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How to Market a Self-Published Book Like A Big Time Publisher

You may have decided to self-publish because of fewer barriers to entry, quicker turnaround time, higher royalty rates, or creative freedom. Whatever your goal and intent with self-publishing, we all have the same goal when we write a book: for people to read it.

To get your book in front of new eyes and grow your readership, putting thought and effort into marketing is imperative.

Let’s talk about:

  1. The difference between marketing a self-published book vs a traditionally published book
  2. Platforms to use for marketing a self-published book
  3. How to market your self-published book


How To Effectively Market A Book in 2022 (and beyond…)

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What’s the difference between marketing self-published vs traditional?

If you’re not already a famous writer (which I’ll assume you aren’t yet, since you’re hanging with us at Self-Publishing School), the majority of marketing will be on your shoulders, even if you publish traditionally.

There are a few differences between the two publishing options, like a traditional publisher will handle the marketing aspects related to book design, such as cover and formatting. You might also get minimal guidance, but publishers don’t really have a reason to distribute their marketing budget to debut or unknown authors.

Traditional marketing will get you into retail positions with much less effort than self-publishing, so the seller will do marketing in-store with the way they position and emphasize your book’s presence.

Besides those little crumbs of marketing help, marketing your book will be mostly up to you, whether you choose self-publishing or traditional.

There are many free tools available to you for marketing, the most important of which being your author platform. Let’s look at a few different options and discuss ideas for marketing on them. I’ll use examples from my own platform.

Platforms to market a self-published book

You can convert essentially any online space to a place to market and promote your books. I’m going to cover the ones I use, like YouTube, Twitch, and my social media profiles.

Social media is one of the most accessible marketing tools for writers. Depending on your target demographic, different social media will be more effective. For example, if your target is readers over 40, you need to be on Facebook. If you write YA, you might be on something more modern, like TikTok. Let’s go over a few different social platforms and what type of content they’re good for.


YouTube is where I have my biggest following and the most engagement, so it’s my biggest platform tool. I make writer-centric videos like live critiques, instructional pieces, and author progress vlogs–but even content not directly related to writing or my books brings views, which can translate into readers.

Just by creating content, I’m drawing in potential readers, but here are examples of specific things I do with YouTube to promote my books.

  • Book trailers. Book trailers don’t do much for drawing in new readers and viewers, but it’s a good way to let your current viewers know that you have a book out and to give them an idea of what to expect.
  • Plug your book at the beginning/end of videos. If you’re making compelling content, you’ll draw viewers, so that’s basically free ad space for you to mention anything you’d like people to pay attention to.
  • Promoting giveaways and promotions in your videos. This is just something else to mention at the beginning/end of your videos. If you’re hosting a giveaway, definitely announce it on all of your platforms!
  • Craft content that works as a hook for new viewers and as a selling point for your book. For example, I make instructional videos on short stories and flash fiction, then use my own from my published collections as examples. I also made a video about writing your own trauma (good clickbait) to talk about each of my stories in Little Birds by mentioning which ones contained real life elements. I have tons of others, and they don’t even seem like videos made to promote a book, because they are content people want to watch by itself.
  • Offering ARCs to booktubers. Even if you don’t have your own YouTube channel, it’s great to form relationships or get in contact with booktubers so you can offer them an advanced copy of your book for them to mention or review in their own video.


Twitch and other streaming platforms are a great way to promote your books with live events! Readings, Q&As/AMAs, and other online events let you interact and engage with your audience, which leads to more sales. I held my Starlight release party on Twitch, where we played games, had a Q&A session, and did excerpt readings. That stream made a BIG difference in my release day sales.

For another example, I promoted Starlight with a campfire night on Halloween where my friends and I read stories from my collection as well as others. People who are interested in scary stories were interested in the event, and that funneled them toward my book!

Think about what events you can stream to draw in potential readers.


Like I said, Facebook is great for a mature readership. That considered, Facebook users tend to respond well to engaging posts where they can share their opinion, and accessible content, like videos and pictures directly uploaded to your Facebook page.


Even if you don’t have your own Instagram, you can reach out to Bookstagrammers the same way you can reach out to Booktubers to get them to post about your publications.

My posts on Instagram are selfies and cute pictures of my pets mixed in with promotional imagery, writing prompts, and other content that might grab new followers when paired with appropriate hashtags.


Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and readers. Utilize hashtags to connect with people interested in your genre, or just writers in general. Some good tags to start with are #AmWriting #WritingCommunity #AmWriting[YourGenreHere]

TikTok and Snapchat

For a younger audience, use younger platforms. Snapchat allows you to produce content quicker to be consumed for only 24 hours–that might make it easier for some people or more daunting for others. That said, Snapchat is falling out of use due to other platforms utilizing its 24-hour “story” feature.

TikTok, on the other hand, is constantly growing. My friend and fellow self-published author, Rilie Kaye, makes TikToks about her books, writing, and life–she has a good-sized following and turns over decent sales from that content.

Mailing List

Mailing lists are a super strong tool for selling anything. Use your newsletters to let your audience know when you have a new release, a sale, or to ask for reviews. You can also include newsletter-exclusive content to make your readers feel special enough to check out your book! For example, I included a PDF of the first three stories from Starlight, including the illustrations, in my last newsletter.

Every platform operates in its own way, so figure out which ones are best for your target demographic and study up!


How To Effectively Market A Book in 2022 (and beyond…)

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More tips for marketing a self-published book

Now that we have an idea of what platforms we want to use to promote our books, let’s get into ten specific elements that are good to consider and incorporate into your marketing plans.

Establish Goals

To craft an effective marketing plan, you should set goals to know what you’re aiming for. A sales goal is the most obvious choice, but you can break those down into timelines. For example, I had a sales goal for my pre-sale launch, the pre-sale as a whole, release day, first week, first month, first three months, and first year. I also set Amazon review goals–first week, three months, and six months.

Setting specific goals, especially with time segments, makes it easier to track progress and hit milestones.

So first thing’s first: set achievable, realistic goals, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You can’t line up the shot until you know what you’re aiming for.

Street Teams

A street team is a group of volunteers to help promote your book. Street teams are important because an author saying their book is good just isn’t as effective as a group of other people saying it.

I recruit street teams from my audience. Once you have a book published, it’s much easier to find volunteers to help promote your next one. Street team tasks might include: leaving reviews, making Instagram aesthetics, calling their local bookstores to request your new publication, and finding podcast interviews for you.

Personally, I organize my street team in Discord with weekly or biweekly set tasks. For each task, I choose a random member from those who completed the task to award a prize (such as a free writing critique, a piece of merch from my shop, a video shoutout on my YouTube channel). But no matter how you organize or reward your street team, they’re helpful to have!

Advanced Readers

Advanced readers are people you send your book to (ARCs – advanced reader copies) for them to leave reviews before the book is released. This is another good reason to have a pre-sale period, because you can collect reviews from ARCs before the book is available for purchase. Most people are more likely to buy a book that already has reviews. Another important part of distributing ARCs is to strategically target certain content creators to get your book exposed to more audiences.

Pre-sale Period

Opening your book for pre-orders is very effective for marketing. It gives you time to build hype for the release, run giveaways, and collect sales for release day.

Before my books are available for pre-order, I plan my marketing–creating graphics, scheduling posts, organizing online events, preparing giveaways and giveaway items–everything. Having a plan ready ahead of time saves SO much grief, and it gives you the wiggle room to readjust if you see changes need to be made during the presale period.

The best thing to do during your pre-sale period is hosting a pre-order giveaway:


particularly my pre-sale giveaways, have really boosted my books’ sales. During my pre-sale period, I’ll have a form for people to attach proof of purchase, then I pick a random winner once a week. Gifts can range from writing critiques to merchandise, but the most important piece of a pre-sale giveaway is the consolation prize. Every person who preordered Starlight got an exclusive collection of three stories I cut from the book–no one else will ever see those stories. This was a great incentive and really spiked my pre-orders compared to the pre-orders for Little Birds, where I didn’t offer a consolation prize.

Guest Spots

On other people’s streams, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc., to talk about your book, writing, or something you’re an expert on. Putting yourself in front of other creators’ audiences is a super fast way to grow your own. You could also do a newsletter swap, where you mention a writer’s book in yours and they mention yours in theirs. Think about ways to collaborate with people and promote each other’s work.

Promotional materials like excerpts and graphics

Unless you want to fork money to a graphic designer, creating promotional images and social media posts is also your responsibility. A super easy and affordable option is Canva. Canva has the templates, tools, and support to help even a completely inexperienced designer make some killer promotional imagery.

Release Day Event

Even if you can’t host one in person, a release day event can boost your sales a ton! My pre-sale launch and my release day stream were both a major sales boost, especially the hype leading up to them. TIP: When you’ve got an event coming up, mention it at least a month in advance, then remind your audience with increasing frequency as it approaches. Get people stoked! Streams where I promote an event for a week have 5x the turnout of streams where I only promote the day before.


Get Reviews

Reviews are HUGE for continued sales and getting your book in front of new readers. Encourage your readers to leave reviews on Amazon, goodreads, or their blogs. Having ARC reviews up before release will help (mob mentality), but you should also routinely remind your audience and readership that reviews are helpful! Utilize your social media and newsletter to give ‘em a lil boop on the snoot every now and then to guide them toward writing reviews.

