly beings.

This is another genre that can add to another, like with Sci-Fi Fantasy, which would include a futuristic world with advanced technology and some sort of fantastical being or magic.

The word count for this novel genre can be extensive depending on the storyline.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Science Fiction Book Genre:

  • Create new technology that works with and/or against your protagonist’s agenda
  • Develop slang when writing dialogue that’s appropriate for the time you’re writing in (and avoid using current-day slang that will likely be outdated for your world/era)
  • Like other genres that are not set in a realistic time and world, make sure to add internal conflicts that we still struggle with in our current lives in order to appeal to readers more

#12 – Memoir

On to the nonfiction writing portion of these book genres and first up is memoirs.

When writing a memoir, you’re essentially telling the reader about the most defining moments in your life that have led you to where you are and who you are today.

Memoirs differ from autobiographies in the sense that an autobiography is more of a timeline of your life, events, and accomplishments whereas a memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message you wish to share with readers.

Average word count for this book genre: 45,000 – 80,000

#13 – Cookbook

You already know what a cookbook is.

Cookbooks are those featuring recipes and directions for making the dishes correctly. Not only that, but many cookbooks features stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.

Average word count for this book genre: Cookbooks vary greatly and are more dependent on number of recipes instead of total words.

#14 – Art

This book genre encompasses several different types of books. However, all of them require the same thing: a focus on something art-related.

There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre.

Here are a few ways your book would be a part of the art genre:

  • it covers art-facts
  • it teaches specific art methods
  • it discusses are in detail (art history)
  • art is a primary focus of the book

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 60,000

#15 – Self-help / Personal Development

If you’re writing a book aimed to aid someone in their personal life, as well as lift them up to make positive change, it’s likely you’re writing in the self-help or personal development book genre.

Essentially, if your book helps others have a better life by empowering them, it will fall under this genre.

Keep in mind, this book genre is one that encompasses many other genres as well. You can have a health self-help book in additional to a relationship self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#16 – Development

The development book genre is growing rapidly as the world focuses on self-improvement as a whole.

If you’re writing in this genre, you’ll likely write about specific struggles pertaining to character and personal problems as well as overcoming these obstacles.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#17 – Motivational

This book genre is on the rise significantly as of late. If you write in this genre, your book will center around empowering people to do whatever it is they’re struggling with.

Essentially, motivational books focus on problems that can prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams, and how to solve them.

Most often, motivational books can be lumped in with other book genres like health, fitness, business, and self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#18 – Health

The health book genre is vast and covers a wide variety of different topics.

Your book will fall under this wide genre if it features anything health-related. This can be topics ranging from fitness, holistic healing, to more complex medical topics and in-depth coverage of different health conditions.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#19 – History

Any book covering historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. And since this is nonfiction, they all have to be accurate.

Many history books are much different than what you might have read in school. In fact, there are several books simply covering different events in history written in a more entertaining fashion versus a factional play-by-play textbook.

Those books still fall under this book category.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#20 – Travel

Whether you’re writing travel guides or an in-depth review of different travel destinations, this book genre will cover all of them.

Your book would also fall under this genre if you’re writing about travel-hacks or ways to travel for cheap or even free.

Average word count for this book genre: 20,000 – 50,000

#21 – Guide / How-to

There are so many guide books and how-tos out there that it’s fairly easy to know if your book fits this genre.

The way to know if your book falls in this genre is to think about the core purpose. Is your book written in order to show someone how to do something specific?

The biggest giveaway is in the book title. If your title features “how to…” then it’s in this genre!

Average word count for this book genre: 3,000 – 50,000

#22 – Families and Relationships

You can write a book about how to build a stronger familial foundation or a book about improving your relationship. Either way, those books would fall under this category.

Oftentimes, books in this genre will fall under a smaller, more specified genre as well, like family bonding or romantic relationships or even fostering friendships.

The relationships genre is not to be confused with the fiction romance genre.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 50,000

#23 – Humor

If you’ve ever read a joke book or a book revolving around a humorous endeavor of some sort, it falls under this book category.

Books in this genre are also often gag gifts or are meant to be facetious.

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 50,000

#24 – Children’s Books

While there are several genres of children’s picture books, we wanted to touch on some details about them as a whole.

When writing a children’s book, it’s important to keep these details in mind. If you don’t, you run the risk of writing a book that you like instead of one that a child would.

A children’s book describes any book written for an audience between the ages of 0-8 years old.

Now, of course, children of older ages can enjoy this book but ultimately, you’re shooting for those who can’t read at all, or are relatively new to reading.

Average word count for this book genre: 300 – 1200 words

Are you writing a book? Get ahead of the game here ↓

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Which genre is your book in? Tell us about it in the comments below!

how to write a memoir

How to Write a Memoir: 13 Key Elements of a Memoir You Need

Learning how to write a memoir might seem simple…

You may think it easy to jot down details about your life in a cohesive, entertaining fashion…but there’s quite a bit more to.

And you probably don’t even know what you’re missing.

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

But the great part?

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

memoir - how to write a memoir

Here’s how to write a memoir in 13 steps:

  1. Choose your memoir theme
  2. List associating memories
  3. Add others’ related memories
  4. Write your memoir truthfully
  5. Show, don’t tell in your memoir
  6. Get vulnerable
  7. Make connections with each story
  8. Add the impact in your life today
  9. Put your personality into it
  10. Write a memoir you want to read

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

Not many.

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

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. It’s a book about your life, the lessons learned, and key moments that shaped who you are.

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

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

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

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

What Qualifies as a Memoir?

A memoir is unique in the fact that it covers your life’s events in a more story-like structure with an overarching theme or messaged written in.

This means that “how tos,” “motivational books,” and other topics don’t qualify as a memoir. Memoirs are very specific in the sense that it accounts for the entirety of your life with an emphasis on stories and impactful moments that lead to a great purpose.

Memoir Definition

A memoir is a historical account written with personal knowledge and experience covering the lifetime of an individual, usually with a greater purpose or message within it.

How is this different than an autobiography? I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t they the same thing?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Memoir with Meaning and Influence

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

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

Others have undoubtedly been in your shoes before and will benefit from you writing a book

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

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

What are the Key Elements of a Memoir?

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

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

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

#1 – Choose your focus or theme

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 – List all associating memories

It’s time to do a little mind mapping.

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

Here are a few areas to think about specifically to help jog some of those memories in order to help you know how to write a memoir worth reading:

  • Childhood influences
  • Grade school
  • Teenage years
  • First job/s
  • First love/s
  • Parents
  • Siblings/family
  • Friends
  • College/post high school
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Failures
  • Successes
  • Regrets
  • Resentments

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

#3 – Add others’ related stories

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

how to write a memoir checklist

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

Sometimes you can’t always get the message across if only you have experienced it. To get readers to relate, you might have to show them that many people experience the same thing.

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

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

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

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

Adding those details will strengthen your core message.

Here’s a checklist of what your memoir should include in order to “complete” and at its best:

Elements of a MemoirDetails
IntroductionA snippet of what your life is like now and why you're writing this memoir
Core theme/messageEach memoir should have an overall theme or message that one can take away when they've finished reading.
HonestyWriting a memoir without honesty will come across on the pages. Readers will be able to tell and will be pulled out of the book because of this.
Entertainment valueNobody wants to read a memoir that's written like a textbook. Create entertainment value through the stories you tell.
Supporting storiesBecause you have an overall theme, it needs supporting stories from your life to back it up.
Intriguing writingOnce again, a memoir is still a book and therefore, it cannot read like a textbook. Great writing is necessary for a great book.
Overall arcYour life has an arc and your memoir's purpose is to show this through lessons learned from start to end.

#4 – Write truthfully

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

*Gasp* You don’t say!

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

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

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

But that’s not what makes a good memoir.

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

#5 – Show, don’t tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 – Get vulnerable

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

Quite the opposite, actually.

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

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

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

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

#7 – Make connections with each story

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

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

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

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

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

how to write a memoir tip

#8 – Talk about how everything affects your life today

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

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

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

#9 – Put your personality into it

Nobody wants to read a stiff retelling of your life.

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

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

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

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

  • Tell jokes
  • Use cuss words (if that’s how you really speak!)
  • Add your personal lingo (we all have phrases we use regularly)
  • Italicize words you emphasize when speaking
  • If you have the urge to write something you think is funny or witty, do it!
  • Write your book by talk-to-text using Google Docs or other writing software

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

how to write a memoir tips

#10 Write a memoir you’d want to read

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

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

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

How to Start a Memoir

A strong introduction is everything.

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

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

Let’s draw those readers in!

#1 – Be relatable

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

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

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

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

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

Did you understand their pain and triumph and hardships?

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

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

memoir writing tips

#2 – Use emotion by showing, not telling

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

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

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

And we don’t want that.

