how-to-speak-at-school-

How to Speak at Schools & Book Author Visits

You’ve finally written that book that’s been pulling at your heart and mind. You hit publish and beam because all of your dreams have finally come true: you’re a published author. 

And then, you wait. And wait. And wait. 

Now what? How do I get my book into the hands of kids? Isn’t it enough that it’s available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble? What am I doing wrong?

If you relate to any of that, then welcome to being an author! Living “the dream” of being a published author is actually the same as starting an author business and learning how to get your book selling. Whether you wrote to share your message, to make an income, or to achieve a bucket list experience, your books need to sell in order to return your investment and get into the hearts and minds of kids with your stories.

One of the major ways that children’s book authors can further our impact is through author visits, often in the context of a school, library, or retail store event.

Free Video Training Reveals…

How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

“But Marcy,” you might say, “I’m an introvert. I don’t do people. I do writing.

Me too, friend, me too. 

But you know what I’ve learned? On average, every book sold equals 8 lives impacted. If I want to change even a piece of the world, I need to sell my book and engage real-life humans, especially the “little” ones for whom we have such an opportunity and responsibility to steward and influence.

Do you know what I’ve found? School and author visits end up being so much fun. For reals. You might end up loving it.

So, in this article, we’re going to focus on the author visit, live and virtual, in order to position you to influence the world around you and have a blast at the same time. We’ll cover the why it matters, the differences between a virtual and live visit, how to reach out to get the author event gig, how to best prepare yourself for the event, what to do at the event, and how to maximize your time, energy, impact.

Here’s what we’ll cover about how to book author visits & speak at schools:

  1. Why should you speak at schools?
  2. What is an author visit?
  3. How to do virtual author visits
  4. How to book school speaking gigs
  5. Outreach for author visits
  6. What to charge for school speaking
  7. How to prepare for author visits
  8. What to do at a school speaking gig

Why Author Visits & Speaking At Schools?

Children’s book sales are event-driven. Yeah, they’ll sell online, but the best way to get noticed as a new (or seasoned) author is to become the book or author that parents, educators, and counselors recommend. And how do you become that author?

By showing up. 

When you show up at a live event and get to meet your future fans face to face, you form a connection. This is true for humanity overall, right? Being together can create a kind of trust, a bond, and loyalty, This is especially true for parents who see someone genuinely love their kids and make them happy. Think of a time you went to a concert or heard a new-to-you speaker. If you had seen an ad on Facebook, you probably would have skipped right over buying their music or message. But after the concert or presentation, after your experience with the person, it’s quite possible you bought their book or music as a new fan. Why? Because you made a personal connection with that person.

This is how children’s books sell best: through human connection. 

Author visits give us the chance to engage the very kiddos we’ve been hoping to reach. It gives their adults a chance to see that we are real people with a real passion for kids. And, it brings awareness to who we are and what we do in a sea full of authors and books. We become the name those families talk about and recommend to their friends and family as a result. 

Not only that but books you sell at a live event bring you the most profit! No one is taking their cut or commission for helping you sell it. It’s just you and your profit after the cost of printing. Not only can you impact kids and their communities through author visits, but you make more money doing it. It’s basically a lot of winning when we show up for author events.

What is an Author Visit?

An author visit is an opportunity for you to meet your fans, sell your book, spread your message, and add value to your host! Your host for the author visit might be a school, a library, a retail store, a podcast, a conference—anywhere you get to show up live and interact with readers. 

Sometimes an author visit includes a presentation, as in a school visit. Sometimes it’s simply you at a table signing books. Other times it’s your face or voice on a screen responding to interview questions.

Whatever the format, your job is to bring your best self and do what you can to support the missoin of your host. 

If a podcast has invited you to speak, do research into their target audience. Then cater your answers and free gift, if you offer one, to support the goals of the podcast. If it’s a parenting podcast meant to encourage and equip parents, then massage your message to do just that! The more value you bring to an interview or visit (versus making your time a big sale’s pitch), the more they will love and recommend you.

“Okay, Marcy, I’m convinced. But here’s the thing… sometimes the world shuts down and won’t let us leave our houses. How am I supposed to do an author event then, huh?

Excellent question, fellow author! I get asked this a ton.

How to Run a Virtual Author Visit in the Midst of COVID-19

The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 changed how we do author visits. Some of those changes were challenging, and others of the changes were riddled with opportunity. Schools closed down and turned to online learning for indefinite periods of time, sometimes doing a hybrid of both. That left authors scrambling to figure out how to support the schools, students, educators, and families we lov.

While teachers were frantically figuring out how to teach from home during a pandemic, and kids were figuring out how to learn from home in a pandemic, we were left in shock to watch and wait, surrounded by our mounds of toilet paper. 

What we learned is that schools, families, and students needed us more than ever, just not live in the auditorium as we’d done in the past. They needed us to show up live on their Google Classroom or Zoom. We all began to find our footing in a turbulent world, and we found that we needed eachother more than ever. We needed messages of hope, resilience, overcoming, peace, and unity. We needed silliness and laughter. We needed human interaction, even if much of it was virtual. 

The kidlit community of authors took to our channels and began reading our books online to give parents and teachers a reprieve or something to do together. It was amazing. We’ve always been tightknit and quick to support one another and a global pandemic only made us shine all the more brightly.

Now we get to shine live and virtually! Running a virtual author visit is essentially the same as a live author visit. The primary difference is where and how the visit happens. 

The Benefits and Downsides of Virtual Visits 

Benefits:

  1. You don’t have to leave your home
  2. You only have to dress professionally from the waist up :p 
  3. Saves time and money from commuting to the event
  4. Can do international or long distance visits without taking more time or money
  5. Kids who might be more shy in a live tend to interact more with virtual visits

Downsides:

  1. Technology can be glitchy and unreliable
  2. Can’t guage the body language and engagement of the kids as well
  3. Onscreen is great; but there’s nothing like a real human in the room with you
  4. Have to ship books to the event or individuals instead of bringing them
  5. No in person book signing or photo opps

Just like with anything, there are pluses and minuses to doing a virtual visit. However, all things aside, they end up being easy, less expensive, and still provide a great service to the classroom or event. They’re worth it!

