begin self-publishing your work

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

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021 (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

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

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.

Facebook

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.

Instagram

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

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!

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021 (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:

Giveaways

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.

Conclusion

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!

how to write a book

How to Write a Book: 21 Steps By a 6-Time Bestselling Author

Writing a book is hard without the right help. Without someone who’s done it before, you can end up making crucial mistakes.

You decided to write a book. Maybe you have a perfect idea (so you think, but we’ll get to that), have always wanted to write one, and just aren’t sure where the heck to get started!

The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is so much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Anyone who says learning how to write a book is easy has never actually tried. If they did, they’d know writing a book takes a lot more than a helpful piece of grammar software. This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you. To learn more, check out Smart Blogger’s in-depth guide on affiliate marketing.

It takes help from someone who’s done it before.

This is why I’m weighing in, having written and published 6 bestselling books and replicated my process across thousands of students through our Become a Bestseller program.

Let’s save you a ton of time, and many headaches, and dive into how to write a book.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…

You stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. To combat the boredom, you stand, stretch, and brew yet another pot of coffee.

And…a week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book? I haven’t even come up with a book idea yet!”

But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Here’s how to write a book step by step:

  1. Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book
  2. Stop the Excuses
  3. Schedule Writing Time
  4. Create a Writing Space
  5. Book Writing Tools
  6. Book Ideas
  7. Choosing a Book Idea
  8. Fill Out The BookMap
  9. Write a Book Outline
  10. Write One Chapter at a Time
  11. Speak Your Book
  12. Avoid Writer’s Block
  13. Don’t Edit While You Write
  14. Push Past The “Messy” Middle
  15. Hire A Good Editor
  16. Format Your Book Properly
  17. Come Up With A Title
  18. Get A Good Cover
  19. Build a Launch Team
  20. Get Ongoing Reviews
  21. Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

Ready to get started as a serious writer right now? Check out your free training below before reading the rest of this post!

How to Write a Book Despite Procrastination

There are plenty of reasons why writing a book, whether you’re writing a fiction novel or a nonfiction book, puts most writers directly into procrastination mode.

These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:

  • You’re not sure how to get started
  • It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
  • You feel insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
  • Afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
  • Worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
  • You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book

Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.

You’re in illustrious company!

Ready to learn how to write your first book and go from blank page to published author in just 90 days? Then let’s get started!

Phase 1: Think Like a Writer

Before you sit down and type a single word, it will pay off if you take some time to address a few attitude questions and adopt the right mindset. Successful writers know, before your write a single word simply writing and getting words to flow isn’t the hard part. It’s so much more about being organized with the same structure and writing voice for the particular story they need to tell.

This is one of the most frequently overlooked steps in becoming a published author, which is a big reason why so many people fail to finish their books.

Take it from me—it’s worth your time to complete these steps. They will make the rest of your book-writing experience much, much easier, and more satisfying.

[Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here!]

Step 1: Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book

Before you open your laptop and start daydreaming about which photographer should take your best-selling author headshot, or about getting interviewed on Oprah, you need to answer one question:

What’s your reason for writing a book?

It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose. It might take writing a blog post to begin a journey that has you self published in less than a year. Remember most likely you’ll want to approach this as a writing career rather than a single book you put out.

I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Solidifying the purpose of fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.

Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.

However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator that will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings has long dissipated.

And this is a huge reason why so many of our Become a Bestseller students end up starting and finishing their drafts quickly—in 30 days in most cases!

  • Authority: To build credibility.
  • Money: For financial gain, business success, or to make a living writing.
  • Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
  • Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
  • To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
  • To give others an escape: when writing fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
  • Have the power to change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.

There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.

Your WHY will be unique to you.

Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.

Step 2: Get Rid of Your Excuses for Not Writing the Book

You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.

When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.

But you can overcome it.

It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.

Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.

Excuse 1 – You don’t know what to write.

You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.

In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.

The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.

Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:

  • Look at a list of writing prompts or story ideas and choose an idea
  • Write a list of all the things you’re most passionate about
  • Write down a list of everything you’re very knowledgeable about
  • List the areas you want to be seen as credible in
  • Compile all of these lists and rank your ideas in order of what you’re most passionate about
  • Imagine which idea you’d be most proud to have your name on
  • Choose the idea you know the most about and are the most passionate about

Once you have an idea narrowed down, you can go ahead and start your mindmap and outline.

Excuse 2 –  You don’t have enough time.

Today, we’re all busy. I get it.

Plus, how long does writing a book take in the first place?

But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.

Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.

And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.

The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.

You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!

Excuse 3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading. 

Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.

In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.

Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.

And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).

Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:

  • Only read a chapter or two at night
  • Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
  • Be intentional about what you read
  • Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
  • Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time

Excuse 4 – You’re “not an expert.”

A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”

The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.

You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know— you’re expert enough to write a book.

So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.

Excuse 5 – Your first draft must be flawless.

A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.

Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.

editing process as part of book writing

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”

If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.

Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need:

  1. A creative writing class.
  2. A writing mentor or coach (though it does help).
  3. Read thousands of good books.

All you need is one thing: a system for finishing your book.

There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.

As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.

This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”

done is better than perfect quote

Phase 2 – Set Yourself Up For Success

Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.

Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.

Step 3: Schedule Your Book Writing Time

Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”

Develop a writing habit and plan it out

Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams.

In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.

Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.

Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.

Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.

scheduling your writing time

Look at Laura Bennett, a Self-Publishing School student. She was working full-time, running a business, and working on her Master’s degree—busier than most people—yet she found the time to write her book Live Your Dream: How to Cut the Crap and Prioritize Your Purpose in 2 months!

If Laura could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.

Choose the time of day you plan to write

You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.

If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.

Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities, or waiting for a meeting to start.

Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.

writing method quote

Set a deadline for writing your book

Setting an end date forces you to stay on schedule and keeps the forward momentum going. So consider giving yourself a deadline for your book.

You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?

One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book. If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.

If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.

Valuable Asset Alert!!

You can check out our word and page count calculator here to determine the target word count for your industry in order to work backward to plan your writing schedule!

Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book are how it comes to life.

If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.

The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.

Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have an extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.

It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.

That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.

Step 4: Create Your Writing Space

The physical space where you write your book is important. A dedicated writing space allows you to “flip the switch” and get focused on writing. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted. However, some get their best work done at coffee shops and love the ambient noise.

True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…

writer's desk

…but I suspect that most of these authors would become even more focused and productive if they cleaned up their writing space to make it easier to focus on their writing. There is a common myth that a dedicated writing space can make the task robotic or take the “art” out of crafting your work. This may be true for some, but I’d say arrive at that conclusion after first mastering the basics of successfully publishing a few books.

overhead shot of a clean desk

However, that’s just my opinion. The truth is that the “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity:

How to Start Writing TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog
- remind everyone it's YOUR time
- Turn your phone off
- Close ALL web browsers
- Close your email
Get Comfortable- invest in a GOOD chair
- or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy
- fill the area with motivational quotes
- make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise- turn off all sounds if it distracts you
- turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate
- choose energizing music to help you focus

(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity.)

You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.

Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!

Step 5: Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools

Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?

Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.

Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of book writing software. If you’re wanting to become a New York Times bestselling author but don’t want to consider the best tools, you may be doing yourself a disservice.

Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with. Trust me, you want the right book writing software to make the process as frictionless as possible.

But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.

There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Scrivener
  • Google Docs

We’ll cover all of them for you below.

Microsoft Word

If you just want a time-tested program that works, Word might be the program for you. It’s the most widely used word processor in the world, which means it’s highly reliable and consistent. It also provides a lot of formatting options and even has a navigation pane you can use to easily find the chapter you’re looking for.

One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.

Scrivener

If you like advanced features, definitely check out Scrivener. It was created specifically for authors, and it contains all sorts of tools that are really helpful for those that write fiction or nonfiction.

For example, you can use the corkboard view to organize how you’ll write your book using virtual notecards:

The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.

If you do decide to go with Scrivener, it’s the professional writer tool I personally use and suggest.

Google Docs

You can think of Google Docs as sort of a “Word Lite” program that you can access online, for free. While it doesn’t boast as many features as Word or Scrivener, it’s the hands-down most convenient program out there for sharing and collaboration.

Because everything is stored online, you can access your work from anywhere. And it’s easy to share your work with others and collaborate by leaving comments in the margins:

The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.

Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.

Phase 3: Actually Write Your Book

OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing! Contrary to popular belief, writing books doesn’t have to be this huge task. If you’ve been following along, this is the moment you’ve adequately prepared for!

This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.

But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think—if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.

Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book.

Step 6: Come Up With Your Book Idea

Before you can start typing, you need to have a topic. That might seem obvious, but it can still be a stumbling block if you don’t know what to write about. This is an opportunity to do market research and come up with fresh ideas.

Fortunately, there are countless book ideas that could turn into bestselling books.

I recommend brainstorming a long list of book ideas. This way you’ll have a lot of options—giving you the freedom to choose the best possible book topic.

You can even utilize lists of writing prompts found here to get your mind moving in the right direction.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to come up with a book idea:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
  • What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?
  • What are people coming to you for advice on?
  • What’s a topic you know a lot about or can’t stop talking about?