Don’t stop marketing after your book is out

After the pre-sale period, your marketing job’s not done. Little Birds dropped in 2018, and it’s still selling, because I’m still promoting it. When the audiobook released, we had trivia night and other events to promote it, I gave out free versions for review, and I pushed the sample on my website. When my second collection was available for preorder, I dropped the price on Little Birds and advertised it to draw in new readers to get hype for the second book’s release. The longer you market and the more ideas you generate to keep the hype up, the longer your book’s life will be, and the more money you’ll make!

Marketing a book doesn’t have to be a daunting, overwhelming task. If you plan ahead, strategize, and prepare your posts, content, and events ahead of time, all you have to do is implement and problem-solve along the way!

done for you writing and publishing

The World of Done for You Writing and Publishing

Wanna publish a book?

Maybe you’re a natural storyteller and writing is your passion. Or maybe you know that publishing a book is a great way to strengthen a brand and build a business. Done for you writing and publishing could be a good option.

No matter your motivation, writing and publishing a book is hard. Research, writing, editing, publishing, marketing… It’s a lot.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could take the idea you have and turn it into a book for you? 

Well… technically, that’s totally doable, but it might not be so clear-cut as you’d expect. 

You: Wait, Hannah–what’s the point of “writing” a book if you aren’t writing it yourself?

Me: There are actually tons of reasons you might want to publish a book but maybe won’t want to write it yourself. Let’s discuss.

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Writing: DIY or hire a ghostwriter

When it comes to getting your book written, your options essentially boil down to doing it yourself or having someone else do it. Typically with hiring a ghostwriter, you provide them an outline, a beat sheet, character profiles, or at least a developed idea of what you want them to do. The more thorough you are with planning the book, the less a ghostwriter will cost you.

The traditional way of producing a book is to write it yourself. This comes with benefits and drawbacks too.

Reasons to hire ghostwriters

If you don’t have the time or desire to write a book yourself

Maybe you run a business and want an ebook as a sales funnel–you might know what you want in your book, but it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve written it yourself. A ghostwriter can take the content you have in mind and flesh it into a full book, giving you an easy product.

Ghostwriters often have experience in the industry and might have a better idea of what sells

Even if they’re writing your story, they’ll likely know what details, themes, or tropes can boost interest and engagement in your story.

If you’re doing write-to-market

If you’re trying to take advantage of an opportunity in your market and you need to churn out a ton of books in a short span of time, it makes sense to hire people to carry some of the workload. Write-to-market is more common in genres like erotica and romance, where trends change fast and turnover is high, and these stories are often fairly formulaic. This means you can hire writers to flesh out the concepts you’ve drafted to fit the current trends without worrying too much about the minutiae of creative control.

Reasons to write the book yourself


If you like writing, obviously it’ll be a ton of fun to write your own ideas and see them come to life. If you send it off to someone else to write for you, you won’t experience that pleasure for yourself.

Depending on your writing goals, you may feel unaccomplished if you haven’t written it yourself. If you’re purely coming at this from a business standpoint, maybe it doesn’t make a difference, but a lot of writers want to be artists first and foremost. Knowing that you didn’t technically write your own work can be a huge blow to the ego, even if the book sells well. It may make you worry that your audience won’t like your work over the ghostwriter’s, if you decide to start writing your books by yourself.

Cost savings

Ghostwriters are expensive! Some of the more affordable ghostwriters might charge just a few hundred dollars for a messy, awkward, unedited book if you give them a beat sheet and character profiles. But a quality ghostwriter can run you $20,000 or more. I’ve heard of some folks paying over $75,000.

Becoming a better writer

Drafting a book might be hard, and it may be tempting to hire a ghostwriter to handle concepts that you don’t feel ready for, but if becoming a better writer is important to you, you’ve gotta rise to the challenge.

Total creative control

If you write your ideas yourself, you decide how the book turns out. Everyone brings their own skill level, voice, experiences, and personality to their writing, and as much as we might like to, it’s impossible to get inside someone else’s head and tell them exactly how we want something to come out. Another writer won’t write it the way you would have–the only way to make it exactly how you want it is by writing it yourself.

As you can see, the decision of hiring a ghostwriter or writing the book yourself depends on your goals, abilities, expectations, and available resources.

What about after the book is written? Do you want to publish it yourself, or do you want to let someone else publish it for you?

Publishing: DIY or third-party

I’m referring to “publishing” as getting your book from your MS document into a reader’s hand.

When you think of traditional book publishing, you might think of Penguin/Randomhouse, Macmillan, or Harper Collins. These companies are huge and have been around for decades. They know what sells and they have their own established goals and ideas of what books they want to publish. Traditional publishing can be a tough club to break into.

But there’s a new kid in town, and it’s indie publishing. Indie publishing gives you the freedom to write what you want, publish when you want, and promote how you want. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each route and see where you land. 

Reasons for Self-publishing (indie publishing)

Self-publishing means you’re in charge. You don’t go through an agent, editor, or publishing house–it’s all you from start to finish. Some people might find this harrowing, some might find it exciting! (I’m in the latter.)

Pros of self-publishing:

Total creative control

Since you aren’t relying on a publishing house or an agent to sell your book, you don’t have those voices telling you what you can and can’t write about. From the content, to the cover, to the marketing, it’s whatever you want! With indie publishing, you don’t have to worry about traditional marketability, so you’re free to find your niche and publish what you’re passionate about.

Total business control

Like above, you get to run the business side of your publishing journey however you want. Whether that means hosting events, offering promotional prices, or bundling books, you’re open to do whatever you’d like without worrying about permission from a publisher.

Fewer barriers to entry

Like I said, traditional publishing is a hard club to break into. A book proposal or manuscript can be rejected just because it doesn’t fit a specific idea, or because the author doesn’t fit a specific idea. Even if your book is amazing, it can be rejected Just Because. With indie publishing, your book can have a chance at finding a readership based on its own merit, not based on the whims of someone else.

Cons of self-publishing:

Less clout

As a budding industry, some people still turn their noses up at the idea of self-publishing. Since anyone can do it, that means there’s no quality control, so self-publishing still conjures the image of comically awful erotica novels lurking in the depths of Amazon. Of course, this isn’t entirely fair–there are plenty of awful books published traditionally, and there’s plenty of great work published independently. But that stigma can be irritating to deal with.

Bonus responsibility

As an indie writer, you’re responsible for hiring people like editors and designers, managing your budget, tracking sales. Dealing with the business aspects of publication can be daunting, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to watch your business grow entirely of your own doing!

If you’re someone who likes to be in control of your own fate and claim your own success, indie publishing might be for you! If the thought of making your own creative and business decisions sound horrifying, maybe third-party publishing is for you. If you’d like to talk to one of our publishing strategists to get personalized advice on your book project and even get some of these book production services done-for-you, book a call here.

Reasons for Third-party publishing (traditional publishing)

If you’re not up to the challenge of doing it yourself, your other publishing option is through a third-party publisher. Using a third-party publisher might give a bit of clout, but it’s not necessarily less work.

Let’s look at the benefits people typically associate with publishing traditionally.

Potential pros of third-party publishing:


As I mentioned, some people are a little snobbish about self-publishing, so selling your book to a traditional publisher can be seen as a mark of success. If you dig past surface-level appearances, though, you might be able to see what so many other writers have: traditional publishing is rife with nepotism and discrimination. Publishing is very much a “know-a-guy” business. If you have connections or a pre-developed platform and potential readership, publishers will want you. They don’t necessarily care if a book is good–they care if it will sell.

So even though a book deal might seem like a massive mark of success (and it can be!), that isn’t always the case.


If you look at the to-do list between a self-published author and a traditionally published author, trad publishing might look easier. They take care of the editing, the cover design, the technicalities.

But what about the road to GETTING traditionally published? There’s querying for agents, dealing with the rejection-revision-repeat cycle (often for years), and working with a company who is more concerned about what you’ll do for them than what they can do for you.

On top of that? You have to do your own marketing anyway! No matter your publishing route, you’re going to have to sell yourself and your book. You have to build your readership. Traditional publishers aren’t going to throw precious marketing money at a debut author, so even if you get a book deal, selling it is mostly your responsibility.

Potential cons of third-party publishing:

No control

Even though you’re responsible for marketing your book, you don’t have all of the freedom to do it as you’d like. For example, you don’t have the freedom to run a promotional price period because you don’t control the price of your book. You also have less control over the content of your books. If you don’t make the changes they want to see, they can shelve your book and never publish it, and if you’ve already sold it to them, you can’t publish it either.

Slower publishing journey

Books can take around two years from selling the manuscript to a publishing house to actually being available in stores. Sometimes a book can be shelved for an indefinite amount of time, sometimes it will never be published at all. Whereas with self-publishing, you’re in control of that timeline.

If you would rather spend your time winning people over and bending to fit a mold they need you to fit, then letting them make decisions so you don’t have to, traditional publishing might be for you!

Check out this deep dive about self-publishing vs traditional publishing for more information.


