Let’s face it, different people define an author platform in many different ways but according to Jane Friedman, an author platform can be defined as the ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.
An author platform can be described as everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.
At the end of the day, your author platform makes it possible for you to build relationships with a diverse group of people online and offline so you and your books can get noticed quickly.
How to Build An Author Platform With 8 Steps
Now that you know what an author platform is and why you need one, let’s look at the steps you can take to build your own:
#1 – Know your target readers
To build an author platform that will help you succeed, it’s important for you to know everything about your target audience and be able to answer the following questions:
Who are they?
What do they do for a living?
What’s their age, sex, marital status, and location?
What are their hobbies, interests, and motivation?
What challenges and problems do they struggle with?
What makes them happy and unhappy?
Where do they spend their time online and offline?
When you know who your target audience is, it helps you learn where to focus your time and energy and on who.
And here are some tips to help you identify your target readers:
Use Google to search for blogs, forums, and communities where your audience may be active e.g. blogs within your niche, websites of authors with similar books, etc.
Look for books similar to yours and take note of the kind of people reading them because they might be your target readers also
Use key details about your book to identify the specific type of people that usually buy such books, e.g. book format, book genre, price, number of pages, etc.
Do research on social media for groups interested in books similar to yours
When you know your target readers, you can apply that knowledge to everything you’re doing and build an author platform that draws and engages the right audience successfully.
#2 – Identify and define your brand
Your brand helps people to recognize you and form an opinion about you and your books, through your personality, your values, your voice, your promise to your readers and even the feelings you stir up in them, every time they read your books or come across your website and social media profiles.
Your brand is what makes you unique so you can stand out among others.
One of the best tools you need to build your author platform is a website.
And it should be a website with a modern and attractive look plus a functional design so that everyone that visits the website can have a great user experience at all times.
Here are a few ways your website can help build your author platform:
Your website is one place where you can showcase your brand as much as you want, using your brand colors, tagline, headshot and so on
A website makes you appear more professional and credible and boosts your chances of gaining the trust of your target audience
Because your website is your business headquarters, you can remain open for business 24 hours a day seven days a week
With a website, you and your books can be found easily by your target audience and the general public
On your website, your target readers can learn about your books at their convenience, irrespective of their time zone or location, all over the world
You have 100% control over your website so it cannot be taken away from you without notice, unlike your social media accounts
You can use your author website to sell your books directly to anyone who is ready to buy
To be able to enjoy all these benefits from your website, it’s important to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly, contains content that’s easy to read and scan, loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and is also accessible from any browser.
Bottomline, avoid website mistakes that can drive people away from your website.
#4 – Start blogging consistently
Blogging is a way for you to share pieces of your writing with the public, in the form of blog posts and articles published on your blog.
Even though it’s not compulsory to have a blog on your website, it can help build your author platform in the following ways:
Blogging consistently compels you to write on a regular basis which helps to improve your writing
When you publish content regularly on your blog, you’ll attract more people to your site
As long as you produce quality and valuable content, blogging can position you as an authority and expert on your subject, which increases your credibility
Blogging makes it possible for you to have a two-way conversation with your readers because they can respond by commenting. This can help you build a community or a tribe of loyal fans (that can leave you those 5-star reviews!)
Blogging can help you connect and build strong relationships with other bloggers, influencers, authors, the media and so on
To build your platform through blogging, it’s important to write for your audience and always provide value.
Also, don’t forget to observe blogging best practices like adding images and graphics, optimizing your posts, writing magnetic headlines, and publishing consistently, maybe once or twice a week or every two weeks or monthly and so on.
#5 – Build an email list
Your email list is a list of people who gave you permission to send emails to them regularly when they signed up on your website and gave you their email address.
One key advantage of having an email list is that no one can take it away from you.
Here’s how to build your email list:
Choose an email service provider like Convertkit, Aweber, Mailchimp, etc.
Create a sign-up form on your website
Make available a thank you gift, also known as a lead magnet or reader magnet, for people that sign up
Decide how often you’re going to send emails to your list and be consistent about it. This could be weekly, biweekly, monthly and so on
Ensure you always send personalized emails that provide value
Avoid buying a list or putting people on your list manually
Remember to provide a way for people to unsubscribe easily from your emails
With an email list, you now have people that are interested in your brand and can be reached directly through emails, one on one.
You can use this unique opportunity to share relevant information about you or your new releases, when you’re ready for a launch team, to sell your books or provide information about your book launch or events, or to even sell directly to them, from time to time.
Check out this interview video with Chandler Bolt and Nick Stephenson that goes over how to build your audience as an author:
Remember, it’s okay to start with nobody on your list because that’s where most people start from but with time, persistence and best practices, you can grow your email list which helps to build your writer platform
#6 – Write guest posts
A guest post is a blog post or an article that you write and publish on another person’s site.
Research and confirm that the blog you’re interested in accept guest posts, allows an author bio with links back to your site and have an audience that matches the type of audience you want to attract
Read their guidelines and follow them
Pitch an original post title that has not been written before on their site or anywhere else
Respond to comments once your post is published
#7 – Connect offline
While it’s true that a lot of your author platform building activities will be done online, there are some steps you can also take offline, to connect with your target audience and build your author platform.
Here are some ways to connect offline:
Inform family, friends, neighbors, and other groups in your community about what you do
Create business cards that has your website information, using your brand color, font, logo, etc and share them everywhere you go
Join author groups and associations in your local community and beyond
Attend writers conferences and events
Accept speaking engagements
Support your local libraries and bookstores and participate in some of their activities
Become a guest on a podcast or on radio or television
Having a presence and being active on social media can put your brand in front of a large number of people that you may not have the opportunity to connect with anywhere else, which goes a long way to increase your brand visibility and build your author platform.
Examples of such social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and many others.
Here are some simple tips for using social media as an author:
Identify all the social media platforms where your target readers can be found
Choose one or two that you like and are comfortable with and learn everything about them
Come up with a strategy on how you will use each social media platform to achieve your goal
Decide in advance how much time you can afford to spend on social media daily and keep to it
Create a profile and start posting, using the strategy you came up with
Even though social media can be used effectively to build your author platform, almost everyone agrees that it can take up a lot of your time if you’re not careful, so remember to take preventive steps to avoid that.
Now that you know all the steps you can take to build your author platform, come up with your own plan of action by identifying the step you want to start with and those you can even do at the same time.
Remember, building an author platform takes time and cannot be done overnight so the earlier you start, the better.
That means growing pains, the terrible twos where nothing makes sense, and an angsty teenage phase where the words themselves rebel against you and you regret that drunken night so long ago when you thought you had the next great novel idea…
Thankfully, we have a step-by-step guide to make it a lot less painful.
Your goal should always be for your writing to be clean, concise, and easily understood.
Just because you can write a grammatically correct sentence that goes on for 3 pages won’t make people want to read your book.
In fact, it will probably send them looking for anything else to do.
If your goal is to impress people with your technical skill and ability to write long beautiful sentences that barely make sense, then you’re not writing a book, you’re creating an art piece using a book as a medium. That’s fine if that’s your goal, but that’s not what we’re doing here.
If you want the story to be the art, not the words themselves, then clarity should be your number one priority.
Where do you begin? At the beginning of course.
It doesn’t really matter where you start, but the beginning is never a bad choice. You generally want to start with the big picture and work your way down to the small stuff.
Your focus should be on story, character and flow first, then grammar and exact words later.
Think of editing like woodworking. The craftsman goes over their piece hundreds of times. First, they cut out the basic shape, then they shape it, add in the fine details, and finally come through with finer and finer sandpaper until they’re polishing up a beautifully finished work.
It’s the same thing with a book.
#2 – Break Your Book Up in Sections to Edit
If you’re starting at the beginning of a long book it can be helpful to break it up into manageable chunks. Split it into four or five pieces that you can edit one at a time.
A great way to do this is to break it up by Act, if you’re using a three-act story structure.
If you do this you need to be careful that you pay attention to the flow, and that all the pieces that you edited separately still fit together in the end.
One of your final edits should always be a top to bottom read through for flow, and when editing in chunks, this step is even more important.
#3 – Step Back and Define the Point of Your Book
I said we start at the beginning, but that’s not entirely true. Not yet. First, we need to step back from the manuscript entirely.
Before you put red pen to virgin paper, you need to know what your book is about.
“I know what my book is about, I wrote the fool thing,” I hear you shout at your screen.
Too often though, I find that it is remarkably easy to finish a piece and not really know what the main point is. We can become so bogged down with all the side plots and tangents that we forget what’s vital to the story.
What is the story really about if you trim all the fat? What is necessary to tell the story, and what isn’t?
You want a sleek, streamlined story. Not a bloated one, that’s so full of side plots that it’s impossible to tell what the main one is.
How do we know what the point of our book really is?
Write a short synopsis. Anywhere from 500-2000 words. Don’t just write one though. Write several synopses explaining it in different ways, from different points of view and perspectives. This will give you an extremely clear idea of what’s important and what’s not to tell your story.
This will help you focus on what’s important, and it tells you where you need to do more work.
#4 – Focus on the Characters
This brings us to characters. Every major character should appear in your synopsis.
If they don’t then likely they aren’t really a major character. Ask yourself what purpose they serve and why they’re there.
If they don’t have a purpose you need to give them one, remove them, or trim their part down so they’re not distracting from the overall focus.
Your characters should all have a purpose, from major to minor.
Make sure every character serves their purpose, and none of their arcs are left incomplete. If you leave them with open ends, it can make your character development weak and therefore, uninteresting.
#5 – Editing Chapters
Now you know what your story is saying, you’ve synopsized it several different times from different angles, and your characters work. Now let’s go on a level.