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

Here are the basics for showing versus telling:

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

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

#3 – Make the message clear right away

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

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

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

How to Write a Memoir Tips from Experts

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

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

#1 – Write from the heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Review old photos and videos

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

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

Famous Memoir Examples to Emulate

Sometimes it’s easier to learn by example. That way, you can fully comprehend what a memoir is in order to write your own.

These are famous memoir examples:

  1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  3. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses Grant
  4. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  5. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  6. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.
  8. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  9. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  10. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Memoir examples by our own students:

  1. Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir by Jim Manley
  2. Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia by Kathy Flora
  3. Prayers, Punk Rock and Pastry by Chris Stewart
  4. Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous by Emily Ann Peterson
  5. Shift Happens: Turning Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones by Jill Rogers

This is the Story of Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

Start Your Memoir TODAY!

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

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

#1 – Begin your training

It’s NEVER too early to start working toward your dreams and goals of becoming an author. In fact, you shouldn’t waste any time!

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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#2 – Determine your overarching message

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

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

They could be as simple as these:

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

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

What are yours?

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

This is where it all starts!

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

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

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

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

→ FREE DOWNLOAD OF OUR MEMOIR MIND MAP TEMPLATE HERE

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

creative writing

Creative Writing: How to Get Started with Creative Writing [+ 9 Exercises]

Creative writing is one of those skills you can eternally get better at.

Now, we’re not saying your creative writing is bad necessarily, but just that if you want to continue to push yourself in this industry, you’ll need some work.

You might not like to face that truth, but it is indeed a truth. I’ll go into more detail about that in a little bit but every writer out there needs some writing tips to help them get better.

And one of the best ways to get better at creative writing is to first learn and understand the craft of it, and then challenge yourself by completing writing exercises.

creative writing exercises

Here’s what you’ll learn about creative writing:

  1. What is creative writing?
  2. Creative writing topics
  3. Elements of creative writing
  4. Examples of creative writing
  5. 9 powerful creative writing exercises

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program.
Learn more about it here

What is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact.

It’s often seen as the opposite of journalistic or academic writing.

When it comes to writing, there are many different types. As you already know, all writing does not read in the same way.

Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader’s mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.

Creative Writing Topics

If you’re looking for a few creative writing topics to dive into (which you’ll need if you’re going to use some of our top writing exercises), we have exactly what you need.

These are our top creative writing prompts all compiled for you.

Just fill out the form below and your writing prompts will be delivered promptly!

Download 200+ FREE Writing Prompts Here!



What are the Elements of Creative Writing?

In order to get better at creative writing, you have to understand the elements of what makes writing a book great.

You can’t build a car engine without understanding how each part plays a role, right?

That’s the same case with writing.

Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.

Unique Plot

What differentiates creative writing and other forms of writing the most is the fact that the former always has a plot of some sort – and a unique one.

Yes, remakes are also considered creative writing, however, most creative writers create their own plot formed by their own unique ideas. Without having a plot, there’s no story.

And without a story, you’re really just writing facts on paper, much like a journalist.

Character development

Characters are necessary for creative writing. While you can certainly write a book creatively using the second person point of view (which I’ll cover below), you still have to develop the character in order to tell the story.

Character development can be defined as the uncovering of who a character is and how they change throughout the duration of your story. From start to end, readers should be able to understand your main characters deeply.

Underlying theme

Almost every story out there has an underlying theme or message – even if the author didn’t necessarily intend for it to. But creative writing needs that theme or message in order to be complete.

That’s part of the beauty of this form of art. By telling a story, you can also teach lessons.

Visual descriptions

When you’re reading a newspaper, you don’t often read paragraphs of descriptions depicting the surrounding areas of where the events took place. Visual descriptions are largely saved for creative writing.

You need them in order to help the reader understand what the surroundings of the characters look like.

This pulls readers in and allows them to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes – which is the reason people read.

Point of view

There are a few points of views you can write in. That being said, the two that are most common in creative writing are first person and third person.

  • First Person – In this point of view, the narrator is actually the main character. This means that you will read passages including, “I” and understand that it is the main character narrating the story.
  • Second Person – Most often, this point of view isn’t used in creative writing, but rather instructional writing – like this blog post. When you see the word “you” and the narrator is speaking directly to you, it’s second person point of view.
  • Third Person – Within this point of view are a few different variations. You have third person limited, third person multiple, and third person omniscient. The first is what you typically find.

    • Third person limited’s narrator uses “he/she/they” when speaking about the character you’re following. They know that character’s inner thoughts and feelings but nobody else’s. It’s much like first person, but instead of the character telling the story, a narrator takes their place.
    • Third person multiple is the same as limited except that the narrator now knows the inner thoughts and feelings of several characters.
    • The last, third person omniscient, is when the narrator still uses “he/she/they” but has all of the knowledge. They know everything about everyone.

Dialogue

While non-creative writing can have dialogue (like in interviews), that dialogue is not used in the same way as it is in creative writing. Creative writing (aside from silent films) requires dialogue to support the story.

Your characters should interact with one another in order to further the plot and development each other more.

Imaginative language

Part of what makes creative writing creative is the way you choose to craft the vision in your mind.

And that means creative writing uses more anecdotes, metaphors, similes, figures of speech, and other comparisons in order to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Emotional appeal

All writing can have emotional appeal. However, it’s the entire goal of creative writing. Your job as a writer is to make people feel how you want them to by telling them a story.

Examples of Creative Writing

Since creative writing covers such a wide variety of writing, we wanted to break down the different types of creative writing out there to help you make sense of it. You may know that novels are considered creative writing, but what about memoirs?

Here are examples of creative writing:

  • TV show scripts
  • Movei scripts
  • songs
  • speeches

9 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing

Writing is just like any other skill. You have to work at it in order to get better.

It’s also much like other skills because the more you do it, the stronger you become in it. That’s why exercising your creative writing skills is so important.

The best authors out there, including Stephen King, recommend writing something every single day. These writing exercises will help you accomplish that and improve your talent immensely.

Have you checked out our fiction writing and self-publishing program? Learn more about it here

#1 – Describe your day with creative writing

This is one of my favorite little exercises to keep my writing sharp and in shape.

Just like with missing gym sessions, the less you write, the more of that skill you lose. Hannah Lee Kidder, a very talented author and Youtuber, gave me this writing exercise and I have used it many times.

Creative Writing Exercise:

All you have to do is sit down and describe your day – starting with waking up – as if you were writing it about another person. Use your creative writing skills to bring life to even the dullest moments, like showering or brushing your teeth.

#2 – Description Depiction

If you’re someone who struggles with writing descriptions or you just want to get better in general, this exercise will help you do just that – and quickly.

In order to improve your descriptions, you have to write them with a specific intention.

With this exercise, the goal is to write your description with the goal of showing the reader as much as you can about your character without ever mentioning them at all.

Creative Writing Exercise:

For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.

Pick 5 key qualities about them you want to highlight within your description. Then, without ever mentioning the character at all, describe either their living room or their bedroom to meet that goal.

#3 – Edit your old writing

Believe it or not, editing does count as writing and can actually sharpen those creative writing skill more than you think.

It can be a little scary to pull up a story you wrote last week or even two years ago and tear it apart. But that’s exactly what I want you to do.

Check out this video of me editing my old writing in order to replace weak verbs with stronger, better ones to get a taste of what this can look like and how it can help you get better.

#4 – Voice Variations

One of my favorite parts of writing is giving unique voices to each character. I believe that’s what truly brings them to live.

Their dialogue as the power to pull readers in, or push them out of the book completely.

Obviously, you want the former.

During this creative writing exercise, your focus will be to pick 4 different emotional states and write dialogue and narrative of how your character feels and interprets those feelings.

Creative Writing Exercise:

For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.

Choose your 4 emotional states – and get creative. You can choose sadness, anger, happiness, and excitement BUT you can also go a bit further and choose to use drunk, flirty, terrified, and eager.

After you have 4 emotional states, write one page of each using dialogue and narrative your character would use.

#5 – Single Senses

Creating strong visuals is one of the most powerful ways to become a great creative writer. In fact, practicing this will help you craft books that really hook readers.

This exercise’s goal is to help you develop writing the senses in ways that not only make sense, but are also imaginative and unique.

creative writing exercise

#6 – Dialogue Destruction

During this exercise, you will learn a lot about how to shape a scene using entirely dialogue.

Now, this isn’t something you’ll always do in your writing, but it’s very important to know how to move a scene forward using dialogue if you need to.

This will also help you understand how to show and not tell in creative writing.

Creative Writing Exercise:

To start, choose a scene you wrote previously that has little to no dialogue, but is still very important.

Next, rewrite the entire thing using dialogue (including dialogue tags and body language descriptions). You will quickly become better at using dialogue to show and not tell.

#7 – Tell the origin story of the Tooth Fairy

This writing exercise will really help you think creatively about something a large part of the world knows about.

However, you have to think of a very unique, interesting way of presenting this common idea. The purpose of this is to help you dig deeper within your own story and plot in order to come up with the very best, most unique ideas – because that is what will stand out in your book.

