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.

“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.

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. 

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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 up to $500 for a book illustrator if you know where to look and how to find a good illustrator.

I’ve never spent more than $500 for an entire picture book of art. 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, 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.

So, how have I only paid $500 for the work of an illustrator?

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.

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 $500 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 I can no longer afford most of my illustrators! My first illustrator lived in Romania. My book, According to Corban, was her first 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! And I also learned an important lesson. If I think I might do a sequel, lock my illustrators in for my $500 price in the contract! 

Even greater than my lesson-learned is knowing that I got to be part of developing someone’s skill and career to an actual livable wage, while also getting high-quality, affordable art for my book.

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.

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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 Children's Book Writing and Self-Publishing Training  Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can't wait to buy, and teachers  want in class—and publish it successfully!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

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.

How to add SIX-FIGURES to Your Business THIS YEAR with a Book!  Learn the exact step-by-step methods used to grow Self-Publishing School from  $0 - $20Million + in 6 years...using a BOOK!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

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.

How to add SIX-FIGURES to Your Business THIS YEAR with a Book!  Learn the exact step-by-step methods used to grow Self-Publishing School from  $0 - $20Million + in 6 years...using a BOOK!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

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

publishing-options

Publishing Options: How & Where to Publish Your Book

In this day and age, there are a ton of book publishing options. With the rise of the self-publishing industry (and subsequent dip in traditional publishing), your options to publish are wide and far.

Here at Self-Publishing School, we understand the power of self-publishing, which is why we have our Become a Bestseller program, where we teach people how to maintain control and become a bestseller.

However, there are a ton of other options, and we wanted to make sure you had all the information possible in order to make the decision that’s best for you and your needs as an author.

Here are your book publishing options:

  1. Self-Publishing
  2. Traditional Publishing
  3. Hybrid Publisher
  4. Vanity Publisher

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

When thinking about your publishing options, there are two main avenues to take into consideration: self-publishing and traditional publishing.

We’ll go into more detail in each individual section below, but just know this is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to decide on if you want to be an author.

The short overview is this:

  • Self-publishing gives you all creative control, is faster to publish, gives you full royalties, with more upfront investments
  • Traditional publishing takes a lot longer, no upfront investments, but you make a small fraction of royalties per book

We actually compiled a ton of data on self-publishing versus traditional publishing you can find in this free download here:

Publishing Options: Choosing the Best Type for YOU

Not everyone will be a good fit for all of these publishing options. You have to think about your goals as an author, what you want to make financially, and where you see yourself in the long-term—as well as how many books you want to publish and how frequently.

All of these are important to consider when making your decision, but we want to give you all the information so that decision is easier.

#1 – Self-Publishing

If self-publishing isn’t on your radar, you’re severely missing out on a huge opportunity. We truly believe this is the best publishing avenue for the large majority of people.

This is why Self-Publishing School started in the first place. Chandler Bolt (the founder and CEO) started this company because he had such a massive success with his first bestselling book.

Since, he’s published 5 other bestsellers, and he gave all his secrets for doing that away in our Become a Bestseller program.

Now, that being said, there are things to think about when it comes to self-publishing.

So what is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is when you have complete ownership and control of your book and its rights, and you can publish on any medium that allows for it (including Amazon Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Nook, and more).

Difficulty to publish:

It’s very easy to self-publish a book. In fact, pretty much anyone with access to Amazon’s publishing platform can do it.

But that doesn’t mean everyone should, nor should you publish a book that’s not ready (or not of high quality), which is why we have our programs in the first place.

Timeframe to publish:

Our students publish in as little as 90 days with our process for going from blank page (yes, nothing written!) to a fully published book. You can take longer to publish, and many students in our Fundamentals of Fiction program often do take longer since fiction can be more extensive.

Creative control:

This is the best part! You have 100% of the creative control over everything from your book’s content to its title, cover, everything. Especially the rights to your book!

Marketing responsibility:

This is all on you—just like it is with traditional publishing, which you’ll learn more about down below. Thankfully, there are a ton of resources online to learn how to market a book, as well as our Sell More Books program to increase your book sales.

Royalty rate:

When publishing through Amazon, your royalty rate will be anywhere from 35% – 70% depending on your book’s retail price. SelfPublishing.com has a fantastic book royalties calculator right here that you can check out for a comparison as well.

Cost to publish:

Self-publishing has a higher upfront investment and cost to publish. These can range anywhere from $300 – $1200+ for high-quality editing, book cover design, and more.

But do keep in mind, you make a lot more in royalties back straight away.

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This is all on you. From the cover design to the book editing (yes you have to get it edited if you want it to do well) all the way to the inside formatting is up to you.

Thankfully, there are resources to help you do all of this right, and we cover this entire process in our programs for our students, as we’ve seen this is one of the most difficult parts of self-publishing.

Questions to ask if you think self-publishing is right for you:

  • Do you need 100% creative control?
  • Do you have the ability to invest upfront for a higher royalty rate later?
  • Can you effectively market your book (even with help)?
  • Do you want to write and publish multiple books quickly?

If you answered yes to the above, self-publishing is likely your best option, and you can learn more about how to do that with our free training. Just click the image below!

#2 – Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is what we grew up learning was “publishing”: You get an agent through querying your book, that agent pitches your story to publishers, they choose to buy your book from you, and it gets published a while later!