If you love writing, write the book yourself. If you’re invested in your book or its content, also write it yourself. If it’s just to build up a service offering or business you’re trying to grow, there’s no shame in hiring a ghostwriter! Done for You writing and publishing isn’t a new concept, and could be a great fit for your situation.

While Self-Publishing School doesn’t offer done-for-you writing, we are offering done-for-you book production and publishing. You’ll still retain all rights and royalties. If that’s something that interests you, book a call with one of our Publishing Strategists.

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Woman Reading Nook

How Beta Readers Can Help

Did you finish your book, but you’re not confident enough to publish it or hire a professional editor yet? Great news–There’s a way you can improve your manuscript for free before investing in an editor or sending it to a literary agent for potential rejection and utter heartbreak.


With volunteer beta readers! We’re going to cover:

What is a beta reader?

Beta readers are volunteers who read your writing before it’s edited or published. They give opinions, answer questions, and give you different perspectives on how your piece can be interpreted.

When you’re writing, it’s hard to see the flaws in your own work because you’re too close to the process. Sometimes taking a break and coming back to it can help you spot problems, but the best way to get an unbiased opinion is to have someone else read it. This is where beta readers come in.

Beta rounds typically happen after self-edits but before professional edits. You know you’re ready for beta readers when your story is as good as you can get it on your own.

Now that we know why we want beta readers, how do we get them?

How to find good beta readers

Beta readers can be hard to come by. They’re working for free, and if you don’t already have books published or an author platform, it can be hard to incentivize people to volunteer. Here are some tips for finding beta readers, and specifically finding ones that will work well for you.

  1. Form a writing group or find writing partners. When you’re starting out and don’t have an established platform, finding beta readers can be difficult. One way around this is to form groups with other writers where you swap critique. This gives you established, regular feedback you can depend on. If you don’t have writer friends, check out Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and other online spaces for writing groups. A lot of authors with online followings have their own. For example, my Discord is accessed through Patreon, and we have a thread specifically for finding writing partners.
  2. Use hashtags on social media. Recruiting strangers is always an option, though they can be unreliable. Try to recruit twice the amount of beta readers you ideally want, because usually about half of them are going to ghost. Hashtags you can use to find beta readers include: #BetaReaders, #BetaBustle, and #CritiquePartners. You can also use hashtags specific to your genre to find more effective readers. Speaking of,
  3. Know your target demographic. If you’re writing LGBTQ YA, a 50-year-old straight man probably isn’t gonna vibe with it. You can have people outside of your target demographic, but focus on the feedback from your desired readership. Their opinion will be what is most relevant for your book, so make sure most of your beta readers are within that demographic.
  4. Grow your platform. I get the majority of my beta readers from my YouTube subscriber base. There are drawbacks to using your existing readership for new projects, like readers wanting to be nice because they like you and not giving honest feedback, but it’s much easier to find interested readers when you already have a platform. Just be prepared to spot biased feedback.
  5. Don’t be afraid to turn people down. When you have the ability to be choosey with beta readers, don’t be afraid to do so. There are plenty of reasons you might not want someone to beta read for you, especially long-term. I even keep a list of people to specifically never use again. Later on, we’ll talk about how to break up with problematic beta readers.

Now that we’ve got beta readers, what do we do with them?

How to work with beta readers

Here are some tips for working with and retaining beta readers and getting the most out of their feedback.

  1. Let them know what is expected. Be clear about what you’re asking from them. Do you want overall macro suggestions, or are you looking for line-level feedback? Be as thorough as possible in explaining what you want them to look for and the type of feedback you want. Throwing an entire manuscript at a reader with no guidelines can be overwhelming, leading to incomplete feedback or even the reader ghosting.
  2. Find a balance between staying receptive to feedback and not taking it too personally. Beta readers are there to help, and they help by telling you what you did wrong. It’s an oof, but it’s good for you. Also, they’re volunteering. Don’t get mad because they did what you asked them to do. Try to separate yourself from your work so that critique on the work doesn’t damage your self-esteem and slow your momentum.
  3. Provide a questions list. The questions you ask will widely vary based on if it’s a partial read, a whole read, a character-centric vs plot-centric read, et cetera. It depends on what information you’re trying to collect. But giving readers a specific list of questions makes their job a lot easier, and it will provide you with more helpful feedback. I’ve included a list of example questions later on.
  4. Establish a dialogue for back-and-forth discussion. Having a real conversation with a reader is sometimes more helpful than just having their responses to questions. If you have follow-up questions about one of their answers, ask! I had one beta reader for Starlight who I worked with for a couple of months on one particular story because they had really insightful feedback, and it was a genre they specialized in. Without that reader, I would have cut the story completely.
  5. Keep a spreadsheet with your reader’s information. Factors like age, gender, orientation, geographical location, socioeconomic status, and genre preferences will sway their opinions–you should know where readers are coming from to know how to apply their advice and feedback. 
  6. Look for trends, not individual responses. If you get a piece of feedback from one beta reader that you don’t agree with, you’re probably fine to ignore it. If you get that same piece of feedback regularly, maybe take a second look. Writing is super duper subjective, so look for trends and don’t weigh heavily the opinions of just one reader.
  7. Express gratitude! Even if they’re telling you things you don’t love to hear, beta readers are volunteering their time to help you out, so make sure you tell them thank you and treat them with kindness.
  8. TIP: If a reader tells you exactly how to fix something, they’re probably wrong. I’ve found this to be a nearly infallible heuristic for filtering good feedback from people projecting their own taste and style onto your writing. If they give a specific way you should write something, take that as a subjective opinion or them projecting their own preference.
    Here’s a sentence from my story, The Swamp Witch: “Marigold pulls her pipe from her pocket and lights it, evaluating him before hooking it between her teeth.”

A piece of feedback that might be style projecting would be if a beta reader said: This sentence should be two: “Marigold pulls her pipe from her pocket and lights it. She evaluates him before hooking it between her teeth.”

While this beta reader might not necessarily be wrong, their opinion is subjective.

A piece of feedback that I might have listened to could be: This sentence feels like it goes on for too long.

If someone presents a suggestion as if it’s objective rather than subjective, it’s most likely their own taste and doesn’t hold quite so much weight.

I mentioned using questions to help your readers structure their feedback, so let’s look at some examples.

Questions for beta readers

It’s great to provide a specific list of questions for your readers, but those questions vary based on your needs. You can ask questions for the piece as a whole, particular chapters, or particular aspects–it depends on your goals for that beta round. You can use a beta round for a specific character arc, plotline, et cetera.

Here are some example questions you might consider asking.

Character questions:

  1. How do you feel about Character A? Or specifically their arc, personality, flaws, description, dialogue, or any other aspect.
  2. How do you feel about the dynamic between Character A and B?
  3. Is Character A likable?
  4. Could you tell them apart easily? Are any characters too similar?
  5. Did you find Character B’s action in chapter 4 to be very predictable, or were you surprised?
  6. Did [specific action] feel realistic for that character?
  7. Were any characters unrealistic? Who and why?
  8. Which character is your favorite/least favorite? Why?
  9. Which character dynamic is your favorite/least favorite? Why?
  10. Did any characters feel unnecessary? Who, and why?

Plot questions:

  1. What did you interpret to be the themes and morals of this story?
  2. How was the pacing? Did any parts feel like they dragged? Did any feel too brief?
  3. Did you find yourself skimming? If so, on which parts?
  4. Did the different plotlines converge in a way that made sense to you?
  5. Which plot point did you find the most/least interesting?
  6. Did you spot any plot holes?
  7. At [this point] in the book, are you still compelled to read on?
  8. Did you feel rising tension through the story?
  9. Was the climax impactful?
  10. Did the ending feel satisfying?

Scene questions:

  1. How did this scene make you feel?
  2. Where do you see the story going after this scene? Do you have any predictions?
  3. Does this scene feel important to the overall story?
  4. Were any scenes difficult to follow or confusing?
  5. Did any scenes feel like they didn’t belong, and why?
  6. Which scene was your favorite, and why?
  7. Does every character feel necessary in this scene?
  8. Is the timing of this scene effective? Do you think it should be earlier or later in the story? If so, elaborate.
  9. How was the pacing of this scene? Did it feel rushed or drawn out to you?
  10. Did any of the descriptions in this scene stand out as weak?

Prose questions:

  1. Did any lines in this excerpt stick out to you as particularly good or particularly bad?
  2. Did the syntax flow well?
  3. Were the character’s voices/dialogue distinct from each other?
  4. Did any bits feel particularly cliche or tired in their phrasing?
  5. Were any parts overly wordy or difficult to read?
  6. Did any of the imagery not translate clearly?
  7. Did [this particular] metaphor come across?
  8. How did you interpret [specific line, image, metaphor]?
  9. How do you feel about [particular word choice]?
  10. How did [particular line, image] make you feel?

Essentially, the questions you ask beta readers depend on the answers you want. If you want to know about your characters, ask questions about the characters. If you want to know if your climax is exciting enough, directly ask them. They can’t know what information you want if you don’t tell them.

Beta readers are fantastic, helpful little pals. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. How do you deal with a beta reader breakup?

How to dump a beta reader

Depending on the context of your interactions, it can sometimes be hard to break ties with a reader when it isn’t working out.