These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!

Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”

That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!

It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.

Don’t Censor Yourself

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.

Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.

Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.

Take a Reader-Centric Perspective

While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:

Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own). The reader’s experience is what you should care most about. Essentially you’re not asking them to only purchase and read your book, you want the reader’s attention. I can’t tell you how many books I read, lectures I attended, where I didn’t put my attention into it.

Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.

Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.

Ask yourself questions about the reader:

  • What would my reader be most interested in?
  • What do they like to learn about the most?
  • Their biggest problems?
  • What’s the biggest question they are asking?

When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.

how to write a book stephen king

Step 7: Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First

By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:

  • Which one can you finish the fastest? Usually, this is the topic where you have the most experience. This is a good thing to keep in mind because the faster you can finish your book, the faster you can get it out in the world where it can earn you money and help people. (And the faster you can get started on your second book!)
  • Which one are you most likely to finish? Usually, these are the topics you are more passionate about. For your first book, I highly recommend choosing a topic that you’re really passionate about to help make sure that you’ll remain interested throughout the entire process.
  • Which one is going to make you happy? This is a little harder to define, but it might be something that strikes a chord with you. Maybe there’s a certain book topic that stands out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then go for it! Remember, writing should make you

Now with these tips in mind, choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.

Step 8: Fill Out The Book Map

The BookMap is a free downloadable book outlining template you can use to quickly gather all the important information you’ll need for your book — fiction or nonfiction.

outline with bookmap

Essentially, the way it works is you’ll create a mind map—sort of a brain dump with a line connecting related ideas together—on your book’s topic.

Start your BookMap by writing your intended topic in the center. From there, answer the questions and add as many related ideas as you can think of. (Again, connect related ideas with a line.) The BookMap gives you the benefits of writing in free form and creating structure from all the connections you make.

Click here to learn more about the Book Map and download a free PDF template.

Step 9: Turn Your BookMap Into an Outline

Once you’ve completely filled out your BookMap, the next step is to group all the related ideas into categories. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to do this; just combine your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you.

One way to do this is to rewrite each idea on a fresh piece of paper, this time grouped together in related topics. Or, you could simply use different-colored highlighters to categorize your ideas with different colors.

Either way, the result is the same: when you’re done grouping your ideas, those categories will form the outline for your book—each category is a new chapter. So now you know exactly which topics to write about, and you know which points to cover in every chapter of your book.

If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!

Enjoy a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method

You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.

For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.

When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate on areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.

This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.

Step 10: Write One Chapter at a Time

You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.

And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:

  • Complete a mini-BookMap for that chapter, brainstorming everything you know about this topic. (10 minutes.)
  • Organize your ideas and turn that BookMap into an outline. (10 minutes.)
  • Write or speak the chapter by following the outline you just created. (45-60 minutes.)
  • Repeat this process, chapter by chapter, until your book is completed.

Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline. You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.

Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.

If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.

mark manson quote on output

Step 11: Speak Your Book

This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?

Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:

  • Speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device such as Voice Memos or Audacity.
  • Get that audio file transcribed using a transcription service like Rev.
  • Read through the transcription and revise/polish it up.

As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.

Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.

Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.

Speed Up Your Writing

Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.

Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:

  • Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it.
  • If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section instead.
  • Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t stop you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
  • An accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.

Phase 4: Avoid Potholes Along The Way

If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.

So nothing could possibly go wrong… Right?

Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book-writing roadblocks.

Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems.

Step 12: Avoid Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.

Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.

The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.

Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:

  1. Circle back to your BookMap or outline and see if there’s useful info that sparks fresh inspiration. Sometimes it just takes looking back at the bigger picture to remind you where you’re going with your draft.
  2. Change up the physical way you’re writing; sometimes a simple shift can boost creativity. If you use a laptop, put pen to pad. Try some new music, a new location, or new beverage to sip at your desk.
  3. If you find you start writing slowly and warm up as time goes on, allow adequate time during your writing sessions to get the creative juices flowing.
  4. Review what you wrote yesterday to refresh your memory.
  5. Talk it out. Sometimes a quick conversation with yourself is enough to work through writer’s block. Or call a friend and bounce some ideas off them if you’re truly stuck.
  6. Remember that what you’re writing doesn’t need to be perfect—you’re writing a first draft. If you have a case of perfectionist syndrome, tell yourself it’s okay to write something you’ll think is terrible. Making something good is what second drafts and the editing process is for. Always remember: Done is better than perfect.
  7. Go for a walk. You might be surprised at how a walk outside, or a brief bit of exercise, helps refresh and recharge your creative juices.
  8. Read another author who has a style you like. Read their book for 10 minutes and then start typing, holding their voice in your head.

