Today, I’m joined by Dr. Sonia Wright – a board-certified radiologist, a sexual counselor, and a certified life coach. She received her education from Stanford University, the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Michigan. Dr. Wright completed her life coach training from Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School and Learning Journeys.
Sonia is on a mission to help women embrace their sexuality and end the emotional pain and isolation associated with sexual difficulties. Dr. Wright believes wholeheartedly that all women deserve to experience pleasurable sexual intimacy.
When she first started her author journey, “My original plan was to write my book, and I had this plan that I would go away for the weekend to Las Vegas.” January came along, and her plans didn’t work out. Sonia didn’t get to write her book.
To build her public speaking platform during COVID, Dr. Wright reached out to her network to be a guest on LIVE events and then started reaching out to podcasters to spread the word about her coaching and speaking availability. “I learned about my niche that really helped me hone in on the types of people that would listen to my message and make sure I directed my message in that direction.”
At first, Facebook LIVE speaking worked out the best to bring in clients to interact with people. After her website was built, she had more people contacting her through her website after listening to her interview as a guest on another podcast.
Find out how her speaker kit made a big difference for her business, how Dr. Wright “normalizes” her topic, and how she grew her business while doing her regular day job.
Listen in to find out how Dr. Wright chose her niche and avatar, how to get clear on your solution, and how to feel confident talking about an “outside of the box” topic.
[04:01] How Sonia planned on writing her book and starting her business.
[05:18] Sonia’s public relations and public speaking goals.
[07:46] How Dr. Wright decided what podcasts and LIVE events to be on as a guest.
[09:22] Types of PR that worked best for engagement.
[11:27] The speaker kit and how this PR piece “legitimized” Dr. Wright.
[13:14] How Sonia built her business as a side gig.
[14:17] Dr. Wright and how she introduces her topic of sex coach.
[17:05] How Sonia chose her niche and avatar.
[20:08] Why you should be OK with speaking on your topic.
[23:17] Building and selling your course from square one.
[27:22] Booking calls in the evening while working her day job.
[29:12] How Sonia booked her dream podcast in one month from deciding she wanted to be on the show.
[31:03] Consult bookings from her podcast interview.
[32:56] Sonia’s next project she is focusing on right now.
[35:58] Tips and advice for others looking to start consulting or group coaching.
[38:06] How Dr. Wright plans on adding her book to her business.
When thinking about your publishing options, there are two main avenues to take into consideration: self-publishing and traditional publishing.
We’ll go into more detail in each individual section below, but just know this is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to decide on if you want to be an author.
The short overview is this:
Self-publishing gives you all creative control, is faster to publish, gives you full royalties, with more upfront investments
Traditional publishing takes a lot longer, no upfront investments, but you make a small fraction of royalties per book
We actually compiled a ton of data on self-publishing versus traditional publishing you can find in this free download here:
Publishing Options: Choosing the Best Type for YOU
Not everyone will be a good fit for all of these publishing options. You have to think about your goals as an author, what you want to make financially, and where you see yourself in the long-term—as well as how many books you want to publish and how frequently.
All of these are important to consider when making your decision, but we want to give you all the information so that decision is easier.
#1 – Self-Publishing
If self-publishing isn’t on your radar, you’re severely missing out on a huge opportunity. We truly believe this is the best publishing avenue for the large majority of people.
This is why Self-Publishing School started in the first place. Chandler Bolt (the founder and CEO) started this company because he had such a massive success with his first bestselling book.
Now, that being said, there are things to think about when it comes to self-publishing.
So what is self-publishing?
Self-publishing is when you have complete ownership and control of your book and its rights, and you can publish on any medium that allows for it (including Amazon Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Nook, and more).
Difficulty to publish:
It’s very easy to self-publish a book. In fact, pretty much anyone with access to Amazon’s publishing platform can do it.
But that doesn’t mean everyone should, nor should you publish a book that’s not ready (or not of high quality), which is why we have our programs in the first place.
Timeframe to publish:
Our students publish in as little as 90 days with our process for going from blank page (yes, nothing written!) to a fully published book. You can take longer to publish, and many students in our Fundamentals of Fiction program often do take longer since fiction can be more extensive.
This is the best part! You have 100% of the creative control over everything from your book’s content to its title, cover, everything. Especially the rights to your book!
This is all on you—just like it is with traditional publishing, which you’ll learn more about down below. Thankfully, there are a ton of resources online to learn how to market a book, as well as our Sell More Books program to increase your book sales.
When publishing through Amazon, your royalty rate will be anywhere from 35% – 70% depending on your book’s retail price. SelfPublishing.com has a fantastic book royalties calculator right here that you can check out for a comparison as well.
Cost to publish:
Self-publishing has a higher upfront investment and cost to publish. These can range anywhere from $300 – $1200+ for high-quality editing, book cover design, and more.
But do keep in mind, you make a lot more in royalties back straight away.
Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):
This is all on you. From the cover design to the book editing (yes you have to get it edited if you want it to do well) all the way to the inside formatting is up to you.
Thankfully, there are resources to help you do all of this right, and we cover this entire process in our programs for our students, as we’ve seen this is one of the most difficult parts of self-publishing.
Questions to ask if you think self-publishing is right for you:
Do you need 100% creative control?
Do you have the ability to invest upfront for a higher royalty rate later?
Do you want to write and publish multiple books quickly?
If you answered yes to the above, self-publishing is likely your best option, and you can learn more about how to do that with our free training. Just click the image below!
#2 – Traditional Publishing
Traditional publishing is what we grew up learning was “publishing”: You get an agent through querying your book, that agent pitches your story to publishers, they choose to buy your book from you, and it gets published a while later!
Let’s look at some details about this traditional publishing option.
Difficulty to publish:
Very high. The traditional publishing industry is really hard to get into. It’s not impossible, but it often takes writers years just to land an agent. And then they have to wait until their manuscript is bought, which isn’t guaranteed.
Many will say traditional produces “better” books or you’re a “better” writer if you publish traditionally, but that’s not true. All this proves is that you have a book idea that’s “hot” and “trending” in the market: remember, publishing houses are after one thing and that’s book sales. If it’ll sell, they’ll purchase it, which means unless it’s a trending topic or book idea, you likely won’t get a book deal.
Timeframe to publish:
If we start the timeline to publish after your agent sells your manuscript, meaning a publishing house has purchased your book rights, it can still take up to 2 years for your book to actually publish.
And this doesn’t take into consideration the time spent trying to get an agent and the time it takes your agent to sell your book. You’re looking at a 2-4 year time period unless you get very lucky or have traditional publishing connections.
You don’t really have much creative control with this publishing option.
Ultimately, the publisher buys your book rights for the idea, but this is subject to change based on what your editor sees as selling the most.
Unfortunately, this can be everything from the main characters, the title, the ending, and even major plot points. The upside is that publishers do know what sells, so this could give your book a better chance of “taking off.”
Just know that you’ll have to make sacrifices with creative control through traditional publishing.
This is on you! Unless you’re a “big name,” (and even then) you do the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your book.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the traditinoal publishing industry. Many want to go with this publishing option because they think the publishing house will market their book, and they do, but only to a certain extent.
The bulk of the marketing is up to you, and this is increasingly more evident as book agents continue to ask about your author platform size as a decision criterion for representing you or not.
Many traditionally published authors can expect to make 10% – 12% and (very rarely) up to 15% royalties on their books. As you can see, this is significantly lower than self-publishing due to the publisher taking a big cut to pay for the editing, cover design, and everything that goes into it, as well as your agent taking a cut.
You do get an “advance” if you sign a book deal. This is a large sum of money, usually under $15,000 for new authors, that you have to make back in book sales before you actually get a royalty check.
Many traditionally published authors never see a royalty check because their books never sell more than their advance’s worth after publication.
Cost to publish:
Time. This is the real true cost of the traditional publishing option. If anyone tries to get you to pay them, this is not traditional publishing and is likely a hybrid or a vanity publisher (for the latter, RUN!).
Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):
This is all done in-house at the publisher. They have a cover made, editing completed, formatting finished, as well as book distribution—meaning getting your book in bookstores across the nation.
You can learn more about the main differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing by watching the video below:
Here are some questions to ask if you want to go with this publishing option:
Will you be okay with altering your story, characters, and plot?
Do you want to publish less frequently, at a book every one or two years?
Do you want to relinquish ownership over the cover design and more?
Will you be okay with a smaller royalty rate for your book?
Are you willing to spend a year or more querying just to find an agent?
If you answered yes to all of those, this avenue might be for you!
#3 – Hybrid Publisher
If you’re not sold on either self-publishing or traditional publishing, there is another option called hybrid publishing.
Hybrid publishing is just as it sounds: a combination of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Most often a hybrid publisher will have specific criteria for authors they work with and will have the distribution opportunities self-publishing doesn’t (like nation-wide bookstores).
One distinguishing factor here: the author usually has to make some sort of investment in order to publish through them.
Difficulty to publish:
This depends entirely on the publisher’s rules and regulations for new authors. Most don’t just take anyone in off the street, which means it is more difficult than self-publishing, though usually not as much so as traditional.
Timeframe to publish:
This is another differentiating factor. Hybrid publishers vary so greatly that most of these will depend on the specific publishing house. However, you can expect an elongated path to publishing here as well.
Since the publisher in this case usually deals with the book cover, title, and such, your creative control is at more risk here. However, most of these publishing houses are more likely to work with you to come to an agreement whereas traditional publishing houses don’t give you much of a choice.
Again, as with any publishing option, marketing responsibilities fall to you, the author. Though because this is a hybrid publisher, you’ll have more exposure due to their distribution capabilities (which is a note to make sure this is included if you choose this option).
Since this also varies, all we have is an approximation range: you can expect roughly 40% – 60% in royalty rates depending on the deal you make. This is definitely higher than traditionally published authors make, but you’ll make less than self-publishing simply because the publisher will still get a cut.
Guess what, this one depends as well! Different hybrid publishers work on different models, which means their revenue will be earned differently. That said, some authors pay a large sum to work with hybrid publishers, as well as give up a chunk of their royalties.
Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):
This usually goes through the hybrid publisher, and the process is much like that of traditional publishing. This means you don’t have to worry about any of this and that you also don’t get to change or alter any of this.
#4 – Vanity Publisher
We wanted to include this in the options because it is an option you’ll see out there. However, it is not an option to consider.
It’s here so you can know what to look for when a vanity publisher is involved in order to AVOID one. We do not recommend this option.
In other words: you may see people who look like hybrid publishers but are not. Do not work with them!
So what type of publisher is Self-Publishing School?
None! We’re not a publishing option, we’re an online education school that teaches you how to successfully self-publish a book so you can save time, money, (and tears), while earning a steady income from your books.
The success of my books has been directly responsible for the strong performance of my business, which has grown to over 7 figures in less than 2 years.
Self-publishing a book is done with these steps:
Write a book you’re proud of
Decide which self-publishing platform to use
Get your book edited, a cover designed, and it formatted
Upload your manuscript and accompanying assets
Hit “Publish” when you’re read
Your book is self-published!
It’s really that easy.
Five years ago, in order to achieve this level of publishing success, you would have needed to be extremely lucky to even land an agent who would attempt to find you a deal at one of the “Big 5” publishing houses.
I’ve created a step-by-step comprehensive self-publishing guide that will walk you through the beginning steps of how to write your book all the way to how to self-publish it on Amazon’s Kindle (KDP) Network.
Let’s get started so you can get started!
#1 – Decide Why You Want to Learn How to Publish a Book
Come up with at least 10 valid reasons why you want to write a book. Use the questions above as a starting guide to brainstorm.
#2 – Write Your Book
If you’ve ever tried to start writing a book, you might have had moments where you’ve stared at a blank page for hours with nothing to show for it. Feeling frustrated, you resort to procrastinating and get nothing done!
This is normal, writing a book is hard work.
In fact, coming up with a book ideain general can be very tricky. But in order to start writing your book, you must develop a writing process.
Here’s are some effective ways to write a book worth self-publishing:
Buy a calendar. The best way to have your book complete is to have a calendar that schedules your goals per day/week.
Create an outline. An outline is like a map of your book that provides direction to your story. It keeps you on track and ensures that your ideas are organized.