Some reasons you might need to drop a reader include:

  1. They aren’t providing helpful feedback. In this case, you’re wasting both of your time, and there’s really no reason to keep them around.
  2. They’re not adhering to an agreed-upon timeframe or delivery method. Especially when working with multiple rounds of beta readers, being prompt and reliable are very important traits.
  3. They’re ignoring your feedback guidelines. I’ve had readers completely ignore the questions I sent them and just give me line edits I didn’t ask for. That is in no way helpful, so there was no reason to keep them around. Also: if they can’t read and understand the guidelines, how can you expect them to read and understand your story?
  4. They’re being rude or making you uncomfortable. Even though they’re doing you a favor, there’s no reason to be disrespectful in any situation, so you shouldn’t feel bad for letting them go.
  5. You just don’t want ‘em around. If you don’t vibe with a reader, that’s enough reason not to want to work with them. Of course, beggars can’t be choosers–if you’re low on readers, you won’t be able to be as particular, but you don’t have to work with someone just because they want to work with you.

That isn’t anywhere near an exhaustive list of reasons you might not want to work with a person, so here are some tips for releasing a beta reader:

  1. Do what you can to screen readers at the start so you’re less likely to end up with readers you can’t work with.
  2. Try to be straightforward but professional. Avoid lying to get out of situations, but don’t be needlessly mean.
  3. If it takes some of the pressure off, address the message as if you’re finishing up beta reading with all of them, not just dumping one particular person. Example to follow.
  4. If a reader is being inappropriate or threatening in some way, block them immediately. There’s no need to be polite when someone is being aggressive.

Here’s a template to get you started on a breakup letter:

Hi pals,

Thank you so much for your help so far! That’s all I need at the moment. I really appreciate your time and efforts, and I’ll be in touch if I have anything else for you.


Beta readers are super helpful little guys. They’re kind enough to contribute their time and effort to help writers create their art. In return, writers can be clear on their requirements, offer guides and question lists to help with feedback, give heaps of gratitude, and offer to beta read their readers’ manuscripts. They can also be upfront when the feedback is no longer helpful, releasing the beta reader back into the wild where they can grow strong and free.

amazon marketing services

Why Authors Write to Market

What does it mean to write to market?

The traditional storyteller has a tale inside of them that they want to share with others. Novelists might have a character, a story, a setting, or just a concept they’re interested in exploring as a book. Nonfiction writers might have a personal experience or a problem they’ve faced and overcame, and they write a book to help people like them through the same problem.

These examples are writers writing purely for their own enjoyment. They’re creating the book they want to exist or writing the story they’d like to tell. But what happens when a writer writes for the reader?

What is write-to-market?

Writing to market is also known as writing to trend. In writing to market, a writer will look at the market, analyze current trends, use these trends to make an educated guess about what readers are looking for, then write THAT book. 

Indie authors are the most equipped to utilize the write-to-market strategy because they can publish books quickly themselves without waiting for traditional publishing’s long process to push their book through.

With the quick turnaround through self-publishing, a writer can potentially surf the waves of the market and land the trends for higher sales. This is nearly impossible for an author to do with traditional publishing, where books often take years to publish from the day they’re sold to a publisher and the day they hit shelves. By that time, the trend the book was written for may have already died out.

Write-to-market is simply a publishing strategy to sell more books by giving readers exactly what they want to read right now.

Is write-to-market selling out?

There are people who think making a profit off of any art is “selling out.” But writing is a job! If you want to be a full-time writer, you’ve gotta make an income off of it, and write-to-market is one way to make sure you’re getting a steady income. If you’re consistently writing for a demand, you’re set up to sell to readers looking for that book. 

You can still write good stories that you enjoy and that you’re passionate about while writing to market. Maybe this just means altering an existing story to fit current trends, boosting sales. Or maybe you’re writing something way out of your field of interest, but you can do it quickly–it’s fine to be in it for the money. That’s why everyone else does their jobs, isn’t it? Plus, plenty of authors like dabbling in different subgenres, and write-to-market authorship is a great way to sample new tropes and subgenres. 

If writing to market grosses you out, think of it this way: publishing is a business. In order to succeed, you need to sell your product and make money. You’re providing customers with a product, so it makes sense that product should be something your customers want. That’s all there is to it!

How to write to market


Find out what topics, tropes, and genres are selling right now. Look within certain genres to see what’s trending within them, too. It could be something broad (like when dystopian YA was hopping a few years back) or something incredibly niche (like the bed-sharing romance trope).

Choose a genre you already like to write in, then find keywords and tropes within that genre that are selling really well right now. That way you’re not reaching entirely out of your comfort zone and you’ll be interested in writing them, instead of trudging through a genre you don’t love. If you’re still lost, try to get specific and make sure to read up on the latest books in your preferred genre. Maybe you start with romance, and eventually you narrow that down to Tudor-era historical romance. This will give you a much easier vantage point to do your research.

Look at the top sellers in the categories you’re interested in. What consistencies do you see in titles, cover matter, themes, and niches? Take notes of the ones that come up most frequently!

You can also get involved in the communities around your genre. Follow writers and readers in that niche on social media, check hashtags, and stay involved with how trends are changing. Being right at the root of the trend can help you have quicker response time than waiting for it to reflect in book sales.

Quick turnaround

When you’re writing to market, time is of the essence. While we do see some trends dominate a certain aspect of the industry for years, like paranormal romance taking over post-Twilight, it’s much more common for subtler trends to come and go over the course of a few months. This makes it important to stay tuned to the latest writing fashions so you know what readers are after. Get ideas turned over quickly and out for sale while it’s still trendy.

I know some writers who write whatever genre or theme they’re in the mood for, prepare the book for publishing, then sit on it until that particular content is popular! Trends are cyclical, so this isn’t a bad idea if you have lots of inspiration and some time on your hands.

Make sure to specify

through your cover, title, and description that your book contains the trending topic, theme, or element. Play the trendy element up as much as you can while you’re marketing. There’s no reason to bury the lede when you’re writing to market–let the readers know what you’re offering, and let them know loudly. You can go through all the trouble of researching, planning, and writing to market for it all to go to waste if you don’t let readers know that your book is in on the trend.

Utilize a newsletter

A newsletter is a strong tool for writers, particularly in something like writing to market. If you’re dropping a publication once a month (typical for write-to-market authors), then your readers will want to know about it! Building a mailing list gives you a direct line of contact with your readership, whether you’re writing to market or not. Use your newsletters to alert your readers to your new projects and upcoming works, so they can get excited about what you’re cooking up next and stay hooked longer.

Many writers build their reading list by offering a free short story or novel for signing up. If the freebie is in your genre/subgenre, collecting readers who will stay interested in your writing will be easier.

Pros and cons of write-to-market

Are there any drawbacks to writing to market? Maybe so! Are there tons more benefits? Probably! Let’s look at the pros and cons of writing for the market so you can decide what’s important to you, and see if writing to market might be the best move to advance your career.

The benefits of writing to market


Let’s be real–the biggest benefit is definitely the money. Writers who learn how to write for trends correctly make absolute bank, and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them. We often hear about romance authors making huge sums, and one of the key ways they do that is by putting out a lot of content in specific genres where they know their audience and know what that audience wants. That model can be replicated in other genres, too, to similarly lucrative effects.

Grow your readership quicker

If you’re churning out quick, topical reads, you’ll draw a crowd quicker than longer term projects that aren’t as trendy. If you can draw people in with a trending topic, then keep them with a compellingly written story, they might keep an eye out for future projects. This will also guarantee that you’re building a readership in your specific genre, which will go a long way in ensuring that they stick around for future projects, even if your work starts to vary as the trends change.

Quicker pay

If you write with content that isn’t super popular right now, it might pay off, but it’ll be a little slower. If you know what people are looking for, why wait to give it to them? Drop a fresh take on a hot topic to get a check NOW.

Learn the trade faster

When you’re publishing a book every month or two, you’re giving yourself a crash course on writing, publishing, and marketing. Each new book is a learning opportunity to see what works for you and your readers.

The drawbacks of writing to market

How long will it last

The success of that book might be lightning fast and short-lived. While that’s a possible negative, if you’re producing books regularly and hitting marketing trends, then the longevity of your book doesn’t matter so much as the quantity of books you produce. Your books may not sell as well over time, which can be perceived as a con, but since you’ll be on to the next one in no time, this might not be a big drawback. PLUS, you’re ideally making a spike of higher income with your book release that could even out to what a longer-selling book might make over its lifetime.

The appearance of “selling out”

Write-to-market publications might seem a little skeevy and cheap to some people. We already discussed how that isn’t true, but if you’re worried, you’ve got options! Most write-to-market books are in the romance genre, and the majority of romance authors write under a pseudonym. Even if you write more traditionally in a different genre, you can write under a penname for publications you don’t necessarily want attached to your main author platform.

Will you enjoy it, and can you do it successfully?

Writing to market can definitely soul-suck if you do it wrong. But like I said earlier, choose a genre you’re already interested in! It shouldn’t be pulling teeth.