Step 13: Don’t Edit While You Write

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing. 

In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.

But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.

Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.

That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.

Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.

When you are ready to edit your book, check out this advice from writing coach and editor Tiffany Hawk.

Step 14: Push Past The “Messy” Middle

Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!

Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them. Staying motivated is the key here, becoming a successful writer means not getting stuck on first drafts. It sounds obvious, but writing habits lead to good writing. Don’t lose interest, you’re on your way to becoming a great writer, don’t let self-doubt creep in. Get your entire manuscript done, remember to finish writing. A daily word count goal can help get your draft completed.

With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.

Phase 5: Launch Your Book Successfully

By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.

You’ve written a book.

But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.

Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.

It’s true that self-publishing your book on Amazon is a great way to go. But you can’t simply publish your book and expect people to find it. Instead, you need to dedicate some time to mastering the publishing and marketing processes on Amazon to sell more books. This is the only way to make sure that your book makes its way into the hands of the people who will benefit from reading your words.

If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.

Step 15: Hire A Good Editor to Edit Your Book

Finding an editor is important work. Having someone on your side that understands your writing style and the purpose of your book is essential. Additionally, the best editors remove unnecessary sentences in order to leave the reader feeling they understand what they should and get a clear line into the writer’s mind.

Several people, including myself, create tests in order to hire the right editor. There definitely is an art to it, consider the post linked above to find the process we recommend you use.

Step 16: Format Your Book Properly

Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.

If you missed our free outline template earlier in this post, here it is again.

Because fixing your formatting really is that much of a pain in the butt.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?

Nonfiction writers tend to format their paragraphs, like this:

how to write a look nonfiction format

Whereas fiction books, like The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci below, use indentation instead:

fiction format indents

Here are a few more book formatting tips:

  • Avoid using hard indents. (Don’t hit “tab” at the beginning of a new paragraph; instead, change the paragraph settings to automatically give each paragraph the indentation you want.)
  • Only use one space after a period. (Using 2 spaces was necessary with typewriters, but not with computers.)
  • If you want to create a page break, do not hit “Enter” repeatedly until you reach the next page. Instead, use the “Page break” function. This is the only way to ensure that your page break will work even after people resize your book on their Kindle.

Step 17: Come Up With A Title

The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:

Your book title.

You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.

Here are a few tips on creating standout, marketable titles.

For a nonfiction book, your title should…

  • Include the solution to the reader’s problem
  • Use a subtitle for clarity
  • Be unforgettable

And for a fiction book, your title should…

  • Be appropriate to your genre
  • Pique the reader’s interest
  • Take its inspiration from your characters

It always helps to do a little research on Amazon. To do that, just head here and select your book genre on the left-hand side of the page:

how to write a book title

Then you can take a look at some of the best-selling titles in your genre. You can even sub-niche down several times:

“History > Ancient Civilizations > Mesopotamia.”

Now pay attention to the titles and look for common themes or trends to use for your own book.

Remember that you’re just starting, so you can always change the title later. But for the time being it can help to have a “working title” (a temporary title that you may change before publication).

Step 18: Get A Good Cover

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.

Really, really important.

And a good book cover does 2 things:

  • It grabs people’s attention.
  • It instantly tells people what the book is about.

Here are a few examples from some of my own books:

cover design tips

Notice a couple of things. First of all, it’s orange—which helps it to stand out and grab attention. Second, it’s super clear what the book is about. The title is in the upper third of the book in large print, so you can read it even in a thumbnail.

Both covers were designed using the same basic principles. They’re simple, bold covers that stand out. They also have subtitles that clarify exactly what the book is about.

Now, this style of cover works great for my niche, but it won’t necessarily work for every type of book.

For example, it would make a terrible cover for a romance novel!

Why? Well, in short, it doesn’t look like a romance novel. Remember that part of a cover’s job is to tell people what the book is about. And in many genres of fiction and nonfiction, readers have come to expect a certain type of book cover.

In order to clearly communicate what your book is about to your ideal readers, you need it to fit in with their expectations—while also standing out enough to grab their attention. This is another reason why it pays to head over to the Amazon bestselling books list and study some of the most successful books in your genre.

What do those covers look like? Do they share a similar layout? Color scheme? Font style?

For example, if you were writing a romance novel, you would want to study these covers:

screenshot showing book categories and titles

Find out what the most successful books in your genre look like, then imitate that look—but change it up just enough so that it stands out and grabs your readers’ attention. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers.

Step 19: Build a Launch Team

Once you’ve chosen whether to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing, the real key to a successful book launch is building and leveraging a launch team.

So what is a launch team?