Creative Writing Exercise:

Begin this story like you would any other. Develop who the very first Tooth Fairy is and understand their character. Then, start creating a backstory that coincides with how they ended up becoming the tooth fairy.

Write this in full, ending with the Tooth Fairy taking their first tooth.

#8 – Thematic Attic

This is a fun one! The idea behind this creative writing exercise is to focus on interpreting themes through story.

Since all creative writing has an underlying theme behind it, it’s really important for you to be able to accurately depict that theme throughout the story you’re telling.

creative writing quote

Otherwise, it can get lost. Not knowing the theme can often leave readers feeling unsatisfied – and rightfully so.

Creative Writing Exercise:

For this exercise, pick an overarching theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from equality to the difference between right and wrong.

Next, craft a short story with the setting being and do your best to make sure that theme shines through

Get creative! Your attic can even contain a portal to another dimension if you really want it to.

#9 – Break Language Barriers

This isn’t quite what you think it is. So no, we will not be creating new languages with this exercise.

Instead, we’ll be working on using unique language to describe very common, everyday occurrences and experiences.

One of the beauties of creative writing is that you have the power to change the way someone sees the world. You can make it more appealing and special to them – if you know how.

This exercise will help you develop the skill of using a unique narrative within your story.

Creative Writing Exercise:

In this creative writing exercise, you’ll start by reading. You can read a new book or even some of your old writing.

Highlight or copy sentences or paragraphs you think are very common experiences that most everyone in the world knows of. For example: the sunset, brushing your teeth, looking up at the sky.

Your job is to rewrite these experiences in the most unique way you can using visuals that you don’t normally see in writing.<

Here’s an example:

BEFORE – The sun set beyond the trees.

AFTER – The trees tucked the sun in for the night.

[su_box title=”Creative Writing Exercise” box_color=”#112947″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”0″][/su_box]

Turn Your Creative Writing Idea into a Novel & PUBLISH!

Now that you’re more ready than ever to produce a high quality book, it’s time to take action.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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You don’t want to miss out on all he has to offer because once you watch this, you’ll be able to put these creative writing exercises to use.

What are some creative writing exercises you use to get better? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

inciting incidents

The Inciting Incident: How to Write One Correctly to Hook Readers

Your inciting incident has the power to influence readers to 1) buy your book and 2) pull them in for the remainder of it.

In order to get readers to keep reading, your book needs something to trigger that.

Sometimes…even starting your story out strongly isn’t enough…

And that means you need a powerful and inticing inciting incident.

inciting incident

Here’s how to write an inciting incident:

  1. Know why the inciting incident matters
  2. Learn what an inciting incident is
  3. Ensure it changes the character’s life forever
  4. Make sure it draws a line between old life and new
  5. It must kick off the main plot
  6. Learn from inciting incident examples

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program, in addition to your 1-on-1 coaching with a bestelling fiction author.
Learn more about it here

Why Inciting Incidents Matter

By the time you get to Death Wish 5, Charles Bronson has run out of reasons to seek vengeance on the world. You can only have everyone (and everything, if you count the house and the dog) you love destroyed by violence so many times before it stops being much of a motivation.

In action films (and thriller-type novels), the setup for revenge often comes down to quickly killing a loved one. But the 80s are over and motivations need to resonate with an audience that rightly finds some quick woman-in-a-refrigerator to be as irredeemable as it is lazy.

When writing a book, you need to incite your hero to action by giving them a reason.

Your reader needs to be on board with that reason. Barring that, your reader needs to understand the reason. Failing that, your reader shouldn’t hate your reason.

The difference between an antihero and a villain often comes down to a mixture of how they handle an Inciting Incident and the scope of the incident.

A villain will want to burn the world because they lost face to the protagonist. An antihero might decide to shoot every criminal they see because children murder, for example.

Before we get lost in the weeds, let’s break it down and ask the big question.

What is an inciting incident?

An inciting incident is a specific event at the beginning of a story that kicks off the main plot by forcing your main character into it. The inciting incident changes your character’s life forever.

A good Inciting Incident contains the following four qualities:

  • Creates a Story Question that the Climax must answer
  • Is Sufficient and Kickass: The stakes matter, the presentation WOWs!
  • Sets a Tone
  • Truly Motivates a Character (internally, not superficially)

Essentially, an Inciting Incident gives the hero a reason. This reason must be sufficient to the character in question and also sufficient to the story in question.

In the Matrix, the Inciting Incident for Neo comes from learning that he is in a simulation. He is offered a choice between learning about that world or going blissful ignorance.

In Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers meet and fall in love at a party, setting them on a course that leads to tragedy.

Katniss, an independent girl with skills and a drive to protect others, sees her sister drawn to be Tribute in the Hunger Games.

Mild-mannered office worker Richard Mayhew has a job, a fiancé, and no real problems in his life until he can’t help but rescue a wounded girl he sees on the street in Neverwhere.

All these examples show inciting incidents that start their respective stories.

Each of these inciting incident examples reveals something about the protagonist and the world they live in. They don’t just set the story in motion; they give us a reason to want to see our heroes succeed.

How do they accomplish this? They do so by deftly ticking off all four boxes without ticking off the reader.

How to Write an Inciting Incident & do it Well

As stated above, if you’re writing a novel, you need an inciting incident. The key here is to do it well by including the necessary elements to do just that.

Here’s what an inciting incident needs to do:

  • Alter a hero’s life in an irreversible way
  • Draw a Line between mundane life and the Quest
  • Kick Off the story’s MAIN plotline

Let’s walk through what each of these means as well as examples to bring them to life.

#1 – Alter a hero’s life forever

There’s really one main objective of an inciting incident and if you fail this part, the rest of the book will be hard to construct.

Your inciting incident must, above all else, alter your character’s life forever.

Without this very element, it’s very hard to “convince” your readers to buy into the story.

If your readers can sit back and say, “or they could just not do it.” to whatever the inciting incident is and their life would be unchanged, you’ve created a lot more work for yourself when it comes to the plot.

The idea behind this is that if your character’s life is changed forever, they don’t have a choice but to move forward with what has happened.

And that forward momentum is what you need to keep readers engaged.

#2 – Draw a line between normal life and the “new” normal

There needs to be a stark contrast between what your character’s life looks like now versus what it’s about to look like after the inciting incident.

Why?

Because readers want to know that your character can’t just “go back” to how things were. Otherwise, what’s the point of them continuing on this journey?

With the inciting incident (and really the setup of your story), you are making a promise to the reader about what will happen in your story. If you don’t draw a line between the old and what’s to come, they won’t be interested in finding out what’s to come because it won’t feel like a mystery.

#3 – Kick off the story’s MAIN plotline

Your inciting incident has to be related to the main plot of your story. If the inciting incident is unrelated to what the main plot points are, you’ve done something wrong.

A common mistake authors make with this is using a big, tense moment as the inciting incident in order to draw intrigue, but then in the next chapter, introducing the real main plot elements.

If your story can work separately from the inciting incident, it’s not done correctly. Go back and tie it into the main plot.

An example of this would be Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

The main plot is her journey to survive the Hunger Games. The inciting incident is when she volunteers as tribute to replace her sister in the games.

Had the inciting incident not happened (volunteering), the main plot would not exist (Katniss surviving the games).

An example of how this could not go well is if the author decided to use a raid or a brawl of some sort as the inciting incident, and then making Katniss be chosen for the games. These elements would not be tied in this instance and it wouldn’t be as intriguing or as good of a story.

Inciting Incident Examples

One of the best ways to get the hang of what an inciting incident really is, is to read and learn from some examples.

Here are 4 inciting incident examples to help you learn how to do this well.

Inciting Incident Example #1 – The Matrix

For Neo, the choice represents an important internal motivation for his character. He doesn’t choose red vs blue pill because he wants to find out what’s going on, he NEEDS to know.

The events leading up to this choice have already illustrated his deep-seated need to thwart authority and solve puzzles, the choice represents a chance to make what he was already doing matter more.

what is an inciting incident

We see his personal stake at play and this also creates a story question for the audience, what is the Matrix and how does Neo matter?

It sets a tone about choice and about the power of illusion which is spelled out by betrayals and misdirects later.

It very much delivers on a WOW! As Neo wakes up in the real world. The rest of the plot follows from the decision and Neo very literally is no longer in Kansas. A metaphor so apt to the application it is the actual reference used in the film.

The audience and the character go through the same revelation created by this Inciting Incident.

Everything that can be hoped for begins and everything that seemed out of place before is shown to be out of place. Despite the trilogy’s faults, this incident is textbook what an Inciting Incident must be.

Inciting Incident Example #2 – Romeo and Juliet

The titular characters met and fall in love. As has been said, you can redo this story with anything, like 2005s pirates and ninjas, and by the end, the audience will demand to know why pirates and ninjas can’t be in love. Or vampires and werewolves, if Underworld is more your thing.

The Inciting Incident creates a story question about love and its consequences which the Climax delivers on.