Develop a writing habit. Condition yourself to write at the same time every day. With this practice, it will soon become a habit that will make writing a book automatic.
Get an accountability partner. You can hold each other accountable to write and finish your by your “draft done” date.
Build your writing environment. Yes, this can be a blanket for if you choose to use “build” literally or you can simply find an area where your head is clear, there are no distractions, and where you can write in peace.
To learn more tips on how to write faster, here’s a tutorial video of the simple process I use to write over 1500 words per hour:
#3 – Get Feedback on Your Book Before Publishing
When writing your book, it’s important to get as much feedback as early in the process as possible.
It’s essential to get this feedback in order to improve your writing.
Everything from creative writing to factual, non-fiction works needs feedback in order to produce a polished publication.
As writers, it’s all too easy to retreat into your cave for a long period of time, spend countless hours writing what you think is the perfect first draft, only to find that a) your draft doesn’t make sense to anyone else or b) no one else is as interested in the topic as you originally thought.
Writing tips can come from anywhere and the best usually come from those reading your book for the first time.
Not only can a fresh set of eyes on your book help you catch typos and grammatical errors, but a new perspective can give you ideas for tightening up your story and making the theme more clear, like in the example below.
Giving your book to one (or more) “beta readers” before giving it to an editor and self-publishing can also cut down on the time and cost of paying a professional editor.
Reach out to a few friends who could provide good (preferably unbiased) feedback, and ask them if they’ll be willing to read a chapter or two (or the whole book!) as you finish writing
#4 – Choose a Book Title
Contrary to popular belief, you should never decide on a book title until after you are done writing your first draft.
This is because choosing a book title first often results in you “writing yourself into a corner” because you’re trying so hard to align your story to the title of the book instead of writing what needs to be written.
Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.
As you’re brainstorming ideas, always remember to keep it simple.
Your title should also be clear on what your readers will receive by reading your book. This is because experts state that a clear promise or a guarantee of results will further intrigue your readers.
It’s certainly what’s made our Become a Bestseller students so successful during their launches.
Here are some questions to consider when creating your memorable book title:
Is your title going to teach a high demand skill?
Can your title impact someone’s life?
Can your book solve a very difficult problem?
Is it short enough to read in a thumbnail image on Amazon?
Does it elicit an emotional response?
Once you’ve narrowed down your book titles, send out an email to your friends and family or put a poll up to your audience asking what title they’d prefer. You could also ask a community of other authors what they think.
Start there. If you don’t, then do you know someone who knows an editor? If you don’t have any luck finding an editor within your personal network, don’t worry!
Depending on your budget, you can either hire a professional book editor or hire a more budget-friendly editor from Upwork. But be careful and always check references and portfolios of work.
As a Self-Publishing School student, we will also provide you with a Rolodex of approved and vetted book editors who all do a great job, as you can see in the example below.
No matter how you find your editor, make sure you’re a good fit before committing to the full book by paying them a small sum ($25 or so) to edit a few pages or a chapter of your book.
Make sure the editor is interested in the subject matter, that they can get your whole book edited in 3.5 weeks or less including back-and-forth revisions, and that their edits are both accurate and make sense to you.
If you don’t feel you’re a good fit following a sample edit, then let that $25 go and find an editor who’s going to work out rather than sinking more money into a relationship that might be a mistake.
Whatever you do, don’t give up during the editorial process! If one editor isn’t working out for you or meeting your needs, find another.
Find a friend or professional editor who can make sure your book is error-free, and start working with them sooner rather than later!
#6 – Design a Book Cover that Converts
When it comes to self-publishing, a high-quality book cover is one of the most important elements that will get your book to convert into sales!
The reason is that yourbook cover design is what readers see first and will immediately determine whether they want to read your book or not.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” simply doesn’t apply to actual book covers, as much as we wish it did.
The hard truth is that everyone judges a book by its cover whether they realize it or not.
So you must make sure that it is created professionally and that it will stand apart from the rest of the books in your genre or category.
What makes a good book cover?
Simplistic styling. Too much going on will make readers unable to figure out what your book is about. Keep the cover minimalistic and it will convert more readers.
Professionally designed. Book cover designers know how to create book covers that convert. They have industry knowledge and have studied what works and what doesn’t.
Clear title and subtitle. The title on your cover does matter. The easier it is to read, the better. This allows your readers to clearly see what your book is about as they scroll through Amazon or other book retailers.
A design style that fits your intended audience. If you’re writing a faith-based book intended for an audience of faith, having an overly dark, devilish cover doesn’t make sense.
You can find amazing book cover designers on freelancing sites such as:
You can also use KDP’s free resources to help format your book. Formatting can be a frustrating experience for the uninitiated though, so if you have a few bucks to spare, you might consider paying someone to help you.
Also keep in mind that formatting will look different for fiction versus nonfiction books.
Typically, nonfiction books don’t have an indent between paragraphs but instead, they have spaces whereas fiction books are indented with each new paragraph.
If you want to pay for formatting, Liber Writeris a low-cost, effective option for converting a Microsoft Word file to Amazon’s Kindle format. If $60 is too much, you can also find people on Fiverr to format your book for Kindle.
Just be sure you hire someone who knows how to format your specific book genre.
Make sure your book is formatted properly by using the free online resource above or hiring someone who can handle the formatting process for you.
#9 – Self-Publish Your Book
When you feel confident your book is ready for the public, you can create a KDP account and upload your book.
This is how to upload your book on KDP:
On the KDP mainpage, locate and click on “Your Bookshelf”.
Locate and click on “Kindle eBook Actions”.
Then, locate and click on “Edit eBook Content”.
Finally, click on “Upload eBook Manuscript”, and upload your manuscript file from your computer.
It’s highly recommended you also select two different categories on Amazon your book might fit into so you can reach a broader audience.
To select keywords and categories, look at other best-selling books in your niche and notice what keywords and categories those authors chose.
Once Amazon finishes uploading your file, a confirmation message will be sent and you can preview the uploaded file to check for any errors. Create your Amazon author central account after uploading your book.
Include a bio, photo, and link to your website or blog to help you stand out among authors. After a few more steps, you’ll be ready to publish your book, at which time you’ll click “save & publish” in your KDP book dashboard.
Afterward, you should be ready to publish your book! Just click “save & publish” in the book editing screen!
Follow these steps to upload your book. You are allowed to upload your manuscript as many times as you want with each upload overriding the previous.
#10 – Price Your Book
One of the most important decisions when it comes to self-publishing a book is how to price it. The most common question I get from new writers is, “How much should my book cost?”
To answer this, my general rule of thumb is to have your book priced is between $2.99 to $5.99. To be more specific, when beginning a launch, I would begin by pricing the book at $0.99 for the launch period.
Then I would set the price to 2.99, and I would moderately increase the price by $1 every week and measure how well the new price performs. Once you see a sales dip, that will determine the exact price of your book that will guarantee book sales.
Find the perfect price by using this strategy that will attract your readers and best drive long-term success.
#11 – Form a Launch Team
Your launch team is the group of people who are dedicated to helping make your book successful.
They should be a passionate group of individuals who are eager to make your book launch successful. Remember, one highly skilled team member is better than a group of mediocre ones!
Here’s a video detailing how to use a launch team effectively:
To find quality candidates, here’s a questionnaire you can use to assess applicants and see if they’re qualified to market your book:
Why do you want to support my book?
What goals are you trying to reach with this project?
How would you market this book?
Which influencers would you reach out to and why?
Do you have a genuine interest in my book and its genre?
Create an application with questions that align with your thought process. Try to be open-minded with those who think outside the box – they may be the perfect candidates that can get your book to become a bestseller.
#12 – Maximize Book Launch Exposure with Reviews
It’s not enough to learn how to publish a book and be done with it. You still have to take action even after your official launch.
As soon as your book goes live on Amazon, be sure to leverage your launch team and your audience to help you market your book! It may be odd to ask your fans for help, but your fans are there to support your project and want to see you succeed.
You might be surprised how willing they’ll be to help you if you just ask!
Here are some marketing initiatives you can assign your team and audience to do:
Share content from your book as blog posts across social media
Reach out to influencers for a future guest post or podcast feature
Share a book review on their YouTube channel
Buy extra copies to gift their friends
The additional exposure generated from your launch team and audience will help push your book up Amazon’s rankings, which will drive more sales! There are even websites that help you with rankings, such as Kindle Ranker. Make sure to have a look at that!
Create your book marketing launch plan using these methods. Measure each of these methods to see which will best get your book in the hands of new readers and convert into sales.
#13 – Celebrate Learning How to Self-Publish a Book!
Publishing after writing a book is just the beginning. Depending on your goals for your book, self-publishing can get you more customers, free publicity, and establish you as an expert in your niche.
This can help you land speaking gigs and build a business within your area of expertise.
Your book sales can also help fund your lifestyle with passive income.
Dream big about what you want your book to do for you. When you have a vision for where you want your book to take you, it will be easier to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Getting clear on what you want will also help you to be more effective when expanding your network along on your journey.
What to do Now
Now that you’ve learned how to publish a book, it’s time to take action and bring yourself one step closer to your goals and dreams.
If self-publishing a bestseller is something you want to do, and you’re serious about changing your life and your business for the better by getting your book out there in the world, then you need a step-by-step system to follow to take action.
A self-publishing company is a business dedicated to helping you achieve your desired level of success within your self-publishing journey.
They detail the process and streamline otherwise difficult avenues you might not be able to maneuver yourself.
But every self-publishing company is different.
Here at Self-Publishing School, our mission is to make the process as easy as possible for you while ensuring you do everything you can to succeed the right way.
Sure, you can throw your book online with a cover you created in Canva and call yourself a self-published author. But will that yield book sales? Will that give you the authority, recognition, and fulfillment you’re looking for?
How is a Self-Publishing Company Different than a Traditional Publishing House?
Traditional publishing houses are where you first land an agent, and then they submit your manuscript, and they take care of the printing/editing/publishing – at the expense of your hard earned royalties, of course.
Here’s a table detailing the differences between self-publishing companies and traditional publishing.
What You Get
Sole control of your book's outcome
Sole control of your book's rights
Control over the story
Control over the cover
100% of royalties
Why Use a Self-Publishing Company?
After all, you want to do this yourself, right? Self-publish. But like I mentioned before, you don’t know everything about self-publishing.
Do you know the best book launch process for getting your book with the coveted orange “Bestseller” banner (that also increases your book’s ranking, and sales!)?
There is far more to self-publishing than simply hitting “publish” on Amazon, and without the right process, your book might end up as one of those stereotypical self-published books that sells 3 copies – to family members.
And that’s why you use a self-publishing company. Someone else has already done the research, the work, and has the experience to guide you through the process.
If you’re someone who wants to see real book sales and achieve other goals, like growing a business or becoming a full-time author, then a self-publishing company will help.
What You Can Expect with a Self-Publishing Company
What does working with a self-publishing company look like?
While not all self-publishing companies are the same or provide the same type of information and training for you, it’s important to understand what you’ll take away from working with one.
This is what you can expect when working with a company that helps you self-publish.
#1 – You keep all rights to your book
Unlike traditional publishing houses, you actually get to keep all the rights to your books.
What does this mean?
It mean that, when you publish, you are the sole owner of the book and all of its contents. It’s copyrighted under your name and the self-publishing companies will not have any of their information inside of the book (unless you want to thank them for everything they’ve helped you with).
This is a major benefit because with self-publishing companies, you can keep the book in print for however long you want.
On the flip side, traditional publishing houses can choose when to pull your book from shelves and simply no longer print or sell it. And since you no longer own the rights, you can’t self-publish that book unless you buy the rights back (which some publishing houses don’t even offer you the option of).
#2 – You’ll save time
Time is our most valuable asset. It’s the one thing in our lives we can never get back no matter what.
Unless you’re a secret time traveler and have uncovered the secrets of bending and warping time (and if you are, PLEASE SHARE), you have to treat time like it’s precious.
One of the biggest perks of using self-publishing companies to help you get your book published is the simple fact thatthey tell you what needs to be done, when, and how.
Not only will you save time actually writing the book (assuming the company gives you instructions on how to write faster, like we do here at Self-Publishing School), but you won’t have to go through the hours upon hours of research in order to get it right.
And, you don’t have to waste time making mistakes and adjusting them.