Let’s look at all your chapters.
Just like your characters, every chapter needs a purpose that moves the main plot forward.
Ask these questions about each chapter:
Does this chapter have a purpose?
Does it move the plot forward?
Does it develop an important character?
Can I continue the story without it?
If the chapter doesn’t do one of these things, either cut it or find a way to condense anything important into another chapter, it may not need to stand on its own.
#6 – Editing a Book for Pacing
While you’re going through the chapters, consider the pacing of the book as a whole.
This can be a hard thing to explain, as it is very much a feeling, but until the climax of your book, you shouldn’t have any big breaks in the action. Little breathers can be good to set up the next scene, but you shouldn’t have long stretches where the tension drops.
Above all, the story should never grind to a halt.
Don’t give your reader whiplash by slamming on the breaks and then speeding off a second later.
Let your story breathe slowly. Slowly increasing and decreasing the pace like your book is taking a breath. All the while you are slowly ramping up the pace and tension until the climax.
Here are a few ways to pace your novel effectively…
Book’s Overall Pacing
Will it be faster (think horror/thriller novels), or will it be slower (think contemporary or romance). This will determine how you write and finish chapters.
You likely have a preference as an author for a fast or a slow-paced book. This is often the same as what we prefer to read.
Do you like your books to be the type you can’t put down and read in a couple of sittings, or the type of book readers can pick up every night and read a chapter or two?
Certain book genres also predetermine your pacing, so keep this in mind.
Book genres with typically fast pacing:
Action / Adventure
Book genres with slower pacing:
Book genres where pacing varies greatly:
Pacing Within Chapters
The pacing within a chapter is also very important, and there’s a great way to manage this with your writing.
A really great way to manage pacing within chapters is to use paragraphs wisely.
Now, there are grammatical rules to follow for paragraphs, but you can also use paragraph breaks and writing chapters intentionally to slow down or increase the pacing.
If you want a fast-paced chapter: The key to faster pacing is shorter, more frequent paragraphs. Dialogue is also very useful for increasing pacing because it pulls readers farther down the page, quicker.
If you want a slow-paced chapter: Fewer paragraphs, written longer, will slow down the pacing significantly. This means more internal thoughts and more in-depth descriptions. Essentially, you’re creating more text on the page, which takes longer to read, which slows the pacing.
Putting these methods together: You can use these techniques to create a rhythm within your work. If you feel like an area is too slow, see where you can break up paragraphs or add bits of dialogue. And if a section is too fast, see where you can add more internal musings or setting/character descriptions.
Remember, if you end a chapter on a cliff-hanger, this will make the pacing for this section seem faster.
Overall Book Pacing as a Whole
It’s important to step back and look at your book in terms of pacing as a whole. It can be easy to pace a few chapters in a row slowly, only to have that section of your book feel boring to readers.
While you may have reasons for keeping those chapters slower-paced, too many in a row can create that “rut” readers often complain about in the middle of a book.
Step back and look at your chapters next to each other. A great way to do this is with sticky notes.
Use one color for a slow pace, and another for faster-paced chapters.
Line them up along your wall and step back.
If you have too may slow-paced chapters next to each other, do some digging and figure out how you can add tension there—and realize that if you have several fast-paced chapters next to each other, your book will speed by, which can often cause information overload or confusion.
You control pacing on the large scale with plot and structure, and on the small scale with sentence and paragraph structure. Short punchy sentences speed the reader along, and long, complex sentences and paragraphs slow the reader down.
#7 – Line Editing a Book
Now we begin my least favorite part… the line by line edit.
There’s no shortcut here. You have to go through your book, line-by-line, word-by-word, and consider each paragraph sentence and word.
You’re looking for typos, grammatical mistakes, passive voice, but largely just, how can you make this more readable?
Ask yourself this when line editing a book:
Would this sentence be more clear if I rearranged it?
Is this sentence necessary?
Does it add anything?
Is this paragraph clear?
If not, how can it be more clear?
Is it obvious who’s speaking here? How do I fix that?
These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking about each and every sentence and paragraph in your book.
That being said, there are some common things to look for that I’ll show you in the next section, and it never hurts to have a copy of the Chicago Manual nearby as well.
Common Book Editing Mistakes to Avoid
Not everyone is perfect and can edit a book perfectly the first time. That’s what book editors are for, after all.
However, handing over a manuscript littered with these mistakes can not only make the editing more expensive, but it can also hinder your book’s final product because, well, the better version you send to the editor, the better final product.
Here are a few things to avoid when editing your book.
#1 – “Keep it simple stupid”
KISS, the old Navy saying is a good one to live by when you’re editing. Shorter and simpler is almost always better.
If you can say it in fewer words, do it.
If a shorter word will work, use it.
If you can say that whole beautiful monologue in a sentence, guess what? Shorten it.
There are always exceptions to the rule. If you have a good reason, breaking this rule can make a section stand out. Exceptions can be for characterization, mostly. If you have a character who is long-winded and this serves a purpose, their ramble of dialogue can likely stay.
If you’re ever unsure, though, stick to simple.
#2 – Avoid redundancies
It’s very easy to do because it’s often how we talk. In writing though, it’s unnecessary, and it can actually make your point less clear as the audience tries to figure out why you just repeated yourself.
Don’t just say the same thing you did another way to make sure the point got across.
Don’t drone on and on because your words are too bountiful a crop to cull, and the audience should marvel at your use of words….
You see what I did there?
Don’t do it.
Your audience is smart, and will usually pick up what you mean the first time, Even if they don’t, guess what? It’s a book, not a Snapchat, they can go back and reread if they need to.
Give your audience credit, they’re often smarter than you think.
This brings me to my next point.
#3 – Don’t preach
It’s one of the things I struggle with the most. I’m just itching to have a character, the narrator, or some pretty prose spell out the fascinating philosophical implication of this character’s actions or thoughts.
Don’t do it. It’s cheap, and it comes across as flat and boring.
Find a way to show it with action instead.
Your audience is smart; if your writing is done well, they should come to the conclusion you wanted them to on their own. It will be far more powerful than if you simply told them because it’s an active experience for the reader.
They may also come to a different conclusion than you expected, and that can be even more fun.
#4 – Show, don’t tell.
This is very similar to the last point. If you have some piece of information you need the audience to know, show it with action instead of telling them, or have it come up in natural conversation between the characters.
Don’t tell the audience about the terrible PTSD your character is suffering from. Don’t fill the page with beautiful prose about how the character feels.
Show them how the character is affected. Let your audience experience the emotions through the character.
Showing is always more powerful than telling, and powerful is what you want.
#5 – Don’t Overdo Styling
Don’t be cutesy or flowery with your word choice or styling.
“He wheezed an answer,”
“Don’t… goooo. DON’T!!!”
It’s distracting and silly. It’s like the literary equivalent of the over the top drama in a soap opera.
It’s comical, and not in a good way.
#6 – Watch for writing tics
Just like you have verbal tics that you fall back on when you’re speaking, like “umm,” we have writing tics as well.
They’re often unconscious and entirely unnecessary. They clutter up the page, and you need to excise them from your piece like little tumors.
These are words like:
Basically (Many adverbs really)
Great (most Adjectives)
For instance, I have a bad habit of using, “So,” and “which,” far too often.
I may say,
“So, because of that….”
“Which is why we need to…”
Be on the lookout for your common tic words. They’re almost always unnecessary and can rob your writing of power by making your sentences wordy and confusing.
Keep in mind that you likely have a word or phrase you use often as well. For example, you may use “pulled” or “snatched” or even “reluctantly” repeatedly and not even notice.
Keep an eye out and learn to recognize these words or phrases.
#7 – Don’t over-edit
Generally, the more you edit the better your book, but there is such a thing as too much editing.
You don’t want your book to be stuck in perpetual editing hell.
It’s easy to get trapped by the feeling that your book has to be perfect, but perfection is often unattainable. Eventually, you need to publish it.
Get it as good as you can, but don’t obsess over it. Share it. You’re writing isn’t complete until you share it.
What’s next? Editors, beta readers, and more!
After you’ve done everything I’ve said so far it may still be a good idea to hire an editor.
Beta readers are a great choice if you can’t afford an editor, and even if you can, I still recommend it.
All a beta reader is, is someone, usually a family member or friend who you ask to read your book and give you feedback before you publish. The value you get from seeing what normal people think of your book is massive.
And this should be done before you send to an editor, for obvious reasons (you wouldn’t want to pay for another editor after betas have pointed out major flaws you need to rewrite, would you?).
But you have to take their criticisms to heart. You don’t have to change everything they bring up, but seriously consider what your readers and editor say.
Try to avoid defending your piece too strongly. It’s easy to simply write off criticism as someone just not understanding what you were doing. Especially if it’s a phrase or section you like.
And a major tip for when you have beta readers: never explain or correct their assumptions. It can be tempting for you to dive in and tell a beta why they didn’t understand a section, but doing this risks their feedback being unbiased and fresh, and therefore, unusable.
The bottom line is that if someone misunderstands something you said then others may too. You may not be wrong, your friend may have been an idiot, but chances are there is a clearer way for you to say whatever it was they didn’t understand.
Remember, there’s no “right” way & this is YOUR process
In the end, there is no perfect way to edit a book.
If your finished project is clean, clear, and easily understandable, then you edited perfectly. Whether you follow this guide, talked to a monk on top of a mountain, or you laid all the pages on your floor and changed every sentence your cat stepped on, it doesn’t matter if the final product is good.
And ultimately, every writer has a different editing process. If you want to print your book to edit it, perfect! If you prefer to use Google docs, great!