How Do I Get an Author Visit?

First, be a published children’s book author! You can check out our Children’s Book School if you’re serious about doing this well. Ultimately, this is a major needle-mover in getting a gig speaking at schools.

Before reaching out to set up an author visit, make sure to put together an Author Visit Packet. This will keep you organized and set you and your event up for the best success. Setting good expectations and standards for communication with your event coordinator will lead to a smooth event for all.

Free Video Training Reveals…

How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

My Author Visit Packet includes:

  1. A Timeline and Checklist to keep me organized
  2. An Agreement / Contract between the host and myself
  3. An invoice for the cost of my time/service
  4. A Book Order form to be sent to families ahad of the visit
  5. An Evaluation form to help me grow and to use for testimonials
  6. A flier the event can use to promote my visit
  7. An About the Author page with photo
  8. A Testimonial or a few
  9. Book Ordering Information (to go with the order form)

We’d love to share a sample of our template with you! If you’d like a sample of the Author School Visit we use and recommend, click here! 

Once you have your Author Visit Packet put together, it’s time to reach out!

Outreach for Speaking at Schools

You can reach out to a school, library, or store via emai, phone, or in person. But before you do, do research into the school, the library, or the store and their particular mission, purpose, or goal for their clientele or students.

Do they have a particular focus? 

  • For school visit, look into the school’s theme for the year. Do they have a slogan? A mascot? What are the teachers currently working on in the classrooms? Do your best to cater your message or event to reinforce the efforts of the school.
  • For a library visit, look into their themes or goals for visitors. Do they have a theme? A particular message they’re promoting? What can you do to reinforce the purpose of the library with your visit? 
  • For a bookstore, look into the goals of the particular store. Do they love promoting local talent? Do they host regular children’s events? Your visit helps promote their business and gives them an opportunity to host a community event. Do your part to invite your own circles of influence to support their store, and they’ll do theirs to bring new customers to you. 

Once you’ve done your research, reach out! Offer them your Author Visit Packet to get a feel for your high quality and professionalism around visits. Offer to perosnalize it for your mutual event. 

What to Charge for an Author Visit

While we’re talking about Author Visits, let’s talk about payment. Should you charge for your events? YES!

You are using your time and expertise to put on an amazing event. You are worth being paid for your time. This is one way that authors make a livable income—book sales and events.

Don’t undersell yourself or other authors. When you do free events, you set a precedence that all authors will do free events. This is not what we want! We want the expectation to be that authors will be paid for their time. 

I love how author Caroline Starr Rose describes why we charge on her website:

When a school pays for an author visit, they are investing in the years of knowledge and skill she’s amassed. Not only does a school compensate the author for the work she does that day, but all the preparation that went into the presentations beforehand, the time spent traveling to and from the school, and the author’s time away from her writing desk. An author visit isn’t just an event, it’s an experience, one that takes time and preparation to get it just right.

YES!

  • School and Library Viritual Visit fees run from $125/session (often 30-45 minutes) on up (excluding travel costs).
  • School and Library Live Visit fees run from $300/assembly (often 30-60 minutes) on up (excluding travel costs). (For example, I charge $500/assembly and recently saw another author who charges $875).

Some authors choose to do a free or event or two when they’re getting started to gain experience and testimonials. Don’t stay there! Start to charge in support of your own business and authors everywhere. There’s funding available for author visits!

How to Prepare for a School Speaking Gig

This is where your research and planning come in handy. Pull out your Author Visit Packet and follow your checklist.

My pre-visit checklist includes things like:

  • Make sure the agreement (complete with technology or equipment I’ll need) is filled in
  • Get signed agreement from event coordinator
  • Get payment from the event coordinator
  • Get order forms from the school
  • Plan my presentation 
  • Get planned schedule of events for the visit
  • Order books to bring for order fulfillment and day-of sales

I also gather my packing list for the day. Some of the things I always make sure to bring are tape, cash change, a signing pen, a camera, coloring pages, my credit card reader, my business card, any related decor, a bottle of water, an easy, healthy snack, and even a friend to help take money while I sign books and smile for pictures.

What Do I Do at an Author Visit?

This is where your own creativity can come out and play. Infuse the values and themes you’ve learned about this event location into whatever you choose to do. I often read one or two of my books (Having slides of the pages as I read makes it easier for the kids to see).

I have some discussion questions to follow up the stories, related to whatever theme I’ve chosen (eg. bullying, friendship, being “just right,” etc.). I usually have a short “fun facts” time where I share about the revision process, the illustration process, or putting a book together.

And then I love some Q&A with kids. You never know what they’ll ask or say. 

Once, while reading my book Weirdo and Willy to a group of 300+ kids, a girl shouted out, “Eww, this book is going to make me barf!” While most books wouldn’t find that high-praise, it was exactly right for what I’d just been reading! It showed her engagement with the story and an understanding of why Willy was so weird, yet we learn that weird is the new cool. I love kids!

Some authors only read their books, some bring activities, songs, or videos for kids to engage in. Whatever you choose to do, always make sure that it’s aligned with who you are and reinforces the needs of your event. That way everyone wins!

But most importantly, have fun!

If you’re not having fun, then you’re event probably won’t be memorable, recommendable, or fun for anyone else. Don’t overthink it; just come be the “famous” author they’ve all been waiting for and shine!

Are You Ready for Your Author Visit? Get Started Today!

You’ve got everything you need to get started! We’ve given you what you need to plan an author visit, live or virtual, in order to have the most reach and impact possible. Now you know why author visits matter, how to set one up, how to prepare, what to charge, what to do at the event, and how to have fun! You’ve also got a head start with a sample of our Author Visit packet.

If you’re looking to publish a children’s picture book, we’d love to help. We have a whole community of authors, just like you, investing in their stories to get them into the hands of kids. We can change the world through our children by bringing them good stories!

We can help you get your book in the hands of kids asap – but only if you take action now.