Let’s look at some details about this traditional publishing option.


Difficulty to publish:

Very high. The traditional publishing industry is really hard to get into. It’s not impossible, but it often takes writers years just to land an agent. And then they have to wait until their manuscript is bought, which isn’t guaranteed.

Many will say traditional produces “better” books or you’re a “better” writer if you publish traditionally, but that’s not true. All this proves is that you have a book idea that’s “hot” and “trending” in the market: remember, publishing houses are after one thing and that’s book sales. If it’ll sell, they’ll purchase it, which means unless it’s a trending topic or book idea, you likely won’t get a book deal.

Timeframe to publish:

If we start the timeline to publish after your agent sells your manuscript, meaning a publishing house has purchased your book rights, it can still take up to 2 years for your book to actually publish.

And this doesn’t take into consideration the time spent trying to get an agent and the time it takes your agent to sell your book. You’re looking at a 2-4 year time period unless you get very lucky or have traditional publishing connections.

Creative control:

You don’t really have much creative control with this publishing option.

Ultimately, the publisher buys your book rights for the idea, but this is subject to change based on what your editor sees as selling the most.

Unfortunately, this can be everything from the main characters, the title, the ending, and even major plot points. The upside is that publishers do know what sells, so this could give your book a better chance of “taking off.”

Just know that you’ll have to make sacrifices with creative control through traditional publishing.

Marketing responsibility:

This is on you! Unless you’re a “big name,” (and even then) you do the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your book.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the traditinoal publishing industry. Many want to go with this publishing option because they think the publishing house will market their book, and they do, but only to a certain extent.

The bulk of the marketing is up to you, and this is increasingly more evident as book agents continue to ask about your author platform size as a decision criterion for representing you or not.

Royalty rate:

Many traditionally published authors can expect to make 10% – 12% and (very rarely) up to 15% royalties on their books. As you can see, this is significantly lower than self-publishing due to the publisher taking a big cut to pay for the editing, cover design, and everything that goes into it, as well as your agent taking a cut.

You do get an “advance” if you sign a book deal. This is a large sum of money, usually under $15,000 for new authors, that you have to make back in book sales before you actually get a royalty check.

Many traditionally published authors never see a royalty check because their books never sell more than their advance’s worth after publication.

Cost to publish:

Time. This is the real true cost of the traditional publishing option. If anyone tries to get you to pay them, this is not traditional publishing and is likely a hybrid or a vanity publisher (for the latter, RUN!).

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This is all done in-house at the publisher. They have a cover made, editing completed, formatting finished, as well as book distribution—meaning getting your book in bookstores across the nation.

You can learn more about the main differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing by watching the video below:

Here are some questions to ask if you want to go with this publishing option:

  • Will you be okay with altering your story, characters, and plot?
  • Do you want to publish less frequently, at a book every one or two years?
  • Do you want to relinquish ownership over the cover design and more?
  • Will you be okay with a smaller royalty rate for your book?
  • Are you willing to spend a year or more querying just to find an agent?

If you answered yes to all of those, this avenue might be for you!

#3 – Hybrid Publisher

If you’re not sold on either self-publishing or traditional publishing, there is another option called hybrid publishing.

Hybrid publishing is just as it sounds: a combination of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Most often a hybrid publisher will have specific criteria for authors they work with and will have the distribution opportunities self-publishing doesn’t (like nation-wide bookstores).

One distinguishing factor here: the author usually has to make some sort of investment in order to publish through them.

Difficulty to publish:

This depends entirely on the publisher’s rules and regulations for new authors. Most don’t just take anyone in off the street, which means it is more difficult than self-publishing, though usually not as much so as traditional.

Timeframe to publish:

This is another differentiating factor. Hybrid publishers vary so greatly that most of these will depend on the specific publishing house. However, you can expect an elongated path to publishing here as well.

Creative control:

Since the publisher in this case usually deals with the book cover, title, and such, your creative control is at more risk here. However, most of these publishing houses are more likely to work with you to come to an agreement whereas traditional publishing houses don’t give you much of a choice.

Marketing responsibility:

Again, as with any publishing option, marketing responsibilities fall to you, the author. Though because this is a hybrid publisher, you’ll have more exposure due to their distribution capabilities (which is a note to make sure this is included if you choose this option).

Royalty rate:

Since this also varies, all we have is an approximation range: you can expect roughly 40% – 60% in royalty rates depending on the deal you make. This is definitely higher than traditionally published authors make, but you’ll make less than self-publishing simply because the publisher will still get a cut.

Cost to publish:

Guess what, this one depends as well! Different hybrid publishers work on different models, which means their revenue will be earned differently. That said, some authors pay a large sum to work with hybrid publishers, as well as give up a chunk of their royalties.

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This usually goes through the hybrid publisher, and the process is much like that of traditional publishing. This means you don’t have to worry about any of this and that you also don’t get to change or alter any of this.

#4 – Vanity Publisher

CAUTION!!

We wanted to include this in the options because it is an option you’ll see out there. However, it is not an option to consider.

It’s here so you can know what to look for when a vanity publisher is involved in order to AVOID one. We do not recommend this option.