It’s all about whatever works best for you and allows you to create real progress and change in your manuscript.
What I’ve given you is a guide to get started. Take it, tweak it, make it your own, and go finish your book!
You nod as the light turns green. Time to go, time to move forward.
“Letting fear drive you will only drive you to disappointment,” the narrator reads his book to you. Your speakers beg for just a little more volume to drown out the traffic.
You lean in and turn it up.
This is what you want for your readers, this is what your current readers are missing, and these are the readers/listeners you are missing by not having an audiobook.
There is an entire audience who have no idea that your book could change their lives. In fact, they don’t even know it exists if they only listen to audiobooks.
Don’t worry! We can fix this, just hang out with me for about 10 minutes or so, and you will be equipped with encouragement, inspiration, and most importantly, aplan!
After writing multiple books and recording my own audiobooks, I’ve learned a few things that will help both green and seasoned writers. With so much useful information packed into one post, we’re going to break it down to some basic questions straight from middle-school English class.
Here’s what we’ll cover in relation to audiobook creation (if you’re in a hurry, skip to 1, 3, and 5):
Why not just sell both the digital and the audio? I know the temptation. After investing all this time and money into this audiobook, I need it to “pay” off, so why should I give it away? If that’s a hurdle you can’t get over, at least try using it as a lead magnet for a limited time, then switching to paid. Doing it this way allows for #4 (below) to thrive.
Fewer customer complaints.
When people get something for free, they are less likely to complain about it, though it still happens. However, this releases you from feeling like you have to have the perfect product. As Chandler says, “done is better than perfect.” We’ll cover more in the HOW and WHAT sections.
If you decide to put the book on Audible (the leader in audiobook production) or other sites like Findaway Voices, you will still get sales from people who never took the time to visit your Amazon (or other) page.
The most obvious: Build Your Subscriber List!
Having an author career is a long game. It requires support and a following at the least. This is the point of a lead magnet, to entice readers to sign up for your correspondence. Subscribers by email are gold for an author. Check it out here (and get a free audiobook) to see how the process looks from the subscriber’s side.
None of the other questions matter if we don’t understand our “why.”
As an author, you want to reach a broader audience while also better serving your current readers.
The market for digital and print books is saturated (which isn’t the worst thing), but the audiobook market is still wide open. This is a great time to jump in, stand out, offer more, and expand your reach.
Audiobooks are growing faster than any other digital publishing.
Nearly half of all listeners are under 35 and listen to 15 books a year, claiming that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”
People choose audio for multi-tasking, portability, and the novelty of someone else reading to them.
Podcasts (another growing industry) are a gateway to audiobooks.
Some publishers are skipping ebook production and going straight to audio, recognizing that audiobook sales are independently increasing.
Are you convinced yet?Before you go hire someone or crank up your voice memos,read on to see how best to create your audiobook.
#2 – How do you make an audiobook?
SPS has a great post here about how to make an audiobook. It includes tips on prepping your content, recording, hiring narrators, equipment, uploading to ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) for Audible, and more.
In addition to those things, here are a few tips from my experience when producing my first audiobook.
Use two computers or devices. I used one to handle the recording and audio editing (I chose to do simultaneous editing), and the other to read from while revising. No matter how many times you edit your book, you’ll always want to tweak something; recording your audiobook is no exception. If you’ve hired out your formatting, make notes for them of what you’ve changed.
Keep plenty of water nearby. One time while recording some of my music in a studio, the producer told me to take a drink of water before every take. I didn’t realize how much difference it made until I tried it. Take a deep breath and a big swig before each take.
Don’t beat yourself up for tripping over words. If it keeps happening, take a break. “Ahh! Can you even read? Come on, Michael!” Believe me, I understand the frustration.
Invite or hire a professional or semi-professional to help with setup. If you have any musician friends or podcaster buddies, have them help set up your environment and equipment, down to chair placement and lighting. I made the mistake of trying to do it all by myself (cue Eric Carman) and I ended up re-recording my book 1.5 times—that’s 2.5 total! It was a mess.
BONUS: A crucial piece of advice: listen to audiobooks in your genre. This should sound familiar, as it’s common advice to read the genre you write in, and it’s just as important to listen to it. To be a great writer, you must be an avid reader (and listener!)
With so much screen fatigue, it’s nice to break away and maybe look at, I don’t know, the sky or something real. Try that now…I’ll wait…
Ah, wasn’t that nice?
Let’s get back to business! What makes a good audiobook?
Cast the right voice (even if its yours): coming up in #4: WHO…patience, young grasshopper…
Conviction: Not only does your book need to be believable, but your narrator needs to convey the same conviction as you did when writing it.
Eliminate Mouth Sounds: This. Was. A. Pain. You, like me at one point, probably have no idea how much sound your mouth makes, from breath control to saliva and lip smacks. I ended up hiring someone from Fiverr to go through and edit my four-hour audiobook; the cost was around $300, which included mastering (adjusting the levels and frequencies for the specific ACX requirements).
“Is my book right for audio?”
I would argue that ANY book can be useful as an audiobook!
“What about children’s books?”
Imagine the novelty of having the author narrate his/her own work while the kids flip through the pages, all without having to go to a book-reading.
“How about short, daily reads, like religious devotionals?”
Au contraire…imagine how helpful it could be to have someone walk you through a recipe in real time, hands-free. If that doesn’t quite work, it can still serve to push people to your digital/physical book for reference and pictures.
In fact, some audiobooks come with companion content such as Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman.
By now, you’re seriously considering this audiobook thing. Logically, the next thing to work out is WHO should narrate your book.
#4 – Who should narrate my audiobook?
Having a perfect book will not save you from poor narration. Audible makes it a point to offer a Performance section in their reviews.
Did you also notice the tab below for Amazon Reviews? That’s even more reason to get the “WHAT” right in this entire process.
When it comes to narration, there are two ways to go: do it yourself or hire it out.
Narrating Your Own Book:
There a plenty of advantages here. If you choose this route, you can either set up your own recording space or purchase studio time with an engineer.
Many readers will say they prefer authors to narrate their own works because it’s more authentic to the intentions. However, not all writers are great narrators.
I suggest this, a test run:
Use a phone app or voice recorder and try reading a chapter into it.
Listen back with objective ears, imagining your ideal reader.
Ask yourself if you were drawn in to the story or distracted by the narration. Be honest with yourself, and consider what it would take to make it better: cadence, pronunciation, accent, or perhaps a professional narrator. *If you choose to tackle accents, do your best to respect them rather than stereotyping. Audiobook listeners tend to care about accuracy and honor. For example, in England alone, there are half a dozen or more accents. In America, southern accents vary across states and regions.
Send the sample to an objective friend (preferably one familiar with the accents and style you’re going for), and be open to honest feedback.
If you decide self-narrating isn’t for you, then you can hire a professional.
Tups for hiring a narrator:
Cost: Narrators can be paid in different ways. ACX offers an hourly rate or a 50% split royalties option. There are other ways as well, such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Voices.
Voice: fiction or non, nailing the voice is a make-it-or-break-it detail for many listeners. In fact, Audible has an entire section of its reviews dedicated to Narrator Performance. There is a common consensus that says having an non-preferred narrator is one of the biggest turn-offs for listeners.
Communication: you’ll want to make sure the narrator gets the pronunciations right as well as any specific occasions of sarcasm, humor, drama, timing, or more. They can fix some things in post-production, but changing the pronunciation of a main character’s name after finishing the book would be nearly impossible. It’s not as simple as “Find and Replace” (one of my favorite word processing functions!). ACX has great videos to help with such things.
If this post has stirred you up at all, then you must act!
You and I both know this to be true, so here are some things you can do right now to become a better writer and jump start your audiobook production.
Try the self-narrating tip from #4. For me, I’ve always loved doing impressions and finding new voices and accents. In fact, it has influenced my writing; I now try to include characters whose voices I know I can give life to. Recently, I made one of my characters Scottish, an accent I’ve always admired and respected.
Get started listening with Audible right now if you haven’t already, and start reading reviews, specifically in the Performance section. There are also plenty of free audiobook sources out there.
Continue polishing your book as best you can. Adjustments to the written word are fairly easy, but punching in seamless narration is nearly impossible. It doesn’t have to be perfect though! There is always the option to re-record your book (and likely be even better the next time around) or hire someone else to do it.
These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:
You’re not sure how to get started
It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
You’re insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
You’re afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
You’re worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book
Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.
It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose.
I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Solidifying the purpose fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.
Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.
However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator which will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings have long dissipated.
These are some popular reasons for authors to write a book:
Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
To give others an escape: If you write fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
To change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.
There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.
Your WHY will be unique to you.
Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.
#2 – Get Rid of Your Excuses for Not Writing the Book
You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.
When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.
But you can overcome it.
It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.
Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than a publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.
Excuse #1 – You don’t know what to write.
You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.
In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.
The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.
Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:
But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.
Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.
And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.
The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.
You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!
Excuse #3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading.
Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.
In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.
Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.
And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).
Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:
Only read a chapter or two at night
Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
Be intentional about what you read
Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time
Excuse #4 – You’re “not an expert.”
A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”
The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.
You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know—then you’re expert enough to write a book.
So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.
Excuse #5 – Your first draft must be flawless.
A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.
Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.
As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”
If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.
Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.
#3 – Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect
The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”
You don’t need a writing mentor or coach (though it does help).
You don’t need to read thousands of good books.
You only need one thing: a system for finishing your book.
There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.
As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.
This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”
How to Write a Book Step 2: Pepare to Write a Book
Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.
Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.
#1 – Schedule Your Book Writing Time
Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.
Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”
Step 1 – Develop a writing habit and plan it out
Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams. In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.
Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.
Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.
Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.
If Laura could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.
Step 2 – Choose the time of day you plan to write
You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.
If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.
Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities, or waiting for a meeting to start.
Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.
You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?
One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book. If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.
If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.
Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.
Your book will have
*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*
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Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book is how it comes to life.
If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.
The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.
Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.
It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.
That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.
#2 – Create Your Writing Space
The physical space where you write your book is important. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted.
True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…
…but I suspect that most of these authors would become even more focused and productive if they cleaned up their writing space to make it easier to focus on their writing.
However, that’s just my opinion. The truth is that the “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity.)
You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.
Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!
#3 – Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools
Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?
Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.
Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of writing software.
Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with.
But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.
There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:
We’ll cover all of them for you below.
If you just want a time-tested program that works, Word might be the program for you. It’s the most widely used word processor in the world, which means it’s highly reliable and consistent. It also provides a lot of formatting options and even has a navigation pane you can use to easily find the chapter you’re looking for.
One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.
If you like advanced features, definitely check out Scrivener. It was created specifically for authors, and it contains all sorts of tools that are really helpful for both fiction and nonfiction authors.
For example, you can use the corkboard view to organize how you’ll write your book using virtual notecards:
The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.
If you do decide to go with Scrivener, here’s a Scrivener tutorial for you to learn how to use it best:
You can think of Google Docs as sort of a “Word Lite” program that you can access online, for free. While it doesn’t boast as many features as Word or Scrivener, it’s the hands-down most convenient program out there for sharing and collaboration.
Because everything is stored online, you can access your work from anywhere. And it’s easy to share your work with others and collaborate by leaving comments in the margins:
The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.
Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.
How to Write a Book Step 3: Actually Write Your Book
OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing!
This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.
But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think—if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.
Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book.
What’s a topic you know a lot about or can’t stop talking about?
These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!
Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”
That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!
It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.
#2 – Don’t Censor Yourself
When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.
So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.
On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!
The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.
But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.
Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.
Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.
#3 – Take a Reader-Centric Perspective
While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:
Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own).
Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.
Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.
Ask yourself questions like:
What would my reader be most interested in?
What would my reader most like to learn?
What are my reader’s biggest problems?
What’s the biggest question my readers are asking?
When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.
#4 – Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First
By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?
Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:
Which one can you finish the fastest? Usually, this is the topic where you have the most experience. This is a good thing to keep in mind because the faster you can finish your book, the faster you can get it out in the world where it can earn you money and help people. (And the faster you can get started on your second book!)
Which one are you most likely to finish? Usually, these are the topics you are more passionate about. For your first book, I highly recommend choosing a topic that you’re really passionate about to help make sure that you’ll remain interested throughout the entire process.
Which one is going to make you happy? This is a little harder to define, but it might be something that strikes a chord with you. Maybe there’s a certain book topic that stands out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then go for it! Remember, writing should make you
Now with these tips in mind, choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.
#5 – Come Up With a Title
The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:
Your book title.
You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.
Essentially, the way it works is you’ll create a mind map—sort of a brain dump with a line connecting related ideas together—on your book’s topic.
Start your BookMap by writing your intended topic in the center. From there, answer the questions and add as many related ideas as you can think of. (Again, connect related ideas with a line.) The BookMap gives you the benefits of writing in free-form and creating structure from all the connections you make.
Once you’ve completely filled out your BookMap, the next step is to group all the related ideas into categories. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to do this; just combine your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you.
One way to do this is to rewrite each idea on a fresh piece of paper, this time grouped together in related topics. Or, you could simply use different-colored highlighters to categorize your ideas with different colors.
Either way, the result is the same: when you’re done grouping your ideas, those categories will form the outline for your book—each category is a new chapter. So now you know exactly which topics to write about, and you know which points to cover in every chapter of your book.
If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!
Just choose your type, fiction or nonfiction, submit your information and you’ll have a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your novel.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.
In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
#8 – Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method
You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.
For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.
When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate in areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.
This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.
#9 – Now Write Your Book…One Chapter at a Time
You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.
And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:
Complete a mini-BookMap for that chapter, brainstorming everything you know about this topic. (10 minutes.)
Organize your ideas and turn that BookMap into an outline. (10 minutes.)
Write or speak the chapter by following the outline you just created. (45-60 minutes.)
Repeat this process, chapter by chapter, until your book is completed.
Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline. You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.
Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.
If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.
#10 – Speak Your Book
This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?
Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:
Speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device such as Voice Memos or Audacity.
Get that audio file transcribed using a transcription service like Rev.
Read through the transcription and revise/polish it up.
As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?
If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.
Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.
Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.
#11 – Speed Up Your Writing
Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.
Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:
Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it.
If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section instead.
Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t stop you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
An accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.
How to Write a Book Step 4: Avoid Potholes Along the Way
If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.
So nothing could possibly go wrong…right?
Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book writing roadblocks.
Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems.
#1 – Beat Writer’s Block
Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.
Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.
The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.
Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:
Circle back to your BookMap or outline and see if there’s useful info that sparks fresh inspiration. Sometimes it just takes looking back at the bigger picture to remind you where you’re going with your draft.
Change up the physical way you’re writing; sometimes a simple shift can boost creativity. If you use a laptop, put pen to pad. Try some new music, a new location, or new beverage to sip at your desk.
If you find you start writing slowly and warm up as time goes on, allow adequate time during your writing sessions to get the creative juices flowing.
Review what you wrote yesterday to refresh your memory.
Talk it out. Sometimes a quick conversation with yourself is enough to work through writer’s block. Or call a friend and bounce some ideas off them if you’re truly stuck.
Remember that what you’re writing doesn’t need to be perfect—you’re writing a first draft. If you have a case of perfectionist syndrome, tell yourself it’s okay to write something you’ll think is terrible. Making something good is what second drafts and the editing process is for. Always remember: Done is better than perfect.
Go for a walk. You might be surprised at how a walk outside, or a brief bit of exercise, helps refresh and recharge your creative juices.
Read another author who has a style you like. Read their book for 10 minutes and then start typing, holding their voice in your head.
#2 – Don’t Edit While You Write
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing.
In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.
But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.
Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.
That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.
Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.
#3 – Format Your Book Properly
Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.
The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?
Nonfiction books tend to use block paragraphs, like this:
Avoid using hard indents. (Don’t hit “tab” at the beginning of a new paragraph; instead, change the paragraph settings to automatically give each paragraph the indentation you want.)
Only use one space after a period. (Using 2 spaces was necessary with typewriters, but not with computers.)
If you want to create a page break, do not hit “Enter” repeatedly until you reach the next page. Instead, use the “Page break” function. This is the only way to ensure that your page break will work even after people resize your book on their Kindle.
#4 – Keep Going, & Don’t Stop—You’re Almost There!
Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!
Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them.
With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.
How to Write a Book Step 5: Launch Your Book Successfully
By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.
You’ve written a book.
But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.
Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.
If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.
#1 – Get a Good Cover
We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.
Here are a few examples from some of my own books:
Notice a couple things. First of all, it’s orange—which helps it to stand out and grab attention. Second, it’s super-clear what the book is about. The title is in the upper third of the book in large print, so you can read it even in a thumbnail.
Both covers were designed using the same basic principles. They’re simple, bold covers that stand out. They also have subtitles that clarify exactly what the book is about.
Now this style of cover works great for my niche, but it won’t necessarily work for every type of book.
For example, it would make a terrible cover for a romance novel!
Why? Well, in short, it doesn’t look like a romance novel. Remember that part of a cover’s job is to tell people what the book is about. And in many genres of fiction and nonfiction, readers have come to expect a certain type of book cover.
In order to clearly communicate what your book is about to your ideal readers, you need it to fit in with their expectations—while also standing out enough to grab their attention. This is another reason why it pays to head over to the Amazon bestselling books list and study some of the most successful books in your genre.
What do those covers look like? Do they share a similar layout? Color scheme? Font style?
For example, if you were writing a romance novel, you would want to study these covers:
Find out what the most successful books in your genre look like, then imitate that look—but change it up just enough so that it stands out and grabs your readers’ attention. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers.
Step 1 is pretty simple: you want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family.
This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.
Step 2 can vary from person to person. What do your friends & family get in return for helping you? In many cases, they get things like:
A free copy of your book
Their name mentioned in the “Acknowledgements” part of your book
The chance to be part of something inspiring
The personal satisfaction of helping to create something meaningful
As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.
(This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you.)
But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.
#3 – Get Ongoing Reviews
If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:
It loves reviews.
One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.
If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.
When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:
Reviews are a fantastic form of social proof. They’re a credibility sign that lots of people have read your book and loved it—and that makes other people more likely to want to read it, too.
But you have to be careful about how you go about trying to get Amazon reviews. For example, you can get in big trouble if you try to pay for reviews, swap reviews with other authors, or offer free gifts in exchange for reviews.
You can solicit reviews, but they cannot be “incentivized” reviews.
The best way to learn how to write a bestselling book is to get help from somebody who’s been there before.
People often ask me how I was able to make so much money and sell so many copies of my very first book. And I always tell them the same thing:
Because I sought out a mentor. Someone to teach me a proven book-writing process that had been tried and tested. A book-writing system that was almost guaranteed to work, as long as I followed it properly.
Well, that’s the real secret to my success as an author. I sought out the help I needed to give my very first book a major head-start.
My Final Tip for Learning How to Write a Book
And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.
If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE→
So you have a killer book idea….the next step is taking that small idea and learning how to mindmap for a book in order to set yourself up for success.
Coming up with a writing prompt or story idea that both will interest you and drive sales is probably the hardest part of self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the process of taking that idea and turning it into a book will be easy.