In a nutshell, your launch team is a small team of people who are supporting your book. They could be friends, family, associates, online affiliates—anyone.

At first, your launch team might be limited to your immediate friends & family. That’s OK! Launch your book with their help, and work on continually building your launch team every chance you get.

When you build a launch team, you need to make 2 things clear for everyone:

  • What are they agreeing to do for you?
  • What are they getting in return?

Part 1 is pretty simple: you want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family.

This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.

Part 2 can vary from person to person. What do your friends & family get in return for helping you? In many cases, they get things like:

  • A free copy of your book
  • Their name mentioned in the “Acknowledgements” part of your book
  • The chance to be part of something inspiring
  • The personal satisfaction of helping to create something meaningful

As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.

(This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you.)

But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.

Step 20: Get Ongoing Reviews

If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:

It loves reviews.

One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.

If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.

When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:

image showing book review scores

Reviews are a fantastic form of social proof. They’re a credibility sign that lots of people have read your book and loved it—and that makes other people more likely to want to read it, too.

But you have to be careful about how you go about trying to get Amazon reviews. For example, you can get in big trouble if you try to pay for reviews, swap reviews with other authors, or offer free gifts in exchange for reviews.

You can solicit reviews, but they cannot be “incentivized” reviews.

So how can you generate more reviews without offering people something in return? Well, I’ve discovered a few tips that work incredibly well. Click here to learn my 8-step process for generating more Amazon reviews.

Step 21: Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

I’d like to leave you with one final message:

The best way to learn how to write a bestselling book is to get help from somebody who’s been there before.

People often ask me how I was able to make so much money and sell so many copies of my very first book. And I always tell them the same thing:

Because I sought out a mentor. Someone to teach me a proven book-writing process that had been tried and tested. A book-writing system that was almost guaranteed to work, as long as I followed it properly.

Well, that’s the real secret to my success as an author. I sought out the help I needed to give my very first book a major head-start.

a quote image about writing and the creative purpose

My Final Tip for Learning How to Write a Book

And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.

If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE in this training→.

Want to learn more about Self-Publishing School?

Every day, we help would-be authors go from “idea” to “published book” and authors go from “one book published” to “many books published”.

You can learn more about us and our programs here, as well as read some Self-Publishing School reviews from our students.

But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

publishing-options

How to Publish a Book in 2021: A Step-by-Step Guide

Historically, if you wanted to know how to publish a book, you needed an agent to get a traditional publisher to look at your manuscript.

In fact, many publishing companies won’t even open a manuscript if it doesn’t come through an agent…

Which makes learning how to publish a book way more difficult.

Not to mention the fact that going through all that work to just land an agent isn’t necessary if you want to publish a book.

What’s worse is even if they do open it, it’s still unlikely that your book will be published and sold in bookstores!

*Cue the groans and grumbles of irritation*

So is there a better method?

Yes! It’s called self-publishing, and as a 6-time bestselling author who’s broken down my system in our Become a Bestseller program, I’m here to go over how to publish a book.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Here’s how to publish a book step-by-step:

  1. Decide Why You Want to Publish a Book
  2. Write Your Book
  3. Get Feedback Before Publishing Your Book
  4. Choose a Book Title
  5. Hire a Great Book Editor
  6. Design a Book Cover that Converts
  7. Create Your Kindle Direct Publishing Account
  8. Format and Upload your Book
  9. Self-Publish Your Book
  10. Price Your Book
  11. Form a Launch Team
  12. Maximize Book Launch Exposure
  13. Celebrate Publishing a Book!

In fact, there is another way for your book to not only be published, but to even become a bestseller! This method has led to the success of many authors and is changing the book and traditional publishing industry.

What is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is the act of independently publishing your book on a platform like Amazon without the need of a traditional publishing house.

Personally speaking, I’ve self-published 6 bestselling non-fiction books on Amazon, sold tens of thousands of copies, and continue to collect thousands per month in royalty checks.

The success of my books has been directly responsible for the strong performance of my business, which has grown to over 7 figures in less than 2 years.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/1px8zUxC6Ecsa6hKqdZmUg

Self-publishing a book is done with these steps:

  • Write a book you’re proud of
  • Decide which self-publishing platform to use
  • Get your book edited, a cover designed, and it formatted
  • Upload your manuscript and accompanying assets
  • Hit “Publish” when you’re read
  • Your book is self-published!

It’s really that easy.

Five years ago, in order to achieve this level of publishing success, you would have needed to be extremely lucky to even land an agent who would attempt to find you a deal at one of the “Big 5” publishing houses.

This is no longer the case.

Not only do you no longer need one of the “Big 5” companies to publish your book, now self-published authors are actively turning down offers from publishing companies!