Have you done an author visit before? What was your main takeaway from the experience? Drop it down below so we can all benefit from them!

find-an-illustrator

How to Find an Illustrator: Children’s Book Guide

You have a great idea for a children’s book. It begs you to write it. So, you do. You know with some work, and an editor, you can get it to a place you love. But then what?

This is exactly where a lot of children’s authors get stuck. They have the words they need for their picture book… but lack the pictures. We’ll explore how to find an illustrator for your children’s book in this guide.

I get asked all the time, “How do I find a good quality, affordable artist for my book?” 

This is one of my favorite questions because… 

  1. I’m excellent at finding incredible illustrators within my budget and 
  2. I love living vicariously through authors I work with when they begin to see their words come to life through an illustrator’s skill. There’s nothing like it. 

But this is also a piece of the publishing journey where a lot of authors make mistakes. They either settle to fit their budget, don’t have an adequate contract (or any contract at all), or don’t know what to communicate to the illustrator, leading to publishing challenges and more expenses later. 

Free Video Training Reveals…

How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

Here’s how to find an illustrator for a children’s book:

  1. The importance of a good illustrator
  2. How much does an illustrator cost?
  3. What to look for in an illustrator
  4. Where to find an illustrator
  5. How to hire an illustrator
  6. Mitigating problems with illustrators

This article will keep you from making those common mistakes. Below, we’re going to cover the potential costs of hiring an illustrator, what to look for in a children’s book illustrator, where to find high-quality, affordable illustrators, how to hire that artist, and what to do if the relationship isn’t working out. 

Do you need a good book illustrator?

The beauty of a picture book is the symbiosis between the text and the art.

Neither the words nor the art should tell the story alone. They should rely on the other to tell the whole story. Therefore, hiring an illustrator is a little like a marriage.

This person will be the other half of your story forever. Most of the time, you will be the one standing behind your book, not the illustrator, and you don’t want to stand behind something you’re embarrassed about.

When looking for the right illustrator, don’t settle. You’ll be so grateful you didn’t. 

How Much Does A Children’s Book Illustrator Cost?

You can expect to spend at least $500 for a book illustrator if you know where to look and how to find a good illustrator.

Sometimes that $500 has included the formatting and cover design as well. This often surprises people, and it should.

It’s low and fair price for those who are just starting out and working with a new artist who wants experience while also wanting to be paid for their work, and I’ll explain how it works and other ways I compensate the illustrator below. 

Illustrating a book is a lot of work. The artist is bringing their years of experience and skill and their creativity to a story they didn’t write, hoping to both please the author and express their unique “voice” in the storytelling. You are indeed lucky to find an illustrator that is talented at a budget price.

Find an Illustrator in the Traditional Publishing Industry

In the traditional publishing industry, illustrators are usually acquired by a publisher and contracted assignments when the book acquisition team determines they’re the best fit for the current book in production.

Once an illustrator is chosen, the publisher may offer them an advance, a form of payment that will be paid off once the book begins to sell. Once the advance is paid off, the illustrator will split the royalty with the author. 

Find an Illustrator in the Self-Publishing Industry

In the self-publishing industry, illustrators are a work-for-hire contractor for the author. Once an illustrator is chosen, illustrators are typically paid a flat rate.

Most of the time, royalties are not part of the agreement, though it does happen sometimes.

Currently, Print on Demand publishing options like KDP or IngramSpark do not allow for split-royalties within their platforms, meaning that for an author to offer royalties to an illustrator, they need to keep careful financial records and honor their commitment to the illustrator. For this reason, most authors and illustrators just agree to a flat rate.

You’ll find quite a variety of pricing among illustrators. To find an illustrator that is more seasoned, experienced, and published an illustrator is, the higher they will charge for their work. For example, I’ve seen illustrators in this caliber charge anywhere from $3000-$12,000.

Likewise, if an illustrator is just getting started or has zero to a couple of books published, they will likely be less expensive. Another factor in pricing can be geography: if an illustrator lives in Easter Europe versus North America, and you’re paying in the US dollar, your payment will go a lot further for that person.

My personal favorite process is to use a platform like Upwork.com and post a job. I include every important detail in my posting, including the number of pages, timeframe, synopsis of the book, and what I’m looking for in an illustrator. I also set my budget.

This is how I attract the right person rather than need to search and find an illustrator. Having them discover your posting is a much higher leverage way of starting the conversation—and you’re attracting a person who agrees with your posting, the pay, and what this includes.

Interested illustrators apply for my job and I sift through their offers. Illustrators can bid higher or lower than the listed budget price, based on the specifications of the project in my ad. I find an illustrator whose style I love, within my budget, and I hire them. It’s that simple. 

Now, having been in the industry for a long time, and having many illustrator friends, I know that starting at $500 as a new illustrator looking to grow a portfolio of experience is not a lot of money. I also know how much hustle it takes to sell a children’s book, and how long it will take me to “pay off” the cost of my illustrator in book sales.

Because of this, I find other ways to “surprise and delight” my illustrator by supplementing their payoff. 

Here’s my compensation plan for supplementing my illustrator’s fee:

  • I offer my illustrator the option of buying books at a wholesale cost. This means that I’m willing to send them books directly from KDP or IngramSpark at my author cost, for them to sell for profit. We work out the details of the money exchange, and they can host or attend their own live events and showcase our book. This is money for them, and more marketing for our book. 
  • I send my illustrators a hardback and paperback copy of our book once it’s done. I don’t tell them I’m going to do this, it’s a surprise. They can use this in their portfolio or just put it on their shelf like the accomplishment it is! 
  • I allow them to use images or pages from our book in their art portfolio.
  • I promote them all throughout the book. I include them on the cover, on the title page, in the copyright information, on the dedication page, and an About the Illustrator page at the back of the book.
  • I talk about them everywhere I go. When I do an author visit in a school, library, or bookstore, I brag about them as if they’re my best friend (and after a book project together, I often feel like they are!) This brings awareness and new fans to my illustrator. 
  • I recommend them to every author I think would be a good fit, bringing them more work and recognition.

This has been such a successful approach, that many of my illustrators are now living professionally full-time on their art! My first illustrator lived in Romania. This was her first illustrated, published book. She did amazing, as you can see. I promoted the heck out of her using the bullet points above.