The first major step in that process is mindmapping, and in this blog, we’re going to explain the best ways of how to mindmap for a book.
One might wonder why mindmapping is even necessary. First-time authors may find it tedious or boring while other full-time writers might be talented enough to get away with it.
Mindmapping may not be essential to a successful rough draft, but it makes getting to a refined manuscript a whole lot easier.
For a fun relatable metaphor, I would compare it to grocery shopping.
Do you really go to the grocery store without a plan or list of things to buy? Do you aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and just throw whatever looks good into the cart?
Maybe if you’re 10, and Mom’s buying, but most people would probably say they went to the store with the intention to buy certain items. In this comparison, the prepared list before heading to the store is your mindmap.
And from your mindmap, you create your book outline.
For that step, check this out:
Book Outline Template Generator
We’ve already put the brunt work in, creating front matter, and a fill-in-the-blank style book outline template that’s easy to use.
It even has guidance for what to cover in what chapters in order to plot a really good book readers will love.
Fill in your information below to get your outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your novel.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.
In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
Without your grocery list, it will take a lot longer walking up and down every aisle to make sure you have everything you want and need in your cart. There’s also a greater possibility that you forget something that you actually do need, and you won’t notice until you’re home.
You can also check out the training below in order to not on understand the importance of this step, but to get a better idea of what you need to set your book up for success:
#1 – Mindmapping helps organize thoughts of your book
After you initially devise the main idea or theme of your book, there’s probably a ton of loose thoughts in your mind of what you want to include.
Before losing them in the cobwebs of your head, write them down in your mindmap!
Mindmapping is all about getting every single, teeny-weeny thought or concept written down on paper. Then you can begin organizing which thought goes where.
Doing this as you write is nearly impossible. Mindmapping helps get all your thoughts on one subject together in one place. That way, they are all grouped together in your book, and you didn’t forget any (like when you forgot to buy peanut butter at the grocery store).
#2 – Mindmapping begins to naturally carve out book chapters
When authors perform the grouping part of mindmapping, they are actually beginning to form the chapters of their book. This happens so seamlessly, that they might not even realize it!
If you tried to skip mindmapping and subsequently, outlining, and just began writing the rough draft, you might not know where to begin.
Well, after mindmapping, because you wrote out all of your thoughts of every idea you had on each topic, you now know which topics are the most important and have the most supporting information.
Start your book with those bigger topics. When you make a switch in topics during your writing, you know it’s time to begin a new chapter.
As I said in the grocery store example, it’s much easier to forget an item that you need in the refrigerator if you’re just aimlessly walking around the store looking for what you need.
If that’s how you approach your book, you will likely forget to discuss a topic or make a point that you wanted.
Devising a plan for your book through mindmapping helps guarantee that doesn’t happen. It also pushes you to continue brainstorming. You may believe you already have enough to cover a certain subject, but going through the mindmapping process will push you to think of even more great ideas to include when writing your book.
Now that you understand the importance of mindmapping, let’s dive into how to mindmap for a book.
Choose Your Method of Mindmapping Your Book
After learning the three key aspects of why mindmapping is necessary to write a strong manuscript, you’re ready to begin your mindmap.
Now, there are essentially two different ways to mindmap. Let’s dive into each one!
The two different ways to mindmap for a book:
Bubble maps on printer paper
Post-it notes on a bulletin board
Each author should choose the mindmap technique that makes them feel the most comfortable.
Self-Publishing School teaches to avoid using a computer when performing the mindmap phase. I couldn’t agree more.
Surely, it can be done on a laptop or a tablet, especially an interactive one where the user can use his fingers to write and draw. But I find a good, old-fashioned paper and pencil to be the best way to mind map.
You can also use post-it notes if that’s your preferred style.
Mindmap Option #1 – Bubble map on printer paper
The last real requirement before beginning is a piece of paper without lines. Printer paper would work best. Because of the added flexibility of erasing, I would also advise a pencil instead of a pen, but that’s my preferred use of writing utensil anyway.
On the first piece of paper, write your book topic (make it as general as possible) real big in the middle and circle it.
Next, take the more specific topics and put them in smaller circles around the big circle in the middle of the page. Draw a line from each little circle to the big, center circle.
Now, you have the beginning of your mindmap. More than likely, each of those smaller circles are going to turn into your chapters. Essentially, you’re creating a roadmap for your rough draft.
Here are the keys to successful first bubble midmap:
Make your central topic in the biggest circle as general as possible.
The reasons you want to write the book or important arguments you want to present will make the best topics in the second-tiered bubbles.
Continue your roadmap, writing key aspects to include for each topic to fill out the mindmap.
When you’re finished, you are going to have something that looks a little like this:
How to Mindmap For Your Book Using the Bubble Method
Everyone has slightly different methods for mindmapping a book. What I’m taking you through is my experience, plus some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Keep in mind that this is just a base. The real benefit comes from making this process your own and finding what works.
If someone asked me what my book was about, I would be a lot more specific than that, but start very general in the mindmap.
Staying general allows the secondary bubbles—the ones that directly link to your very general topic—to be the main subjects of the chapters in the book.
#2 – Secondary Topics Are Your Central Arguments
More than likely, the general topic is what the subject that you love, but your central arguments are the secondary topics of your mindmap.
They are also what is going to make your book unique.
Returning to my book as an example, I wanted to write a book about the James Bond film series. But many people have done that.
What makes my book unique is the secondary bubbles on my mindmap surrounding the generic topic. Those were the central arguments to my book, and eventually, they became my chapters.
#3 – Branch off from your secondary topics
Referencing my mindmap example again, you can see that each secondary bubble then has multiple bubbles of thoughts coming out of it.
This is where you start to see a “road” for your rough draft.
I wrote down every possible idea I had on each of my topics that links to my general subject. I basically kept writing and making more road until I ran out of paper.
A lot of the ideas I wrote here were already in my head, but I also came up with new ideas through the process of mindmapping.
I never would have came up with all of these concepts if I hadn’t taken the time to mindmap.
How to Mindmap Your Book With the Post-it Notes on Bulletin Board Method
The other way to construct a mindmap is with post-it notes on a bulletin board or wall. If you love post-it notes, this may be the best way for you.
The keys to a successful post-it notes map is the same as the bubble map. The only change is in the display.
In the above example, each big piece of paper with a number in the middle marks a chapter and certain topic pertaining to your larger, general subject. Each colored post-it note applies to a chapter and is the same as the third-tiered bubbles from my own mindmap.
Both techniques will work. You choose which one is best for you!
After completing your first mindmap, you want to repeat this process for every chapter.
The post-it notes picture above is the beginning of the next step of the process, which is then mindmapping each chapter. If you prefer the printer paper mindmapping technique, then repeat the exact same mindmap except plug your more specific topic in the middle.
This allows you more space and enables you to get even more detailed with your roadmap.
Notice how I included even more details off the “masculinity” bubble in this mindmap than I did in the first one. The main mindmap was definitely a good starting point, but then diving into a mindmap for each major topic or chapter pushed me to brainstorm even further.
This will have the same affect on you and place you well on the path of writing a well organized rough draft.
Tip: Another way to think of your mindmap is to think backward from the outlining phase, which comes directly after the mindmap.
While the bubble roadmap and the post-it bulletin board are the most popular mindmaps, there are other techniques you could try! Here’s one more example of a mindmap:
Yes, this looks more like a book outline than mindmap, but if you feel more comfortable with a list like this, then do that.
There’s no right or wrong to mindmapping. The important part is to really begin brainstorming that great book idea and begin organizing your thoughts into possible chapters.
Last big key to a mindmap? Remember, it’s going to change
Let’s return to our grocery store list analogy to end our blog. Even with the best, most-detailed shopping list, we all tend to deviate from it sometimes. Whether an item that you don’t necessarily need is on sale or you find a different brand for cheaper price, audibles to the shopping list happen.
Keep that in mind when you’re mindmapping. This isn’t going to be EXACTLY how your final draft will go. The mindmap process is just supposed to place authors on a road to an organized and well thought-out first draft.
Your life is busy and sometimes you want all the (book-related) goods in one place. We heard you – and we listened!
Chandler Bolt created this all-in-one exclusive training for serious soon-to-be-authors. If you want to learn how to outline and everything else about the book writing process, make sure to sign up to save your spot!
Because if you want to learn how to outline, you may as well get as much information as you can right away. Trust us, it’ll make your writing process that much easier.
What is a Book Outline?
A book outline is a roadmap or blueprint for your story. It tells you where you need to go and when in chronilogical order.
It’s easy to see this term and wonder exactly what that means. Is it a bullet list of topics for your book? Is it a chapter by chapter overview written in paragraphs?
No matter how you write an outline, the purpose is the same.
Think of it as a GPS of sorts but instead of giving you driving directions, your outline will give you writing directions.
Why Should I Write a Book Outline?
No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. It’s not just about getting your thoughts on the paper, either. It’s about so much more than the actual writing.
ensure you can focus on the quality of your writing instead of what to write
You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time learning how to outline a book, but some (mostly painless!) prep before writing will be time well-spent since you won’t be spinning your wheels by staring at the blank screen of death.
When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing.
Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating. Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.
Once you have a plan to write your book in outline form, you’ll be better able to put these thoughts to paper and compose your chapters when you do sit down to write.
And I have some good news: there’s no “right” way to outline. Each writer will have their own process that’s personal to them.
Keep reading for tips on how to outline different ways. If one of these exact methods doesn’t strike a chord with you, you can combine methods to create your own way that works best for your unique book.
Are you writing a fiction or non-fiction book? Depending on which you’re working on, the outlining process may look be different.