#3 – You keep 100% of royalties
Everything you earn, you keep. Now, there may be self-publishing companies out there who require a percentage of your royalties, since they helped you, but here at Self-Publishing School don’t’ believe in that.
After all, you did the work. You put forth the time and effort. This is your book. Therefore, you keep what you actually earn.
Aside from what Amazon takes for allowing you to use their platform, 100% of your profit is yours to keep.
This is much different than traditional publishing houses in the sense that through them, you’re only pocketing about 10% of royalties (and sometimes even less).
#4 – You’re kept accountable
The hardship is in the name itself: self-publishing.
It’s a very lonely process if you don’t have anyone else going through it with you. And we all know how much easier it is to stay on track when we have someone else rooting for (or hollering at) us.
Many self-publishing companies have some sort of progress tracking, coaching, or community to help keep you motivated and working to achieve your dream.
How we do that here at Self-Publishing School is through all three of those methods, including a Facebook Mastermind Community with hundreds of dedicated current and past students ready to help.
#5 – You get coached by experts
At least here at Self-Publishing School, you do. Not all programs have this perk, and boy is it a perk.
Our coaches are all experts in their field. You get one-on-one coaching that allows you to take personalized tips and put them to use in your own publishing journey.
Since coaches have been exactly where you are and have come out on top, and maintained book sales themselves, you get a leg up on anyone else doing this without that help.
Take a look at one of our amazing coaches, Lise Cartwright, and how she still manages to bring in $4,000 on her self-published books, all while helping our students learn to do the same.
Again, not all self-publishing companies offer this service to their students, but if they do, it can help you understand a side of the industry you likely wouldn’t get to see otherwise.
#6 – You make connections
This is particularly true for programs that include access to a community of somesort.
You never know who you’ll get to know, like, and befriend. These are all like-minded people who are after the same things as you.
You can make dear friends, get even more advice when needed, and maintain a sense of purpose when you’re constantly fed motivation from them.
#7 – You create a bigger impact with your book
What’s the reason you’re self-publishing. Why do you really want to get your book out into the world?
I’m willing to bet it has something meaningful to you. You want to help others, share information, or show the world a theme or message that’s important to you.
By using one of the self-publishing companies out there, you’re able to create a bigger impact with your book.
Because you will write it better, market it smarter, and sell more. And after all, that’s the point. Right? You want to get as many eyes on it as you possibly can.
#8 – You gain more opportunities
Because your book will do better than it would if you didn’t have that outside help, you gain many more opportunities.
Becoming a published author places you as an authority in any field you’re writing in. Not only does this help your business grow, if that’s your goal, but it also helps you sell more books through new and better opportunities than you’d have otherwise.
Take these students of ours for example:
After publishing their books, they have been either contacted or pursued speaking engagements on their own along with other opportunities to grow their book and platform.
Chandler Bolt, you know him—the guy who built this 8 figure business from his first bestselling book—swears by it.
But he’s not the only expert out there who agrees.
Ryan Deiss, CEO of DigitalMarketer, also uses a book to grow his business. You can check out how he does so in the video above, but the point remains: self-publishing is a perfect way to grow your business.
And if that’s your goal, then you want to make sure you’re self-publishing for success. Otherwise, your book won’t make nearly as big of an impact on your business, which is why working with a self-publishing company can help.
#10 – You have a repeatable, successful process
Many of our students write multiple books with our program – not just one.
As one of our favorite author says, if you write one book and you enjoy it, you will write another book.
The most successful self-published authors out there are those who write more than one book. Not only do they maintain a steady stream of passive income this way, but since they have a reliable, repeatable process, it makes it easy for them to publish multiple.
So long as the self-publishing company you’re working with has lifetime access (like we do), you can hop on and go through the system every time you want to.
Plus, imagine how nice it would feel to say, “Yes, I’m a published author of multiple books.” Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
PublishDrive. If you’re looking for an alternative book distribution channel, PublishDrive offers you the option of paying a monthly subscription fee that allows you to keep 100% of your sales revenue.
Draft2Digital. A convenient option for self-publishers looking to use Draft2Digital’s powerful book formatting capabilities as well as International Book Links.
SmashWords. One of the earliest book aggregators. SmashWords grants your book access to some of the biggest retailers out there, and also provides powerful reporting capabilities.
StreetLib. A wide-reaching international distributor with dashboard options supporting multiple languages.
Luminare Press. Offers professional, personal, and affordable services to ensure authors get a book that they can be proud of.
Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid
Not all self-publishing companies are created equal. Unfortunately, there are some self-publishing companies who only want your money and don’t want to see you succeed.
These are some red flags to keep a lookout for when researching self-publishing companies to help you get your book out there.
#1 – They take a cut of your royalties
Why even self-publish if you don’t actually get to keep your hard earned money?
This won’t necessarily mean that self-publishing company is a scam or fraudulent in any way. However, it is something to think about and be wary of.
You want to make sure you’re actually benefiting fairly for your book’s success. So working with a company that allows you to keep every cent is essential.
As mentioned earlier, traditional publishing houses technically “purchase” your book from you. It’s why you get that nice big (usually not big, though) advance.
However, self-publishing companies should not require this. Since you are self-publishing, all of the rights should remains 100% yours.
#3 – They maintain creative control
Obviously, self-publishing companies are meant to help you.
That being said, they can certainly offer advice on your book title, subtitle, cover, and even contents, but they should never demand something of your book in order for you to continue with their program.
#4 – Unrealistic expectations
Self-publishing is a varied game. No two authors can expect the exact same outcome and your results largely vary on how much you’re willing to work and how well you’re following their program.
However, self-publishing companies also shouldn’t guarantee crazy expectations—especially without having the proof to back it up.
Guarantees of making $10,000 in the first month are often unfounded. Look for company promises that you feel good about actually being able to achieve them.
#5 – There are a large number of complaints online
Not every self-publishing company can meet everyone’s expectations. Not every single review will be positive – and that’s understandable.
What you do want to lookout for is a large number of negative reviews, complaints, or claims of fraud or scams. These are certainly something to be wary of, but make sure you research some positives as well.
You may have heard that most writers—Self-published and traditional—are starving artists who never make more than $1000 a year.
The stories are true. Many writers starve. But many sell a lot of books and do very well, if they stick with it and build multiple income streams.
I’ll just get this out of the way right now. Writing a book is hard work. Creating a sustainable platform with several income streams is harder. But, if this were easy, everybody would be doing it.
Making a living from your writing is definitely worth it and, as a writer who wants to earn cash online from their craft, it is one of the most rewarding achievements you will experience in the self-publishing business.
If you want to know what it would take for you to bring home a full-time income from your books, check out this book profit calculator. It’ll do the math and show you what you’d need to sell and how much you’d make in total:
Enter Your Information Below To Calculate Your Potential Book Sales
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Do you know why most authors only earn a few thousand dollars a year or less from their writing?
Here are 4 reasons authors fail to make a living writing:
They only write one book. You need momentum with your book platform to generate enough monthly sales to support your lifestyle. This is possible with building out a library of books and maximizing on the earning power for each. We will look at this more later.
They don’t stay current with shifting publishing trends. The self-publishing industry is constantly changing. If you aren’t staying current with what is working (and what has stopped working) your book sales plummet and you don’t reach as wide an audience as you’d like.
They stick with one platform as the only source for earning income. Many authors stay with Amazon only. This makes sense considering they have 85% of the market for ebooks. And Amazon’s exclusivity program, KDP Select, makes it easy to sign over all power to the online digital giant. However, if you keep your eggs in one basket, what happens when that basket falls out of the tree? In other words, Amazon decides to make a major change to their platform overnight and, within a week, your monthly royalties get cut in half. Yes, it happens as we see time and time again.
They don’t invest in the quality of their product. Poorly designed book covers, sloppy editing, a boring book description…equals a product nobody wants. If you want to make a living writing books, invest in your book (particularly getting a good book cover) so that it sells.
This is the formula most successful self-published authors are using to make a living as a writer.
Build Your Author Platform to Make Money Writing
You, as an author and creator, needs to form the mindset that this is your business—your book business. Regardless if you are a part-time author looking to get started making some extra income, or your goal is to be a full-time author, when you start making money from your “hobby”, you are turning it into a business.
When it comes to creating income from writing, it boils down to one word: Platform.
Your author platform is the structure of your writing career. It should consist of multiple income streams. This begins with your platform.
According to Michael Hyatt, bestselling author of Platform and Free to Focus, a platform is, “The means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans. It might include your company website, a blog, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, an online video show, or a podcast. It may also include your personal appearances as a public speaker, musician, or entertainer.”
As a writer, even if you are writing a book for the first time, think about what your platform means to you. This will become the structural foundation that your writing author business is built on.
If you want to make a living writing fiction or nonfiction, the approach to how you structure your income streams are similar, although the content is different.
What drives your platform, however, is the one thing that many overlook: Your author mindset. From now on, approach your craft with the mindset that this is your business.
Like every business, you have to be focused on the customer experience and products available to those customers. Delivering the right product, in this case the book they are looking for, is how to convert the curious customer into a paying one.
Components of an Author Platform
Your author platform is made up of:
A Catalog of Books: This consists of published books, and all variations of the book including paperback, hardcover, large print and audiobooks. Your books, aside from bringing in consistent revenue, act as funnels for building your subscribers list and promoting your other products. Your books could be stand-alone reads, as many nonfiction titles are, or a series of thrillers.
Email list: This is your list of raving fans that have given you permission to contact them by providing you with their email address. Your email list is at the heart of making a living, not just as an author but, anyone who is building an online platform.
Wide Distribution Model: As a self-published author, Amazon may be where you make 80% of your income. But if you have more than three books available, you want to consider opting out of Amazon’s KDP Select program and publishing wide with other platforms such as aggregators Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and Kobo. Set your print books up for sale through IngramSpark. You can tap into a huge international market that, not only will drive your book sales but, open up opportunity for international foreign rights.
Courses: As an author you could develop courses based on the content of your books. For example, take a look at what Lise Cartwright has built through her platform Hustle & Groove. Picture a multitude of courses available for when browsers or subscribers come to your site for the first time. Building online courses is a great way to expand this platform.
Website: A critical piece of your writing business is your author website. This where you stage all of your talent. You might have an author blog that brings in leads for your books and courses.
You could create content that you don’t publish on Amazon and make it exclusive to your website only. You can cross promote with other authors and set up an autoresponder email funnel to build a deeper relationship with your readers.
Your author website should include these basic features:
A free offer: This is free content a new subscriber downloads after opting in.
Featured blog posts: Your blog is an asset and potential income stream as it brings in leads through visitor traffic.
Course platform: Highly recommended. These are great assets to build out and easy to scale up.
About page: Make a dynamic introduction here.
Scalable Assets and Multiple Income Streams
Let’s get to my favorite topic: Creating multiple income streams to grow your business!
This is what I love about self-publishing. You are at the helm of your own ship and you, and only you, get to choose the direction to take.
We know that, if we write and publish lots of books, potentially our library of books grows and this generates strong passive income.
But relying on book sales only is a lot of work, and it is more work if you are selling on just one platform, Amazon.
Check out how our very own coach Lise Cartwright has built her passive income stream with books (and how she can teach you to do the same when you become a student):
As an authorpreneur, a self-publisher who writes and publishes their own books, you want to always be thinking creatively how to expand your income streams.
Let’s take a look at the list below for book assets.
We know that publishing consistently brings in more money and builds your platform over the long-term. But why does this model work?
Your readers love new material, and so does Amazon. When your platform is active with new book releases, sales and reviews coming in consistently, the algorithm is “switched on” to help you sell more by pushing your books into the higher-traffic channels.
As your platform continues to scale up, your platform grows.
It might be slow at first, and you feel like you’re doing a lot of writing without any gains, but…that is the way it is when you begin to build.
Most fiction authors start to see a return on investment after the 4th or 5th book in a series. For nonfiction, this could happen sooner but, I certainly experienced a big shift after launching my 5th book Relaunch Your Life.
Another reason multiple books work is, new readers discovering you are almost always going to buy your other books if they like what they read. If that same reader likes your books, maybe he or she wants the course you are offering as well at 20% off.
Expanding Book Formats to Make More Money from Your Books
Don’t just settle for publishing in a single format.