Worried about burnout? If you depend on writing lots of books and keeping on top of current trends, you could run the real risk of getting exhausted with the huge word counts, quick turnarounds, and tendencies towards formulas. For some writers, all this means is making sure to take ample breaks to read and explore other creative outlets, but for others, this can be a dealbreaker–it all depends on you, and what works best with your creative and work needs!

Worried you can’t write quick enough? What if your turnaround isn’t quick enough for the trend and you miss it, sinking time and money into a project that won’t grab much return? This is a risk you run, BUT that same risk is there for any book you write. You’ll probably sink a few misses, but there’s a learning curve in any new endeavor. 

All things considered, the benefits of writing to market far outweigh the negatives, if you’re willing to invest the time and research to learn how to do it right. There’s a big paycheck and devoted reader following in it for those who do it well!


Should you write-to-market?

Writing for trends isn’t for every writer. If you’re someone who edits each sentence meticulously, poring over one novel revision for months and months, it might not be your speed. But if you’re a writer who is:

  1. willing to research and experiment,
  2. able to write a book in 4-8 weeks,
  3. prepared to bounce back from a flop,
  4. and ready to make some wild money when you hit the right niche,

then writing to market might be the route you take!

SPS 094: YouTube Secrets: Using YouTube To Sell 2k Copies/Month & Get 1,000+ Reviews On Your Book with Sean Cannell

Thinking about using YouTube to sell more books? In today’s interview with Sean Cannell (author of “YouTube Secrets”), we talk about:
– 3 specific ways you can use YouTube to sell more books (and exactly how Sean does this)
– how he’s sold 65,000 copies of his book and 2,000 copies in a random month years after publishing
– why you should publish an audiobook & a GENIUS way to maximize your audiobook earnings

If you’re a Youtuber or an author who wants to sell books using YouTube, listen to this episode!

How to Market Your Book Via YouTube

Sean is a YouTuber, international speaker, and coach with over a million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He’s been featured on the 20 most-watched YouTube channels that will launch your business and has been featured in Forbes.

His book, YouTube Secrets, is where he unpacks his ideas and builds his fan base relationships. “Concepts go much deeper, and the story, illustrations, and framework flush out concepts that can provide more transformation with deep impact.” He knew he wanted to write a book and that there was a gap in the market for quality, authoritative books on YouTube.

Sean and his friend Benji put together a vision and partnered on the book. “When you write a book, you become that subject matter expert and thought leader.” It’s a good idea for a speaker to have their own book as they create your profile as a pillar of authority and force the speaker to think through their process and cohesion of ideas.

Find out how Sean built a digital marketing book that will last, how you can incorporate higher-level principles into your book, and why you should create a book that is focused on beginner learners. Learn how Sean has started his marketing for his book, how he created a marketing campaign on his book via YouTube, and how he gains reviews for his book.

Show Notes

  • [02:23] Why Sean decided to write a book about his business. 
  • [05:15] How to write a book on the topic of digital marketing.
  • [08:40] Continued promotion of your book and why it’s so important.
  • [12:58] Selling 73 copies of his book daily by pitching his book on his YouTube channel.
  • [14:54] Getting reviews and how he received over 1000 reviews.
  • [21:25] Three key elements for promoting your book long-term.
  • [23:24] Sean gives the breakdown of book sales for audio, print and digital copies.
  • [28:28] Where to pick up a copy of Sean’s book for free.
Romance Scene

How to Write Romance & Sex Scenes

If you read adult fiction, you’ve likely read at least a few sex scenes. Sex scenes range from well-executed to cringey. At writers, we often find opportunities to include sex scenes in our stories. Even if we’re not in the romance or erotica genre, sex is just a real life thing that happens, so it makes sense for our characters to do it too.

Outside of erotica, sex scenes can be used for developing character, progressing the plot, and revealing dynamics between characters. As with all scenes, a good sex scene will accomplish more than one thing (unless you’re writing erotica for the sake of erotica).

So how do you write a sex scene, and how do you do it in a way that doesn’t make your reader cringe?

We’re going to talk about some things you can keep in mind–not all of these tips may apply to you, and everything in writing is, of course, pretty subjective.

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But here are seven tips for writing sex scenes that will engage and interest your readers:

Think about why it’s there

Including a sex scene just to include a sex scene usually isn’t going to make for a very compelling plot beat. Just like any scene, it should be doing something to develop the characters or progress the plot–unless it’s an erotica! Then you can have them just for fun.

Most of the sex scenes I’ve read in my client’s manuscripts don’t belong. They just wanted to include a sex scene. If you’re writing a romance, the first time your characters have sex should typically be an important plot point or maybe even the climax (haha) of the story. In most cases, a sex scene should be like an argument scene or a fight scene, in that your story has to earn it for your reader to be super invested. If it’s a significant scene with your main characters, then it should be done intentionally and when it happens will be important for their dynamic. Make sure your scene belongs in the story and makes sense where you placed it.

Know what you’re talking about

I’ve read a lot of sex scenes from clients that biologically didn’t make sense. It’s totally fine to write about experiences you haven’t personally had, just make sure you’ve done the research to understand the mechanics of everything, or you might be left with a scene that’s unrealistic or difficult to follow.

Keep your characters in mind

Don’t write A Sex Scene, write those specific characters having sex. How would they do it? Why are they doing it? Are they selfish, are they giving, are they squeamish, are they adventurous? You should know the character well to write the scene. If you can copy paste any character into it and it reads the same, it’s probably too generic. And if a scene is generic, it won’t serve your character development.

Pay attention to tone

Sex scenes can mean a ton of different things because people have sex for so many reasons. Why are your characters having sex right now? Are they in love? Is it for fun? Are they doing it because they feel like they have to? Are they trying to have a baby? Are they doing it for revenge against the other person’s spouse? Are they bored? Are they looking for validation? Are they trying to manipulate the other person? Are they looking for acceptance and love?

This is true for any piece of writing as well, but: you can write two scenes where the EXACT same thing happens, but you swap the tone. You use different vernacular. You see it from a different character’s point of view, and that completely changes what the scene means. So think about what each character is in this for, which character we’re “seeing” it through, and how we can convey that through the tone and our word choice and what details we decide to emphasize. Sex can be really nice or it can be really gross—and it’s usually both. So which side is your character deciding to focus on, and what does that teach us about them or about the character dynamic?

Don’t focus on the play-by-play

I see a lot of writers do this—they’re describing exactly where every limb is at all times. It’s very technical and not very sexy. Erotica author Anais Nin said: 

“Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore.”

So what do we write if we’re not writing the technicalities? Focus on details that matter. Connect what’s happening physically with what’s happening emotionally in your character. The same way we talk about writing any description—you can do a lot more with a focused, meaningful detail than you can do with two pages of general description.

The thing everyone wants to know about is..

What words do we use?

Do we say penis? Do we say throbbing member? Do we say Deep Into Her Womanhood. Up to you. Whatever suits the tone or taste of your book and your particular writing style. Using the technical terms might make it seem too clinical, but using goofy euphemisms might make it seem too juvenile. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a straight solution to this. Some readers are gonna hate it no matter what you do, so write to your own preference.

You know more than your characters

Earlier I mentioned knowing what sex is. Yes, you should understand sex when you’re writing a sex scene. That doesn’t necessarily mean your character does. Maybe it’s their first time, maybe it’s not their first but they’ve simply never bothered to figure out their partner’s anatomy—this can all be characterizing. Maybe your character is a little ignorant and that works for the story, but YOU YOURSELF should not be ignorant.

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Know why you’re writing and what you’re talking about, utilize the scenes for characterization, keep tone in mind, and don’t focus on the play-by-play to write engaging and compelling sex scenes. As with any scene, there are no definitive right or wrong ways to do it, but I hope these tips gave you some ideas and guidance!

SPS 093: Permission To Prosper: A Faith-Based & Copywriting Approach To Sell More Books & Grow Your Business with Ray Edwards

Today I’m joined by Ray Edwards (author of “How To Write Copy That Sells” and “Permission To Prosper”) to talk about:
-how to setup a Free + Shipping Funnel that sells books & grows your business
-how to use copywriting to sell more books
-the 3 things he does to sell books over the LONG TERM…not just during launch week
-his faith-based approach to money, business, and selling more books

If you’re a faith-based author or entrepreneur, you don’t want to miss this episode!

Power Marketing His Best Seller

Ray is the best-selling Amazon author whose book, How to Write Copy that Sells, has generated over $300 million in revenue between book sales and the original copy he has created for other companies and clients. He also has a new book out, Permission to Prosper, which we will talk about today.

With a free+shipping sales funnel, Ray ships books to those who purchase his books then use their emails for future marketing. He uses his podcast, email list, and YouTube channel to funnel people to his book. Influencers started buying his book for their groups, which has also boosted book sales.

Ray says that it’s more important to consistently sell a book than to make a big launch and never sell it again. In addition, this consistent marketing makes more of an impact on your message and grows your tribe even further. “Don’t get caught up in being on the bestseller list your first week, month or year. It’s more important to keep selling books month after month.

Find out why you don’t want to ship internationally, how he uses copy to sell more books, and what content he puts in his books’ front and back matter. Learn how you can sell your book when you’ve created good content that brings value to others.