It reveals the character of both Romeo and Juliet as they feel truly, without the pretense of the society they live in. The costumes and masks of the party keep their prejudices out, revealing an inner truth.

Whether you enjoy a stage production, an older movie, or the Baz Luhrmann version, the party sets a tone for the rest of the events. The presentation leading up to the moment of love discovered feels earned even after a thousand iterations. We root for the characters because we are practically programmed to do so.

Finally, the line is drawn between each character’s former life and their new reality of being in love.

Nothing about their old prejudices continues forward. The consequences of the main plotline stems from this moment.

Inciting Incident Example #3 – The Hunger Games

Katniss offers herself up literally as ‘tribute’ to save her sister. It’s character motivated, it sets a tone, and it stuns the crowd. This Inciting Incident creates an echo that follows the character as the story question becomes about the purpose and meaning of sacrifice.

The separation between the world of the District and the world of the Games themselves is inexorable and clear cut. The film uses a diluted and diffused palette for the earlier scenes, giving way to a brighter almost saturated pallet for the games. In the book, the prose shifts, becoming more playful and les terse. In both cases, the audience knows which world they are witnessing.

The story happens because of this decision.

All of this is sufficient, but Collin’s pulls it off in three words. Well, almost, the setup makes the specific Inciting Incident possible.

The main plotline occurs, in almost a cheat, at the titular Hunger Games.

Finally, the stakes matter to Katniss personally. She saved her sister. The further ramifications that change the society also stem from this incident, but they don’t have to.

If the book ended with her sacrifice it would still be sufficient.

Inciting Incident Example #4 – Neverwinter

Gaiman uses the Inciting Incident figuratively for the reader and literally for the character of Richard Mayhew. The moment that Richard notices Door, he crosses over from the real world to the realm of London Below.

The distinction between the two worlds is irrevocable but not obvious to the intractable Richard, at least not at first.

Meeting Door is both an Inciting Incident personally for Richard, who must help because you help people when you see they need it, and a deeply revealing part of his character development.

The naiveite that comes with it almost gets him killed quite a few times, but the character line is there.

The WOW! of the moment comes from the way Richard entirely focuses on the wounded girl, Door, and totally ignores his blathering fiancé who demands Richard make a decision, on the spot, between helping the wounded waif and staying engaged.

Much like in the Matrix, this is no kind of choice at all. Richard can’t not help.

The stakes don’t seem high to Richard, but the reader soon learns that without aid, the men who wounded Door would have caught up to her.

Finally, the Incident creates a story question about both Richard and Door, how they interact with the world(s) they interact with and who they are. All of which has a pay off in the Climax.

How the Inciting Incident Shapes Your Story

As you see, the Inciting Incident does a lot with very little. The best of them seem to be almost happenstance, a nearly throwaway event that makes an impact on the characters and the world(s) around them.

Even something simple can be used as an iceberg tip, drawing the reader down a rabbit hole (for a fifth example of this EXACT thing) into the world of your story.

Be cautioned! These examples represent everything going right and fulfilling the Musts to be sufficient. Losing one of the Musts alone can cause a story to stumble out of the gate.

It is possible to recover, but never ideal.

Consider the Inciting Incident of The Phantom Menace (picking on a poorly executed story is low fruit, but that’s the point). Anakin is discovered because they need a part to fix a ship to get back on the ‘real’ adventure of protecting Padme. The Incident has prophetic potency but its lack of both a clear separation between the mundane and the quest and its failure to set the stakes leave the audience baffled and relying on external information to care.

The Inciting Incident can be thought of as the first major hurdle you need to jump to make a story kickass. If you stumble, even a little, on that first hurdle getting to the finish line and medalling in the event isn’t impossible, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be easy.

Start Working Toward a Powerful Story TODAY

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. When you have a coach, someone you can work with 1 on 1 to take your story idea to the next level, your progress (and future publishing goals) are better for it.

Check out this free training to learn how you can get started.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Are you getting ready to write your inciting incident? What’s your book about?

find motivation for writing

Writing Motivation: How to Persevere in Writing When You Feel Like Giving Up

Writing motivation is fickle. It comes and goes but the feeling of wanting to give up might linger even longer.

So how do you persevere in writing if you feel like giving up?

Contrary to popular belief, writers and authors don’t just want to write all day every day. Maybe the very rare person does, but that’s not the norm…

And so writers must learn to reach beyond themselves and understand how to stay motivated to write and persevere until they finish writing a book, especially if you want to self-publish a book.

Here’s how to keep your writing motivation high:

  1. Learn how perseverance in writing works
  2. Forming a writing habit
  3. Gather the right writing tools
  4. Increase writing motivation through dedication
  5. Keep your writing dates
  6. Keep the document visible
  7. Do writing sprints
  8. Connect with other authors
  9. Be kind to yourself

NOTE: If you want a system as well as an accountability resource to keep up your writing motivation, check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program where we do just that (with 1-on-1 coaching) and much more. Learn more about it here

How Perseverance Works, Even in Writing

I’m going to start with showing you an image of my nine-year-old’s perseverance that can be applied to anyone.

Every week she climbs a 16 ft rope at her gymnastics class. She decided that she was going to make it to the bell about 2 months ago and she has steadily climbed further up the rope each week.

Her hands slide up the rope with precision, her knees are out like a butterfly and she uses her whole body to climb up the rope. Every week I shoot a Facebook live video of her.

And every week the time it takes her to climb the rope decreases.

Preserving in writing is a lot like my 9-year-old’s determination to squirm her way up the rope.

It is climbing, hand over hand, using all the resources you have to keep your eye on the finished target. In my daughter’s case, it is the bell at the top of the gymnastics rope. In my case, it is finishing my second book this year.

When my family and friends ask me about my first book, how much time it took, and what keeps me going, I shrug and say, “I started working on it consistently in November.” I went from idea to self-published in 6 months. Of course, that was with intentional, uninterrupted writing times and the determination to keep going – even when it was hard.

You can write a book too. You just have to make the most of every second and continue on your journey, even when it is hard.

How to Form a Writing Habit to Maintain Writing Motivation

It is not always easy to consistently write. In fact, there are days when it is downright HARD, but we all have the same 86,400 seconds in every single day.

How we choose to use our time is one of the things that sets apart those who persevere in writing against those that don’t. 

And forming a writing routine and habit is the best way to make that happen.

I don’t have a lot of time for writing during the day—so I have to create time. The absolute best time for me is to wake before the sun and spend the first two hours of my day writing and creating.

I do find small chunks of time during a break at school to pull up the google doc app on my phone and write a few words. However, as you can see by Chandler’s video about burnout, it is super important to create hard and fast boundaries about your life and your writing routine, so that you don’t burnout and you’re able to continue writing.

Gather the Writing Tools to Help Writing Motivation

Sometimes those boundaries include using the right tools for writing, which will also help you persevere and keep you motivated to keep going. The right tool or writing software is generally not your phone.

That’s not to say that you can’t have your phone as an occasional tool; however, it is equally as important to understand that if you pull your computer out and go to your dedicated writing space, you will likely accomplish a lot more.

There are different people and people who do things in different ways. In the writing community, we call them plotters and pansters, or discovery writers.

The plotters plan every single detail out and they are then able to compile their narratives. The pansters go with the flow and get things moving by simply putting one word in front of the other.

Here are some of the best tools for writing:

  1. A word processing program (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs)
  2. A journal
  3. A blank piece of paper
  4. A notebook
  5. A pen/pencil
  6. A keyboard

Keep in mind that the word processor you use can make a huge difference in writing motivation.

For example, using something like Scrivener to track your word count and goal line can keep you pushing to reach the end.

Check out our Scrivener Tutorial below if you’re curious to learn more.

Keep Writing Motivation Through Determination

When I am most likely to want to throw in the towel, I usually get some inspiration from someone that I’ve allowed to read my work to help me keep going. If that’s not possible, I reach out to the #writingcommunity on Twitter and someone there will give me some sage advice—like go for a walk.

So many writers dream of having the ability to work from home, never get dressed if they don’t have to, and being an authorpreneur. However, it takes a lot of perseverance to get there.

It takes the dedication of finding the one time in your day to keep an appointment with the most important VIP in your life: yourself.

How to Maintain Writing Motivation Even When it Gets Tough

My writing coach, R.E. Vance, told me that the worst thing I can do is not to look at my writing for a few days. He said that when you aren’t engaged with it, it takes longer to move to the creation part because you have to re-read, figure out where you are, and you lose momentum.

So follow these steps for persevering in your writing journey every day.

motivated to write

#1 – Keep a Writing Date With Yourself

You are a very important person in this blank page to published process. So, find a time that works for you, whether that is early in the morning or after your family is in bed for the night, and dedicate five, ten, twenty-five minutes, or an hour to working on your book.

“But I am tired.”

Guess what? You’re making the most of those 86,400 seconds in a day by finding a few minutes to commit to writing. Personally, I am a morning writer. I know that I am a lot less likely to be interrupted in the morning than at any other time.