We’re covering the several different types of book formats you can publish in that will increase your income from writing over time.
#1 – Boxsets
A boxset is a series of books bundled together allowing readers to purchase the series at a reduced cost per book. This is a great product to create as soon as you have 3 or more books in a series.
We live in the digital age but, paperbacks are still massively popular. In fact, 30% of my author revenue still comes through paperback sales.
With the power of Print-on-Demand, readers can buy our books through Amazon or IngramSpark, and these sites do all the heavy lifting. No inventory.
#4 – Hardcover Books
You can use IngramSparks’ powerful distribution network to create stunning hardcover versions of your book. Why not? It’s another income stream that, once set up, sells itself. You have to pay a fee of $49.00 per title and you’ll need an ISBN for each version of the book.
Ideally, you are not just selling a book. You are converting a browser into a lifelong customer. That is the real power of building a brand and an author platform.
Right now, take a few minutes to map out a rough plan for your book platform. How many books will you write this year? Is this a series of books or stand-alones? How far apart will you publish your books? Could you compliment your book by introducing a course to go with it?
Creating Scalable Income Streams
Successful 6-figure authorpreneur Joanna Penn accounts for her success to multiple income streams she calls “scalable assets” that bring in thousands of dollars every month.
Check out how she does it in the video below:
In essence, a scalable asset can be anything you create once and continue to sell over and over again.
For example, you put in over a hundred hours to write a book. Now, if you were being paid $30 an hour to write, that would be $3000 to you after the work is done. But let’s say your book sells at $4.99 as an ebook, and $12.99 for the paperback.
You consistently sell 30 eBooks a day at a 70% royalty rate, because your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
The paperback priced at $12.99 earns a fixed 60% royalty rate through KDP. That is roughly 182.00 per day for ebook and paperback sales. Making money with ebooksis doable and sometimes the most lucrative way to get paid.
Now, this continues for 30 days and that is: 185.00×30=$5,550. Now, I calculated this just for one book if it does really well. Imagine where you could be with five, ten or twenty books each generating their own passive income streams?
How about if you had audiobooks as well? What about foreign rights sales? A course that goes with the book?
Get the idea now.
Yes, the dream is very real. It is right in front of you, if you want it!
How can you scale up your author business right now?
How many assets can you create over the next six months?
Build an email list of raving fans
If you haven’t started building an email list yet, you need one. Without a fan base to market your books to in the initial book launch phase, you are left to the mercy of the Amazon algorithm. Your list is the horde of fans waiting for your book release.
A successful book launch is critical. When you Sell More Books, this is a trigger to Amazon that your book is popular and in demand. Amazon steps in to push your book into the also-bought section, the area that recommends popular items to customers when browsing.
How do you create an email list?
You can get started by offering a free gift inside your book.
This is a lead magnet that could be a:
Your readers give you their email by signing up (what Seth Godin calls “Permission marketing) and they get added to your newsletter list. This is one of the most effective ways to sell books and continue to add to your subscribers list.
Your list is happy because they get to join you on the journey as you keep them in the loop on every writing project. Then, when close to launching, you can invite them to your launch team and offer the book for free to a segment of your list.
This helps to secure book reviews during launch week. In turn, your book sales flow in and your book has a stronger chance of sticking in the marketplace after the initial 30-days is over.
Remember: From the day your book is published, Amazon puts all books in “new releases” category. It is critical you maximize paid downloads and reviews during this 30-day period for the long-term success of the book.
Ready to Become a Full-Time Author?
Okay, you don’t have to be full time to still make money selling your books. But to make money at this, there are three things you should do consistently.
Here is a list of three action items that you, as a real author, can take to scale up your platform, sell more books, and earn good money while you sleep.
#1 – Form a writing habit
I write every morning from 5:30—7:00. This is a consistent schedule I have kept for the past 3 years and during this time I wrote and launched 12+ books.
Developing a writing habit is crucial if you want to make a living writing.
If you still have a day job (and most people do) you’ll need to find the time of day works best for you, establish your most productive writing time and make this a habit of creating content during this peak time.
Once you’ve established your best time for writing, write consistently for five days a week.
#2 – Publish consistently
If you follow the steps above and write with consistency, you can publish frequently, too.
Imagine where your (fiction or nonfiction) platform would be if you put out a book every 3-4 months. This is how you create scalable income.
Do the work now and reap the rewards later.
#3 – Communicate with your fanbase
We looked at the importance of an email list and why you need one. When you are getting ready to launch, you want to be able to shout it out to someone who is listening.
Your team of dedicated email subscribers are ready to help you launch bestseller after bestseller. But, communicating with your list is critical in between book launches.
At the very least, send out an email once every two weeks, and if you can, once a week. Provide tips, strategies, or an update on what you are working on.
Keep your tribe in the loop!
#4 – Determine Your Level of Success
You have to work out the details of what your success means to you.
How many income streams can you build, and what are they? Will you focus on the wide distribution model, or stay exclusive with Amazon?
This is different for every writer and depends on what you are comfortable with in terms of time and financial investment.
Stay focused on the big picture and scale up gradually. With every new book, you are generating potential to earn more and gain wider recognition as an author.
If you write one book and focus all your efforts on this, think of other income streams to tie in with your book and the kind of fan base you want to build. Will you offer coaching? Courses? Outsource your tech skills to help other authors?
You are an author, and now is the best time to make a living as a writer.
Below is a table detailing how many words make up a novel in each respective genre, as some are typically longer than others.
Type of Writing
Pages in a Typical Book
100 - 15,000
1 - 24 pages
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
30,000 - 60,000
100 - 200 pages
"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
60,000 - 100,000
200 - 350 pages
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": by JK Rowling
120,00 - 220,000+
400 - 750+ pages
"Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
Keep in mind that these are a baseline. You want to make sure your novel is in the ballpark word count for your genre and target audience but just remember that you can easily go over or under depending on how well the story is crafted…
…and if it covers our 5 key milestones – it will be crafted well.
How do you plan a novel? Your Novel Structure Breakdown (& Template)
Planning a novel involves coming up with your plot, character development, knowing your audience, and outlining your book.
Coming up with your plot involves knowing which genre you want to write or even utilizing a list of writing prompts to get your thoughts moving.
Character development is one of the most vital parts of your novel. Take the time to know your characters and protagonist well before you start writing in order to better plot your novel to fit how they act.
Your audience will dictate the type of content in your plot. You can always plot first and then decide if you’ll be writing young adult, new adult, adult, or even middle grade. Just make sure you categorize your novel correctly in order to reach the right audience.
Once you know the above, you’re ready to outline your novel. First, however, you have to figure out if you’re a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between before you can outline your book.
What’s the Difference Between Pantser Versus Plotter
A plotter is someone who plans out their novel with an outline before actually writing, whereas a pantser is someone who writes with seemingly no direction – they write by the seat of their pants.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Fiction authors tend to fall into one of two buckets when writing their books.
These are writers who basically only have a few vague elements about the story in mind when they start writing, but nothing else.
One of the most famous pantsers is Stephen King. In interviews, Stephen King has said that he often has an idea of the beginning, the premise, and a vague idea how it’s all going to end – and that’s all he needs to start writing his first draft.
These are writers who need to know every piece of their story, down to the minute detail, before they will write a single word. They have full, complete outlines that serve as a guide for their writing.
They will know who each and every one of their characters are, what their motivations are, the chapters needed for the book, chapter sections, and in some cases, even paragraphs. Probably the most famous plotter out there is James Patterson.
Knowing if you’re a plotter or pantser will dictate your entire writing process.
Clearly, it’s possible to be successful whether you’re a plotter or pantser. But here’s the harsh reality: whereas Stephen King and James Patterson sit on opposite extremes of the ‘Outline Spectrum’, most of us fall somewhere in between.
But that still doesn’t answer the question:
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
My best advice is to be something in between. Someone who looks beyond the “outline” of a novel, and identifies something much more important in their story…the 5 key milestones we’re about to reveal to you.
How to Write a Novel with 5 Key Milestones of Every Successful Novel
Most novels and movies have five key points that make up the core of their story – it’s a formula that’s been around for longer than books have.
This may not even be something authors do intentionally but rather, these are what make a story (even spoken) good and captivating.
What’s more, these milestones are something that readers have subconsciously been trained to look for when digesting a piece of fiction.
In other words, if you don’t have these five key moments, your reader is likely to turned off of your story because it didn’t meet expectations set by the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories they have already digested before yours.
You tell your reader what kind of story it will be – a comedy, drama, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi – and you give a few clues as to what they can expect. Whatever you said in these initial pages must be followed to the end of your story.
A stone-cold drama cannot turn into a slapstick comedy by the end of the story. That doesn’t mean a stone-cold drama can’t have humor in it, it just means that you can suddenly pivot and become an Adam Sandler movie.
Also, during the setup, we learn a little bit about:
One mistake made by first-time fiction authors is that they do not properly set up the story expectations and the reader goes in expecting one thing, only to get another.
Nothing annoys readers more, and so it is essential that during the setup phase of your novel, you set the expectations that you will meet during the book or you’ll lose those 5-star Amazon reviews that make such a difference.
The Setup of a novel Example:
In the Hunger Games, we meet Katniss. From her surroundings, it is obvious that she is poor, and as soon as she steps outside of her wooden shack we see hovering drones.
Within the first few pages of this book, we have learned three essential things:
This book is a drama
Katniss is our heroine and she has a miserable life
SURPRISE! There are drones and other technologies that indicate this to be a sci-fi
We are about to read a dystopia set sometime in the future
How to Write a Novel Action Step:
Ask yourself these questions:
– What does your story’s setup look like?
– What happens?
– What story promises do you make?
Create a list of everything your reader needs to learn in order to enter your story’s world before crafting your introduction.
#2 – The Inciting Incident
The inciting incident is the moment in your story when your hero’s life changes forever. It is the ‘no-going back’ moment, where nothing that happens afterwards will return your hero’s world back to normal.
Katniss volunteers, Neo takes the red pill, Dorothy lands in OZ … the aliens are here!
As soon as your inciting incident happens, your story should be full throttle towards the climax.
The most common mistake first-time authors make is that their inciting incident is reversible. That means that something could happen that would return the hero’s life back to normal.
No, no, no!
Your inciting incident should as final as the severing of a limb or a death of a loved one. Nothing should be able to reverse the effects of your inciting incident has on your hero.
Inciting Incident in a Novel Example:
Katniss volunteers! In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is irreversible because – quite literally – soldiers grab Katniss, whisk her away from her world, and into the world of the games.
There is no escape.
And even if she could get away, she would be hunted by the Capital for the rest of her life. With those two simple words, “I volunteer!” her life has changed forever.
Note: There is an exception to this rule when it comes to romances.
With romances, the inciting incident is almost always when the two lovebirds meet. (Not always, but for the vast majority of romances, this is the case.) With romances, try to create an inciting incident that simultaneously shows how perfect these two people are for each other while setting up the numerous reasons why they can’t be together.
How to Write a Novel Action Step:
Answer these questions in full and complete the brainstorming activity.
– What is your inciting incident?
– Is it strong enough?
– Are there ways you could up the stakes or shorten the timeline?
– How can you make it your inciting incident as impactful and irreversible as possible?
Brainstorm several inciting incidents… Don’t settle for one. Take a look at your inciting incidents and ask yourself this: Which one of these is the harshest, deadliest inciting incident of the bunch. Then pick that one.
#3 – The First Slap
Now, we are away to the races for writing a novel!
Over the next few chapters, your character should be making a series of gains and losses, where the aggregate result is that their situation is slightly better than what it was at the moment of the inciting incident.
The reason why we need this upward trajectory is because we are setting up the reader for the first slap.
The first slap is the moment when everything that our hero has gained is lost in fell swoop. Your hero is brought down to zero. In other words, all gains are lost, and your hero’s situation has never been bleaker.
The greater the fall, the more engaged your reader will be.
First Slap Example:
In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s world is brought down to zero when she actually enters the Games.
Between the inciting incident on the first slap, Katniss has made several gains, garnering the attention of the Capital and making some friends along the way. But none of that matters the moment she enters the Games – and what a moment it is.