Show Notes

  • [03:29] Asking for reviews after book sales. 
  • [04:45] Why his marketing funnel is so successful.
  • [09:11] How Ray monetizes other business aspects with his book.
  • [13:55] Why he sticks with the free book strategy over other marketing ideas.
  • [15:33] How he uses copyright to sell more books. 
  • [19:55] The way Ray uses the front and back matter of his books to sell.
  • [23:50] Dealing with the opinion of others at his church and poverty mindset.
  • [28:12] Ray talks about being a Kingdom Minded Entrepreneur.
  • [34:21] His advice for anyone writing a book.
Picture Book

How To Create A Picture Book

You have a great idea for a picture book. You’re confident that your subject matter will be SO helpful for kids and parents alike. Maybe you’ve already written it. Maybe you even have the illustrations ready. Now what? How do you turn your dream (or your Microsoft Word document) into a physical book for children to enjoy?

We’ve got you covered! In this article, we’re going to talk about: 

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How to create a picture book step-by-step

Whether you’ve already outlined, written, and illustrated your book, or if you’re starting from scratch, here’s every step in the picture book creation process.

Establish a goal for your picture book

I don’t think anyone writes a children’s book just to write a children’s book. They have something they want to share, something they want to teach, some pain they want to help a child and their family overcome, or they have a story to tell. So what’s your reason?

Do you want to teach little kids how to make friends, how to deal with grief, how to clean their room? Or do you want to tell a story?

Decide exactly what you want your book to accomplish. This will not only help you keep a clear head while you’re writing, but it will make all the difference at every stage in your publishing process.

Along with deciding what you want your book to accomplish, figure out who you want to use your book. Establish your ideal reader–it can be a real child or a child you make up, but create a specific ideal reader for your book. How old is your ideal reader? What do they look like, and what’s their family like? How do they spend their free time? Is there a particular niche that this reader fits into? For example, if I wrote a children’s book, I’d write it for my nephew–a clever, easily frustrated five-year-old who loves Transformers, velociraptors, and Polly Pocket. 

Having a specific reader in mind will help you to speak to their level and understanding. It will also go a long way in helping you market your book, since you’ll know exactly who you’re trying to appeal to.

Outline your book

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, an outline can streamline any book-writing process. It doesn’t matter how you outline. An outline is just a guide for the writer to get through their drafts, so write it to your own preference and work style. You can do a traditional essay-format outline, a mind map, or any form of outline that suits the way you write.

For a picture book, you might outline it by page spread, like:

Page 1 and 2 — introduce character A, zoom out to show they stand in their messy room

Page 3 and 4 — introduce their mother telling them to clean it, show character A looking overwhelmed at the mess

Page 5 and 6 — full spread illustration of character A trying various solutions that aren’t cleaning their room: shoving things under their bed, spreading their area rug over the mess, trying to bribe their little sibling to do it for them, etc.

It might also be helpful for you to make a storyboard the way that directors do to map out their story before filming. This technique helps you visualize each scene in relation to each other, even if your end goal isn’t to make a movie.

Whichever outline format works best for you, take the time to plan out your book before you write it. This will not only keep you on-track during the writing process, but it will also minimize your chances of getting stuck and quitting before you’ve even finished a draft. Think of it like a map. You don’t have to follow it the whole time, but it’s nice to have it in case you get lost.

Write your book

Get to drafting! If you’ve outlined your book, the first draft should be a relatively quick process. With an outline and goals in mind, your main struggle will likely be taking those ideas and converting them into something a child can understand and engage with without underestimating the intelligence of the child. 

Picture books typically break down aspects of life into terms that are child-friendly and easy to understand. You can use very simple explanations, metaphors they can relate to, and likable characters to help kids understand both simple and complex topics. 

If you have access to a child, it can be very helpful to run concepts past them (mockup pages are a great way to do this) and gauge how they interact with the story. See if your friend’s kid can read the story, or maybe send it over to a nephew to get an idea of how they’re reacting to your content. 

Additionally, take the time to look at other books in your genre with your target audience. See how they’re conveying information to kids, decide what you do and don’t like about it, and use that while you’re drafting to make sure you’re being intentional and precise with your message and content. Children’s books use tropes and genre conventions the same way that adult fiction does, so being aware of these can help you out a lot. 

Illustrate your book

In a picture book, writing the story is only half the job. If you’re not producing your own illustrations, you’ll have to partner with an artist to create the visual elements of your picture book. Finding an illustrator requires research and a general understanding of the market and industry. If you don’t know the standard fees of the average illustrator, you could be getting ripped off, so your first step is to do some research and figure out how much an illustrator should cost for a project of your size and scope. 

The most important thing about an illustrator is that you make a good team. The story and illustrations work together to produce a narrative children will find engaging and fun. If there’s no cohesion between the story and illustrations, it likely won’t work. Your illustrator should be someone who understands and cares about the messages you’re trying to convey, and whose style actively helps to amplify your meaning. Remember, you should be working together to tell the story, so while you don’t want to get ripped off, you also don’t want to skimp and miss out on a good artist. 

You’re not just hiring a visual artist–you’re hiring the person who is going to tell the other half of your story. It’s wise to make sure everyone is on the same page with the same goals, and for you to ensure that your illustrator is someone you’re happy to work with before any contracts are signed. If you’d like more information, check out this guide on how to find a good illustrator.

Come up with a catchy title for your picture book

Your biggest marketing tools to sell your book are the cover and the title, so it’s vital that you spend a lot of time and research making those elements the absolute best that they can be. 

A title should be eye-catching, snappy, and compelling. The title should also convey clearly the content of the book. If a parent is looking for a book to explain COVID-19 to a child, the book Captain Corona and the 19 COVID Warriors is clearly addressing the topic they’re looking for. While the book titled I Love You is also about COVID-19, a parent skimming for that specific topic might not realize what it’s about, since the topic isn’t clear in the title. 

Go for a balance between clarity for parents and excitement for kids. You don’t need to make it purely medical or literal to get both groups on board–A COVID-19 Guide for Kids is a great nonfiction title, but not a very compelling fiction title. Captain Corona will catch the attention of any superhero lover, while including COVID and the number 19 in the title will make it clear to the parents that this is the book they are looking for. 

Give your title some thought, generate a list of different ideas, and run them past some other people to see what they think and what it makes them think of when they read it. 

Produce your book

Once your book is written and illustrated, it’s time to produce the physical book. If you want to go the way of traditional publishing, you’ll need to find an agent and sell your book. This can easily add years to the drafting and formatting process.

The much quicker and more accessible option is to publish yourself, which will require you to do some interior formatting, cover design, sales, and printing. That might sound like a lot, but there’s no need to worry! We’re here to help you through every step of the process.

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Test Your Book

An essential part of publishing any good book is the beta reader process. Even if you go over your own book a hundred times, you’re still only putting one pair of eyes on the book. You need fresh eyeballs and perspectives to collect feedback for revisions. The difference between the typical book’s beta reader process and a picture book’s beta reader process is that you have two main demographics to worry about: children and parents.

For a picture book, reach out to parents, teachers, and childcare experts to get their feedback. Also run it past multiple groups of children in your target demographic. If your book doesn’t have the impact or interpretation you were aiming for, hop back to the drawing board and see what you can change. Maybe you find that kids think the art is too scary, or that parents are uncomfortable with some of the subject matter. Kids might love some stuff that parents aren’t crazy about–give it a few trial runs to determine what balance you need to strike to keep your message coming across clear. 

If your test readers don’t like it, your real readers likely won’t either. Make sure you nail it before you try to sell it to save yourself the pain and heartache of pulling a book from shelves to redo it after you’ve made it through the whole process.

Market your book

Whether you self-publish or publish traditionally, selling your book is mostly up to you. How you decide to market a book depends on your target audience. With a picture book, your marketing will be directed at parents and children. Most of your marketing efforts will be directed at parents, but a few aspects–like the cover–should be catered toward children as well. If a child is skimming books in the store, what would catch their eye?

Your cover imagery should be representative of the book, target the correct demographic, and entice a child or parent to open it to see the rest. Think of it like a logo–the title and cover are representing the book as a whole, and should offer a good idea of the art style that the reader should expect moving forward, as well as the general tone of the upcoming work. A spooky kid’s book should have a spooky cover, while an action book should have dynamic colors and punchy text. 


Picture books are an amazing way to connect–parent-to-child, writer-to-reader, and child-to-community. I might say they’re the most important kind of book. If you want to take the time to put a picture book together, why not take the time to do it right? Know what your goals are going into it, get your outline together, write and illustrate the story, then enlist enough beta readers to make sure you hit your mark before releasing it into the world to find its home with kids and families.

Book Promotion Sites

22 Free & Paid Book Promotion Sites to Sell More Copies

As writers, we often spend weeks or months out of the year promoting our books, taking away from precious writing time. This is a necessary evil if you want to make it as an author, so that’s what we do. We build our websites, craft newsletters, post regularly to social media, host giveaways, attend events, and network–but what do you do when that isn’t enough?

Do you need an extra tool in your book selling kit? Maybe try a book promotion website!

What are Book Promotion Sites?

Book promotion sites do exactly what they say–promote books. Strategically using these sites can produce short bursts of higher sales, some for free and others for a fee. Book promotions can have an impactful place in your marketing strategy, if you take the time to do the research to find the right promotions for your books.