We wrote a blog post all about vanity press scams here, what they are, and why you should avoid them at all costs.

In other words: you may see people who look like hybrid publishers but are not. Do not work with them!

So what type of publisher is Self-Publishing School?

None! We’re not a publishing option, we’re an online education school that teaches you how to successfully self-publish a book so you can save time, money, (and tears), while earning a steady income from your books.

self publishing companies

Self-Publishing Companies: What to Expect & If It’s Worth it

Working with self-publishing companies is not always what the authors want to do when they start writing a book.

It might not be clear to you yet (we’ll get to it), but you need some help self-publishing your book.

I get it. The concept might seem a little crazy right now. After all, it’s called self-publishing, not self-and-a-company-publishing.

But the thing is… You don’t know everything you need to in order to self-publish…

Okay, that’s not true. You don’t know everything you need in order to self-publish successfully.

Find the BEST Publishing Path For Your Needs!  Take this 2-minute assessment to learn which of our publishing paths will be  the best for your and your unique needs as an aspiring author. Answers  delivered immediately!  TAKE THE ASSESSMENT!

That’s the key here. Do you have what it takes to self-publish and actually achieve the level of success you desire?

The truth is that the large majority of self-publishers out there don’t.

And we’re going to cover exactly how self-publishing companies can help you bridge this gap.

Here’s what you’ll learn about publishing companies:

  1. What self-publishing companies do
  2. Benefits of using a self-publishing company
  3. How you’ll keep your rights
  4. How much time you’ll save
  5. How much money you’ll make
  6. Staying accountable with a self-publishing company
  7. You can get 1-on-1 coaching
  8. You’ll make connections
  9. How you’ll create a bigger impact
  10. How you’ll gain more opportunities
  11. How your business will grow
  12. What are the best self-publishing companies?
  13. Self-publishing companies to avoid

What is a Self-Publishing Company?

A self-publishing company is a business dedicated to helping you achieve your desired level of success within your self-publishing journey.

They detail the process and streamline otherwise difficult avenues you might not be able to maneuver yourself.

But every self-publishing company is different.

Here at Self-Publishing School, our mission is to make the process as easy as possible for you while ensuring you do everything you can to succeed the right way.

Sure, you can throw your book online with a cover you created in Canva and call yourself a self-published author. But will that yield book sales? Will that give you the authority, recognition, and fulfillment you’re looking for?

How is a Self-Publishing Company Different than a Traditional Publishing House?

Self-publishing companies and traditional publishing houses are completely different in the sense that the former does not publish the book for you, but rather, we help you by providing necessary (crucial!) information about how to complete the process successfully.

Traditional publishing houses are where you first land an agent, and then they submit your manuscript, and they take care of the printing/editing/publishing – at the expense of your hard earned royalties, of course.

Here’s a table detailing the differences between self-publishing companies and traditional publishing.

What You GetSelf-PublishingTraditional Publishing
Sole control of your book's outcome
X
Sole control of your book's rightsX
Control over the story X
Control over the coverX
100% of royaltiesX
Editing includedX
Cover designX
MarketingXX
DeadlinesX

Why Use a Self-Publishing Company?

After all, you want to do this yourself, right? Self-publish. But like I mentioned before, you don’t know everything about self-publishing.

Do you know the best method for actually writing your book?

Do you know exactly how to craft your subtitle and book description to maximize sales?

Do you know the best book launch process for getting your book with the coveted orange “Bestseller” banner (that also increases your book’s ranking, and sales!)?

There is far more to self-publishing than simply hitting “publish” on Amazon, and without the right process, your book might end up as one of those stereotypical self-published books that sells 3 copies – to family members.

And that’s why you use a self-publishing company. Someone else has already done the research, the work, and has the experience to guide you through the process.

If you’re someone who wants to see real book sales and achieve other goals, like growing a business or becoming a full-time author, then a self-publishing company will help.

What You Can Expect with a Self-Publishing Company

What does working with a self-publishing company look like?

While not all self-publishing companies are the same or provide the same type of information and training for you, it’s important to understand what you’ll take away from working with one.

This is what you can expect when working with a company that helps you self-publish.

#1 – You keep all rights to your book

Unlike traditional publishing houses, you actually get to keep all the rights to your books.

What does this mean?

It mean that, when you publish, you are the sole owner of the book and all of its contents. It’s copyrighted under your name and the self-publishing companies will not have any of their information inside of the book (unless you want to thank them for everything they’ve helped you with).

This is a major benefit because with self-publishing companies, you can keep the book in print for however long you want.

On the flip side, traditional publishing houses can choose when to pull your book from shelves and simply no longer print or sell it. And since you no longer own the rights, you can’t self-publish that book unless you buy the rights back (which some publishing houses don’t even offer you the option of).

#2 – You’ll save time

Time is our most valuable asset. It’s the one thing in our lives we can never get back no matter what.

Unless you’re a secret time traveler and have uncovered the secrets of bending and warping time (and if you are, PLEASE SHARE), you have to treat time like it’s precious.

One of the biggest perks of using self-publishing companies to help you get your book published is the simple fact that they tell you what needs to be done, when, and how.

Not only will you save time actually writing the book (assuming the company gives you instructions on how to write faster, like we do here at Self-Publishing School), but you won’t have to go through the hours upon hours of research in order to get it right.