How to Write a Novel Action Step:
Brainstorm what your first slap can be. Like with the inciting incident, try to come up with 3-5 scenarios and pick the one that is harshest. Take a look at all the events that could potentially happen between the inciting incident and the first slap. This is a loose mind map as you are not committing to anything at this point, but do try to get a sense of whether or not your hero will be making gains and losses (with a net value of gains) and try to assess whether or not the first slap is harsh enough to truly wow your reader. Remember, you want your readers to hate you for what you’ve done to the characters they love.
#4 -The Second Slap
Your hero has rose to the challenge! They have successfully thwarted the big evil that has been thrusted upon them by the first slap and she is doing well.
…Now it is time to bring her back to 0 again.
The second slap should be as harsh, if not harsher, than the first slap. This is the moment when the reader should be looking at your book and thinking, “Wow, this author is mean. Diabolical villain mean!”
In the second slap we are setting up for the climax, which means that the hero needs to have an out. In other words, there should be some semblance of hope.
Second Slap Example:
In the Hunger Games, the second slap is when the Game Masters announce that two tributes can survive the Games should they both be from the same district.
Katniss goes looking for Peeta, only to find him mortally wounded – he is bleeding to death and won’t survive the next few hours, let alone the rest of the Games. We know enough about Katniss to realize that Peeta dying is the worst thing that could happen to her (besides her own death).
But there is hope!
An announcement is made that there is something at the cornucopia that the Tributes need, and Katniss just knows that there is medicine there for Peeta.
How to Write a Novel Action Step:
Brainstorm several seconds slaps and pick the harshest one. Then ask yourself: where is the hope and how will it lead into the climax?
#5 – The Climax
The rollercoaster that you’ve put your reader on is almost over.
The reader has gone from an engaging setup where they get to learn about your characters and world to the inciting incident where everything is turned on its head.
Then they are subjected to the first and second slaps where you embrace your inner sadomasochist in order to punish your hero and give the readers the thrills they so richly deserve.
Now it is time to wrap it all up with the climax.
There is only one rule to the climax. A rule that must be adhered to, no matter what genre you are writing in:
Make it amazing! The climax should be the moment where your reader puts down the book and goes, “Holy S&*%! That was awesome!”
Novel Climax Example:
The climax in the Hunger Games is the final confrontation between Katniss and the remaining Tributes, as well as the monsters that the Game Masters send after her. It is wrought with danger and excitement.
But what makes the climax truly kickass is the poisonous berries at the end.
Brainstorm your kickass climactic scene! Show us how amazing, smart, resourceful, powerful your hero is when overcoming their final obstacles, but remember to make sure it’s realistic and makes sense for your character.
There you have it: writing a novel is made much easier with your 5 key milestones. This method is particularly effective for first-time authors who are still finding their writing feet (or should I say typing fingers) and is an awesome resource that experienced writers can rely on time and again when planning their stories.
Common Questions About Writing a Novel
Now that you know the 5 key milestones of a gripping novel readers will love, let’s consider some of the common questions people have.
What should I write a novel about?
You should write a novel about any idea or theme that excites or inspires you.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, consider using a writing prompt to give you an initial story seed your full novel can eventually bloom from.
Many writers take inspiration for their novel from their own lives. Is there an event you’ve lived through that makes for a compelling story? How about a memorable person you’ve known that you could fictionalize?
You can also take an emotional truth you’ve experienced and apply it to a different context. Even if the situation of your novel differs from your life, the emotional authenticity will shine through.
You can also let your imagination run riot and see where it takes you. Picture an entirely different world from ours. Go crazy brainstorming ‘what if x happened to y person’ scenarios.
How do I get started writing a novel?
Getting started with novel writing depends entirely on you and your situation.
If you already have an idea in mind, you can start by outlining your plot, or jumping straight in if you’re more of the panster school of thought.
If you don’t have an idea, you could aim to come up with as many as possible using some of the techniques you’ve read here. Coming up with a large number of novel ideas gives you a good chance of finding something you love and want to pursue further.
You can also consider setting out a project plan for your novel. How many writing sessions will you need? When will you schedule them for?
No matter how you go about starting your novel, the important thing is to build momentum and a sense of excitement to propel you forward.
How do I choose a point of view when writing a novel?
It can be tricky to know which point of view to choose when writing a novel, especially if it’s your first time.
The most common choices are first person and third person.
It’s often a bad idea to edit your novel as you write. Doing so results in a loss of momentum and flow that inhibits your progress towards a complete first draft.
If you self-edit on the fly, you often end up second-guessing yourself and losing that delicious sensation of being swept away by the story.
Are there books on how to write a novel?
Yes, there are a large number of books on novel writing.
Some of the best out there include:
On Writing by Stephen King. A mixture of King’s personal story and actionable advice on the craft of writing. Seeing King’s exact process for drafting and redrafting his work is invaluable for any aspiring novelist.
How to Write Bestselling Fiction by Dean Koontz. A popular guide to crafting fiction novels, recommended by successful novelists such as Jerry Jenkins.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This book offers the perspective of Maass, an author who is also a literary agent. This background provides useful insight to guide your next novel.
Are you ready to start your novel writing adventure?
The 5 Key Milestones combined with a spot-on Premise and A-Story will tell you where your story starts, where it is headed and how it will end.
In other words, if you do the novel writing exercises above, you should have everything you need to get your novel to the finish line.
Today, I’m joined by Merideth Tullous, a Self Publishing School Student, and an award-winning children’s book author. Her book, A Gift to Remember, was created through her experience in the SPS course. We talk about her experience in the course and what she learned to create her award-winning book.
She was far along in the process but decided she didn’t know enough about publishing and wanted guidance and education on the process. Merideth felt it was important to publish a high-quality children’s book as her work would be a part of a family when they read to their children at night.
Merideth found the editing process, though, as she had to trim her work from 800 to 750 words. “For me, one of the huge points I remember during the program was to think about what the illustrator is doing. Is he or she also telling a part of the story? To me, that was pivotal.”
She quickly found out what steps to take to save time and money when publishing her children’s book. “Having a straightforward conversation of how the artist works. Asking how much detail you want, how much direction do you want from me as the author.” She recommends asking the illustrator what you can do differently in your second book to make the artist’s job easier, asking how much information the illustrator wants, and giving them artistic freedom to design your cover.
Find out how Merideth found the artist and illustrator for her book, why she enjoys the SPS community to support her through the process, and the most rewarding part of Merideth’s publishing process.
Listen in to find out how you can keep going in your publishing process, why she published a holiday book in July, and why it’s important to promote your book beyond your initial book launch.
[02:22] How Merideth came to find SPS.
[04:10] Why she decided to try the SPS course.
[06:46] Beginning stages of the manuscript process.
[08:25] Tips for authors editing their children’s book.
[10:25] Her advice on condensing your story without losing details.
[12:30] How Merideth found the artist for her children’s book.
[13:53] What she did to save time and money in the publishing process.
[17:24] The most rewarding part of the publishing process.
[19:11] Hardest part of the publishing process.
[23:23] Should you change your publishing date based on COVID or the holidays?
[27:08] Merideth’s book marketing and how she received reviews.
[33:06] What elements are important to identify your reader audience.
[41:03] Tips for authors to win awards after they publish.
[48:10] How you can purchase a copy of Merideth’s book.
Fiction writers can expect to make as much as they put into their work, but it largely depends based on their publishing method, book retail price, book sales, and royalty rate.
Self-published authors can expect to make up to 60% royalties on each sale whereas traditionally published authors typically make around 10% royalties after their advance is paid out.
What this mean for averages is that a self-published author can expect to average around $4.50 per book sale and a traditionally published author can expect around $1.50 per book sale.
What this means is that for a 300-page paperback book self-published on Amazon, retailed at $14.99 with a 60% royalty rate and Amazon charging $4.45 for printing, leaves the author with $4.54 per book sale.
(Royalty rate x list price) – printing costs = royalty
0.6 x 14.99 = 8.99 | 8.99 – 4.45 = $4.54
The amount you fully earn as an author depends on how many books you have, how many sales they get monthly, and how heavily they’re marketed. A full-time fiction author running successful Amazon ads, for example, can expect to make more than a self-published author without ads.
How do you become a successful fiction writer?
To become a successful fiction writer you have to write consistently, read often, find a process that works for you, and publish at least 1 book a year on average.
This may sound like a lot, but if you truly want to have a career writing fiction, there is a good amount of upfront work, consistency, and learning the methods that lead to success in the first place.
Think of it this way: maybe people spend thousands and thousands to go to college for 2-4 years and get a degree in their field, so they can become successful in their field. You may have to put that much time in upfront, but not necessarily that much work.
How to be a Full-Time Traditionally Published Fiction Author
Traditional publishing is probably the method you’re most familiar with. It’s when a book is published through a traditional publishing company, typically having gone through an agent acquired through a query process.
Publishing houses you’ve heard of might include Penguin/Random House, Harper Collins, Hatchette Book Group, and Macmillan. There are HUNDREDS more, but these three are a part of what’s referred to as “The Big Five.” Publishing with one of The Big Five is often seen as a mark of success for an author.
Most authors you know are traditionally published. Stephen King, Alice Walker, Anne Tyler, Cormac McCarthy, Neil Gaiman…
But is traditional publishing the route for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Pros of traditional publishing:
Money upfront! Most traditional publishers offer an advance payment for the right to publish your book. For a debut author, the average advance can be around $5,000 to $15,000. As writers grow and get more publications under their belt, this advance can be much higher.
Little monetary investment. If you publish traditionally, the cost of editors, designers, printing, and such are covered by the publisher.
Clout. Like I said, being published traditionally–particularly by a company in The Big Five–is seen as a mark of success. Many people perceive traditional publishing as the more, or only, “legitimate” form of publishing.
Cons of traditional publishing:
Likely no royalties/lower royalties. If and when your book has sold enough copies to surpass the advance you were paid, you may start to receive royalties per book sold. Most books will never reach this threshold. The royalty rate for traditionally published books can fall between 8% and 15%, depending on the format (ebook, paperback, hardback) and the number sold. But like I mentioned, few books reach that threshold of sales to begin receiving royalty payments in the first place.
Less creative control. If you have ideas for covers, formatting, marketing, or even the specific content of your book, you might be disappointed with the traditional publishing process. The creative decisions will be in the hands of your publisher, and it will be marketed in whatever way they see fit. Some publishers might ask for your input, but ultimately, the decision is theirs.
More barriers to entry. Like they say, if publishing a book was easy, everyone would do it. The barriers to entry for traditional publishing are extremely high. Even if you write a strong, compelling book with amazing characters and sparkling prose, that genre might not be what’s marketable right now. Publishers usually have specific types of books and authors they’re looking for–very few people are going to fit that mold. It’s very common to get rejected due to no fault of your own or your book’s–it’s just not what they’re looking for right now.
Longer process. Traditional publishing is a long, long, winding road of querying, rejection, revision, repeat. A manuscript could be rejected a hundred times before being accepted, if it ever is. Even after acceptance, it can take years from then until you see your book on shelves. This is why writers often have several projects going on at once in various stages.
Traditional publishing is likely the safer, more widely approved way to publish–if you can get in.
Self-Publishing for a Full-Time Fiction Career
Self-publishing has flourished into a thriving industry in the last few years. It has shifted from low-quality, cringe vanity projects to a legitimate and respected publishing option.
Self-publishing might be for you if you’re just starting out, interested in a lot of creative control, or have a special (not particularly trendy) project in mind.
It’s also an excellent option for entrepreneurs, life coaches, and other professionals to showcase their expertise, add to a product offering, supplement an online course, and countless other purposes.
Some self-publishers you may have heard of: Margaret Atwood, William Blake, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Anais Nin, E.L. James, Rob Dircks.
Some of these authors have gone on to be traditionally published. Self-publishing can be your foothold to a traditional book deal, or it could be a main or supplemental income for as long as you’d like.
Success rarely includes fame, and there are tons of writers making a living self-publishing their books. Don’t think that self-publishing isn’t lucrative if you can’t list famous self-published authors off the top of your head.
So is self-publishing for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Pros of self-publishingfiction:
Creative control.You decide what happens with every aspect of design and promotion. If you’re a creative person with tons of ideas, this can be a great opportunity to have your hands in every part of the process and make it exactly what you want it to be. No one to answer to, no one to say “no”.