So If you are trying to publish your book and are having no luck landing a publisher, self-publishing could be the best option for you.

Better yet, making the decision to learn how to navigate the self-publishing world the right away can save you countless wasted hours.

Whether you want to do it yourself or work with one of the many self-publishing companies out there, we can help.

[Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS library here!]

What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing?

It’s easy to look at these two publishing routes and get confused. Why would someone self-publish a book when there are companies dedicated to doing it for you? There are actually many reasons.

What is the difference between self-publishing vs traditional publishing?

Self-publishing is a completely independent route with no barriers to entry whereas traditional publishing involves the acts of querying, landing an agent, and getting approved by a publishing house.

Check out the video above for more details on choosing self-publishing or traditional publishing.

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

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

Pricing to publish a book varies greatly depending on its length, production costs, and the retail price you set.

That being said, it’s important to be prepared when it comes to how much you’ll actually pay to self-publish a book.

There are a number of factors that contribute to how much it costs to self-publish a book:

  • The length of your book (this impacts printing costs)
  • Getting your book edited
  • The book cover design
  • Any promotional ads/materials you want to utilize
  • Another surprising, lesser-known cost I cover in the video below

How to Publish a Book in 2021

So many writers get overwhelmed with the abundance of information about the self-publishing process, what it’ll cost, how to do it right, how to come up with a good book idea, and more.

I’ve created a step-by-step comprehensive self-publishing guide that will walk you through the beginning steps of how to write your book all the way to how to self-publish it on Amazon’s Kindle (KDP) Network.

Let’s get started so you can get started!

#1 – Decide Why You Want to Learn How to Publish a Book

What you need to decide first when self-publishing a book, is WHY you want to write a book.

I encourage going through this brainstorming process as it’s the only way to ensure that you’re 100% committed to writing a book (and you’re doing it for the right reasons).

This is a huge step that’s largely responsible for our Become a Bestseller students to write and publish so quickly.

Here are some questions for you to decide why you want to publish a book:

  • Are you an entrepreneur or freelancer with a new business trying to get a leg up on your competition by publishing a book?
  • Are you a writer looking to boost your profile so you can land higher-paying writing jobs?
  • Do you want to leverage your skills and knowledge to become a paid speaker or coach?
  • Do you have a well-established business and you want to write a book to diversify your income streams and land speaking engagements?
  • Or do you already have a successful story, and want to build an asset that will share the knowledge and skills you’ve gained over decades of experience?
  • Do you have a larger number of book ideas or prompts you need to start writing?

Action Plan:

Come up with at least 10 valid reasons why you want to write a book. Use the questions above as a starting guide to brainstorm.

#2 – Write Your Book

If you’ve ever tried to start writing a book, you might have had moments where you’ve stared at a blank page for hours with nothing to show for it. Feeling frustrated, you resort to procrastinating and get nothing done!

This is normal, writing a book is hard work.

In fact, coming up with a book idea in general can be very tricky. But in order to start writing your book, you must develop a writing process.

Here’s are some effective ways to write a book worth self-publishing:

  • Buy a calendar. The best way to have your book complete is to have a calendar that schedules your goals per day/week.
  • Create an outline. An outline is like a map of your book that provides direction to your story. It keeps you on track and ensures that your ideas are organized.
  • Develop a writing habit. Condition yourself to write at the same time every day. With this practice, it will soon become a habit that will make writing a book automatic.
  • Get an accountability partner. You can hold each other accountable to write and finish your by your “draft done” date.
  • Build your writing environment. Yes, this can be a blanket for if you choose to use “build” literally or you can simply find an area where your head is clear, there are no distractions, and where you can write in peace.

To learn more tips on how to write faster, here’s a tutorial video of the simple process I use to write over 1500 words per hour:

#3 – Get Feedback on Your Book Before Publishing

When writing your book, it’s important to get as much feedback as early in the process as possible.

It’s essential to get this feedback in order to improve your writing.

Everything from creative writing to factual, non-fiction works needs feedback in order to produce a polished publication.

As writers, it’s all too easy to retreat into your cave for a long period of time, spend countless hours writing what you think is the perfect first draft, only to find that a) your draft doesn’t make sense to anyone else or b) no one else is as interested in the topic as you originally thought.

Writing tips can come from anywhere and the best usually come from those reading your book for the first time.

Not only can a fresh set of eyes on your book help you catch typos and grammatical errors, but a new perspective can give you ideas for tightening up your story and making the theme more clear, like in the example below.

publishing a book feedback

Giving your book to one (or more) “beta readers” before giving it to an editor and self-publishing can also cut down on the time and cost of paying a professional editor.