When I was ready for the sequel a few years later, she had illustrated so many of my clients’ books, that her fee had increased from $500/project to $3500/project and she had moved to London! I am so proud of her!

Another value of working with beginning artists this way is knowing that I got to be part of developing someone’s skill and career to an actual livable wage.

Action Step: Determine your budget and compensation plan

What To Look For In A Children’s Book Illustrator

Like I said above, hiring an illustrator is a little like a marriage commitment—it’s for the life of your book. Here are some steps to follow when looking for an illustrator.

#1 – Know Your Book Details

When hiring your illustrator, make sure you know the specifics of your book first. This will guide you in what you need. For example, you want to know

  • The size of your print book: 8.5×8.5? 8×10? 6×9?
  • The number of pages or illustrations you’ll need. Do you want artwork on the title page or dedication page or elsewhere? Include that in the count.
  • Where you want to publish: KDP, IngramSpark, LuLu, a Novelty Press, etc.
  • The formats you want to publish: Hardback, Paperback, ebook, etc.
  • The timeframe within which you want the book completed, as this will impact your publishing date
  • Your budget: what’s the maximum amount you’re willing or able to pay?

#2 – Know Your Style Preference

Do research! Find art styles you love in other books or portfolios. Keep a list of the illustrators who stand out to you. Ask yourself what you love about those styles so you can be clear in what you’re looking for in your own illustrator.

Is it a color palette you’re drawn to? How realistic versus cartoony the artwork?

A live medium (like watercolor or pen and ink) versus digital art? Individual style?

#3 – Know Their Offer

By offer, I don’t just mean the financial compensation they’re willing to work for. I mean, what do they bring to the table?

Here are some questions to ask and find the answers to when trying to find an illustrator:

  • Have they illustrated a published book before?
  • What tools do they use?
  • Can they format the book for publishing?
  • Can they design and create a formatted cover? 
  • Are they responsive to your communication in a timely and clear manner?
  • Are they teachable? 
  • Do they work well within deadlines?
  • Has their overall artwork been appropriate for children? 
  • Are they an artist or an illustrator? These are not the same. Make sure they understand children’s book illustration (and the dynamics and differences from normal “art.”)

You can learn this about your potential illustrator by reading any available reviews, perusing their social media accounts and portfolios, searching their name on Amazon (or Google), and asking them follow-up questions to their application. 

I sneak a code word into the bottom of my job posting, asking interested applicants to start their application with the code word. This right away tells me if a prospective illustrator read the full application or not before applying.

When an artist with potential doesn’t use the code word, I kindly bring it up and ask if this is what I should expect if we work together, just to set a clear boundary from the start. 

Action Step: Make a list of your book details and style preferences.

Free Video Training Reveals…

How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

Where To Find Children’s Book illustrators

There are many great places to find illustrators. I’ve already mentioned my favorite, Upwork.com, but there are a variety of other places. Below is just a sampling to get you started.

One perk of being a Children’s Book School student with Self Publishing School is that we include a list of recommended partners for every author! With special deals and access, plus tried, tested, and loved illustrators, our authors have a head start on finding the best fit illustrator.

We also have all of the templates needed for posting a job, following up, and hiring an illustrator.

Action Step: Using the links above, make a list of illustrators (and where you found them/how to contact them) to being your reach out.

How To Hire An Illustrator

Whatever platform you choose for hiring an illustrator, make sure you have a good contract with the agreed-upon terms and conditions.

We have a template for this in Children’s Book School.

The contract for your illustrator should define: 

  1. Roles of everyone involved
  2. Compensation
  3. The nature of the Independent Contractor Relationship
  4. The ownership and rights of the artwork
  5. Deadlines
  6. Revision policy
  7. Deliverables
  8. Communication policy
  9. Credit of the work
  10. Governing law
  11. Severability
  12. Failure to Deliver clause
  13. Termination or cancellation 
  14. Non Disclosure

Action Step: Choose your illustrator and send them a good contract to sign before money is exchanged or work is begun.

What If Your Illustrator is Not Working Out?

Most of the time, this relationship is like magic. Both the author and illustrator are highly fulfilled, satisfied, and proud of their teamwork. 

But every now and then, no matter how well you planned and prepared, the relationship isn’t a good fit. I’ve coached a handful of writers through deciding how to respond to a poor-fit illustrator relationship. 

Two things are always my priority in these situations. 

  1. The author is proud of (and not embarrassed by) the finished product
  2. The illustrator as a person and professional and their career and skill development opportunity

If it’s determined that an illustrator just isn’t providing the agreed-upon quality of work, you have to kindly let them go. One of my students really struggled with this.

She felt bad because her artist was really trying to provide good illustrations but just didn’t have the skill she’d promised. My student was torn between settling on less-than art for her book to not disappoint or hurt the artist, or let her go.

By the end of our conversation, this student (who had an entire series of books planned) decided to let her illustrator go. She did it lovingly and they parted ways on good terms and fairly (falling on the details of their contract for guidance).

My student immediately found another artist who was absolutely the best fit. He did the entire series in record speed with the level of quality my student wanted. She was so glad later that she didn’t settle on the artwork, even though it meant an uncomfortable conversation and possible delay in the timeframe. 

Here’s the thing—it might feel good to settle on disappointing art in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or letting them go. But the reality is, this isn’t loving at all.

As we partner with people in career and personal development, we need to be lovingly honest. If that artist is going to grow in their career, they have to know the scope of their skill. They have to be willing to learn and grow and invest themselves. But if no one will be honest with them, how will they know? When we withhold our feedback out of fear, we actually cause more harm and potentially delay their career growth. Now notice, I’m saying “kindly” and “lovingly” in our honesty. Build them up and encourage them, even as you acknowledge that they aren’t the best fit for your project like you’d both hoped. 

And remember, just because they’re struggling, doesn’t mean you have to let them go. Are they coachable? Willing to learn? Quick to apply your suggestions? Then this also is an opportunity for them to gain skills and experience with your book, as long as you are proud of the art in the end.