And, you don’t have to waste time making mistakes and adjusting them.

#3 – You keep 100% of royalties

Everything you earn, you keep. Now, there may be self-publishing companies out there who require a percentage of your royalties, since they helped you, but here at Self-Publishing School don’t’ believe in that.

After all, you did the work. You put forth the time and effort. This is your book. Therefore, you keep what you actually earn.

Aside from what Amazon takes for allowing you to use their platform, 100% of your profit is yours to keep.

This is much different than traditional publishing houses in the sense that through them, you’re only pocketing about 10% of royalties (and sometimes even less).

#4 – You’re kept accountable

The hardship is in the name itself: self-publishing.

It’s a very lonely process if you don’t have anyone else going through it with you. And we all know how much easier it is to stay on track when we have someone else rooting for (or hollering at) us.

Many self-publishing companies have some sort of progress tracking, coaching, or community to help keep you motivated and working to achieve your dream.

How we do that here at Self-Publishing School is through all three of those methods, including a Facebook Mastermind Community with hundreds of dedicated current and past students ready to help.

self publishing companies

#5 – You get coached by experts

At least here at Self-Publishing School, you do. Not all programs have this perk, and boy is it a perk.

Our coaches are all experts in their field. You get one-on-one coaching that allows you to take personalized tips and put them to use in your own publishing journey.

Since coaches have been exactly where you are and have come out on top, and maintained book sales themselves, you get a leg up on anyone else doing this without that help.

Take a look at one of our amazing coaches, Lise Cartwright, and how she still manages to bring in $4,000 on her self-published books, all while helping our students learn to do the same.

Again, not all self-publishing companies offer this service to their students, but if they do, it can help you understand a side of the industry you likely wouldn’t get to see otherwise.

#6 – You make connections

This is particularly true for programs that include access to a community of somesort.

You never know who you’ll get to know, like, and befriend. These are all like-minded people who are after the same things as you.

You can make dear friends, get even more advice when needed, and maintain a sense of purpose when you’re constantly fed motivation from them.

#7 – You create a bigger impact with your book

What’s the reason you’re self-publishing. Why do you really want to get your book out into the world?

I’m willing to bet it has something meaningful to you. You want to help others, share information, or show the world a theme or message that’s important to you.

By using one of the self-publishing companies out there, you’re able to create a bigger impact with your book.

How?

Because you will write it better, market it smarter, and sell more. And after all, that’s the point. Right? You want to get as many eyes on it as you possibly can.

#8 – You gain more opportunities

Because your book will do better than it would if you didn’t have that outside help, you gain many more opportunities.

Becoming a published author places you as an authority in any field you’re writing in. Not only does this help your business grow, if that’s your goal, but it also helps you sell more books through new and better opportunities than you’d have otherwise.

Take these students of ours for example:

publishing companies

After publishing their books, they have been either contacted or pursued speaking engagements on their own along with other opportunities to grow their book and platform.

#9 – Your business will grow

Leveraging your book to grow your business is one of the best methods out there.

Chandler Bolt, you know him—the guy who built this 8 figure business from his first bestselling book—swears by it.

But he’s not the only expert out there who agrees.

Ryan Deiss, CEO of DigitalMarketer, also uses a book to grow his business. You can check out how he does so in the video above, but the point remains: self-publishing is a perfect way to grow your business.

And if that’s your goal, then you want to make sure you’re self-publishing for success. Otherwise, your book won’t make nearly as big of an impact on your business, which is why working with a self-publishing company can help.

#10 – You have a repeatable, successful process

Many of our students write multiple books with our program – not just one.

As one of our favorite author says, if you write one book and you enjoy it, you will write another book.

self-publishing companies

The most successful self-published authors out there are those who write more than one book. Not only do they maintain a steady stream of passive income this way, but since they have a reliable, repeatable process, it makes it easy for them to publish multiple.

So long as the self-publishing company you’re working with has lifetime access (like we do), you can hop on and go through the system every time you want to.

Plus, imagine how nice it would feel to say, “Yes, I’m a published author of multiple books.” Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Find the BEST Publishing Path For Your Needs!  Take this 2-minute assessment to learn which of our publishing paths will be  the best for your and your unique needs as an aspiring author. Answers  delivered immediately!  TAKE THE ASSESSMENT!

What Are the Best Self-Publishing Companies?

If you’re looking for the best self-publishing companies, here are 11 worth checking out, according to our friends at SelfPublishing.com. 

  1. Kindle Direct Publishing. One of the world’s biggest self-publishing retailers. The easiest way to access Amazon’s many customers.
  2. Barnes & Noble Press. A great option for self-publishers looking to enjoy good retail rates and Barnes & Noble’s print-on-demand service.
  3. Kobo. A retailer with wide international reach. Kobo accounts for around a quarter of all Canadian eBook sales.
  4. Apple Books. Choose Apple’s book retail platform to access the lucrative market of Mac owners.
  5. Reedsy. Use Reedsy to find excellent service providers for your self-published book. Also offers useful educational resources for self-publishers.
  6. Lulu. Lulu has its own online retail and distribution channels as well as a range of author services. Check out a guide to Lulu here.
  7. IngramSpark. Offering wide-reaching distribution channels for your book as well as print-on-demand capabilities. You can learn more about IngramSpark here.
  8. PublishDrive. If you’re looking for an alternative book distribution channel, PublishDrive offers you the option of paying a monthly subscription fee that allows you to keep 100% of your sales revenue.
  9. Draft2Digital. A convenient option for self-publishers looking to use Draft2Digital’s powerful book formatting capabilities as well as International Book Links. 
  10. SmashWords. One of the earliest book aggregators. SmashWords grants your book access to some of the biggest retailers out there, and also provides powerful reporting capabilities. 
  11. StreetLib. A wide-reaching international distributor with dashboard options supporting multiple languages.
  12. Luminare Press. Offers professional, personal, and affordable services to ensure authors get a book that they can be proud of.

Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid

what are the self publishing companies to avoid

Not all self-publishing companies are created equal. Unfortunately, there are some self-publishing companies who only want your money and don’t want to see you succeed.

These are some red flags to keep a lookout for when researching self-publishing companies to help you get your book out there.

#1 – They take a cut of your royalties

Why even self-publish if you don’t actually get to keep your hard earned money?

This won’t necessarily mean that self-publishing company is a scam or fraudulent in any way. However, it is something to think about and be wary of.

You want to make sure you’re actually benefiting fairly for your book’s success. So working with a company that allows you to keep every cent is essential.

Related: SelfPublishing.com’s Book Royalties Calculator

#2 – They make you sign over your book rights

As mentioned earlier, traditional publishing houses technically “purchase” your book from you. It’s why you get that nice big (usually not big, though) advance.

However, self-publishing companies should not require this. Since you are self-publishing, all of the rights should remains 100% yours.

#3 – They maintain creative control

Obviously, self-publishing companies are meant to help you.

list of self publishing companies

That being said, they can certainly offer advice on your book title, subtitle, cover, and even contents, but they should never demand something of your book in order for you to continue with their program.

#4 – Unrealistic expectations

Self-publishing is a varied game. No two authors can expect the exact same outcome and your results largely vary on how much you’re willing to work and how well you’re following their program.

However, self-publishing companies also shouldn’t guarantee crazy expectations—especially without having the proof to back it up.

Guarantees of making $10,000 in the first month are often unfounded. Look for company promises that you feel good about actually being able to achieve them.

#5 – There are a large number of complaints online

Not every self-publishing company can meet everyone’s expectations. Not every single review will be positive – and that’s understandable.

What you do want to look out for is a large number of negative reviews, complaints, or claims of fraud or scams. These are certainly something to be wary of, but make sure you research some positives as well.

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?

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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

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:

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:

STEP 1

Enter Your Information Below To Calculate Your Potential Book Sales

STEP 2

Want to receive personalized tips on how to sell more books right in your inbox?

CONGRATULATIONS!
Here's What You'd Earn:

Your profit per book:

In 3 months, you'll make:

In 6 months, you'll make:

In 1 year, you'll make:

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.

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Build Your Author Platform to Make Money Writing

You, as an author and creator, needs to form the mindset that this is your business—your book business. Regardless if you are a part-time author looking to get started making some extra income, or your goal is to be a full-time author, when you start making money from your “hobby”, you are turning it into a business.

When it comes to creating income from writing, it boils down to one word: Platform.

Your author platform is the structure of your writing career. It should consist of multiple income streams. This begins with your platform.

According to Michael Hyatt, bestselling author of Platform and Free to Focus, a platform is, “The means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans. It might include your company website, a blog, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, an online video show, or a podcast. It may also include your personal appearances as a public speaker, musician, or entertainer.”

As a writer, even if you are writing a book for the first time, think about what your platform means to you. This will become the structural foundation that your writing author business is built on.

If you want to make a living writing fiction or nonfiction, the approach to how you structure your income streams are similar, although the content is different.

What drives your platform, however, is the one thing that many overlook: Your author mindset. From now on, approach your craft with the mindset that this is your business.

Like every business, you have to be focused on the customer experience and products available to those customers. Delivering the right product, in this case the book they are looking for, is how to convert the curious customer into a paying one.

Components of an Author Platform

Your author platform is made up of:

A Catalog of Books: This consists of published books, and all variations of the book including paperback, hardcover, large print and audiobooks. Your books, aside from bringing in consistent revenue, act as funnels for building your subscribers list and promoting your other products. Your books could be stand-alone reads, as many nonfiction titles are, or a series of thrillers.

Email list: This is your list of raving fans that have given you permission to contact them by providing you with their email address. Your email list is at the heart of making a living, not just as an author but, anyone who is building an online platform.

Wide Distribution Model: As a self-published author, Amazon may be where you make 80% of your income. But if you have more than three books available, you want to consider opting out of Amazon’s KDP Select program and publishing wide with other platforms such as aggregators Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and Kobo. Set your print books up for sale through IngramSpark. You can tap into a huge international market that, not only will drive your book sales but, open up opportunity for international foreign rights.

Courses: As an author you could develop courses based on the content of your books. For example, take a look at what Lise Cartwright has built through her platform Hustle & Groove. Picture a multitude of courses available for when browsers or subscribers come to your site for the first time. Building online courses is a great way to expand this platform.

Website: A critical piece of your writing business is your author website. This where you stage all of your talent. You might have an author blog that brings in leads for your books and courses.