Thankfully, there are plenty of relevant tips you can apply in the section about outlining a non-fiction book. Likewise, even if you’re writing non-fiction, the section on how to write a fiction outline can help spark some ideas for your process, so we recommend authors of all types of books read the full list.
How to Write a Nonfiction Book Outline
Most non-fiction authors find outlines useful due to the nature of their books. Generally, works of non-fiction require research and citation of sources (although many novels require their own research!).
An outline can help organize your research so it doesn’t overwhelm you, plus your outline will help you create the best structure for your finished book.
These are some of the beneficial methods we recommend for you.
#1 – Mindmap + Book Outline
This is the main method of outlining that we teach in Self-Publishing School. The mindmap method requires you to create a brain dump based on your book’s topic. Write your topic in the center of a piece of paper, then use lines and words to draw as many connections as you can.
It doesn’t need to make perfect sense from the get-go—the goal is free-form thinking to get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.
You’ll start to notice connections between different categories of information. This makes it easier to spot the relevant “book-worthy” ideas. Then you can pluck those ideas out of your mindmap and put them into a cohesive book outline.
We also recommend doing a mindmap for each chapter you select from your original mindmap. It will help you structure your entire book chapter by chapter.
Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless!
At Self-Publishing School, we encourage students to make a mess with their mindmap. Regardless of what your mind map looks like in the end, it is an essential element to your book writing process.
This mind map will be the jumping off point for you to begin your outline. In this brief video, Chandler explains how to turn your mindmap into an outline:
#2 – Simple Book Outline
A simple book outline is just as it sounds; keep it basic and brief. Start with the title. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect title at this stage of the process; you just want to come up with a good-for-now placeholder.
You can always change the title later—in fact, you probably will—but starting with some kind of title gives you a better idea of where you want your book to go.
Plus, outlining your book this way jump-starts the creative process.
Next, you’ll list all of the key points that cover your book’s overall theme and message. You’ll use these key points to generate your notes. Later, you’ll flesh out these notes to draft your book chapters.
#3 – Chapter-by-Chapter Book Outline
Your chapter-by-chapter book outline is a pumped-up version of the simple book outline.
To get started, first create a complete chapter list. With each chapter listed as a heading, you’ll later add material or shift chapters around as the draft evolves.
Create a working title for each chapter, and list them in a logical order. After that, you’ll fill in the key points of each chapter.
Finally, you’ll link your resources as they would appear in each chapter, including books, interviews, and Web links.
Here’s a great example of a chapter-by-chapter nonfiction book outline completed with bullet lists:
#4 – Sketch Your Book Outline
Perhaps you find the idea of a written outline confining. That’s OK — there’s another option which might appeal to your artistic side.
If you like being uber-organized, then the writing softwareScrivener might appeal to you. Their book outline program allows you to upload your research, organize it by moving it around, and filing it into folders.
Like many writing software programs, it does have a fairly extensive learning curve, which can be a major downside—especially if you tend to procrastinate and really want to get your book published quickly.
However, some writers say it revolutionized their organizational process for longer works.
Your goal with the Basic Document format is to use a Word or Excel table to give structure to your theme. Create a table and organize and summarize your key points and plot.
You’ll then create a separate section for characters and themes, and an additional section with relevant research.
#2 – Post-It Wall
This is for the creative mind, and another method we teach in Self-Publishing School. All you need is a blank wall and a box of Post-It notes. Carry a pad of Post-Its with you wherever you go, and doodle your book on the fly.
Write your ideas and inspiration on your Post-Its when the mood strikes you.
Next, affix the Post-Its containing words, snippets, doodles, and phrases to the wall. After a week of this exercise, organize these words into novel outline form. Voila—simple, effective, creative!
#3 – The Snowflake Method
The Snowflake Method was created by fiction writing coach Randy Ingermanson based on the notion, “Good fiction doesn’t just happen. It’s designed.”
The process of the snowflake method focuses on starting small, then expanding. For example, you’d start with one line from your book, then add a paragraph, then add a chapter.
Since the snowflake method is fairly detailed and based on scientific theory, Randy’s article is worth a read so you can review the detailed steps involved in this outlining method.
#4 – The Skeletal Outline
If you’ve ever written a term paper or thesis, then you’re probably familiar with the skeletal outline. You’ll lay out your narrative points in the order they’ll appear in your story, which involves a broad 7-step story arch.
This gives you a big picture idea of the flow of your story, so you can adjust your story and add subplots for maximum impact.
#5 – Novel Outline Template
Why reinvent the wheel? If you’re impatient to jump right into the fun part—writing!—or you aren’t sure exactly how to format your novel outline, then a pre-formatted template outline might be your saving grace.
A fill-in-the-blank novel outline can help you develop your plot, characters, and ideas without getting bogged down with the notion of striving for “proper” outline form.
#6 – The Reverse Outline
Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can give you the answer to the question. The same applies to outlining.
Reverse outlining is exactly what it sounds like: Write down how your novel ends. Then once you know the ending, outline backward to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.
This method often helps if you want to plant seeds and have a lot of shocking foreshadowing moments.
Authors like George R.R. Martin have to use these methods in order to make sure the plot lines up.
Here’s the takeaway:No matter which option you choose, ultimately, you’ll write faster and better with a book outline. If one way doesn’t work well for you, then experiment and try another. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.”
Discover what works best for you and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.
Lucky for me, I didn’t give up on writing a book just because I didn’t know how to do it. Instead I sought out a mentor who knew what they were doing—and his advice helped me to write my first book and make it a huge success.
I’ve continued to use that system for all my subsequent books, which has helped me to write my books in just a fraction of the time it takes many other writers.
Now I’m paying it forward and sharing that advice with you.
Download Your Book Outline Template
We really did create an easy, fill-in-the-blank style book outline template in Google Docs for you to use.
All you have to do is fill out the information below and get your outline, complete with front and back matter, along with resources to guide you through the chapter-by-chapter outline.
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your novel.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.
In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
The BookMap is the key to getting your book project off the ground in just a few hours. It’s a template you can follow to quickly pull together all the subjects you want to write about and organize them into topics that will become the chapters of your book.
Step 1: Print out the BookMap and have a few clean sheets of paper ready.
Step 2: Use the BookMap template to draw your own map with everything you know about that topic.
Step 3: Organize those sections to form your book outline.
(Note: don’t let your ideas hold you back! It may be a little difficult to fit all your ideas onto one page and that’s totally normal. Don’t think smaller just because you have less space :).
Now let’s dive into each step in a little more detail.
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 1: Choose Your Book Topic
First things first: you have to download the BookMap. There are 2 versions of this (free) download—one for fiction books and one for nonfiction books.
As you can see, the BookMap is a kind of mind map that’s been pre-filled with the most relevant questions you’ll need to answer to write your book. And no matter which version of the BookMap you’re using, you’ll notice that the center question is the same:
What’s your book topic?
So first, go ahead and choose a topic. What do you want your book to be about?
For a nonfiction book, this could anything that…
Is a hobby of yours
Is related to your occupation
You are passionate about
You consider yourself an expert on
You’re curious to learn more about
And for a fiction book, think about what you’re inspired to write! Do you love mysteries, or coming-of-age stories? Are you fascinated with a particular event in history, a specific person, or a concept that can be dramatized in a novel?
Another tip is to think about the kind of books you love to read. That’s usually a good indication that you will enjoy writing that kind of book. If you love reading romances novels or science fiction books, then try writing one yourself! Because you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll be able to shortcut the learning curve and will probably be surprised by how great a story you can write in your very first try.
Once you have a topic, move on to step 2:
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 2: Fill Out the BookMap
Now that you have a topic for your book, the next step is to brainstorm everything you know about that topic by filling out the BookMap. This will help you get all the most important and relevant ideas down on paper, making them much easier to work with.
Here are some of the most important prompts to answer when you’re writing a book:
BookMap Prompts for a Nonfiction Book
What problems are you helping people to solve? A lot of people make the mistake of writing about themselves—the things they love, the things they find interesting—without stopping to consider what the reader wants.
What are your reader’s problems and frustrations? How can you help them to solve those problems with this book?
Example: I know from experience that new moms have a hard time losing that baby weight—especially since you’ve got a little infant taking up all your time now. So I’m going to help new moms overcome this frustrating situation with a book that will help them make smarter choices in the kitchen and ultimately, feel better about themselves.
Lessons you’ve learned: Think about how you have personally grown over the years, as it relates to this topic. What are the biggest things that you’ve learned?
How have your views changed and evolved over time? This can be an insightful thing to brainstorm, since it can help you get a better idea of where your readers are probably at right now and some of the challenges they’re facing.
Example: One thing I learned in the process of losing my baby weight is that you can’t beat yourself up every time you make a mistake. Doing that will only lead to more emotional eating!
Stories & examples: People learn best from hearing stories about real people overcoming real problems. What stories can you remember that will help you to illustrate your points more effectively?
Example: My friend Mindy tried to lose her weight through exercise alone, without changing her diet. And she continued to gain weight—until she finally realized that she needed to change the foods she was putting in her body.
Ideas to explore: What concepts or themes can you bring up in your book? Does your topic relate to any deep ideas or universal truths that might resonate with your readers?
Example: One idea I want to explore is the importance of self-esteem. Yes, it’s important to be at a healthy weight…but what really matters is the way you feel about yourself—no matter what the scale says!
Other books you’ve read: Have you read any other books on the topic? If so, did those books have any helpful messages you can include in your book?
Example: In Dr. Berg’s book The New Body Type Guide, he talks about how your hormones can impact your body shape. This could be a helpful thing for women to learn about, so they can realize not everything is under their control.