Action Step: If the partnership is struggling, determine whether you need to let them go as your illustrator, or if there’s coachability and potential to love your book at the completion of your partnership.

Are You Ready to Find Your Illustrator? Get Started Today!

You’ve got everything you need to get started! An idea on how to budget and offer fair compensation, what to look for in an illustrator, where to find them, how to hire them, and what to do if it’s not a good fit partnership. If you follow the action steps, you’ll be way ahead of other authors trying to find an artist.

If you’re looking to publish a children’s picture book, we’d love to help. We have a whole community of authors, just like you, investing in their stories to get them into the hands of kids. We can change the world through our children by bringing them good stories!

We can help you get your book in the hands of kids asap – but only if you take action now.

Free Video Training Reveals…

How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

Have you hired an illustrator before? What was your main takeaway from the experience? Drop it down below so we can all benefit from them!

SPS 081: How To Turn Your Book Into A Movie with Hal Elrod (Miracle Morning Movie Behind The Scenes)

Today, I’m joined by Hal Elrod. Hal has become one of the most successful self-published authors globally. He is best known for his international best selling book, The Miracle Morning, which sells over 10,000 copies every month as a self-published book. He has earned over one thousand five-star reviews on Amazon and has cracked the code to creating an extraordinary income and impact as an author. Hal’s book is now being turned into a movie.

“A good friend of mine, who is a filmmaker, was at my house and was getting advice from me on what his next movie project should be,” Nick asked Hal how he was able to get his book to go viral. While brainstorming a new movie over dinner, Nick suggested creating a film based on The Miracle Morning.

If you want to get your message to more people, creating a movie from your book is a great avenue to provide your message to millions of more people. “It’s about taking what you are teaching in a book and putting it into a format that would reach, and could reach a greater audience.”

When creating the movie, Hal wanted to develop the screenplay as close to the book as possible. “The best way to tell your story is the results of your readers.” He reached out to his Facebook group, asking members to record and send videos of how his book changed their lives.

Planning an entire movie can be quite overwhelming. Hal’s advice, “Let go of knowing exactly how this is going to turn out and have unwavering faith that if you’re on a mission to change the world, we are going to capture some great stuff.”

Listen in to find out the movie-making process Hal journeyed through to create a movie based on his book, how he made a movie from his book with multiple storylines, and how he was able to get onto a popular radio show to promote his book.

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

Show Notes

  • [02:59] Why Hal decided to turn his book into a movie. 
  • [05:07] Nick and Hal discuss how to create a movie from Hal’s book. 
  • [09:59] What the movie making process looked like for Hal. 
  • [11:51] The process of moving from book story to storytelling on film. 
  • [14:27] What the production of the movie was like from Hal’s perspective. 
  • [19:11] The final movie is the product of cutting out much of the B roll shot during production.
  • [21:26] Iterations and improvements learned when making his movie. 
  • [25:26] How the storyline changed throughout the movie process.
  • [30:08] Talking about the movie premiere.
  • [34:14] Hal’s plans for his next book. 
  • [38:08] Why he has decided to self-distribute his movie. 
  • [40:31] Nick Nanton and Nick Conadera as a film professional for your book.
  • [41:24] Why you should interview videographers.
  • [43:26] The two most important things you can do to support The Miracle Morning. 

SPS 080: CASE STUDY: How This Radiologist Turned Sex Coach Launched Her Online Business To $100k in 9 Months Using Publicity with Dr. Sonia Wright

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.

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

Show Notes

  • [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.

Links and Resources

how-to-make-a-living-writing

Make a Living Writing Books: Building Multiple Income Streams for Authors

Making a living writing is 100% possible and more so now than it ever has been before…you just have to know how to get there.

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.
I’d type a little faster.”
— Isaac Asimov

It is every writer’s dream: to make a living writing the kind of books you love to read.

But, can really earn an income if you self-publish a book? Is it realistic?

How to Effectively Market a Book in 2021 & Sell More Copies Consistently  The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn't Working and How to Fix  it in 3 Easy Steps!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

This is how to make a living writing:

  1. Is making a living writing possible?
  2. Learn why authors fail to make a living writing
  3. Build your author platform
  4. Scale assets and multiple income streams
  5. Use the “multiple book model”
  6. Expand your book formats
  7. Scale income streams
  8. Build an email list of raving fans
  9. Become a full-time author
https://open.spotify.com/episode/2xpIWbDcgp2pCCEO30Kj6z

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 are an aspiring writer, or have already published and want to scale up your book business, find writing jobs, get some writing scholarships, or even write for online publications, let’s dive into how to turn your words into income (Yes, it can be done!).

I don’t know what starving authors are doing but, in this post, I’ll show you how to earn a living writing books through creating multiple income streams.

You will see that it is definitely possible.

You can become the top 10% that make money from your books and write from Starbucks, the beach, or that cabin in the woods everyone keeps talking about.

Making a Living as a Writer is Possible

Before the Internet became a thing, the path of a writer was a long, and often frustrating profession, guaranteeing nothing even after years of committed writing.

You have heard the stories of famous authors rejected multiple times before getting published.

As an INDIE author, the days of sifting through rejection slips are over.

You write, you publish, and you build your own book business like Jenna Moreci did creating her full-time author and YouTube business where she now gets to spend her days doing what she loves.

Check out an interview we conducted with her about how she did it:

https://youtu.be/r9Npe40gWkY

Or, you build a business from a book. Either way, your writing is the gateway to a better life that you create and have total control over.

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:

FREE TOOL

Book Profit Calculator

Enter Your Information Below To Cacluate
Your Potential Book Sales

Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!

CONGRATULATIONS

Here's What You'd Earn:

Your profit per book: $20

In 3 months, you'll make: $90,000

In 6 months, you'll make: $180,000

In 1 year, you'll make: $365,000

Why Authors Fail to Make a Living Writing

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Bottom line: Write and publish consistently, write high-quality books people want to buy, expand your reach by publishing across multiple platforms, and stay up-to-speed on the latest marketing strategies that are working.

This is the formula most successful self-published authors are using to make a living as a writer.