You can also use a piece of writing software like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor so you can learn as you write!

Action Plan:

Reach out to a few friends who could provide good (preferably unbiased) feedback, and ask them if they’ll be willing to read a chapter or two (or the whole book!) as you finish writing

#4 – Choose a Book Title

Contrary to popular belief, you should never decide on a book title until after you are done writing your first draft. 

This is because choosing a book title first often results in you “writing yourself into a corner” because you’re trying so hard to align your story to the title of the book instead of writing what needs to be written.

Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.

The key to choosing a perfect title is: the simpler the title, the better.

As you’re brainstorming ideas, always remember to keep it simple.

Your title should also be clear on what your readers will receive by reading your book. This is because experts state that a clear promise or a guarantee of results will further intrigue your readers.

It’s certainly what’s made our Become a Bestseller students so successful during their launches.

book title checklist

Here are some questions to consider when creating your memorable book title:

  • Is your title going to teach a high demand skill?
  • Can your title impact someone’s life?
  • Can your book solve a very difficult problem?
  • Is it short enough to read in a thumbnail image on Amazon?
  • Does it elicit an emotional response?

Action Plan:

Once you’ve narrowed down your book titles, send out an email to your friends and family or put a poll up to your audience asking what title they’d prefer. You could also ask a community of other authors what they think.

#5 – Hire a Great Book Editor

Hiring a great book editor can mean the difference between becoming a bestselling author, or self-publishing a mediocre book. Therefore, it’s important to take as much time as necessary during this stage of the process.

To find an editor for your book, begin with your personal network.

Do you personally know any qualified editors?

Start there. If you don’t, then do you know someone who knows an editor? If you don’t have any luck finding an editor within your personal network, don’t worry!

Depending on your budget, you can either hire a professional book editor or hire a more budget-friendly editor from Upwork. But be careful and always check references and portfolios of work.

As a Self-Publishing School student, we will also provide you with a Rolodex of approved and vetted book editors who all do a great job, as you can see in the example below.

how to publish a book choosing editor

No matter how you find your editor, make sure you’re a good fit before committing to the full book by paying them a small sum ($25 or so) to edit a few pages or a chapter of your book.

Make sure the editor is interested in the subject matter, that they can get your whole book edited in 3.5 weeks or less including back-and-forth revisions, and that their edits are both accurate and make sense to you.

If you don’t feel you’re a good fit following a sample edit, then let that $25 go and find an editor who’s going to work out rather than sinking more money into a relationship that might be a mistake.

Whatever you do, don’t give up during the editorial process! If one editor isn’t working out for you or meeting your needs, find another.

Action Plan:

Find a friend or professional editor who can make sure your book is error-free, and start working with them sooner rather than later!

#6 – Design a Book Cover that Converts

When it comes to self-publishing, a high-quality book cover is one of the most important elements that will get your book to convert into sales!

The reason is that yourbook cover design is what readers see first and will immediately determine whether they want to read your book or not.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” simply doesn’t apply to actual book covers, as much as we wish it did.

book cover ideas

The hard truth is that everyone judges a book by its cover whether they realize it or not.

So you must make sure that it is created professionally and that it will stand apart from the rest of the books in your genre or category.

What makes a good book cover?

  • Simplistic styling. Too much going on will make readers unable to figure out what your book is about. Keep the cover minimalistic and it will convert more readers.
  • Professionally designed. Book cover designers know how to create book covers that convert. They have industry knowledge and have studied what works and what doesn’t.
  • Clear title and subtitle. The title on your cover does matter. The easier it is to read, the better. This allows your readers to clearly see what your book is about as they scroll through Amazon or other book retailers.
  • A design style that fits your intended audience. If you’re writing a faith-based book intended for an audience of faith, having an overly dark, devilish cover doesn’t make sense.

You can find amazing book cover designers on freelancing sites such as:

Prices will vary depending on what type of service you want, but the end result will be well worth the spend.

Action Plan:

Find a book designer with any of these sites and your book will stand apart from the rest of its competition!

#7 – Create Your Kindle Direct Self-Publishing Account

Amazon has a self-publishing service called Kindle Direct Publishing where you can create and manage your Kindle eBook, paperback, and audiobooks.

It’s the best way to learn how to publish a book and start selling quickly, and I’ve used it for all my self-published books.

I highly recommend it for all new self-publishers!

self publish with kdp

Amazon also acquired the well-known book printing company CreateSpace and they’re now merged as one. This means you can now offer print books to your audience.