Higher royalties. Like I said, IF a traditionally published book sells enough copies to reach the threshold to receive royalties, the royalties are low. With self-publishing, your royalty rate can easily be 10 times as high as traditional royalty rates.
Fewer barriers to entry. The only thing stopping you from self-publishing is yourself. Everything is within your reach and control, and there are no industry barriers to publish.
Business control. Much like creative control, the way your book is handled and promoted is up to your publisher. If you’re your own publisher, that means it’s up to you! The first example to come to mind when I think about business control is my decision to offer free ebooks during the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns. If I’d traditionally published my collections, things like that wouldn’t be an option for me. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control of business decisions, self-publishing might be the route for you.
Quicker turnaround. Like we discussed earlier, traditional publishing is a LONG journey. Self-publishing can be as quick as you’d like. I know romance authors who drop an ebook once or twice a month–and make bank doing it. The process and steps of self-publishing are completely up to you, and if you want to speed produce books, there’s nothing stopping you.
Cons of self-publishing for fiction:
You drop the money upfront. Unlike traditional publishing, all costs of production fall to you. Editors, designers, artists, marketing–any and all costs are yours to bear.
No guaranteed profit. As we mentioned, most traditional publishers offer an upfront payment, regardless of how your book performs. With self-publishing, your paycheck hinges on sales.
Stigma. Even though self-publishing is becoming a more lucrative option for authors every year, there is still stigma around it because of the lack of barriers to entry. It’s easier, sure–but everyone knows it’s easier.
A hybrid author is the best and worst of both worlds. They self-publish and traditionally publish.
This is what I intend to do myself. Why? Because I write short story collections, a genre that is particularly impossible to catch a publisher or agent’s interest. I fully intend to continue publishing collections while I query my fantasy novel for traditional publishing. Maybe I’ll hate traditional publishing, maybe I’ll love it!
There are plenty of authors who hybrid publish.
So which publishing option is right for you?
It depends on you! Are you so excited to have creative and business control of your publications that you don’t mind the initial investment? Maybe you’re a self-publisher.
Are you in it for prestige and the potential comfort of one big paycheck? Traditional publishing might be for you.
Like me, are you a multi-genre author? Maybe you’re a hybrid!
Consider your options carefully, but let’s talk about the steps you should be taking now, regardless of your publishing route.
5 ways to prepare for your author career
Here are five things you can be doing right now, even without a finished book, to give yourself a competitive edge in your writing career.
#1 – Practice the craft
The most worthwhile time investment for a writer is, surprise, writing! Even if it isn’t to produce new content you intend to monetize, writing for practice is a great use of your time. There are loads of writing seminars you can take online. And check out free writing tutorials on YouTube!
Get involved with the writing and publishing industry. Connect with writers who have found success in the publishing route you’ve chosen, as well as writers who are at your level.
See what they’re doing, note what’s working and what isn’t.
#3 – Build your platform
No matter how you’ve published, all writers benefit from a platform.
Build your readership, even before you have a book to sell, by doing the following things:
Social media – Set up your professional online presence with consistent branding, high-quality profile images, and regular content. Engage with readers and other writers!
Produce content – Before you have a book to offer, think of other things you could create to attract an audience. Here are a few ideas:
Start a YouTube channel – Maybe your videos are about writing, or maybe they’re not–just make sure to mention your writing projects every now and then!
Write a blog – Posting regular content can draw traffic to your website, putting your books, services, mailing list, and brand in front of new people.
Develop a course – Show your expertise in writing or another area to build credibility and establish an extra income stream. I publish classes through Skillshare, and based on the current rate of growth, those courses will be 10% of my income by the end of the year.
Create an aesthetic Instagram or Pinterest account – Writers and readers love aesthetics. If you’ve got a knack for it, create a post schedule, log some back content, and make a thing of it!
Remember to include an email list signup on your website! A mailing list is a powerful author tool.
#4 – Build a network
You’ll eventually need to know people in the industry, like editors, agents, designers, other writers, readers, reviewers–it’s great to connect with people before you need them.
Even if you don’t hire or work for a connection directly, the more people you know, the more opportunities you and your writing will be thrown in front of.
Here are some tips for building your author network:
Follow people in your industry on social media.
Be friendly! Reach out, but be mindful that writers with sizable followings get a LOT of messages every day. Smaller creators and writers are much more willing to give cold call messages a read and response.
Create content. Creating something other than books so you can share things more regularly can help to build your platform and network. Make something cool, and other people will notice!
Remember that not every connection has to be a two-way street. Make sure to follow people just for the sake of learning and being plugged in. If you’re new to Twitter (the social media platform of choice for most writers), here’s a list of starter follows you might like–
Kayla Ancrum is an amazing writer with an active, hilarious Twitter feed.
Kelly Quindlen sets a good example of how to interact with other writers. Give her a follow and see how she replies to other writers and their content.
John Meehan offers a perspective from the place of academic writing, as well as thoughtful takes on current issues in publishing.
Fadwa is a booktuber with great videos and a topical Twitter feed.
Mina’s following has skyrocketed recently, and with good reason! Her stuff is insightful and funny. She’s also a booktuber.
If you’re more into blog reviewers instead of videos, Karina’s the one for you.
Other industry types you might want to follow are editors, agents, and publishers, and readers of your genre!
#5 – Ask for help when you need it
Ask for help when you need it!
If you’d like a team to guide you through the process of writing and self-publishing your book, look no further. Take the first step by scheduling a consultation with one of our Publishing Success Strategists now!
Whether you choose traditional publishing, self-publishing, or a mix of ‘em, use these tips to build a strong path into your author career.
The awful news for authors out there today is that there are plenty of vanity press scams and self-publishing companies to avoid… Unless you want your money stolen, that is…
If you are a self-published author, publishing your book today has never been easier. With a quick Google search, you’ll come across dozens of self-publishing companies offering publishing services for authors.
Before making any decisions, you want to check out all your options carefully. If not, you could find yourself the victim of a self-publishing scam, forking thousands of bucks over to a shady publishing company with nothing to show for it.
In this post, you’ll learn how to recognize the self-publishing scams when they cold call you…and the companies you can really trust to get your book published!
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post on self-publishing scams:
As with any lucrative industry, there are a wide range of self-publishing scams in business for one reason: To take your money.
A Vanity press publisher charges sky-high prices for author services that includes editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing.
But, all of this is outsourced to the lowest bidder and in the end, the author is left with a poor quality book and no way to market it.
“You get what you pay for” doesn’t equate when it comes to vanity press and the publishing scams they represent. You do pay top dollar, often tens of thousands, and what you get back for your investment lacks anything of value.
So, how can you avoid these self-publishing scams?
Let’s take a look.
Why Authors Fall for Vanity Press Scams
There could be many reasons why someone would sign up with a scammy publishing company that wants you to pay big money upfront.
There is no shortage of scams out there when it comes to self-publishing. The biggest reason authors fall into these scams is because… Well, they don’t know what they should know to avoid being scammed in the first place.
The fact that you have to pay a publisher to get your book published is warning sign enough: The lies are on the wall. Most authors who fall into this trap are not published authors yet.
You are either thinking of writing a book, you’ve started writing it, or you’re done and can’t wait to get it out there.
So, when a publisher comes along offering to get their “just finished” manuscript into the hands of thousands of readers and sell millions of books worldwide, I would grab at it, too. Who wouldn’t want that?
As a first time author, you are most likely not going to write a book that sells thousands of copies. And if you do, it will not be through a company that you just paid $5,000-$10 to for this to happen.
Most soon-to-be-published self-publishers fall into the lap of predatory publishers because they need help.
For someone who wants to become a successful author, your passion to publish is so strong that it overrides the sudden impulse to take the first offer on the table.
Here are several reasons why you might fall for the vanity press trap:
You are scared of “not publishing” and want it done right now.
You are not tech-savvy and would rather pay someone to overcome the hurdles.
Your friends keep asking you “When is your book coming out?”
You know nothing about book marketing and need to hire the experts. Guess what: Vanity publishers don’t know much about it either and you’ll have to market no matter the avenue of publishing you choose.
You watched a video of a self-published author who just signed a 6-figure deal with a large publisher…and you think that is what usually happens.
Before you make any hasty decisions, stop and breathe. If you need help with publishing your book [and everyone does] there is a right way and…
The other way that steals all your hard-earned dollars.
My hope is that you read this post before signing anything. If you can know the danger signs to watch for, you’ll pull yourself back from making a decision that costs you thousands of dollars, not to mention the heavy burden of regret later.
Early Warning Signs: The Lies of Vanity Press
Vanity presses are generally a bad idea all around, but we’ll cover some specific ways they can scam you and why they’re often on the list of self-publishing companies to avoid.
How Vanity Press Publishers Scam You
It is actually easy to spot a predatory publisher. I only hope you get to this post before they get to you. Here are the 5 big signs you are at risk of being scammed.
#1 — The company asks for publishing fees. This should be enough right here. Although Hybrid Publishers require authors to pay for all the publishing services upfront, they usually split the fees later.
A vanity press publisher will charge thousands for a publishing package. You are told that the book sales will be recouped later through book sales…which almost never happen. Don’t listen to the so-called “reviews and testimonials” on the websites. These are rigged, of course.
#2 — “We will publish your book for you on Amazon.” Let me be clear about this: Publishing on Amazon is super easy, even if you have limited tech skills. Not to mention Amazon has an excellent support system in place. The response time to inquiries is less than 24 hours and they are very detailed when it comes to responses.
A vanity publisher will make this sound more complicated than it really is. They will “take care of everything” and upload the book for you. What this also means is you lose control over making any future changes to the book. The only person that should be uploading the book to Amazon is YOU under your own account.
#3 — Charges for A Reading Fee. Never. This just isn’t done. A traditional publishing house never asks for this. If you are told by the sales rep they will read your book for a certain fee, red flag this. The “reading fee” scam is less common today, but just in case you do run up against a company that tries this old scam.
With a real publisher, nobody makes money until the book is selling. Actually, this practice has fallen the wayside these days and it would be rare to come across. But there is always someone willing to try…
#4 — The publisher will buy you an ISBN [because they are so hard to get]. You can buy an ISBN through Bowker.com if you reside within the USA. The cost is $125.00. In the U.K. you go through Nielson. In Canada ISBNs are free through ISBN Canada. If you buy this through IngramSpark they offer a slight discount. Again, this is just another ploy to make you think it is a difficult process that is better off left to the “professionals.”
#5 — “We will take care of all the marketing, because we know how difficult it is.” Yes, marketing is difficult, especially for authors. But a vanity press company won’t market the book to sell, they will do the bare minimum required so it appears as if the book is being placed in the proper channels.
My advice: Grab a book on marketing for authors or enroll in a course. Learn it. You can even outsource it out so that you doSell More Books. But in the end nobody is better at marketing their own book than the author.
#6 — Excessive use of flattery. The first time I spoke to a vanity press sales rep I remember the praise she gave me for my book. I felt as if I had written a book that was going to sell thousands of copies in the first week.
The rep was quoting passages from the book and referencing everything from the first page. Mind you, I later realized, everything she was quoting was from the first few pages. So did she read it? Of course not.
#7— A sales rep calls you several hours after you sign up to their newsletter with a sales pitch. I tested one of these sites by enquiring about their services, and I downloaded a freebie. The next day I received a call from my “Publishing consultant” ready to help me fulfill my dreams as an author. Wow. The sales pitch was impressive, but if you already knew the situation, it was a total scam. You can smell it.
But, for a new author excited to be part of the publishing journey, listening to someone else tell you how excited they are to publish your boom is a very tempting catch. In the end, they don’t care about your book or you. Whether it is Author Solutions or another of the dozens of publishing scammers out there, they get your money and keep milking it with constant upsells.
#8 — Make “over the mountain promises” to get you endorsed by Hollywood. It is not unusual for these companies to tell you that your book has a shot of being featured in Oprah’s book club, or that they will send your manuscript to one of their agents in Hollywood for review.
I can promise you one thing—Your book will never see the inside of a movie studio. Not unless you are a well-established author who has already proven themselves, and even then, it will not be through a vanity press company that you get there.