How to Effectively Market a Book in 2021 & Sell More Copies Consistently  The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn't Working and How to Fix  it in 3 Easy Steps!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

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.
https://open.spotify.com/episode/5vAOsh9CXeR3AQqtTEsSfG

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):

https://youtu.be/nOLM_tJgsFs

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.

  1. Book series
  2. Box sets
  3. Audiobooks
  4. Paperbacks
  5. Hardcover books
  6. Large print books

Making a Living Writing with the “Multiple Book Model”

Let’s be honest. Making money from one book can be very difficult. Most authors who earn a living as a successful writer have several, if not many, books in the pipeline.

These authors not only publish consistently but, are focused on delivering a series of books to build a valuable fan base.

The people buying your book series, once they are hooked into your series, crave more. This makes it a no-brainer for scaling up your author platform with every new book launch.

The more books you publish, the more income you can potentially earn and add more subscribers to your list.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/0fT7Yy6T0P3rYlLhsFc5Id

For example, check out these popular book series:

We know that publishing consistently brings in more money and builds your platform over the long-term. But why does this model work?

how to make money writing

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.

How to Effectively Market a Book in 2021 & Sell More Copies Consistently  The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn't Working and How to Fix  it in 3 Easy Steps!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

#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.

Check out these boxsets by popular authors:

#2 – Audiobooks

The popularity of audiobooks is on the rise. With less people reading and tuning into digital products while on the run, audiobooks are an income stream you can’t afford to leave on the table.

You can record the audiobook yourself or hire a professional. Once recorded, upload to ACX, Audible and expand into other channels for wide distribution through Find Away Voices.

#3 – Paperbacks

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.

#5 – Large Print Books

Did you know you can offer readers another version of your book in large print form? This isn’t a huge market but, depending on the age range of your readers, a great option for children’s books or readers with impaired vision.

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:

https://youtu.be/E4DsJWajD6o

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 ebooks is 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.

When you get ready to launch your next bestseller, these are the people who will help you to make it a smashing success.

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:

  • Checklist
  • Action Guide
  • Audiobook
  • Free Report
  • Video Series

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.

How to Effectively Market a Book in 2021 & Sell More Copies Consistently  The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn't Working and How to Fix  it in 3 Easy Steps!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

SPS 079: CASE STUDY: An Educator’s Guide To Writing & Publishing An Award Winning Children’s Book with Merideth Tullous

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.

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

Show Notes

  • [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.

Links and Resources

how-to-make-a-living-writing-fiction-

How to Make a Living Writing Fiction: An Easy Guide

There are several paths you can take to learn how to make a living writing fiction. From traditional, to self-publishing, to hybrid publishing: they all have their benefits and letdowns.

But remember: becoming a full-time fiction writer is easier now than it has EVER been before.

But how exactly are they different, and how do you know which is right for you? Then what do you do once you’ve chosen your path?

We’re going to talk about:

  1. Traditional publishing career author route
  2. Self-publishing career author
  3. Hybrid publishing
  4. How to choose between career author options
  5. How to prepare for your author career

Make Full-Time Passive Income From Book Sales

FREE Creative Writer Class: How to Write & Publish a Fiction Book

Taught by a Bestselling Author with YEARS of experience doing JUST THIS! Learn the most recent fiction marketing tactics, Amazon algorithm deep-dive, with case studies, & more.

How Much Does a Fiction Writer Make

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.

This is Amazon’s formula for printing cost:

$0.85 (fixed cost) + (300 [page count] * $0.012 [per page cost]) = $4.45 (printing cost)

This is Amazon’s formula for royalties:

(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.

If you want to learn how to become a full-time author, check out our Fundamentals of Fiction program to get started.

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.

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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-publishing fiction:

  • 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.

Hybrid authors

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!

#2 – Learn the industry

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.

Make Full-Time Passive Income From Book Sales

FREE Creative Writer Class: How to Write & Publish a Fiction Book

Taught by a Bestselling Author with YEARS of experience doing JUST THIS! Learn the most recent fiction marketing tactics, Amazon algorithm deep-dive, with case studies, & more.

#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–
    • Writers
      • Kayla Ancrum is an amazing writer with an active, hilarious Twitter feed.
      • Joyce Carol Oates has a huge following with witty and informative tweets.
      • Aiden Thomas’ feed is always hype, colorful, and a fun place to be.
      • Terese Mason Pierre shares a ton of resources for writers, like open calls for submissions.
      • 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.
    • Reviewers  
      • 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.

vanity press scams

Vanity Press Scams and Self Publishing Companies to Avoid

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.

But, how do you know if the company isn’t just another vanity press scam?

Before making any decisions, you want to check out all your options carefully. If not, you could find yourself the victim of a self-publishing scam, forking thousands of bucks over to a shady publishing company with nothing to show for it.

In this post, you’ll learn how to recognize the self-publishing scams when they cold call you…and the companies you can really trust to get your book published!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post on self-publishing scams:

  1. Why authors fall for vanity press scams
  2. Early warning signs of self-publishing scams
  3. Your self-publishing options
  4. Taking down the scammers
  5. Red flag list: Self-publishing companies to avoid
  6. Writers beware and watchdog groups
  7. Educate yourself in self-publishing
  8. Are you ready to self-publish your book?

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional  Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis  including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an  informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.  YES! GET THE ANALYSIS!

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 include 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 desperate for the know-how of book publishing.
  • The publishing process is too complex.
  • You are scared of “not publishing” and want it done right now.
  • You are not tech-savvy and would rather pay someone to overcome the hurdles.
  • Your friends keep asking you “When is your book coming out?”
  • You know nothing about book marketing and need to hire the experts. Guess what: Vanity publishers don’t know much about it either and you’ll have to market no matter the avenue of publishing you choose.
  • You watched a video of a self-published author who just signed a 6-figure deal with a large publisher…and you think that is what usually happens.

Before you make any hasty decisions, stop and breathe. If you need help with publishing your book [and everyone does] there is a right way and…

The other way that steals all your hard-earned dollars.