#2 – Keep the Document Open and Visible

When you open your work in progress document, you’re setting yourself up for success.

You know that you want to add more words to the page and you can do this by simply putting one word down and following it with the next.

You can edit bad writing, but you can’t edit a blank page.

That’s why keeping the doc open, no matter what writing software you use, can help keep it top of mind. Think of it like keeping a sticky note out reminding you.

Whenever you log on to your computer, you’ll have a reminder to write right in front of you.

#3 – Do Writing Sprints

For those of you who don’t know, writing sprints are when you set a timer and simply write as much as you can during that time. You don’t go back and read, you don’t edit, you just write and keep writing until the time is up.

Set a timer for a few minutes. It can be one minute, it can be two minutes, or it can twenty minutes.

You get to decide how many minutes you want for a sprint and then during that time period, you simply write.

You write as many words as you can in that sprint and perhaps it will inspire you to do another sprint.

If you want to have more accountability do this, hop on Twitter and search the hashtag #writingsprints to find people who are currently looking for sprinting buddies.

This can help you stick with it and then be accountable for it at the same time, since many post their word counts after (usually followed by more sprints).

motivation for writing

#4 – Connect With Other Authors

Sometimes we need a little motivation to keep us going. Most other authors are more than willing to help you when you’re feeling down.

Reach out to the author communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

They often have advice for you, whether it is on their blogs or through direct messages.

If you’re not sure where to go to find other writers, here are some hashtags you can use to search and find people writing in your genre!

PlatformHashtags
Twitter- #amwriting
- #writerslife
- #authorlife
- #aspiringauthor
- #writerproblems
- #[yourgenre]writer
Instagram- #amwriting (as in, "I am writing")
- #writerslife
- #fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
- #writerprobs, #writerproblems
- #writersofig, #writersofinstagram, #writersofinsta
Facebook- #amwriting (as in, "I am writing")
- #writerslife
- #fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
- #writerprobs, #writerproblems

#5 – Be Kind to Yourself

The research from writer Joseph Epstein says that more than 81% of Americans believe that they have a book in them, but very few will put n the work to do it.

You, however, are doing it and this deserves recognition.

Often times we get down on ourselves, but in these times, you need to remember to speak to yourself like you would a friend.

When I talk to a friend about my writing, they give me kudos and credit for the things I am doing. You should speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend.

Writing Motivation from other Authors

Any author will tell you that there will be days that you simply do not want to write, but many have tricks to help overcome the writing void.

Here are a few of my favorite blog posts on finding the perseverance in your writing routine:

Remember that there will always be times that you lose writing motivation and struggle to produce excellent content, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write.

Even the best writers struggle.

They keep moving forward, by putting one word in front of the other and finding writing motivation that works for them, and you can too.

Persevere in Writing TODAY

Step 1:

Set aside some of those 86,400 seconds in your day today and take time to write. It can be for 60 seconds or 60 minutes, but by putting engaging with your writing today, you are making the choice to persevere.

Step 2:

Sign up for your FREE training. Oftentimes, it helps to hear just how easy and manageable this process can be.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

What are some of your secrets to writing (even when it’s hard)? Drop them down below so we can all benefit from them!

self publishing companies to avoid

Vanity Press Scams and Self Publishing Companies to Avoid

The awful news for authors out there today is that there are plenty vanity press scams and self-publishing companies to avoid…unless you want your money stolen, that is…

If you are a self-published author, publishing your book today has never been easier. With a quick Google search, you’ll come across dozens of self-publishing companies offering publishing services for authors.

But, how do you know if the company isn’t just another vanity press scam?

Before making any decisions, you want to check out all your options carefully. If not, you could find yourself the victim of a self-publishing scam, forking thousands of bucks over to a shady publishing company with nothing to show for it.

In this post, you’ll learn how to recognize the self-publishing scams when they cold call you…and the companies you can really trust to get your book published!

vanity press scams

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post on self-publishing scams:

  1. Why authors fall for vanity press scams
  2. Early warning signs of self-publishing scams
  3. Your self-publishing options
  4. Taking down the scammers
  5. Red flag list: Self-publishing companies to avoid
  6. Writers beware and watchdog groups
  7. Educate yourself in self-publishing
  8. Are you ready to self-publish your book?

NOTE: If you’re ready for a system and method to actually succeed in the self-publishing industry (not to mention keep ALL the money you earn), check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

As with any lucrative industry, there are a wide range of self-publishing scams in business for one reason: To take your money.

A Vanity press publisher charges sky-high prices for author services that includes editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. 

But, all of this is outsourced to the lowest bidder and in the end, the author is left with a poor quality book and no way to market it.

“You get what you pay for” doesn’t equate when it comes to vanity press and the publishing scams they represent. You do pay top dollar, often tens of thousands, and what you get back for your investment lacks anything of value.

So, how can you avoid these self-publishing scams?

Let’s take a look.

Why Authors Fall for Vanity Press Scams

There could be many reasons why someone would sign up with a scammy publishing company that wants you to pay big money up front.

There is no shortage of scams out there when it comes to self-publishing. The biggest reason authors fall into these scams is because…well, they don’t know what they should know to avoid being scammed in the first place.

The fact that you have to pay a publisher to get your book published is warning sign enough: The lies are on the wall. Most authors who fall into this trap are not published authors yet.

You are either thinking of writing a book, you’ve started writing it, or you’re done and can’t wait to get it out there.

So, when a publisher comes along offering to get their “just finished” manuscript into the hands of thousands of readers and sell millions of books worldwide, I would grab at it, too. Who wouldn’t want that?

As a first time author, you are most likely not going to write a book that sells thousands of copies. And if you do, it will not be through a company that you just paid $5,000-$10 to for this to happen.

Most soon-to-be-published self-publishers fall into the lap of predatory publishers because they need help.

For someone who wants to become a successful author, your passion to publish is so strong that it overrides the sudden impulse to take the first offer on the table. 

Here are several reasons why you might fall for the vanity press trap:

  • You are desperate for the know-how of book publishing.
  • The publishing process is too complex.
  • You are scared of “not publishing” and want it done right now.
  • You are not tech-savvy and would rather pay someone to overcome the hurdles.
  • Your friends keep asking you “When is your book coming out?”
  • You know nothing about book marketing and need to hire the experts. Guess what: Vanity publishers don’t know much about it either and you’ll have to market no matter the avenue of publishing you choose.
  • You watched a video of a self-published author who just signed a 6-figure deal with a large publisher…and you think that is what usually happens.

Before you make any hasty decisions, stop and breathe. If you need help with publishing your book [and everyone does] there is a right way and…

The other way that steals all your hard-earned dollars.

My hope is that you read this post before signing anything. If you can know the danger signs to watch for, you’ll pull yourself back from making a decision that costs you thousands of dollars, not to mention the heavy burden of regret later.

Early Warning Signs: The Lies of Vanity Press

Vanity presses are generally a bad idea all around, but we’ll cover some specific ways they can scam you and why they’re often on the list of self-publishing companies to avoid.

How Vanity Press Publishers Scam You

It is actually easy to spot a predatory publisher. I only hope you get to this post before they get to you. Here are the 5 big signs you are at risk of being scammed.

#1 — The company asks for publishing fees. This should be enough right here. Although Hybrid Publishers require authors to pay for all the publishing services upfront, they usually split the fees later.

A vanity press publisher will charge thousands for a publishing package. You are told that the book sales will be recouped later through book sales…which almost never happen. Don’t listen to the so-called “reviews and testimonials” on the websites. These are rigged, of course.

#2 — “We will publish your book for you on Amazon.” Let me be clear about this: Publishing on Amazon is super easy, even if you have limited tech skills. Not to mention Amazon has an excellent support system in place. The response time to inquiries is less than 24 hours and they are very detailed when it comes to responses.

A vanity publisher will make this sound more complicated than it really is. They will “take care of everything” and upload the book for you. What this also means is you lose control over making any future changes to the book. The only person that should be uploading the book to Amazon is YOU under your own account.

#3 — Charges for A Reading Fee. Never. This just isn’t done. A traditional publishing house never asks for this. If you are told by the sales rep they will read your book for a certain fee, red flag this. The “reading fee” scam is less common today, but just in case you do run up against a company that tries this old scam.

With a real publisher, nobody makes money until the book is selling. Actually, this practice has fallen the wayside these days and it would be rare to come across. But there is always someone willing to try…

#4 — The publisher will buy you an ISBN [because they are so hard to get]. You can buy an ISBN through Bowker.com if you reside within the USA. The cost is $125.00. In the U.K. you go through Nielson. In Canada ISBNs are free through ISBN Canada. If you buy this through IngramSpark they offer a slight discount. Again, this is just another ploy to make you think it is a difficult process that is better off left to the “professionals.”