You could create content that you don’t publish on Amazon and make it exclusive to your website only. You can cross promote with other authors and set up an autoresponder email funnel to build a deeper relationship with your readers.

Your author website should include these basic features:

  • A free offer: This is free content a new subscriber downloads after opting in.
  • Featured blog posts: Your blog is an asset and potential income stream as it brings in leads through visitor traffic.
  • Course platform: Highly recommended. These are great assets to build out and easy to scale up.
  • About page: Make a dynamic introduction here.

Scalable Assets and Multiple Income Streams

Let’s get to my favorite topic: Creating multiple income streams to grow your business!

This is what I love about self-publishing. You are at the helm of your own ship and you, and only you, get to choose the direction to take.

We know that, if we write and publish lots of books, potentially our library of books grows and this generates strong passive income.

But relying on book sales only is a lot of work, and it is more work if you are selling on just one platform, Amazon.

Check out how our very own coach Lise Cartwright has built her passive income stream with books (and how she can teach you to do the same when you become a student):

As an authorpreneur, a self-publisher who writes and publishes their own books, you want to always be thinking creatively how to expand your income streams.

Let’s take a look at the list below for book assets.

  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.

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.

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#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:

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.

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how-to-write-a-novel

How to Write a Novel: 5 Key Steps Every Good Book Needs [Template]

If you misunderstand how to write a novel with the proper story structure, your book will never sell.

Harsh, but true. And that’s why we’re here to tell you the exact methods that skyrocketed the popularity of books like The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.

Here are the steps for how to write a novel:

  1. Write The Setup
  2. Create The Inciting Incident
  3. Add the First Slap of a novel
  4. Add The Second Slap
  5. End it with the Climax

But before we dive right into those, we have to understand your unique writing method in order for you to understand novel writing in a way that’s best for you.

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What is a Novel?

A novel is a work of fiction told through narrative prose focusing on characters and a plot with at least some degree of realism.

Essentially, a novel is a long story in which a message, theme, and plot are revealed slowly over the course of scenes and chapters that make up a bigger storyline.

How Many Words in a Novel?

The exact number of words that make up a novel varies greatly depending on the genre and personal taste, however, a book is considered a novel if it has more than 50,000 words.

But that doesn’t mean your book will be that long. You have to learn how many words are in your novel.

Below is a table detailing how many words make up a novel in each respective genre, as some are typically longer than others.

Type of WritingWord CountPages in a Typical BookExample
Short story100 - 15,000 1 - 24 pages"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
Novella30,000 - 60,000100 - 200 pages"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
Novel60,000 - 100,000200 - 350 pages"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": by JK Rowling
Epic Novel120,00 - 220,000+400 - 750+ pages"Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin

Keep in mind that these are a baseline. You want to make sure your novel is in the ballpark word count for your genre and target audience but just remember that you can easily go over or under depending on how well the story is crafted…

…and if it covers our 5 key milestones – it will be crafted well.

How do you plan a novel? Your Novel Structure Breakdown (& Template)

Planning a novel involves coming up with your plot, character development, knowing your audience, and outlining your book.

  1. Coming up with your plot involves knowing which genre you want to write or even utilizing a list of writing prompts to get your thoughts moving.
  2. Character development is one of the most vital parts of your novel. Take the time to know your characters and protagonist well before you start writing in order to better plot your novel to fit how they act.
  3. Your audience will dictate the type of content in your plot. You can always plot first and then decide if you’ll be writing young adult, new adult, adult, or even middle grade. Just make sure you categorize your novel correctly in order to reach the right audience.
  4. Once you know the above, you’re ready to outline your novel. First, however, you have to figure out if you’re a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between before you can outline your book.

If you want to have a solid fill-in-the-blank template, we have a book outline template generator available above for you!

What’s the Difference Between Pantser Versus Plotter

A plotter is someone who plans out their novel with an outline before actually writing, whereas a pantser is someone who writes with seemingly no direction – they write by the seat of their pants.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Fiction authors tend to fall into one of two buckets when writing their books.

Pantsers

These are writers who basically only have a few vague elements about the story in mind when they start writing, but nothing else.

One of the most famous pantsers is Stephen King. In interviews, Stephen King has said that he often has an idea of the beginning, the premise, and a vague idea how it’s all going to end – and that’s all he needs to start writing his first draft.

Plotters

These are writers who need to know every piece of their story, down to the minute detail, before they will write a single word. They have full, complete outlines that serve as a guide for their writing.

They will know who each and every one of their characters are, what their motivations are, the chapters needed for the book, chapter sections, and in some cases, even paragraphs. Probably the most famous plotter out there is James Patterson.

Knowing if you’re a plotter or pantser will dictate your entire writing process.

Clearly, it’s possible to be successful whether you’re a plotter or pantser. But here’s the harsh reality: whereas Stephen King and James Patterson sit on opposite extremes of the ‘Outline Spectrum’, most of us fall somewhere in between.

But that still doesn’t answer the question:

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

My best advice is to be something in between. Someone who looks beyond the “outline” of a novel, and identifies something much more important in their story…the 5 key milestones we’re about to reveal to you.