My hope is that you read this post before signing anything. If you can know the danger signs to watch for, you’ll pull yourself back from making a decision that costs you thousands of dollars, not to mention the heavy burden of regret later.

vanity press scams quote graphic

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 cost 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 by 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 Nielsen. In Canada ISBNs are free through ISBN Canada. If you buy this through IngramSpark they offer a slight discount. Again, this is just another ploy to make you think it is a difficult process that is better off left to the “professionals.”

#5 — “We will take care of all the marketing, because we know how difficult it is.” Yes, marketing is difficult, especially for authors. But a vanity press company won’t market the book to sell, they will do the bare minimum required so it appears as if the book is being placed in the proper channels.

My advice: Grab a book on marketing for authors or enroll in a course. Learn it. You can even outsource it out so that you do Sell More Books. But in the end nobody is better at marketing their own book than the author.

#6 — Excessive use of flattery. The first time I spoke to a vanity press sales rep I remember the praise she gave me for my book. I felt as if I had written a book that was going to sell thousands of copies in the first week.

The rep was quoting passages from the book and referencing everything from the first page. Mind you, I later realized, everything she was quoting was from the first few pages. So did she read it? Of course not.

#7— A sales rep calls you several hours after you sign up to their newsletter with a sales pitch. I tested one of these sites by enquiring about their services, and I downloaded a freebie. The next day I received a call from my “Publishing consultant” ready to help me fulfill my dreams as an author. Wow. The sales pitch was impressive, but if you already knew the situation, it was a total scam. You can smell it.

But, for a new author excited to be part of the publishing journey, listening to someone else tell you how excited they are to publish your boom is a very tempting catch. In the end, they don’t care about your book or you. Whether it is Author Solutions or another of the dozens of publishing scammers out there, they get your money and keep milking it with constant upsells.

#8 — Make “over the mountain promises” to get you endorsed by Hollywood. It is not unusual for these companies to tell you that your book has a shot of being featured in Oprah’s book club, or that they will send your manuscript to one of their agents in Hollywood for review.

I can promise you one thing—your book will never see the inside of a movie studio. Not unless you are a well-established author who has already proven themselves, and even then, it will not be through a vanity press company that you get there.

#9 — Promises to get your book into Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. In this case what happens is, they put your book into a large catalog 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:

infographic with information on what self publishing companies and vanity presses to avoid

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.

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional  Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis  including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an  informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.  YES! GET THE ANALYSIS!

#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 0.

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:

  • Go to https://kdp.amazon.com and register with either your Amazon account or with your email address.
  • Next, click “Update” in your account information and fill in your tax information. It’s important to note that you need to complete your tax information BEFORE you can publish your first book. So don’t skip this step!
  • Once your tax information is complete, click “Finished” and return to the main page.
  • Your profile is complete!

#3 — Print On Demand

If you are a new author reading this, with the print on demand services offered by Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingramspark, you can order your own author copies and pay print costs plus shipping to your location. Buy your own ISBN, copyright your book, and own what you create.

To start printing your own books with IngramSpark, visit their website and set up an account. Do the same with Amazons’ Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Do it yourself. It’s not the difficult process many would have you believe, and there is lots of support on these sites ready to help you right away.

How much is the cost to print a book?

It depends on the book size but, for a book that is 30k in length with little to no photos or graphs and text only, expect to pay less than $4 per copy. The average scammy publisher will charge new authors $15-20 dollars per copy.

But for them, they print the books at the same cost as an author who sets this up through KDP or IngramSpark.

In fact, many vanity press publishers use IngramSpark for the print-on-demand service only just to sell the books back to the author at 5x the print cost.

#4 — Vanity Press Publisher

Vanity press publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from selfpublishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher for everything.

vanity press

The editing, formatting, cover design, and even marketing the book are paid for by the author through the various packages offered when an author signs up.

But, there is a trap here: The costs are more than you initially pay for, and they don’t tell you this until later when you’re mired deeper into the project. Once invested, most authors are compelled to publish the book no matter the costs.

The emotional investment is what these companies prey on. Knowing how you feel about your book, they are ready to help you do anything to get it to market… And that means offering more expensive services.

By the time you are done and the book is published, potentially you have just spent $10k. With close to 0 book sales.

Vanity publishers make money, not from selling books for you, but from the author buying their own books back from the publisher. It is a scam where the author always loses.

#5 — Traditional Publishers

This is not a self-publishing route but, if you want to take the traditional path, you can begin by querying your manuscript with agents. Keep in mind, you may not see your book in print for a couple of 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.

Recently, several companies have been shut down in class action lawsuits, and this is still continuing today, with authors taking a stand and fighting back against the book publishing thieves.

Fortunately, authors are better educated these days on the publishing options available. Vanity publishers are disappearing. But do return “wearing different clothing”, disguised as the next best company to get you that bestselling book.

Red Flag List: Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid

I have compiled a list of publishing companies you should avoid at all costs. This is not a complete list but includes names of the major companies flagged by Writer Beware and Alliance of Independent Authors.

For a very thorough listing, I would recommend you check with the Alliance of Independent Authors. ALLi stays up-to-date on the scammy reports, warnings and lawsuits taken against bad publishers.

what are the self publishing companies to avoid infographic

Here are some self-publishing companies that have made the list of those to watch out for:

Writers Beware and Watchdog Groups

Remember: Always do your homework. To make sure if you are buying into a legit business you should check in with these sites listed below.

Writer Beware

“Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.”

ALLi [Alliance of Independent Authors] / Watchdog Posts

“Each month on the ALLi blog, the excellent Watchdog John Doppler explores key issues regarding the provision of self-publishing services around the world.”

The Independent Publishing Magazine / Publishing Service Index

A detailed breakdown of self-publishing companies and their ranking based on service and reliability.

What is the difference between a vanity press and self-publishing?

A vanity press charges authors upfront to carry out a range of (usually shoddy) publishing services, whereas self-publishing involves authors taking full control over their book project and reaping the rewards accordingly.

Publishing scams will always be around as long as authors are paying for their services.

How do you, as an author, avoid falling into this trap?

The self-publishing arena is like a vast oasis of information and a never-ending learning process. Vanity press publishers are banking on you having no idea what to do, which is why you might consider turning to a publishing company in the first place.