#5 — “We will take care of all the marketing, because we know how difficult it is.” Yes, marketing is difficult, especially for authors. But a vanity press company won’t market the book to sell, they will do the bare minimum required so it appears as if the book is being placed in the proper channels.

My advice: Grab a book on marketing for authors or enroll in a course. Learn it. You can even outsource it out so that you do Sell More Books. But in the end nobody is better at marketing their own book than the author.

#6 — Excessive use of flattery. The first time I spoke to a vanity press sales rep I remember the praise she gave me for my book. I felt as if I had written a book that was going to sell thousands of copies in the first week.

The rep was quoting passages from the book and referencing everything from the first page. Mind you, I later realized, everything she was quoting was from the first few pages. So did she read it? Of course not.

#7— A sales rep calls you several hours after you sign up to their newsletter with a sales pitch. I tested one of these sites by enquiring about their services, and I downloaded a freebie. The next day I received a call from my “Publishing consultant” ready to help me fulfill my dreams as an author. Wow. The sales pitch was impressive, but if you already knew the situation, it was a total scam. You can smell it.

But, for a new author excited to be part of the publishing journey, listening to someone else tell you how excited they are to publish your boom is a very tempting catch. In the end, they don’t care about your book or you. Whether it is Author Solutions or another of the dozens of publishing scammers out there, they get your money and keep milking it with constant upsells.

#8 — Make “over the mountain promises” to get you endorsed by Hollywood. It is not unusual for these companies to tell you that your book has a shot of being featured in Oprah’s book club, or that they will send your manuscript to one of their agents in Hollywood for review.

I can promise you one thing—Your book will never see the inside of a movie studio. Not unless you are a well-established author who has already proven themselves, and even then, it will not be through a vanity press company that you get there.

#9 — Promises to get your book into barnes and noble and other bookstores. In this case what happens is, they put your book into a large catalogue where bookstores and libraries can order it. But realistically, you’ll be hard pressed to sell a single book in any bookstore if you publish through a vanity press company. Libraries and bookstores won’t even consider it in most cases.

#10 — Insists you sign a contract handing over exclusivity. If this final dose doesn’t make you run the other way, I don’t know what will. By any and all means, as a self-published author, you do not sign over your material rights to anyone. This gives the vanity publisher the right to further exploit your work and profit from all sales. The author, in this case, gets a lower end percentage.

Now that you’ve seen the red flags, you are well-informed to make a decision if you come across what appears to be a shady publisher. You don’t need to sign anything  or pay huge amounts of money for the publisher to “publish you to Amazon” or set you up with a movie deal.

Now, let’s take a look at…

Your Self-Publishing Options

We are not living in the 1990s anymore. Back then, choices to self-publish were limited. You either paid a company—like a vanity press—a lot of money. Or, you went on your own and hired a printing company to run off tons of copies that were not cheap. 

Today, you will see that you have many good choices these days that make it easier for you to get your book published.

#1 — Self-Publishing Courses

There are quite a few reputable self-publishing courses out there. You buy the course, and work through the modules to write and ultimately publish your own book.

There are costs to publish your book, including creating it, cover design, editing, and launching your book. You still have to pay for these services, but at least you get to choose who is working on your book.

It is up to each individual author to outsource his or her own book. Publishing courses provide the content you need to get it all done, but you do all the work and take on additional costs outside the cost of the course. 

You have to pay for the basics that any author pays for: A good cover design, hiring an editor and formatting, and maybe a budget for marketing services such as book promo sites or a media package.

But many new authors are weary about self-publishing and think uploading to Amazon— or other publishing companies—is a complex ordeal. It isn’t. I have been coaching authors for years and, nowadays, the system is built in that all you have to do is plug your book info into the Kindle Direct Publishing Bookshelf and away you go. The cost for actually self-publishing your book is O.

The production cost for the average book is about $1500. If you pay $1000-3000 for a course + $1500 for the book production, you are still under $5,000. If you continue to write more books, you’ve already paid for the course that usually gives you access for a lifetime. 

Taking a self-publishing course is the best option we think. You learn how to do so much of the process yourself, and can rinse and repeat for future books. You still pay for everything but, who you decide to hire is up to you and the creative decisions are all yours.

#2 — KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing]

The KDP platform is Amazons book publishing platform. Publishing a book is so much easier now than it ever used to be, especially with Amazon self-publishing.

You no longer need to go through painstaking efforts to land a book deal which locks you into unrealistic deadlines and cuts you out of most of the earnings. You don’T have to sign up and fork over thousands to a vanity press company. 

You can now have complete control of your book – and its revenues – by publishing directly through Amazon self-publishing.

Setting up your KDP account is easy, and should be the first step you complete.

Here’s how to set up your Kindle Direct Publishing account:

  • Go to https://kdp.amazon.com and register with either your Amazon account or with your email address.
  • Next, click “Update” in your account information and fill in your tax information. It’s important to note that you need to complete your tax information BEFORE you can publish your first book. So don’t skip this step!
  • Once your tax information is complete, click “Finished” and return to the main page.
  • Your profile is complete!

#3 — Print On Demand

If you are a new author reading this, with the print on demand services offered by Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingramspark, you can order your own author copies and pay print costs plus shipping to your location. Buy your own ISBN, copyright your book, and own what you create.

To start printing your own books with IngramSpark, visit their website and set up an account. Do the same with Amazons’ Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Do it yourself. It’s not the difficult process many would have you believe, and there is lots of support on these sites ready to help you right away.

How much is the cost to print a book?

It depends on the book size but, for a book that is 30k in length with little to no photos or graphs and text only, expect to pay less than $4 per copy. The average scammy publisher will charge new authors $15-20 dollars per copy.

But for them, they print the books at the same cost as an author who sets this up through KDP or IngramSpark.

In fact, many vanity press publishers use IngramSpark for the print-on-demand service only just to sell the books back to the author at 5x the print cost.

#4 — Vanity Press Publisher

Vanity press publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from selfpublishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher for everything.

vanity press

The editing, formatting, cover design, and even marketing the book are paid for by the author through the various packages offered when an author signs up.

But, there is a trap here: The costs are more than you initially pay for, and they don’t tell you this until later when you’re mired deeper into the project. Once invested, most authors are compelled to publish the book no matter the costs.

The emotional investment is what these companies prey on. Knowing how you feel about your book, they are ready to help you do anything to get it to market…and that means offering more expensive services.

By the time you are done and the book is published, potentially you have just spent $10k. With close to 0 book sales.

Vanity publishers make money, not from selling books for you, but from the author buying their own books back from the publisher. It is a scam where the author always loses.

#5 — Traditional Publishers

This is not a self-publishing route but, if you want to take the traditional path, you can begin by querying your manuscript with agents. Keep in mind, you may not see your book in print for a couple of year due to the lengthy process of first finding an agent, and then having them submit it to publishers to buy.

What is a traditional publisher?

“A traditional book publishing company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Buying rights from the author is how book publishers have traditionally acquired books. …The advance is deducted by the book publisher from any royalties the author receives from the sale of the book.”

That’s right, they pay you an advance for the book. You don’t pay them anything. It depends on the publisher’s contract but they will pay for [some] marketing.

The editing, cover design and formatting is taken care of by the publisher [in most cases].

There are a lot of nightmare stories of authors signing on with traditional publishers, but that usually equates to the publisher not trying hard enough to sell any books. In this case the author may end the contract and, after that, many authors take up with self-publishing and find better success. After all, why not be in charge of building your own book business?

#6 — Hybrid Publishers

A hybrid publisher is what you will find between a traditional publisher [pay nothing upfront but get paid an advance] or a vanity press publisher [pay for everything upfront and keep all royalties.

The hybrid publishers model is simple: An author pays for everything upfront but gets a bigger cut of the royalties after book sales, upwards of 50%. The initial cost means that the author assumes all the financial risk in order to get the book to market.

One other difference between traditional and hybrid publishing is, the hybrid has to pay the author a higher percentage of royalties than a traditional publishing house.

In order for a company to be called a hybrid publisher, there are 9 criteria set out by the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) that must be adhered to:

  • In order to not be classified as a vanity press, ALL book submissions must be reviewed. This means if your book does not meet the criteria, it should be rejected. A vanity press doesn’t care. Anything and anybody will do.
  • Hybrid publishers must clearly define a vision to follow for their company.
  • Must report reputable sales on all titles they publish.
  • Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of standard traditional publisher rates.
  • The quality of the production—cover design, editing and formatting—must meet industry standards.
  • The publisher must publish as its own defined imprint and request its own ISBNs.
  • Manage all distribution services for the works.
  • Hybrid publisher must manage the rights of the works they publish as well as any subsequent rights acquired.
  • Hybrid publishers must meet the standards and best practices set out by the publishing industry.

But…the vanity press publishers are bad seeds. Lately they are disguising their services as “hybrid publishers” but still operate with the same scammy tactics.

Take caution here that, while a hybrid publisher might look legit on the surface, there is a possibility you could get ripped off if you are not 100% sure.