Most book promotion sites require that your ebook is free or cheap, and many have a screening process to ensure quality in their book recommendations. A screening process might sound inconvenient, but it’s better to have your book amongst carefully selected publications than to toss it into a pile of garbage. The more selective websites have better reputations with their readers–and often a much larger readership–making them more valuable for you to pursue.

Some promotion sites are site-based only, meaning they’ll list your book amongst others on their actual websites. Some send out daily or weekly newsletters to their mailing list with book deals. Some post to their social media accounts. And some do a mix of these and more. I’ve seen several websites that even write full reviews for selected books.

Book promotion sites want to recommend quality books to keep their readers’ trust, and they want bargain or free books to provide their readers value.


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How to Pitch to Book Promotion Sites

How you apply to have your book featured on a book promotion site will depend on the site, but there are some trends to expect when pitching.

  • Most sites will require your book to be listed as free or at a significant discount. Like I said, the value they provide for their readers is book deals–showing their audience books at full price isn’t adding anything that they couldn’t get at a bookstore.
  • Many sites–particularly the sites that charge a fee–will require your book to meet certain quality standards. This is again something to keep their readership’s trust, and it is to your benefit. If you pay to have your book listed amongst books that lack quality, that suggests your book also lacks quality.
  • Most sites have a no-tolerance policy for erotica, hateful content, or anything that might be controversial. Because of this, you will likely have to find erotica-specific book promotion sites if that is your genre.
  • Niche sites will require your book to fall into their specific categories or genres. While this might cut you off from using EVERY site, that isn’t something you’d want to do anyway. Finding your niche makes it much easier to rack up sales than if you were pitching your book to a general audience. Finding specific promotional sites for your genre can turn over more sales than a less specific site.

Each site will have a sign-up form with basic contact, author, and book information for you to fill in. Most promotion sites will at least want your basic author and book information, but every site is different. You should find a guideline on or near the submission page for each site.

Now let’s look at some options for book promotion sites. We’ve broken them into free and paid, but many of these sites offer both for different packages.

Free Book Promotion Sites

While many book promotion sites will charge a fee to promote your books, there are some free options. There aren’t monetary barriers to entry for these sites, but many of them have quality barriers. This is good! You’re better off submitting to websites that have some kind of screening process, because that means readers will take their including your book as a sign of endorsement.

Here are a few free book promotion sites to check out:

Frugal Freebies, like a lot of other book promotion sites, requires that your ebook is free before you post it. There are no restrictions other than that for Frugal Freebies. They will post your free ebook to their blog and other influencer pages.

It’s Write Now has free and premium options (from $10 to $20). They require your book to be $3 or under, available on Kindle or Audible, with family friendly cover content.

Indies Unlimited has free and paid options for book promotion. You can list your free or 99 cent ebooks by submitting your book information and a download link. Erotica is not allowed on this site. 

Bookangel requires books to be under one euro for all readers, but it is free to submit.

Freebooksy requires your books to be free, but their affiliate Bargain Booksy accepts book submissions between 99 cents and $5. Both sites offer free submission, but you can also pay to guarantee a spot.

Patty’s eBookaroo stands out from a few other book promotion sites because they don’t require free books or huge discounts. As long as your book is 99 cents, whether that’s a special promotion or its regular price Patty wants to hear about it.

Paid Book Promotion Sites

As with anything, free alternatives to paid services are going to have drawbacks. If you’re looking for a more prestigious company, larger audiences, longer features, or other services, you might be ready to invest in book promotion. Here are a few sites that charge for their services–though many offer a free version as well.

BookBub is probably one of the most popular book promotion sites, and they have some of the stricter guidelines you’ll see. They want the best deals, error-free content, and for your book to be free or listed at a 50% discount. This chart can give you an idea of pricing, but it varies depending on genre and price of your book–the higher your book’s price, the higher BookBub’s promotional fees.

Bookdealio is a newsletter for ebook deals. They look for free books or big discounts, so if your book is always a low price, this one probably isn’t the best option for you. To run a 1-day promotion can cost between $70 and $100, depending on the category, with extra charges for social media posts. They also offer the option of a full-price book promotion at $250 for two weeks.

ManyBooks requires your book to be free or at a 50% discount, they have quality control, and they offer three tiers of promotion. For a spot in their daily newsletter, you’ll pay around $29. To publish your book to the site is $39, and to get a professional review and inclusion in their blog and monthly newsletter is $79. 

Armadillo / Crave eBooks has options for free and bargain priced ebooks. $25 will get your book promoted to 15 sites.

Goodkindles has options from $25 to $45 with promotional services like blog posts, social media content, newsletter spots, and more.

eReader News Today requires your books be free or on sale, available on amazon, and full-length (meaning no children’s, nonfiction, cookbooks, or other books under 125 pages). They look at reviews, cover design, and content to ensure quality and lack of controversial matter.

eBookBetty requires books to be priced at $2.99 or lower. They offer website feature and a newsletter spot at prices starting around $12.50.

ExciteSteam is a newsletter for romance novels with at least a 4-star review average. Their prices range from $15 to $75 for different newsletter packages.

Red Roses Romance is another romance newsletter option. They obviously only accept books in the romance genre, and they only accept books that are free or listed for at least a 50% discount.

Robin Reads requires your books to be free or 99 cents, error-free, and a full-length book. Robin Reads stands out from the others by the information they give concerning their readership. You’ll find download rates broken down by genre and lots of other illuminating data on their website. Here’s their pricing breakdown:

eBook Deals Today charges between 5 and 10 dollars depending on which service you choose. They will post your book on their website and several social media accounts. Again, your book has to be free to be eligible.

LitRing offers much more involved services, like ad training and other marketing assistance. 

Their prices range from $25 to over $250.

Book Basset provides two promotional services for authors: Featured Authors Posts and Guaranteed Freebie Posts. A book for the Featured Authors Post must be priced below $2.99, and it runs for $21.99 per day. The Guaranteed Freebie Posts is for free ebooks, and the slots go for $8.99 per day.

BookDoggy offers a lot of bang for your buck with a newsletter spot, indefinite feature on their website, personalized Facebook posts, book trailer promo on their YouTube channel, and full book buy links for around $20.

BookAdrenaline is for my mystery and thriller writer pals. They want books in those genres only, free or at a 50% discount, and they require it to be professionally done and highly rated. An extra requirement for BookAdrenaline is that your book is a standalone or the first in a series–they will not promote sequels. If your book is accepted, the fee for a feature will be between $15 and $30, depending on your book’s listing price. As with other services, the cheaper your book, the lower the fee.

IndieBookLounge has much fewer barriers to entry than some of the others we’ve looked at, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good because maybe your book has a higher chance of being featured, but not so great because that means the reputation of the site will naturally be lower than the more selective ones. Prices here are between $4 and $20.


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What do you think? Are book promotion sites for you? Do any of these sites stand out as a good fit for you and your books? Check them out! See their guidelines, restrictions, and success rates, then give it a shot! It might be just what your book sales have been waiting for.

If you’d like some of the book marketing and promo submissions done for you, book a call with our team to learn how we can help you.


Self-Editing: How to Self-Edit a Book With Specific Strategies for Success

So you’ve finished your book… now what? Self-editing is what. Now it’s time to learn how to self-edit it—and properly.

Finishing the first draft of a book is a tremendous accomplishment that’s certainly worth celebrating. But it doesn’t get any easier from here.

The next step is one of the most tedious and important aspects of publishing a book—self-editing.

Sure, almost all self-published authors will hire an editor in some capacity. Before that step, you do have to edit the book yourself and only yourself (unless you use Scrivener footnotes editor or other editing tools, that is).

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Here’s our guide to self-editing your novel:

  1. Understand the need for self-editing
  2. Difference between revising and editing
  3. How to develop a self-editing plan
  4. Start the self-edit process
  5. Different types of verbal read-throughs
  6. Discover your self-editing style
  7. Edit one chapter at a time
  8. Start self-editing TODAY

At the very least, every author will receive feedback from multiple readers before the launch date, but self-editing is key because eliminating obvious errors and minimizing mistakes in the manuscript will give hired editors and beta readers a greater opportunity to provide corrections on the things you missed.

Why do we need to self-edit our books?

After completing a rough draft, it’s very tempting to immediately hire an editor and hand over your manuscript. But no writer can state their rough draft is the very best of their work.

And after all, the better the draft you submit to an editor, the better final product.

An editor will surely help improve a manuscript, but before placing that rough draft in an editor’s hands, each writer should be able to answer yes to the question:

“Did I make this manuscript as strong and as good as I could have?”

There’s no way the answer to that question is yes after only writing the rough draft. Take pride in your work and make sure it’s your best before someone else reads it.

Before beginning the self-editing phase, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  1. The Difference between editing and revising
  2. Self-editing requires patience because it takes time
  3. Devise an editor plan for after the self-editing phase prior to starting

The Difference Between Editing and Revising

Editing and Revising sound very similar, but knowing the subtle differences can make self-editing a lot easier.

Throughout my career, I’ve engaged in a lot of different writing styles. Depending on the outlet and audience, writing style may differ, but one constant is all writing needs edited and revised in some capacity.