Topics to research: Are there any other topics you would like to include in your book, but you might need more time to learn more about? If so, make a note of them so you can remember to do a little research.
Example: I’d like to do more research on insulin and learn more about how carbohydrates affect fat storage.
Frequently asked questions: Are there common questions, myths, or misconceptions about your topic that people have? If so, your book gives you a great way to bust those myths and enlighten people with the truth. Try to think up at least a few common misconceptions.
Example: “Should I avoid eating fat?” This is a common question for many women. Some people think that eating fat will make you fat…but the truth is, eating healthy fats can actually help keep you feeling fuller, longer so you can stick to your diet.
Ready to get started outlining your non-fiction book?
BookMap Questions for a Fiction Book
Main characters: Who are the main characters in your story? Flesh them out and start to learn more about who they are and what their purpose is in your story. Make sure to include your protagonist, antagonist, and any important supporting characters.
Example: Sarah is a stubborn teenage girl who becomes convinced that her neighbor is a serial killer.
Background: Explore your important characters’ backgrounds. Where were they born? What was their childhood like? What’s the educational level? What are their beliefs? Where do they work? Flesh out your characters until they start to feel like real people.
Example: Sarah was betrayed by her best friend in 5th grade, and as a result she has a hard time trusting people.
Character development: How does each character change and grow (or regress) during the course of the story? What causes this change to occur, and what effect does it have on the other characters?
Example: Sarah learns to trust other people which helps her to escape from the killer and bring him to justice.
Theme: What larger ideas do you want to explore in this book? Betrayal, love, friendship? How do the events of your story shed a new light on these concepts?
Example: I want to explore the concept of trust, and why you can’t always do it alone in life.
Scene & setting: Where do your story take place? Is it a real location, a historical one, an invented one? Be sure to think about different factors like the climate, geography, culture, and government. How do these things affect the characters in your story?
Example: Sarah lives in a wealthy suburb where crime like this is very uncommon, which makes it that much more terrifying to Sarah’s parents.
Major events: What are the big turning points that take place in your story? Your best bet is to brainstorm a long list of dramatic events so you can choose the options that fit best in your story.
Example: At one point, Sarah sneaks into the neighbor’s house looking for clues—and she discovers a bloody knife in the basement! Before she can get out, however, she hears the front door open upstairs…
Climax: The climax is where your story reaches a crisis point. Tension and drama are at their highest, and the protagonist faces his or her worst fears—and they either succeed, or fail, for good. Don’t lock yourself into one climax here. Instead, brainstorm a few possible climax ideas so you can choose the best one.
Example: At the story’s climax, Sarah is forced to trust her new friend Alex to help her escape from the killer’s basement.
Conclusion: Your conclusion takes place after the climax, at the very end of your book. What happens to your characters when it’s all said and done? Do they live happily ever after, or face a tragic end? Once again, feel free to brainstorm several possibilities. You don’t have to lock yourself into one ending just yet.
Example: It’s a happy ending for Sarah, who survives the killer and grows as a person. But the ending is bittersweet because of all the tragedy the killer has left in his wake.
Ready to get started writing your fiction book?
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 3: Organize Common Topics into Sections
The final step in this process is to look at your BookMap and combine all the related topics into sections. Those sections will become the chapters of your book.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
You could write them out on a separate piece of paper, keeping them organized by section. Or you could use different colored highlighters to connect the ideas in your BookMap visually.
No matter how you choose to do it, the idea is the same: combine all the related ideas together.
Nonfiction example:Maybe you have an anecdote that would serve as a great example for one of the lessons you want to share. In that case, group those 2 things together—they deserve to be in the same chapter.
Fiction example: Maybe one of your character traits really seems to resonate with one of the themes you want to explore in your book. If so, group those 2 things together—this way you’ll know to use that character trait as a way of exploring that theme in your novel.
Once you’re done with Step 3, step back and take a look at what you’ve completed.
Phew! Step 2 is a long one, I know. But trust me—by answering those questions, you just took a MAJOR step forward in completing your book.
You now have all the topics you need to write your outline.
Let’s dive into exactly what these writing blogs have to offer and why you should be paying close attention to them if you want to improve your writing, start your book, and publish it on Amazon (or wherever else you want to publish it through)!
There are a lot of different avenues writers have to be aware of when it comes to building a successful career from their work.
And Write to Done gives you just that!
Being both a creative writing blog along with covering nonfiction writing, Write to Done teaches you how to master a number of different techniques and habits geared toward helping you succeed in the literary world.
You don’t want to miss out on all the writing advice they have to offer along with motivational material to help you keep it up.
The Write Practice is a massive source of helpful information for writers everywhere. They cover writing blog posts touching on topics revolving around key writing practices, writing exercises, and even writing prompts to get your mind stirring.
You won’t be without help with The Write Practice.
Not only do they offer free help through their blog posts, but they also have programs, writing contests, and help involving your author platform in general.
All of these writing blogs have something unique to offer that you won’t find any anywhere else. When it comes to learning any craft – especially writing – it’s important to broaden your search and learn as much as you can from as many talented minds as you can.
Full Disclaimer: We are affiliates of the Pete Vargas course. That does not affect any of the breakdowns below.
What that does mean, however, that if you buy through our link, we’ll earn a commission on your purchase. It also means that you will earn access to over $7,000 of exclusive bonuses.
What is the Stage to Scale?
Stage to scale is a proven method developed by Pete Vargas for both entrepreneurs and business owners to learn how to scale their businesses through speaking and attending stages—developed for both experienced speakers and newbies.
Often referred to as “The Stage Whisperer,” Vargas has booked over 25,000 stages in the past 15 years, helping businesses of all kinds flourish in this more-competitive-than-ever environment.
There are obvious pros to the Stage to Scale method. Self-Publishing School alone was able to generate $1,000,000 in sales using this very method.
Here’s a breakdown of the best parts.
#1 – Relevant for both the beginner and advanced speakers
From the start, Pete does an awesome job of letting you know that this course if for both the beginner speaker that has never stepped on a stage, to the most advanced speaker looking to increase their results.
The way that Pete ensures this is through teaching based on principles and frameworks such as the heart, head, hand, and heart speaking framework, that you can use to create a powerful signature talk.
This is so powerful that here at Self Publishing School, we’ve had both our Founder Chandler Bolt as well as our speaking team design their own signature talks based on this framework.
#2 – Pat Quinn is phenomenal
Although Pete Vargas does an amazing job throughout the majority of the course, I’d have to say that he is no match for the unbelievable teacher that is Pat Quinn.
Pat brings to the table the background of a cognitive scientist expert, as well as a professional magician. And what that means for you is a combination of both entertaining and scientifically proven way to learn, retain and apply the information that you learn throughout this course.
Ever have a hard time retaining what you’ve learned in a course? I guarantee that will not be an issue with Pat Quinn’s teaching.
#3 – This is not a speaking course
This is a grow your business through speaking course.
Although the speaking content in the course is great, this course was not meant to help you become a better speaker.
The Stage to Scale course was designed to help you use stages and speaking as a key channel to find qualified leads, spread your message and attain clients.
Pete goes into extreme detail about to structure your talk so that it actually converts. He also goes deep into how to create a backend offer that will allow you to drive huge revenue numbers for just one-hour on the right stage.
If you are looking for just a way to sound better during your presentations, this course is not for you.
But if you are really looking to use stages and speaking as a true driver of growth in your business, then you should definitely consider the Stage to Scale method.
#4 – The Unstoppable Stage Campaign
Most people don’t know how to book stages in the first place. They think they need to hire an agent, create a speaking reel, join national speaking organizations, and hope that one day an email with a request to speak will come into their inbox.
The reality is that none of that is necessary. If you were to ask our team why were we able to get on 24 stages and generate over $1,000,000 from those stages in 2018, the main reason would be the Unstoppable Stage Campaign.
In this training, Pete breaks down everything from Gold-Mining, Finding Your Dream Stage, Cold-Outreach Approaches, and Closing the Deal.
This alone is worth the price of the course.
#5 – The templates and scripts are unreal
I’ve found that in courses that teach through principles and frameworks, a lot of times you can still feel stuck once it’s time to execute.
One of the best practices that Pete Vargas uses in his Stage to Scale course is he actually gives you word-for-word templates and scripts that you can use to:
Reach out to meeting planners
Execute a win-win call where you position yourself as the solution to the meeting planners problem (hint: that’s how you actually win stages)
Get referrals from your ‘champions’ to win stages within your network (this is the easiest way to get booked)
Create a ‘Why Me Video” to showcase how you are the right person to solve a specific problem to any event planner’s audience
We’ve personally used these scripts to book over 40 stages over the last 18 months for our founder Chandler Bolt and our team, so I know they work like magic.
Stage to Scale Method Cons & Areas of Improvement
Alright, so I’ve shared a lot of the awesome resources and learning you’ll be getting once you go through the Stage to Scale course.
What about the not-so-good stuff?
Well, as much as this course over-delivers in multiple areas, there may be things that are you may not like.
#1 – Lack of Mindset Training
Now, if you are looking to learn the exact how-to’s on booking stages, executing amazing talks, and growing your business, there is very little missing in this course.
However, the reality is that you will need to have a great mindset to deal with the out-of-comfort-zone moments that you will face while implementing this course.
This isn’t a course that you can get results from by just sitting back and letting a program do all the work. You’ll have to send cold emails, negotiate with meeting planners, and speak in front of large audiences.
All of this is taught in the course, but you’ll still have to overcome your limiting beliefs in order to actually do it and get a return on your investment.
A small section on how to get over those limiting beliefs could have been a good addition to the already amazing content in the course.