#9 — Promises to get your book into barnes and noble and other bookstores. In this case what happens is, they put your book into a large catalogue where bookstores and libraries can order it. But realistically, you’ll be hard pressed to sell a single book in any bookstore if you publish through a vanity press company. Libraries and bookstores won’t even consider it in most cases.
#10 — Insists you sign a contract handing over exclusivity. If this final dose doesn’t make you run the other way, I don’t know what will. By any and all means, as a self-published author, you do not sign over your material rights to anyone. This gives the vanity publisher the right to further exploit your work and profit from all sales. The author, in this case, gets a lower end percentage.
Now that you’ve seen the red flags, you are well-informed to make a decision if you come across what appears to be a shady publisher. You don’t need to sign anything or pay huge amounts of money for the publisher to “publish you to Amazon” or set you up with a movie deal.
Here’s an image that you can use as a reminder:
Now, let’s take a look at…
Your Self-Publishing Options
We are not living in the 1990s anymore. Back then, choices to self-publish were limited. You either paid a company—like a vanity press—a lot of money. Or, you went on your own and hired a printing company to run off tons of copies that were not cheap.
Today, you will see that you have many good choices these days that make it easier for you to get your book published.
#1 — Self-Publishing Courses
There are quite a few reputable self-publishing courses out there. You buy the course, and work through the modules to write and ultimately publish your own book.
There are costs to publish your book, including creating it, cover design, editing, and launching your book.You still have to pay for these services, but at least you get to choose who is working on your book.
It is up to each individual author to outsource his or her own book. Publishing courses provide the content you need to get it all done, but you do all the work and take on additional costs outside the cost of the course.
You have to pay for the basics that any author pays for: A good cover design, hiring an editor and formatting, and maybe a budget for marketing services such as book promo sites or a media package.
But many new authors are weary about self-publishing and think uploading to Amazon— or other publishing companies—is a complex ordeal. It isn’t. I have been coaching authors for years and, nowadays, the system is built in that all you have to do is plug your book info into the Kindle Direct Publishing Bookshelf and away you go. The cost for actually self-publishing your book is O.
The production cost for the average book is about $1500. If you pay $1000-3000 for a course + $1500 for the book production, you are still under $5,000. If you continue to write more books, you’ve already paid for the course that usually gives you access for a lifetime.
Taking a self-publishing course is the best option we think. You learn how to do so much of the process yourself, and can rinse and repeat for future books. You still pay for everything but, who you decide to hire is up to you and the creative decisions are all yours.
#2 — KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing]
The KDP platform is Amazon’s book publishing platform. Publishing a book is so much easier now than it ever used to be, especially with Amazon self-publishing.
You no longer need to go through painstaking efforts to land a book deal which locks you into unrealistic deadlines and cuts you out of most of the earnings. You don’t have to sign up and fork over thousands to a vanity press company.
You can now have complete control of your book – and its revenues – by publishing directly through Amazon self-publishing.
Setting up your KDP account is easy, and should be the first step you complete.
Here’s how to set up your Kindle Direct Publishing account:
Next, click “Update” in your account information and fill in your tax information. It’s important to note that you need to complete your tax information BEFORE you can publish your first book. So don’t skip this step!
Once your tax information is complete, click “Finished” and return to the main page.
To start printing your own books with IngramSpark, visit their website and set up an account. Do the same with Amazons’ Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Do it yourself. It’s not the difficult process many would have you believe, and there is lots of support on these sites ready to help you right away.
How much is the cost to print a book?
It depends on the book size but, for a book that is 30k in length with little to no photos or graphs and text only, expect to pay less than $4 per copy. The average scammy publisher will charge new authors $15-20 dollars per copy.
But for them, they print the books at the same cost as an author who sets this up through KDP or IngramSpark.
In fact, many vanity press publishers use IngramSpark for the print-on-demand service only just to sell the books back to the author at 5x the print cost.
#4 — Vanity Press Publisher
Vanity press publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from self–publishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher for everything.
The editing, formatting, cover design, and even marketing the book are paid for by the author through the various packages offered when an author signs up.
But, there is a trap here: The costs are more than you initially pay for, and they don’t tell you this until later when you’re mired deeper into the project. Once invested, most authors are compelled to publish the book no matter the costs.
The emotional investment is what these companies prey on. Knowing how you feel about your book, they are ready to help you do anything to get it to market… And that means offering more expensive services.
By the time you are done and the book is published, potentially you have just spent $10k. With close to 0 book sales.
Vanity publishers make money, not from selling books for you, but from the author buying their own books back from the publisher. It is a scam where the author always loses.
#5 — Traditional Publishers
This is not a self-publishing route but, if you want to take the traditional path, you can begin by querying your manuscript with agents. Keep in mind, you may not see your book in print for a couple of years due to the lengthy process of first finding an agent, and then having them submit it to publishers to buy.
What is a traditional publisher?
“A traditional book publishing company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Buying rights from the author is how book publishers have traditionally acquired books. …The advance is deducted by the book publisher from any royalties the author receives from the sale of the book.”
That’s right, they pay you an advance for the book. You don’t pay them anything. It depends on the publisher’s contract but they will pay for [some] marketing.
The editing, cover design and formatting is taken care of by the publisher [in most cases].
There are a lot of nightmare stories of authors signing on with traditional publishers, but that usually equates to the publisher not trying hard enough to sell any books. In this case the author may end the contract and, after that, many authors take up with self-publishing and find better success. After all, why not be in charge of building your own book business?
#6 — Hybrid Publishers
A hybrid publisher is what you will find between a traditional publisher [pay nothing upfront but get paid an advance] or a vanity press publisher [pay for everything upfront and keep all royalties.
The hybrid publishers model is simple: An author pays for everything upfront but gets a bigger cut of the royalties after book sales, upwards of 50%. The initial cost means that the author assumes all the financial risk in order to get the book to market.
One other difference between traditional and hybrid publishing is, the hybrid has to pay the author a higher percentage of royalties than a traditional publishing house.
In order for a company to be called a hybrid publisher, there are 9 criteria set out by the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) that must be adhered to:
In order to not be classified as a vanity press, ALL book submissions must be reviewed. This means if your book does not meet the criteria, it should be rejected. A vanity press doesn’t care. Anything and anybody will do.
Hybrid publishers must clearly define a vision to follow for their company.
Must report reputable sales on all titles they publish.
Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of standard traditional publisher rates.
The quality of the production—cover design, editing and formatting—must meet industry standards.
The publisher must publish as its own defined imprint and request its own ISBNs.
Manage all distribution services for the works.
Hybrid publisher must manage the rights of the works they publish as well as any subsequent rights acquired.
Hybrid publishers must meet the standards and best practices set out by the publishing industry.
But…the vanity press publishers are bad seeds. Lately, they are disguising their services as “hybrid publishers” but still operate with the same scammy tactics.
Take caution here that, while a hybrid publisher might look legit on the surface, there is a possibility you could get ripped off if you are not 100% sure.
Taking Down the Scammers
As a coach and self-publishing authority, I have worked with at least a dozen authors who’ve come away from a vanity press publisher broke, not just financially, but emotionally as well.
Like most authors, they just wanted to fulfill a dream and publish a book. But as soon as you sign up with a self-publishing scam company, your dreams are ripped apart and so is your bank account. By the time the not-yet-published author realizes it, they are invested by thousands of dollars and bound by a contract.
Over the years several class-action suits have been launched against scammy publishers for bad business practice. The worst of these publishers is Author Solutions, a company with a bad rap and a long history of complaints targeted against it by authors who have been exploited.
This company boasts on its website “300,000 authors published.” I would be hard-pressed to believe this and to go a step further, the percentage of those authors who would use Author Solution service again?
Chances are if you have been down this road, you realized before you were halfway there that you’d taken a bad path.
Author Solutions is at the top of the chain of seedy publishing houses promising to get your book to market because the world needs to hear your story. And for a publishing package upwards of $5999 it could all be done for you. Well, initially you are led to believe.
Author Solutions is the parent company of several subsidiaries that operate, not only in the US but now have an International reach as they have set up in countries worldwide.
How do they make their money?
It isn’t from helping authors to sell books.
The authors usually end up selling nothing. Instead, they are made to buy the books they want from the publishers at a high cost just so they can have their own copies to sell or giveaway.
Fortunately, authors are better educated these days on the publishing options available. Vanity publishers are disappearing. But do return “wearing different clothing”, disguised as the next best company to get you that bestselling book.
Red Flag List: Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid
I have compiled a list of publishing companies you should avoid at all costs. This is not a complete list but includes names of the major companies flagged by Writer Beware and Alliance of Independent Authors.
For a very thorough listing, I would recommend you check with the Alliance of Independent Authors. ALLi stays up-to-date on the scammy reports, warnings and lawsuits taken against bad publishers.
Here are some self-publishing companies that have made the list of those to watch out for:
“Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.”
A detailed breakdown of self-publishing companies and their ranking based on service and reliability.
Educate Yourself in Self-Publishing
Publishing scams will always be around as long as authors are paying for their services.
How do you, as an author, avoid falling into this trap?
The self-publishing arena is like a vast oasis of information and a never-ending learning process. Vanity press publishers are banking on you having no idea what to do, which is why you might consider turning to a publishing company in the first place.
You will learn how to write and market your book your way and all of it within your control. You won’t have to give up anything or sign your book rights over to a publisher that will exploit your creativity.
If you are uncertain as to whether you should spend money on a course or not, but you want to know the ins and outs of self-publishing, grab a $5 book and start here.
Meanwhile, the scammy publishers are on the phone right now with a future author that isn’t doing these things.
Read Books on “How to Write” and Self-Publishing
Reading is a cheap way to educate yourself on writing. Make it a habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Educate yourself on the publishing industry.
Top 10 Book Recommendations on Writing and Self-Publishing:
Today, I’m joined by Chad Allen, creator of Book Proposal Academy. He is a full-time writer, editor, speaker, and writing coach. Chad has been at the receiving end of book proposals and has created proposals for his own books. We dive into a good book proposal’s elements and why Chad is passionate about the Book Proposal Academy.
“A book proposal is simply a document that authors prepare to pitch their book to agents and publishers.” Chad says you can think about a book as a “micro-business” and to look at your book proposal as a “business plan for your book.” Your proposal’s job is to show that your book is a safe bet to publish for-profit and a good ROI for the publishing company.
You can create a book proposal even if you are intending to self-publish. “A book proposal, even when self-publishing, is a great way to get your hands around your project.” Make sure to have the “three C’s of publishing success” when writing your book proposal.
Chad talks about the three phases to launch your book on your platform: the pre-launch, the launch, and the post-launch. “What are you going to do at each of these phases to promote your book?” You can also add a competitive analysis of your book in your proposal and a section for possible future books if they match your current book’s genre.
Find out tips from Chad on how to solve the problem of starting off without a platform, why you want to build an email list, how to grow your audience. Between writing your book and your pre-launch, figure out how you are going to grow your platform. Think of the different strategies you can use to build your audience and launch your book.
Listen in to find out lessons Chad learned from working in the publishing industry, the three C’s of publishing success, and the elements that create a good book proposal. Learn why your title and subtitle are significant in a book proposal and ideas on how to build your audience to sell your book.
[01:40] What is a book proposal?
[03:25] Benefits of self-publishing from a traditional and self-publishing standpoint.
[04:25] What you can learn from writing a book proposal.
[06:22] When looking at a proposal, Chad first looked at buy-in.
[09:13] Casting a vision for your book through your proposal.
[13:00] How to include a section for possible future books in your proposal.
[16:12] Create a detailed marketing plan to propose to the publisher.
[22:39] How to hire a designer for your book proposal.
[23:24] Common mistakes authors make in their book proposals.
[25:23] Going from book proposal to book deal.
[32:08] Give enough time to your book proposal process to give you the best chance of success.
[34:15] What can happen in the book proposal process with publishers.
[35:38] Look for your buy back discount from a publisher.
[37:10] How many free books can you get from a publisher?
[38:32] Tips on choosing a good publisher.
[43:15] Advice that Chad would have given himself when first starting out.
ProWritingAid is a grammar and style tool for writers of every type.
It goes above and beyond traditional checking tools by not only pointing out errors in your text but showing you exactly what they are and why they matter.
The ability of ProWritingAid to assess your work and teach you how to advance as a writer is why its creators compare it to a virtual mentor rather than just another app.