Of course, one of the most essential parts of the self-editing phase is knowing the difference between editing and revising. I’ll lay out the subtle difference and explain how to achieve both in order to turn your rough draft into a sparkling text for your editor.

Editing and Revising definitions according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Editing – to prepare for publication or public presentation; to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose.

Revising – to look over again in order to correct or improve; to make a new, amended, improved, or up-to-date version of

On the surface, they sound exactly the same. To be fair, editing and revising are similar, but not exactly the same thing.

In a basic nutshell, editing is fixing basic errors like capitalization, punctuation and spelling. Revising is the act of improving specific writing such as sentence structure, chapter structure and word choice.

A good self-edit will include both edits and revisions to a manuscript.

Develop Your Self-Edit Plan

Before getting started with self-editing, though, keep in mind that Self-Publishing School advises not to wait, but to reach out and/or hire an editor after you finish your manuscript. Performing that task upon completing the rough draft will allow the author to hand over their manuscript right after finishing the self-editing phase.

Editors are often booked two weeks in advance. Waiting to reach out to editors until after the self-edit could mean there’s no movement on your book for at least a couple weeks.

Now you’re ready to begin.

How to Start Self-Editing

The self-editing phase will include re-reading your book at least three times. Self-Publishing School calls them verbal read-throughs. With each one, you will be looking to address different aspects of your writing.

In the self-edit of my own first book, I devised three different types of read-throughs.

The three different types of verbal read-throughs in self-editing:

  1. Reading for structure
  2. Reading for readability
  3. Reading for grammar and word choice

Each read-through during self-editing should be done out loud.

Verbal Read-Throughs for Self-Editing

Self-Publishing School teaches to read your manuscript out loud to yourself. I couldn’t agree more. It may seem a little silly, but it’s much easier to find errors while reading the entire book out loud than silently.

Find a quiet spot alone so you can read out loud.

Following my three different types of read-throughs and reading them out loud will enable you to make your book as good as you can.

#1 – Read for Structure

Remember that great mind map and book outline you constructed before even beginning to write the rough draft? It’s time to break those back out.

As you begin to re-read your manuscript chapter-by-chapter, follow along with your outline as well. This will allow you to make sure every detail is in the right place and nothing is missing.

This is how you can structure your self-edits for chapters:

Those chapters on your outline and in your book should all have a clear and concise topic. In some ways, one could think of the individual chapters as their own little books. Each one connects to the others, but they can also stand alone.

Double checking chapter structure is the first real key to self-editing.

One personal example of how revising chapter structure helped my book:

In my own rough draft, the first chapter of my book, His World Never Dies: The Evolution of James Bond, explored the popularity of the Bond film series and how the series’ portrayal of masculinity has changed over the years.

self editing process

When I devised my outline, it seemed natural that these two topics were tied together since Bond’s masculinity is why so many men and women have enjoyed the series over the last six decades.

But I had two problems: the chapter was more than 4,500 words while the other nine chapters in my book were all around 3,000. Even worse, the first chapter bounced between these two ideas that I thought were connected—Bond’s popularity and masculinity.

Upon my read-through, the chapter felt clunky and long. If readers shared the same sentiment, they might not continue to read the rest of the book.

In self-editing, make sure each chapter has one clear and concise topic.

Revisions were needed. It took a lot of work, but I divided the first chapter into two — one that focused on the series’ popularity and the other on Bond’s masculinity. After I made this decision, I read through the entire chapter again, picking out which paragraphs applied to which specific topic.

Following that step, the two new chapters were too short, which meant both needed more words. I had more writing to do.

But by dividing the chapter, rearranging the paragraphs and adding more details, I had made some very strong revisions.

I now possessed two chapters that started my book on the right track — with each chapter standing alone and focused on one topic.

This is how to go through self-editing for sentence structure & transitions:

Double checking sentence structure is the second important part of step one in self-editing.

How each book idea flows to the next is the second aspect to consider during the “structure” read-through. The use of transition words and phrases—next, then, furthermore, on the other hand, etc.—can be very helpful to achieve this.

But the same concepts to ensuring chapter structure should be applied to sentence structure. Make sure to complete your entire thought on one subject before jumping to the next whether from chapter to chapter or inside a chapter.

Proper transitions and book flow will allow readers to keep going naturally. It could prevent them from ever putting it down!

#2 – Read for Readability

It’s very likely that you know your book topic better than anyone who reads your book. That’s especially true if you are writing a memoir, but that will likely also be the case with a self-help book or non-fiction commentary on something such as the James Bond film series.

After double checking the structure of your book, the second read-through should ensure every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence and even every word makes sense.

Ask yourself these questions when editing for vague details or over-explained thoughts:

  • Did I gloss over any details that a beginner to my topic might not know?
  • Did I forget a vital detail to a personal story in my memoir?
  • Does it feel like I’m bogging down my reader with unnecessary details not important to my overall point?

Keep these questions in mind during the second read-through of the self-editing stage.

how to self edit

In the second read-through, place yourself in the mind of your reader.

For my book, I needed to ensure every scene of a Bond film I explain was properly detailed to my audience. I have seen the Bond movies dozens of times, but not every reader will have, so it was important to make sure even readers who haven’t seen the films can understand what’s going on in a particular scene.

Here’s how to self-edit awkward phrasing:

In this step, authors should also be able to find awkward phrasing. This is the biggest reason why we advise reading your manuscript out loud. Sentences that don’t make sense or that need to be reworded will stick out when spoken in voice rather than read silently.

#3 – Read for Grammar and Word Choice

As you may have guessed, the first two read-through steps are making revisions to your manuscript. In this last step, authors will be performing both edits and revisions.

Once you’ve nailed down your book’s structure and readability, you’re now ready to double check grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation.

It’s important to leave grammar until the last step of the self-editing phase. Otherwise, you will need to repeat this step after revisions are complete.

Double checking word choice was vitally important in my own self-editing.

I tend to repeat the same words without even realizing. In my first rough draft, I had the same transition word used multiple times on the same page or the same verb or adjective deployed on numerous occasions in the same chapter.

Get out a thesaurus and utilize different words where applicable—just be sure these words actually make sense (as we all know thesauruses can’t always be trusted).

This doesn’t mean change every noun to a fancier word in attempt to sound smart. Nobody likes a smart ass. But avoiding repeated words while expanding your vocabulary in a colloquial way is the last step in self-editing.

Other tips for self-edit read-throughs:

  1. Find a style that works
  2. Try re-reading only a chapter at a time & the whole book together
  3. Again, read the manuscript out loud

That’s the end of the actually steps needed to complete the self-editing phase, but there’s more to it than just simply reading through the manuscript and making alterations.

Find a Self-Edit Style That Works for YOU

Are you more of a paper and pen person or do you love using track changes on writing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs?

There is no right or wrong, but finding your best preference and consistently repeating it through each read-through is essentially.

Personally, I loved the good, old-fashioned pen and paper for my self-editing. I find it easier to read out loud from a paper than a screen. It also allowed me to easily keep track of all my edits and revisions with a pen.

You can do the same, though, with track changes like in the example below.

how to self edit

Printing out your manuscript and/or working with track changes is essential to the self-editing phase.

After each read-through, make the changes in your official manuscript, so they are present for the next read-through. Then repeat the process.

For all the read-throughs, I would print out a new copy of my book.

NOTE: To save paper, reprint on the back of the previous manuscript.

Self-Edit One Chapter at a Time

Most self-published authors have other jobs. If not, they still likely have very busy lives because everyone does. That probably makes performing an entire read-through for the whole book in one sitting very unlikely.

However, there are advantages to self-editing the whole book in one read-through during a single day.

Pros to read-throughs in one sitting:

  1. Easier to receive entire picture
  2. Repeated phrases and words can be more apparent
  3. Reading it as the fans would

Reading the entire manuscript together for chapter and sentence structure is a good idea because it’s easier to get the entire picture of how the book fits together.

It’s also easier to pick out repeated phrases and words. If you wait several days between reading the first and final chapter for structure, you may not realize you repeat yourself too much or that you have the exact same sentence in two places.

The readers that never put your book down may experience it in an entirely different way than you did if you never performed an entire book read-through in one sitting.

Cons to read-throughs in one sitting:

  1. General tiredness
  2. Grammar and spelling edits may suffer
  3. Threat of rushing through it
self editing

There are plenty of advantages to only re-reading a chapter at a time as well. For one, going through an entire read-through in one sitting can take hours and is very tiring. In the last few chapters, you might not be as sharp at catching errors as you were at the beginning of the process because of fatigue.

All self-editing can be tedious, but checking for grammar, spelling and punctuation is particularly banal. It’s even harder when tired.

Furthermore, if the goal is to get through the entire book with one read-through in one sitting, but you only have a set amount of time to do it, there’s a distinct possibility that you will rush. That’s not a good thing either.

TIP: Try both techniques to see which self-editing works for you.

The one-sitting read-through is better suited for when checking for structure. It’s better to read one chapter at a time while editing for grammar and spelling.

If your book is truly too long for a read-through in one sitting, then don’t worry about it. More than likely, that means readers won’t be reading it all the way through at a time either.

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