#2 – No examples of High Converting Talks
Although there is more than enough content in the Signature Talk section for you craft your own talk, some people might prefer to actually see what a high-converting talk following Pete’s methodology actually looks like!
What are the nuances that the great speakers have, how do they carry themselves on stage, etc?
We all know that body language makes up 80% or more of all communication. The great news is, however, that we’ve recorded multiple of Chandler Bolt’s talks that generated as much as $110,000 from one event.
In fact, you get you to watch that talk here as a part of one of our bonuses when you enroll in Stage to Scale with us!
And if you have ever wanted to land a TEDx talk, check how Chandler used Pete’s Story Braid Framework to deliver an incredible message about how book creates leveraged impact.
What You’ll Learn With Pete Vargas’ Stage to Scale Method
The course is broken into 7 modules and additional bonus content such as how to land a TEDx Talk.
Module 1: The Foundation
Using stages to grow your business is not an easy task.
That’s why before you start crafting your talk, booking your dream stage, and impacting millions, you need to have the right foundations set.
The foundations you will learn include:
Why Stages Matter
How to find your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
The Stage to Scale Success Method
This is a powerful module. Make sure to go deep on your BHAG exercises, and listen closely as Pete takes you through the Stage to Scale Success Method, and your chance of success will sky-rocket.
Module 2: Crafting Your Signature Talk
Have you ever wondered about the formula that the best speakers in the world use to craft their talks?
Not only that but wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to start from scratch every time you gave a new presentation (no matter if the talk time was 60 minutes or 5 minutes)?
In this module, Pete and Pat will walk you through how to:
Use the Story Braid Framework to create a high-converting talk
When to share your call to action with an audience (so that you don’t sound salesy)
How to expand and contract your content to fit any talk time
How to open and close your talk so that your audience feels connected to you
Module 3: Deliver and Maximize Your Talk
What separates the good from the best?
This one is good.
A lot of courses talk about the intricacies of a subject, but only a few actually deliver. In this section, Pete and Pat hold nothing back. Everything from pacing to ‘embedding’, to reducing risk and increasing urgency is covered so that you can quickly go from average to world-class (seriously).
I do warn you that implementing all of this at once, maybe a bit overwhelming.
So take your take and try to add one piece of advice at a time to your signature talk.
Module 4: Create Your Scaling Offer
Zig Ziglar once said, “I’ve never changed anyone’s life from the stage, but if they buy my cassettes, I then have a chance at changing their life.“
Zig was right.
The stage is the key that opens the door to being able to go deeper with someone and truly creating transformation in their lives with your products or services.
This module is all about understanding the different ways that you can scale past the stage with your audience, and how to turn those ideas into reality.
Pete breaks down in amazing depth the pros and cons of those methods which include courses, coaching programs, in-person intensives, and others.
This is a very powerful exercise for you as a business owner whether or not you choose to use stages as a way to find your dream clients.
Module 5: Collect and Convert
There is a delicate art to converting from the stage. What most people don’t know, however, is how to convert after the stage and maximize your revenue long after your 60 minutes are up.
You’ll want to dive into this training to learn:
3 types of opt-ins and the exact format of what converts the highest from stage
The Art of collecting leads – maximize your opt-in rate (this will even help you off stage)
The Step-by-step playbook of what to do pre-game, game time, and post-game to maximize sales (our complete checklist)
Full disclaimer – this is where your most or your money will be made (so pay close attention).
Module 6: The Business Model of Speaking
When most people think ‘stages’ they think of you speaking in front of a full room of spectators, giving a well-prepared talk for either 45 or 60 minutes at a time.
Also, when they hear that our founder Chandler Bolt spoke 24 times in 2018 alone, they usually are worried that they will also have to spend time on the road and away from their family…
The reason why Stage to Scale is so powerful is because Pete Vargas completely re-writes what most people believe of stages to be.
In this module, he will help you discover the 5 types of revenue-generating stages that you can take advantage of.
He will also breakdown the 8 online and 8 off-line stages and will help you identify which ones are ideal for you (hint: if you don’t want to travel, take advantage of the online stages, they work just as well, and sometimes even better than off-line stages).
Module 7: Winning Stages
Pete Vargas says that he wants to impact 100,000,000 people through 1,000,000 stages. That mission is what drives him and his team, and he wants you to help him reach that number.
In this section, Pete finally reveals why they call him the Stage Whisperer.
He walks you through his Unstoppable Stage campaign, responsible for helping him personally book over 25,000 stages out of his offices.
Pete also helps you understand the decision-makers who hold the key to your dream stages so that you can solve their needs and close the deal every single time.
This is my personal favorite and I have probably watched this training at least 15 times. It is that powerful and you will want to reference it often.
Bonus #2: The Stage Whisperer Blueprint – $999 Value for FREE
Has the thought of doing your own research, reaching out to event planners, and negotiating deals sound like the last thing that you want to do? You know that your value is truly in being the one on stage, and not the one setting up the stages?
Chandler Bolt thought the same thing.
That’s why we created an exclusive training called The Stage Whisperer Blueprint, designed to help you find, hire, train and manage a rockstar stages manager, who will book on only the best stages so that you can focus on doing what you do best. Sharing your message.
Bonus #3 – How Self Publishing School Went from 0 – $1 Million in Revenue from Stages (Live with Chandler Bolt) – $5,000 Value for FREE
Honestly didn’t think Chandler would agree to this.
He’ll be peeling back that curtains and going deep on a live training around exactly how Self Publishing School booked 24 stages which led to $1,000,000 in revenue (while booking 0 stages and generating $0 in revenue in 2017).
This is absolutely can’t miss stuff.
Bonus #4 – Free General Admission ticket to Author Advantage Life – $697 Value for FREE
Author Advantage Live is the #1 conference for authors who want to learn how to sell 10,000 copies of more of their book and make a true impact.
Have a book? Amazing. AAL will blow you away. Don’t have a book yet (but know you will write one some day)? Perfect.
We’ll cover that too. See you in Orlando?
Bonus #5 – Full Access to a $110,000 Generating (in one weekend!) Presentation – $297 Value for FREE
I don’t know about you… but I personally love to see the best in action (as opposed to just learning the techniques).
We mentioned that Stage to Scale didn’t have a full example of someone using the Story Braid Framework to convert a large percentage of the room.
Well, we decided to give that to you as a part of the bonuses.
What if you knew you could share the story inside you with an audience excited to hear your every word?
There’s a way to up your levels of success before ever writing the first word or your book. Actually, for some people, it’s even easier to up their chances of success than it is to write the book.
Let me explain…
When people hear I’ve written a book they often respond with, “I’ve always wanted to write a book!”
The next phrase is usually something along the lines of, “I’m terrible at writing.”
And in the back of their minds, the other hesitancy might be, “Who would even read it?”
It’s a scary thing to sit down and stare at a blank screen.
It’s intimidating to write that first sentence.
“What if I never make it to the last sentence?”
“What if nobody cares if I do end up finishing?”
Perhaps the biggest question of all: “What if no one reads it?”
These are real questions. Questions I’m here to answer.
It all comes down to branding.
A few decades ago books sold based on the quality of the writing. While that’s still true today, often books are sold based on the platform of the person writing the book. That’s where branding comes in.
If you’re in college maybe your brand is sweatpants and too much coffee, late-night Instagram stories, and weekend adventures.
If you’re in the world of business, maybe your brand is pristine suits, important meetings, and networking with the right people.
Either way, this is your passive brand. It’s the self you portray to the world without really thinking about it.
Of course, you considered what to wear this morning. You saw the still kinda clean shirt on your dorm room floor and decided to wear that to the exam.
Or you chose the darker suit to wear to your business meeting because you didn’t want to stand out too much. You probably made sure it matched your pants (always a good thing!).
But you probably didn’t think about it much more than that. And that’s ok!
Regardless of what you put on this morning, let’s talk about how personal branding can be the difference between writing a book and writing a book people read.
#2 – Active Author Branding
Active brand is the part of you that you intentionally choose to let the world see.
There are ways to do portray yourself that will greatly impact the influence you have. Influence brings followers.
Followers turn into fans.
Fans turn into avid readers…who leave you 5-star reviews that allow more readers to find you.
The following tips will help you develop intentional author branding.
#3 – Developing Your Author Voice
Your author voice is important. After all, it’s what the world hears from you. Yes,
you can alter this if you want to, but we recommend leaning into your natural voice so the you you’re showing the world is authentic and real.
Countless factors determine your voice:
Stage of life
Who you hang out with
Your past experiences
All of these and more play into your personal voice.
It’s how you talk, in person and online. It’s how you communicate to the people around you. The type of punctuation you choose. Even the emojis that consistently stay in the time box in your messages.
All of this factors into your voice.
But using voice to intentionally create your active brand goes a long way in establishing yourself.
If you don’t know what your specific voice is, go through some of the recent texts you sent your friends. Next time you grab coffee with someone, take note of how you naturally communicate with them. That’s your voice.
The next step is to implement that voice across all platforms. The social media outlets you use. The blog you run. The conversations you have.
People want to hear what you have to say, but more importantly, how you say it. They want to know you, not just the knowledge you bring.
#4 – Discovering Themes in Branding
Next up are themes.
These themes seem to run through your life and your writing.
When identifying the themes of your life here are some questions to ask:
What opportunities do you jump at the chance to volunteer for?
What type of movies do you regularly choose to see?
What books do you read?
What type of people do you choose to hang out with?
What stories do you love re-telling from your past?
These are the themes you’re passionate about. These are the themes that should dominate and infiltrate your writing.
Because readers can tell when you’re passionate about what you’re writing and when you’re not. Passionate writing engages readers.