Taking Down the Scammers

As a coach and self-publishing authority, I have worked with at least a dozen authors who’ve come away from a vanity press publisher broke, not just financially, but emotionally as well.

Like most authors, they just wanted to fulfill a dream and publish a book. But as soon as you sign up with a self-publishing scam company, your dreams are ripped apart and so is your bank account. By the time the not-yet-published author realizes it, they are invested by thousands of dollars and bound by a contract.

Over the years several class-action suits have been launched against scammy publishers for bad business practice. The worst of these publishers is Author Solutions, a company with a bad rap and a long history of complaints targeted against it by authors who have been exploited.

This company boasts on its website “300,000 authors published.” I would be hard-pressed to believe this and to go a step further, the percentage of those authors who would use Author Solution service again?

Chances are if you have been down this road, you realized before you were half way there that you’d taken a bad path. 

Author Solutions is at the top of the chain of seedy publishing houses promising to get your book to market because the world needs to hear your story. And for a publishing package upwards of $5999 it could all be done for you. Well, initially you are led to believe.

Author Solutions is the parent company of several subsidiaries that operate, not only in the US but now have an International reach as they have set up in countries worldwide.

How do they make their money?

It isn’t from helping authors to sell books.

The authors usually end up selling nothing. Instead, they are made to buy the books they want from the publishers at a high cost just so they can have their own copies to sell or giveaway.

Recently, several companies have been shut down in class action lawsuits, and this is still continuing today, with authors taking a stand and fighting back against the book publishing thieves.

Fortunately, authors are better educated these days on the publishing options available. Vanity publishers are disappearing. But do return “wearing different clothing”, disguised as the next best company to get you that bestselling book.

Red Flag List: Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid

I have compiled a list of publishing companies you should avoid at all costs. This is not a complete list but includes names of the major companies flagged by Writer Beware and Alliance of Independent Authors.

For a very thorough listing, I would recommend you check with the Alliance of Independent Authors. ALLi stays up-to-date on the scammy reports, warnings and lawsuits taken against bad publishers.

Here are some self-publishing companies that have made the list of those to watch out for:

  • Author Solutions
  • AuthorHouse UK
  • Archway Publishing [Simon and Schuster]
  • LifeRich Publishing [Reader’s Digest]
  • iUniverse
  • Palibrio [for the Spanish-speaking community]
  • Dorrance publishing
  • Christian faith publishing
  • Westbow press
  • Balboa press [a Division of Hay House]
  • Newman Springs Publishing
  • Partridge Publishing
  • Tate Publishing 
  • Trafford Publishing
  • Xlibris [UK, AU, and NZ]
  • Outskirts Press
  • Dog ear publishing

Writers Beware and Watchdog Groups

Remember: Always do your homework. To make sure if you are buying into a legit business you should check in with these sites listed below.

Writer Beware

“Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.”

Preditors and Editors

Providing up-to-date action against possible publishing scammers.

ALLi [Alliance of Independent Authors] / Watchdog Posts

“Each month on the ALLi blog, the excellent Watchdog John Doppler explores key issues regarding the provision of self-publishing services around the world.”

The Independent Publishing Magazine / Publishing Service Index

A detailed breakdown of self-publishing companies and their ranking based on service and reliability.

Educate Yourself in Self-Publishing

Publishing scams will always be around as long as authors are paying for their services.

How do you, as an author, avoid falling into this trap?

The self-publishing arena is like a vast oasis of information and a never-ending learning process. Vanity press publishers are banking on you having no idea what to do, which is why you might consider turning to a publishing company in the first place.

Our advice at Self Publishing School is this: Educate yourself on how to publish a book. You’d be surprised the things you actually don’t have to pay for.

Take control of your self-publishing career today.

Are you ready to self-publish your book?

Enroll in an online self-publishing course

You can check out this list of best self-publishing courses. I highly recommend joining an online self-publishing course for achieving all your publishing goals.

You will learn how to write and market your book your way and all of it within your control. You won’t have to give up anything or sign your book rights over to a publisher that will exploit your creativity.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

If you are uncertain as to whether you should spend money on a course or not, but you want to know the ins and outs of self-publishing, grab a $5 book and start here.

Meanwhile, the scammy publishers are on the phone right now with a future author that isn’t doing these things.

Read Books on “How to Write” and Self-Publishing

Reading is a cheap way to educate yourself on writing. Make it a habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Educate yourself on the publishing industry.

Top 10 Book Recommendations on Writing and Self-Publishing:

#1-Published by Chandler Bolt

#2-The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott

#3-Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant 

#4-Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their Success (And How To Fix Them) by Derek Doepker

#5-The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn

#6-You Must Write a Book: Boost Your Brand, Get More Business, and Become the Go-To Expert by Honoree Corder

#7-Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran

#8-You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

#9-On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

#10-Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox

Now that you are totally aware of what to watch out for, it’s time to take control of your own author career

More Resources

how to world build

Worldbuilding in a Novel: 120+ World Building Questions to Get it Right

Writing a novel requires more than good writing chops and fancy literary devices…you need solid worldbuilding in order to craft a realistic image for our readers.

And you’ve heard the word ‘world building’ being tossed around a lot, especially in association with the science-fiction and fantasy genre.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to world build in your novel with tips and questions to make sure your book is well-rounded.

worldbuilding

Here’s how to world build in your novel:

  1. Understand what world building is
  2. Build the look of the world
  3. Decide on what and who the inhabitants are
  4. Develop a strong world history
  5. Form societal rules
  6. Develop religions and social customs
  7. World building questions for fantasy
  8. World building questions for sci-fi

NOTE: If you’re ready to take your world and get it in front of readers everywhere, make sure to check out our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program, where you’ll have 1-on-1 time with a bestselling author as your coach!
Learn more about it here

What is world building?

Worldbuilding is the process of creating a fictional world within your novel that can be as complex as designing an entirely new and unique location with exotic creatures, societies, religions, and governments.

Or it could be as simple as using the world we currently live in as a foundation, then tweaking it with a few historical, physical, or social adjustments.

World building gives the writer a clear understanding of what their world looks and feels like.

The imaginary world serves to establish where the story takes place. Its purpose as the setting of the story is to anchor the reader into the book by giving them a concrete location.

When a writer makes the decision to half-heartedly world build, it shows. The world they create lacks authenticity and leaves the reader wanting.

World building is a chance to capture the imagination of your reader. Once the reader is immersed in your world, they will be able to suspend disbelief and fully engage with the entire story structure to enjoy a full experience.

But, how does one go about achieving this?

World building might seem daunting, but it can be broken down into simple steps that will make the process thorough and fun.

It is important to think of how the world you are creating is going to be unique to your story ideas. However, it is just as important to keep in mind how your world will serve the plot and affect the characters. 

Four general questions to ask yourself before you start building your world are as follows.

#1 – What does the world itself look like?

The physical appearance of your world makes a big difference. Because you have to describe the story setting, you need to know what that looks like.

Here are some questions you can use to do this:

  • Is it a small dense area, or a vast world full of different environments?
  • How much of your world are you going to need to show in order to support the story?
  • How does the terrain influence the story?
  • What is the weather like regularly as well as when it’s severe?
  • What does the landscape look like? (Hint: this will influence transport and clothing)

Are the characters going to be concentrated in one area like a small town, or inside a labyrinth?

If so then all you need to world build is that location and focus on elements such as: is this location safe and what is the social structure within this location?

An author who does a great job of setting up the world right from Chapter 1 is Jenna Moreci in The Savior’s Champion. You can see in the example below, you know what the land looks like, how it feels, and even one of the primary agricultural elements is…all in a few short paragraphs.

world building example

However, if the cast is going to be traveling within your world, then things get more complex, and you may need to create multiple countries or planets.

Creating multiple countries means analyzing how they will be different from each other.

Here are some questions to get this part right:

  • Where do the borders lie?
  • What are the languages spoken?
  • What are the natural resources?
  • What are the various cultures and cultural practices? 
  • If you are creating multiple planets, how do they differ from ours? Are there seasons? Is there more than one moon/sun? What life forms exist on these planets?

Knowing these details upfront can also help you shape the cultures and customs around the world itself as we have done in this world. Your worldbuilding will appear more natural this way as well.

#2 – Who are the inhabits?

Think of your main cast. Since your characters drive the story, it’s important to be clear on every type of person involved from the start of the story to the end.

Answer these questions for worldbuilding your inhabits:

  • Are they human, alien, or hybrids?
  • What is their population?
  • How did they get to be a part of this world?
  • Is there are class system amongst inhabitants?
  • Is the class system defined by wealth or some other factor?
  • What of gender, race, and species?
  • How do the inhabitants of the world you are building get along?
  • Are there natural alliances between particular groups?
  • Are some of the inhabitant’s oppressors towards the others?
  • What resources do the inhabitants have?

Knowing these details can not only help you shape the plot, but being able to slide in these details will make your world appear more lifelike and therefore, more entertaining for your readers.