How to Write a Novel with 5 Key Milestones of Every Successful Novel

novel writing milestones

Most novels and movies have five key points that make up the core of their story – it’s a formula that’s been around for longer than books have.

This may not even be something authors do intentionally but rather, these are what make a story (even spoken) good and captivating.

What’s more, these milestones are something that readers have subconsciously been trained to look for when digesting a piece of fiction.

In other words, if you don’t have these five key moments, your reader is likely to turned off of your story because it didn’t meet expectations set by the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories they have already digested before yours.

Let’s get started.

#1 – The Setup when writing a novel

This is where you make your story promise and write an introduction that pulls readers in.

Here’s a solid resource for how to start a story if you need a few more tips.

You tell your reader what kind of story it will be – a comedy, drama, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi – and you give a few clues as to what they can expect. Whatever you said in these initial pages must be followed to the end of your story.

A stone-cold drama cannot turn into a slapstick comedy by the end of the story. That doesn’t mean a stone-cold drama can’t have humor in it, it just means that you can suddenly pivot and become an Adam Sandler movie.

Also, during the setup, we learn a little bit about:

  • The characters
  • Their everyday lives
  • Their challenges
  • The world they live in

We get a sense of where the story is heading.

One mistake made by first-time fiction authors is that they do not properly set up the story expectations and the reader goes in expecting one thing, only to get another.

Nothing annoys readers more, and so it is essential that during the setup phase of your novel, you set the expectations that you will meet during the book or you’ll lose those 5-star Amazon reviews that make such a difference.

The Setup of a novel example

In the Hunger Games, we meet Katniss. From her surroundings, it is obvious that she is poor, and as soon as she steps outside of her wooden shack we see hovering drones.

Within the first few pages of this book, we have learned three essential things:

  • This book is a drama
  • Katniss is our heroine and she has a miserable life
  • SURPRISE! There are drones and other technologies that indicate this to be a sci-fi
  • We are about to read a dystopia set sometime in the future

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Ask yourself these questions:

– What does your story’s setup look like?
– What happens?
– What story promises do you make?

Create a list of everything your reader needs to learn in order to enter your story’s world before crafting your introduction.

#2 – The Inciting Incident

The inciting incident is the moment in your story when your hero’s life changes forever. It is the ‘no-going back’ moment, where nothing that happens afterwards will return your hero’s world back to normal.

Katniss volunteers, Neo takes the red pill, Dorothy lands in OZ … the aliens are here!

As soon as your inciting incident happens, your story should be full throttle towards the climax.

The most common mistake first-time authors make is that their inciting incident is reversible. That means that something could happen that would return the hero’s life back to normal.

No, no, no!

how to write a novel inciting incident quote

Your inciting incident should as final as the severing of a limb or a death of a loved one. Nothing should be able to reverse the effects of your inciting incident has on your hero.

Inciting Incident in a Novel Example:

Katniss volunteers! In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is irreversible because – quite literally – soldiers grab Katniss, whisk her away from her world, and into the world of the games.

There is no escape.

And even if she could get away, she would be hunted by the Capital for the rest of her life. With those two simple words, “I volunteer!” her life has changed forever.

Note: There is an exception to this rule when it comes to romances.

With romances, the inciting incident is almost always when the two lovebirds meet. (Not always, but for the vast majority of romances, this is the case.) With romances, try to create an inciting incident that simultaneously shows how perfect these two people are for each other while setting up the numerous reasons why they can’t be together.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Answer these questions in full and complete the brainstorming activity.
– What is your inciting incident?
– Is it strong enough?
– Are there ways you could up the stakes or shorten the timeline?
– How can you make it your inciting incident as impactful and irreversible as possible?

Brainstorm several inciting incidents… Don’t settle for one. Take a look at your inciting incidents and ask yourself this: Which one of these is the harshest, deadliest inciting incident of the bunch. Then pick that one.

#3 – The First Slap

Now, we are away to the races for writing a novel!

Over the next few chapters, your character should be making a series of gains and losses, where the aggregate result is that their situation is slightly better than what it was at the moment of the inciting incident.

The reason why we need this upward trajectory is because we are setting up the reader for the first slap.

The first slap is the moment when everything that our hero has gained is lost in fell swoop. Your hero is brought down to zero. In other words, all gains are lost, and your hero’s situation has never been bleaker.

The greater the fall, the more engaged your reader will be.

First Slap Example:

In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s world is brought down to zero when she actually enters the Games.

Between the inciting incident on the first slap, Katniss has made several gains, garnering the attention of the Capital and making some friends along the way. But none of that matters the moment she enters the Games – and what a moment it is.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm what your first slap can be. Like with the inciting incident, try to come up with 3-5 scenarios and pick the one that is harshest. Take a look at all the events that could potentially happen between the inciting incident and the first slap. This is a loose mind map as you are not committing to anything at this point, but do try to get a sense of whether or not your hero will be making gains and losses (with a net value of gains) and try to assess whether or not the first slap is harsh enough to truly wow your reader.
Remember, you want your readers to hate you for what you’ve done to the characters they love.

#4 -The Second Slap

Your hero has rose to the challenge! They have successfully thwarted the big evil that has been thrusted upon them by the first slap and she is doing well.

…Now it is time to bring her back to 0 again.