Our advice at Self Publishing School is this: Educate yourself on how to publish a book. You’d be surprised the things you actually don’t have to pay for.

Take control of your self-publishing career today.

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional  Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis  including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an  informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.  YES! GET THE ANALYSIS!

Are you ready to self-publish your book?

Enroll in an online self-publishing course

You can check out this list of best self-publishing courses. I highly recommend joining an online self-publishing course for achieving all your publishing goals.

You will learn how to write and market your book your way and all of it within your control. You won’t have to give up anything or sign your book rights over to a publisher that will exploit your creativity.

If you are uncertain as to whether you should spend money on a course or not, but you want to know the ins and outs of self-publishing, grab a $5 book and start here.

Meanwhile, the scammy publishers are on the phone right now with a future author that isn’t doing these things.

Read Books on “How to Write” and Self-Publishing

Reading is a cheap way to educate yourself on writing. Make it a habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Educate yourself on the publishing industry.

Top 10 Book Recommendations on Writing and Self-Publishing:

#1-Published by Chandler Bolt

#2-The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott

#3-Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant 

#4-Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their Success (And How To Fix Them) by Derek Doepker

#5-The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn

#6-You Must Write a Book: Boost Your Brand, Get More Business, and Become the Go-To Expert by Honoree Corder

#7-Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran

#8-You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

#9-On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

#10-Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox

Are vanity publishers worth it?

No, vanity publishers are not worth it because they exploit authors while offering nothing worthwhile in return.

Now that you are totally aware of what to watch out for, it’s time to take control of your own author career

More Resources

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional  Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis  including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an  informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.  YES! GET THE ANALYSIS!

SPS 078: How To Write A Book Proposal That Gets You A Book Deal And A Big Advance with Chad Allen (What Agents & Publishers Are Actually Looking For)

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.

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

Show Notes

  • [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.

Links and Resources

prowritingaid-review

ProWritingAid Review (2020): Is It Right for You?

Making a glaring mistake in our work is one of our biggest fears as writers.

Naturally, we want readers to focus on the meaning and message of our language, not our grammar or style slip-ups. 

While it’s still an unbeatable move to invest in an experienced editor, you can make better use of their time by first self-editing your work with an automated tool. 

Let’s face it. Basic spelling and grammar software doesn’t get the job done. 

Instead, you need to look for something more advanced. Something like ProWritingAid. But is it worth investing in?

This ProWritingAid review will show you exactly what the tool is and what it does so you can decide if it’s a good fit for your needs.

This ProWritingAid Review covers:

  1. What is ProWritingAid?
  2. Should you use ProWritingAid?
  3. What does ProWritingAid do?
  4. How does ProWritingAid improve your writing?
  5. A full look at the reports
  6. Can you integrate ProWritingAid with other tools?
  7. How much does ProWritingAid cost?
  8. What are the pros and cons of ProWritingAid?

1 – What is ProWritingAid?

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. 

https://youtu.be/JobYE-2b8rE

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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Identifies if you have used consistent rules for spelling, hyphenation, and the capitalization of your words. 
  2. Looks for cliche and redundant language.
  3. Finds grammatical errors in your work.
  4. Suggests mistakes with your terminology.
  5. Provides contextual thesaurus suggestions.
  6. Scans a text for instances of plagiarism.
  7. Boosts the readability of your writing. 
  8. Points out instances of repetitive wording and phrasing. 
  9. Makes your paragraph structuring better. 
  10. 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:

  1. Use ProWritingAid in the Cloud. 
  2. Integrate with your browser.
  3. Download a desktop app. 
prowriting aid review desktop app
Desktop version of ProWritingAid.

After you have ProWritingAid ready to run, you can work with it by following these steps:

  1. Open up ProWritingAid. 
  2. Input your text into the interface.
  3. ProWritingAid performs a scan. 
  4. The suggestions made are highlighted in different colors. 
  5. 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. 

A readability suggestion by ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid offers these 20 different reports. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 
  11. Consistency. ProWritingAid helps to ensure your writing keeps the same approach to spelling, punctuation, and American or British English throughout. 
  12. Pacing. If you want to make sure your reader isn’t bored by meandering prose, ProWritingAid identifies sections where your pacing requires rapidity. 
  13. 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. 
  14. 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. 
  15. Diction. Running your text through ProWritingAid’s diction checker makes it less verbose.
  16. 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. 
  17. 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. 
  18. 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. 
  19. 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. 
  20. 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. 
The contextual thesaurus 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. 

prowritingaid integration
ProWritingAid browser integration.

At this time, you can stick with your favorites to integrate ProWritingAid into seven tools used by writers. 

  1. Firefox. If you write content in Firefox, you can check your grammar and writing style without having to leave the browser environment. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Safari. ProWritingAid integrates directly into Safari to help spot your online writing errors. 
  4. Edge. Microsoft’s newest browser lets you avoid mistakes with an Edge extension. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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? 
  7. 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.
how much does prowritingaid cost
ProWritingAid cost.

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. 

Pros of ProWritingAid

  1. Powerful self-editing capabilities that save your money and your editor’s frustration.
  2. Insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a writer so you can grow over time.
  3. A wide range of integrations with different apps and platforms. 

Cons of ProWritingAid

  1. You need to pay extra to use the plagiarism check feature.
  2. Although it offers a thorough insight into your work, it’s no replacement for a real mentor or editor

Ultimately, it’s worth taking the time to try out at least the free version of ProWritingAid. Do you like its interface? Does it offer better results than whatever checking tool you currently use? 

If you like the feel of the app, think of everything you could gain from it, like:

  • The confidence to finish a first draft without your loud inner critic drowning out your flow.
  • The joy of serving your online followers with crisp, well-written copy that speaks to their pain points.
  • The power of persuasive business writing that warms people up to what you have to offer and persuades them to take action. 

ProWritingAid may not be able to replace everything a human editor does.

But what it can do is give you invaluable insight into your writing and how you can improve it.

We’re sure that if you use it, you won’t just be a more confident writer, but also a better writer. 

Why not try it out and see for yourself?