#3 – What is the history of the world?

History is important, it tells of how things came to be the way they are. Your fictional world, just like the real world, is going to have to have a history—and this history can often be very influential to your plot. Therefore, you have to know it.

While it is not vital for you to know every minute detail in regards to the history of your world, it is crucial to know what are some of the important events of the past.

Here are a few aspects to consider:

  • Who have been the major rulers?
  • What key events took place during their reign?
  • How did their reign change the governments? 
  • How did the countries or settlements arrive at the state they are currently in?
  • Is there a recent historical event of note?
  • What are the religious and political historical events that are impactful to your plot?
  • What have been the major environmental disasters? Famine, plagues, flooding?
  • How have these impacted the land and the people?
  • Wars – what nations have been at war with each other in the past? What nations are still at war?
  • Has there been any civil wars?

This can be the most fickle and influential part of your world building ventures.

An author who excels at weaving history into his storyline is George R.R. Martin in his Game of Thrones series.

worldbuilding example

The more you know about your world’s history, the more opportunities you have for foreshadowing, plot twists, and a more comprehensive story in general.

#4 – What are the rules of society?

Every society has codes of conduct, a set pattern of behavior expected to be followed.

Having rules in place will give an understanding to character actions and reactions as well as the overall character development process. Ask yourself what the guidelines in your world are, who enforces them, and how these will affect the plot.

Here are more questions for worldbuilding your society:

  • What is the political structure of the world?
  • Who holds power, influence, or authority?
  • Is it an individual or a group?
  • Is there a ruling monarchy?
  • Or is it a form of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, or a democracy?
  • Are characters going to be breaking or bending the rules, or will they be the ones administering them?
  • Are the rules considered fair and just, or is the society at large frustrated by the rules imposed upon them?
  • How are inhabitants punished if the rules of society are broken?

This is a great starting point for crafting the mood and general vibe of your book, not to mention building your main character and others to fit these standards.

#5 – What are the religions, and social customs?

Readers and critics generally frown upon a world building so unimaginative that it contains only one race of people.

Creating a society filled with inhabitants of different races means there will be a variety in the traditional practices from one particular cultural group to the other.

A well- developed world will have its national/religious holidays, dress customs, cuisine, and linguistic characteristics.

How will this affect your characters? What are the legends and fairy tales that serve as a means of entertainment or education for inhabitants?

Here are more religious and social customs worldbuilding questions:

  • What is the religious belief system?
  • What gods, if any, exist?
  • Do the gods play a tangible and active role in the world, or are they entities people believe in?
  • Are there religious services attended to at a house of worship?
  • How much does religion play into the daily life of the lay person?
  • What is considered sacred?
  • Are particular symbols revered?
  • What are some rituals or customs related to religion in your world?
  • How many inhabits believe in the religious system?
  • Are there any quarrels between different religions?
  • Are there any specific festivals or celebrations that occur?
  • Do people work all week?
  • Are there holidays?
  • Do people celebrate their birthdays?
  • How do the various social classes behave?
  • What customs to they adhere to?
  • How are gender roles defined?
  • How do families, marriages, and other relationships operate?
  • How is death handled – are services held, and do loved ones’ mourn?
  • Is procreation done out of love or duty?
  • Do people get to choose their own partners?
  • What behaviors are generally considered to be improper or immoral?

While there are a lot of questions for this section in particular, these are some of the most important, as they have the power to shape motives, societies, and characters in full.

Even if you decide to create a society that is a monolith – where the entire cast is of the same race or religion, you still need to clearly state what the customs unique to your world are.

How to World Build for Science-Fiction and Fantasy Specifically

These book genres are among the most important for worldbuilding.

From the halls of Hogwarts, to the Starship Enterprise, to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a captivating and unique world is what sets the SFF genre apart from the other genres.

When it comes to the science-fiction and fantasy, there are some key world building elements to consider in addition to the above.

World Building for Fantasy Questions

Fantasy is a genre that includes magical elements or a supernatural humanoid races/species such as elves, vampires, dwarfs, and fairies and that means it needs a set of world building criteria that differs from the above.

World Building for Magic Systems:

Magic systems need rules, regulations, and overall, its own set of world building.

Here are some world building questions for your fantasy magic system:

  • How does the magic system operate?
  • Who is able to use it and where does it come from?
  • Are some individuals more adept at magic than others?
  • How are magic users grouped and perceived?
  • How do people hone their magic skills and become stronger?
  • What is the general attitude towards magic, are people accepting of magic, weary of it, or both?
  • What are the limitations and rules of the magic?
  • What happens when these rules are broken?
  • Are there any exceptions to these set rules and how are they possible?

World Building for Supernatural Humanoids:

These creatures run rampant in both science fiction and in fantasy, but we’ll touch on fantasy right now.

Here are some worldbuilding questions for supernatural humanoids in fantasy:

  • How are they received in society?
  • How ethnically and culturally diverse are they within their own species?
  • Did they evolve or migrate from somewhere?
  • Where do their powers come from?
  • Generally speaking, are they a friendly species?
  • Who or what do they worship?
  • What languages do they speak?
  • Are there any cultures or customs distinctive to what they are specifically?

World Building Questions for Sci-Fi Novels

Science-Fiction is a genre that typically deals with futuristic concepts: advanced science/technology, artificial intelligence, time travel, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life.

Because of all these elements we don’t experience in our day-to-day lives (yet, in some cases), you have to be diligent with ensuring the world makes sense.

Here’s some help with world building for science fiction.

World Building for Advanced Science and Technology:

Because this is the backbone of what makes a novel belong in the sci-fi genre, you should spend a great deal of time in this area.

Here are some questions to help you world build for sci-fi:

  • What is the level of technological development, how does this affect day to day living?
  • What technologies are used to communicate?
  • What ones are used for entertainment?
  • What technology is used to travel?
  • What is weapons technology like?
  • Who can afford the technology and how does technology affect social structure?
  • Who created these technologies?
  • What are some up-and-coming technologies?
  • What technologies cause the most issues in your culture’s society?
  • Which technologies are the most helpful?

World Building for Artificial Intelligence:

This is another hot and ever-growing topic in the sci-fi world. Because artificial intelligence is so significant right now, you have to remember to include it and ensure it sounds natural in your world.

Here are some questions for developing artificial intelligence in your sci-fi book:

  • Who created the artificial intelligence?
  • How does the artificial intelligence operate?
  • Are they self-aware?
  • What form do they take?
  • Are they easily identifiable?
  • How do they communicate with each other in order to complete tasks?
  • Are AI considered a lower caste? If so are they assigned roles of caretakers of the world?
  • How have humans managed to sustain supremacy over the artificial intelligence?
  • Do artificial intelligence feel the need to break out of their assigned roles?

World Building for Time Travel:

Another common practice when writing a sci-fi novel is to include some sort of time travel.

While not all sci-fi novels have this concept, if yours does, it’s helpful to get clear on some details to avoid plot holes later in your writing journey.

Here are some worldbuilding questions for time travel:

  • Who can time travel?
  • What is the time travel paradigm?
  • Can people meet their past/future selves?
  • How far back/forward in time can one travel?
  • What are the repercussions of time travel?
  • Does the time traveler physically change upon returning?
  • Does time travel have effects on mental health?
  • How is time travel viewed in society?
  • What happens when the laws of time travel are abused?

World Building Questions for Space Exploration:

Many science fiction books include space exploration or travel at one point or another.

Here are some world building questions for space exploration:

  • Who was the pioneer of space exploration?
  • Is this a new undertaking, or have multiple worlds been aware of each other and living as a large community?
  • How many planets and how many solar systems does a galaxy comprise of?
  • What is the system of travel between worlds?
  • How is the language barrier between worlds solved?
  • Who regulates space travel?
  • What sort of documentation is needed for space travel?
  • Can anyone space travel or is it reserved for specific individuals?
  • What is the purpose of space exploration and travel?
  • How was space exploration made possible in your world?

World Building Questions for Extraterrestrial life:

Aliens are a natural part of space exploration so if this is in your novel, you may want to work on world building this particular bit as well.

Here are some questions for world building with extraterrestrial life:

  • How were they discovered?
  • Are they friendly or antagonistic?
  • What are their goals/motivations?
  • How does their presence affect the community?
  • What do they eat?
  • What are their weaknesses and strengths?
  • How do they communicate?
  • Does the public know of their existence?
  • How long has their presence been known for?

World building can be as simple or as complex as the author chooses. Keep in mind, even though you will be developing your world from scratch, not every single element of your world needs to be revealed to the reader. It is important to not overwhelm your audience, and avoid the dreaded info dump.

Elements of your world should be sprinkled in slowly, the details woven into your story in a manner that is enjoyable for the readers instead of dropped all at once in exposition.

Your imaginary world will naturally grow and develop as you write. When done correctly, world building can be a wonderful way to enhance your story. 

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Are you writing a book in its own world or this one? What’s been the hardest part about worldbuilding for it?