The second slap should be as harsh, if not harsher, than the first slap. This is the moment when the reader should be looking at your book and thinking, “Wow, this author is mean. Diabolical villain mean!”

In the second slap we are setting up for the climax, which means that the hero needs to have an out. In other words, there should be some semblance of hope.

Second Slap Example:

In the Hunger Games, the second slap is when the Game Masters announce that two tributes can survive the Games should they both be from the same district.

Katniss goes looking for Peeta, only to find him mortally wounded – he is bleeding to death and won’t survive the next few hours, let alone the rest of the Games. We know enough about Katniss to realize that Peeta dying is the worst thing that could happen to her (besides her own death).

But there is hope!

An announcement is made that there is something at the cornucopia that the Tributes need, and Katniss just knows that there is medicine there for Peeta.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm several seconds slaps and pick the harshest one. Then ask yourself: where is the hope and how will it lead into the climax?

#5 – The Climax

The rollercoaster that you’ve put your reader on is almost over.

How to Write a Novel

The reader has gone from an engaging setup where they get to learn about your characters and world to the inciting incident where everything is turned on its head.

Then they are subjected to the first and second slaps where you embrace your inner sadomasochist in order to punish your hero and give the readers the thrills they so richly deserve.

Now it is time to wrap it all up with the climax.

There is only one rule to the climax. A rule that must be adhered to, no matter what genre you are writing in:

Make it amazing! The climax should be the moment where your reader puts down the book and goes, “Holy S&*%! That was awesome!”

Novel Climax Example:

The climax in the Hunger Games is the final confrontation between Katniss and the remaining Tributes, as well as the monsters that the Game Masters send after her. It is wrought with danger and excitement.

But what makes the climax truly kickass is the poisonous berries at the end.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Hunger Games today and read it! You’ll immediately get why this scene is so amazing.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm your kickass climactic scene! Show us how amazing, smart, resourceful, powerful your hero is when overcoming their final obstacles, but remember to make sure it’s realistic and makes sense for your character.

There you have it: writing a novel is made much easier with your 5 key milestones. This method is particularly effective for first-time authors who are still finding their writing feet (or should I say typing fingers) and is an awesome resource that experienced writers can rely on time and again when planning their stories.

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Common Questions About Writing a Novel

Now that you know the 5 key milestones of a gripping novel readers will love, let’s consider some of the common questions people have.

What should I write a novel about?

You should write a novel about any idea or theme that excites or inspires you. 

If you’re stuck for inspiration, consider using a writing prompt to give you an initial story seed your full novel can eventually bloom from. 

Many writers take inspiration for their novel from their own lives. Is there an event you’ve lived through that makes for a compelling story? How about a memorable person you’ve known that you could fictionalize?

You can also take an emotional truth you’ve experienced and apply it to a different context. Even if the situation of your novel differs from your life, the emotional authenticity will shine through. 

You can also let your imagination run riot and see where it takes you. Picture an entirely different world from ours. Go crazy brainstorming ‘what if x happened to y person’ scenarios.

How do I get started writing a novel?

Getting started with novel writing depends entirely on you and your situation.

If you already have an idea in mind, you can start by outlining your plot, or jumping straight in if you’re more of the panster school of thought.

If you don’t have an idea, you could aim to come up with as many as possible using some of the techniques you’ve read here. Coming up with a large number of novel ideas gives you a good chance of finding something you love and want to pursue further.

You can also consider setting out a project plan for your novel. How many writing sessions will you need? When will you schedule them for?

No matter how you go about starting your novel, the important thing is to build momentum and a sense of excitement to propel you forward. 

How do I choose a point of view when writing a novel?

It can be tricky to know which point of view to choose when writing a novel, especially if it’s your first time. 

The most common choices are first person and third person. 

Most published novels are written in the third person. You can read about the different points of view here and decide which is the best fit for the novel you want to write. 

Should I edit my novel as I write?

It’s often a bad idea to edit your novel as you write. Doing so results in a loss of momentum and flow that inhibits your progress towards a complete first draft. 

If you self-edit on the fly, you often end up second-guessing yourself and losing that delicious sensation of being swept away by the story. 

Are there books on how to write a novel?

Yes, there are a large number of books on novel writing. 

Some of the best out there include: 

  • On Writing by Stephen King. A mixture of King’s personal story and actionable advice on the craft of writing. Seeing King’s exact process for drafting and redrafting his work is invaluable for any aspiring novelist. 
  • How to Write Bestselling Fiction by Dean Koontz. A popular guide to crafting fiction novels, recommended by successful novelists such as Jerry Jenkins. 
  • Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This book offers the perspective of Maass, an author who is also a literary agent. This background provides useful insight to guide your next novel.

Are you ready to start your novel writing adventure?

The 5 Key Milestones combined with a spot-on Premise and A-Story will tell you where your story starts, where it is headed and how it will end.

In other words, if you do the novel writing exercises above, you should have everything you need to get your novel to the finish line.

FREE Fiction Training! Learn the craft...  Learn how to write a strong fiction story readers love and launch your fiction  career...without compromising on quality (or taking YEARS to make it happen)!  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.

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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

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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.

Creative Writer Class: How to Write & Publish a Fiction Book—& Make a  Full-Time Passive Income From Book Sales  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.  YES! GET THE TUTORIALS!

#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.