Let’s explore this AI-enhanced tool to see if it’s the right choice for you.
2 – Should you use ProWritingAid?
Although ProWritingAid can help with any task, from a short email through to a full book, three types of authors especially should check out this tool further.
Fiction authors. If you want to succeed as a self-published fiction author, you can’t afford to let editing errors hurt the quality and credibility of your book. ProWritingAid is a great first option for self-editing, so your real editor can use their magic and experience to help your story shine.
Nonfiction authors. When you’re releasing a book to inform or inspire people, you shouldn’t let anything stand in the way of the benefit they gain from your book, and self-editing helps your message hit home.
Business writers. Authors in the business world need to make every word count. Enhancing the persuasive power of your copy through self-editing is the perfect first step.
If you fall into one of those groups, let’s see exactly what ProWritingAid can do for you.
3 – What does ProWritingAid do?
Although ProWritingAid is customizable to your needs as a writer, it helps your work in 10 key ways:
Identifies if you have used consistent rules for spelling, hyphenation, and the capitalization of your words.
Looks for cliche and redundant language.
Finds grammatical errors in your work.
Suggests mistakes with your terminology.
Provides contextual thesaurus suggestions.
Scans a text for instances of plagiarism.
Boosts the readability of your writing.
Points out instances of repetitive wording and phrasing.
Makes your paragraph structuring better.
Highlights vagueness and complexity in your work.
If those ideas sound like they would help you write your next book with more confidence and clarity, let’s explore how to use this tool and the feedback it offers.
4 – How does ProWritingAid improve your writing?
Let’s take a moment to think about the practicalities of using ProWritingAid to improve your book.
You can use ProWritingAid in one of three ways:
Use ProWritingAid in the Cloud.
Integrate with your browser.
Download a desktop app.
After you have ProWritingAid ready to run, you can work with it by following these steps:
Open up ProWritingAid.
Input your text into the interface.
ProWritingAid performs a scan.
The suggestions made are highlighted in different colors.
You can check out its suggestions by hovering over the text and accepting or rejecting them.
Now that you have a basic idea of how the tool works, let’s continue this ProWritingAid review with a closer look at its 20+ reports and how they can improve your writing.
5 – What do the reports cover?
Although the information ProWritingAid offers might seem like a lot, you can customize it to filter out anything you don’t need.
ProWritingAid offers these 20 different reports.
Writing style. ProWritingAid identifies many of the common style errors a human editor would advise against, like too much passive voice or use of weak verbs.
Grammar. As well as pointing out standard grammar mistakes, ProWritingAid also takes input from experienced copyeditors and uses their knowledge as part of the feedback on your writing.
Overused words. We all overuse certain words that we might not even be aware of. ProWritingAid doesn’t only identify them, it also suggests the amount you should reduce them by to make your writing more impactful.
Cliches and redundancies. ProWritingAid points out the times where your writing is cliched or tautological, so you can choose to simplify it as you see fit.
Sticky sentences. The sticky sentences report shows where your writing contains too many glue words or prepositions like ‘on’ or ‘in’ that fail to add any real value.
Readability stats. Depending on your intended audience, you should make sure the language you use is suitable for their reading level. ProWritingAid offers full analysis using the Flesch Reading Ease score.
Repetition check. If you use the same sentences too often, it can be jarring for your reader and annoying for your editor. ProWritingAid points out the words and phrases you tend to overuse. Over time, you’ll instinctively use them less often.
Sentence length. Varying how long your sentences are is one of the best ways to keep them as engaging as possible for your reader. ProWritingAid offers a visual representation of their length so you can easily see where there are too many brief or long sentences in a row.
Pronoun usage. After your text is scanned by ProWritingAid, sentences containing pronouns outside of the 4-15% level recommended by the tool are highlighted. Switching these up improves the experience for your readers.
Transitions. Around a quarter of your sentences should contain words like ‘to’ or ‘as a result’ to keep the flow of your ideas smooth and understandable.
Consistency. ProWritingAid helps to ensure your writing keeps the same approach to spelling, punctuation, and American or British English throughout.
Pacing. If you want to make sure your reader isn’t bored by meandering prose, ProWritingAid identifies sections where your pacing requires rapidity.
Dialogue tags. When your writing veers too far away from simple dialogue tags like said or asked it often loses power. ProWritingAid highlights every tag in your text so you can choose a better option where needed.
Contextual thesaurus. While thesauruses can help you find synonyms, using them in the wrong context is a recipe for disaster. ProWritingAid’s contextual thesaurus helps ensure your synonyms are suitable.
Diction. Running your text through ProWritingAid’s diction checker makes it less verbose.
Alliteration. If you use alliteration in just the right amount it’s pleasing to read. Too much can be distracting or irritating. Check exactly how much alliterative wording your writing has so you can ensure it fits.
Homonyms. It’s easy to let a homonym slide into your sentence, especially if you’re dictating. You can identify and remove any embarrassing slip-ups by taking this approach.
Acronyms. Although a lot of acronyms are essential to the content you want to write, they might not be compatible with a regular spellchecker. ProWritingAid lets you identify the acronyms in your text and save them to a dedicated glossary for later recognition.
House style. If you’ve ever had to switch between writing styles mentally, you know it’s no simple feat. Make things easier by creating custom style guides that keep your writing aligned with expectation.
Plagiarism check. Plagiarism is a serious concern for authors and academics alike. You can ensure the originality of your words by paying for a plagiarism check from ProWritingAid.
6 – Can you integrate ProWritingAid with other tools?
Sometimes, it can be difficult to give up the writing apps you know and love in favor of having to learn something completely new.
At this time, you can stick with your favorites to integrate ProWritingAid into seven tools used by writers.
Firefox. If you write content in Firefox, you can check your grammar and writing style without having to leave the browser environment.
Chrome. Chrome is the most popular browser on the planet as well as one of the most customizable, so it makes sense to see a ProWritingAid extension here.
Safari. ProWritingAid integrates directly into Safari to help spot your online writing errors.
Edge. Microsoft’s newest browser lets you avoid mistakes with an Edge extension.
Google Docs. If you want to combine the editing power of ProWritingAid and the collaborative power of Google Docs, you can easily integrate the two.
Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is still a popular choice for many writers. Why not make its spelling and grammar capabilities more powerful by adding ProWritingAid?
Scrivener. Scrivener is one of the most fully-featured options available to authors and writers. If you are already a Scrivener fan, you can use its project files directly with the desktop version of ProWritingAid.
It’s great to see ProWritingAid making an effort to meet writers where they already are.
7 – How much does ProWritingAid cost?
You can either use ProWritingAid for free or pay $79 for a year’s access to its Premium features.
Free. Try the free version of ProWritingAid online with a limit of 500 words per session.
1-Month Premium. $20 will let you try out everything ProWritingAid is capable of for a month.
1-Year Premium. $79 gets you a year’s access to ProWritingAid Premium.
Lifetime. A $399 investment gives you lifetime access to ProWritingAid, including all future upgrades.
Take the time to get a feel for the free tool and how it fits into your writing process before leveling up to a paid option.
8 – What are the pros and cons of ProWritingAid?
So now that you have read this ProWritingAid review, and know what it can do and how much it costs, it’s time to think about its advantages and disadvantages to consider if it’s the right tool for you.
Here at Self-Publishing School, our goal is to improve this arduous writing process. Right now, we coach our students to routinely complete a new book in just 90 days, finishing their first draft in as little as 30 days!
They are able to accomplish this by following a simple step-by-step guide that we’re going to share with you today.
How long does it take to write a book?
It can take anywhere from 2 months to a full year to write a book depending on the word count, how often you write, and how much you’re actually writing each session. A good rule of thumb is to allot at least 4 months to write a book.
Many authors report that it takes up to a year to write a book, but more recently, authors are finishing their books in as little as a month to 90 days with our specific system.
How long it takes to write a book largely depends on how much time the writer puts in to actually writing it, though.
The truth about how long it takes to write a book depends on how many words are in it.
Here’s a guideline for how long it takes to write a book:
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Following the guidelines below, you can learn to supercharge your own book writing process, and you’ll become a published author much faster.
What is the average time it takes to write a book?
The average person writing a book for the first time can expect to spend anywhere from 4 months to over a year writing a book. While this might seem like it takes a long time to write a book, there are always methods to shorten this.
Taking everything above into account, the truth is that most people don’t write every day, especially if you have a family and a full-time job.
So let’s break this down a bit further for the average person living an average life that doesn’t allot daily writing time (& they don’t have our system for getting more done with less time):
30,000 – 50,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 4 months – 7 months
50,000 – 80,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 7 months – 11 months
80,000 – 100,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 11 months – 1 year +
As you can see, if you maintain an average of 1500 words written per week, writing your book can span from 4 months to over a year without the right system to get it finished quickly.
How long does it take to write a 100 page book?
A 100 page book is about 30,000 words. If you write more than 1500 words per week, you can expect for it to take 2 – 4 months to write a 100 page book.
How long does it take to write a 200 page book?
The average person can expect to spend 3 -7 months writing a 200 page book if they focus on writing more than 1500 words per week.
Now, this would equate to roughly 50,000 words. Many of our students can actually finish their draft of this length in only 30 days with our process.
How long does it take to write a 300 page book?
A 300 page book can take 4 – 9 months to write at an average of about 80,000 words, writing 1500 or more per week.
The average fiction book that’s at a higher level than middle grade will run about this length. In fact, the large majority of young adult books are 70,000 – 90,000 words and can take a bit longer for the full writing, revising, and self-editing process.
How to Write a Book Faster so it Doesn’t Take as Long
If you want to know how to write a book faster so it doesn’t take as long, here are our best tips.
#1 – Establishing a Strategic Deadline
Deadlines are designed to help you inch closer to completing your book by giving yourself a writing habit. It also encourages you to work every day hitting both short-term and long-term goals.
However, you won’t find success by setting arbitrary due dates. They must be set up for your book’s success.
Here are 3 ways to establish strategic deadlines:
Define realistic deadlines. Set short term and long term deadlines for each portion of your draft that breaks down your entire book.
Set honest expectations. If you’re only able to write 500 words a day, so be it. Don’t push yourself into thinking that you can complete an unrealistic task. Be honest with your abilities and align it with your deadline.
Implement rewards. Don’t make writing a book feel like a tedious job. Reward yourself for achieving your goals! Attaching rewards to each accomplishment will make finishing your book much more aspiring to complete.
#2 – Prioritizing Your Writing Into Tasks
What separates those who can write multiple books to those who can barely write a page is the ability to prioritize. Because there are so many competing factors that pull away our time and energy, prioritizing is actually a very hard concept to implement.
But in order to write your book, you need to establish clear priorities to get anything done.
Here are some ways to prioritize your work:
List out every detail of your book and turn them into tasks
Assess each task to identify what carries the biggest value to completing your book
Order tasks by its immediate priority and length of time to complete
Anticipate unexpected changes to your schedule, and plan an alternative schedule to stay on track
Make the effort and spend a few hours prioritizing your writing process. You will be surprised with how much writing you can accomplish with a well thought out task plan.
#3 – Creating Word Count Goals
One of the best ways to accelerate the writing process is to set word count goals. Like training intervals, setting up word count goals will pace how many words to write a day.
First you have to understand how many words in a novel for your genre. Once you know this, you can work backward to figure out how much you have to write each day in order to reach your deadline.
By establishing these parameters for your own success, not only will you be more likely to accomplish these goals, but you will also notice improvements to your writing.
Here’s an example of a tracking sheet you can set up in order to accomplish your word count goals:
We recommend writing down your daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals to not only show your current progress, but to keep you motivated until you reach the end.
It also helps to include rewards for every new milestone!
Start your daily word count goal to 500-1,000 words per day. By completing 1,000 words per day, you’ll be looking at your completed 30,000 word first draft in one month!
#4 – Finding Your Accountability Partner
A supportive partner can be a great soundboard, a first pair of eyes, and a protector of your sanity. They can also be the extrinsic motivation you need to meet your own deadlines and word counts.
When you have an accountability partner backing you up, it makes it harder to procrastinate because they expect great results from you!
At Self-Publishing School, we believe in the accountability system and encourage our students to pair up with other like-minded students to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for reaching goals and deadlines.