Here’s how to set up your KDP account on Amazon:

  1. Visit https://kdp.amazon.com and create an account with either your existing Amazon account or your email address.
  2. Next, you must complete your tax information. You will not be able to submit your published book if you do not complete this step.
  3. Once your tax information is complete, hit “Finished” and your account is complete!

Action Plan:

Follow these steps to create your KDP account! With this platform, you can figure out how to publish your book within minutes and soon have it appear worldwide!

#8 – Format Your Self-Published Book

If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of resources online that can tell you how to format your book yourself for free.

You can start by looking at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing forums where there are plenty of discussions on book formatting.

You can also use KDP’s free resources to help format your book. Formatting can be a frustrating experience for the uninitiated though, so if you have a few bucks to spare, you might consider paying someone to help you.

Also keep in mind that formatting will look different for fiction versus nonfiction books.

Typically, nonfiction books don’t have an indent between paragraphs but instead, they have spaces whereas fiction books are indented with each new paragraph.

Below are formatting examples from Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion and my book, Published.

how to publish a book fiction vs nonfiction

If you want to pay for formatting, Liber Writer is a low-cost, effective option for converting a Microsoft Word file to Amazon’s Kindle format. If $60 is too much, you can also find people on Fiverr to format your book for Kindle.

Just be sure you hire someone who knows how to format your specific book genre.

Action Plan:

Make sure your book is formatted properly by using the free online resource above or hiring someone who can handle the formatting process for you.

#9 – Self-Publish Your Book

When you feel confident your book is ready for the public, you can create a KDP account and upload your book.

This is how to upload your book on KDP:

  1. On the KDP mainpage, locate and click on “Your Bookshelf”.
  2. Locate and click on “Kindle eBook Actions”.
  3. Then, locate and click on “Edit eBook Content”.
  4. Finally, click on “Upload eBook Manuscript”, and upload your manuscript file from your computer.

Amazon also allows you to select 7 keywords or keyword phrases to make sure your intended audience can find your book when searching on Amazon.

It’s highly recommended you also select two different categories on Amazon your book might fit into so you can reach a broader audience.

To select keywords and categories, look at other best-selling books in your niche and notice what keywords and categories those authors chose.

Once Amazon finishes uploading your file, a confirmation message will be sent and you can preview the uploaded file to check for any errors. Create your Amazon author central account after uploading your book.

build an author profile

Include a bio, photo, and link to your website or blog to help you stand out among authors. After a few more steps, you’ll be ready to publish your book, at which time you’ll click “save & publish” in your KDP book dashboard.

Afterward, you should be ready to publish your book! Just click “save & publish” in the book editing screen!

#10 – Price Your Book

One of the most important decisions when it comes to self-publishing a book is how to price it. The most common question I get from new writers is, “How much should my book cost?”

To answer this, my general rule of thumb is to have your book priced is between $2.99 to $5.99. To be more specific, when beginning a launch, I would begin by pricing the book at $0.99 for the launch period. 

Then I would set the price to 2.99, and I would moderately increase the price by $1 every week and measure how well the new price performs. Once you see a sales dip, that will determine the exact price of your book that will guarantee book sales.

Action Plan:

Find the perfect price by using this strategy that will attract your readers and best drive long-term success.

#11 – Form a Launch Team

Your launch team is the group of people who are dedicated to helping make your book successful.

They should be a passionate group of individuals who are eager to make your book launch successful. Remember, one highly skilled team member is better than a group of mediocre ones!

Here’s a video detailing how to use a launch team effectively:

To find quality candidates, here’s a questionnaire you can use to assess applicants and see if they’re qualified to market your book:

  • Why do you want to support my book?
  • What goals are you trying to reach with this project?
  • How would you market this book?
  • Which influencers would you reach out to and why?
  • Do you have a genuine interest in my book and its genre?

Action Plan:

Create an application with questions that align with your thought process. Try to be open-minded with those who think outside the box – they may be the perfect candidates that can get your book to become a bestseller.

#12 – Maximize Book Launch Exposure with Reviews

It’s not enough to learn how to publish a book and be done with it. You still have to take action even after your official launch.

As soon as your book goes live on Amazon, be sure to leverage your launch team and your audience to help you market your book! It may be odd to ask your fans for help, but your fans are there to support your project and want to see you succeed. 

You might be surprised how willing they’ll be to help you if you just ask!

Here are some marketing initiatives you can assign your team and audience to do:

  • Share content from your book as blog posts across social media
  • Submit reviews on Amazon (ensuring they don’t make the mistakes in the video below)
  • Help build your book’s website
  • Reach out to influencers for a future guest post or podcast feature
  • Share a book review on their YouTube channel
  • Buy extra copies to gift their friends

The additional exposure generated from your launch team and audience will help push your book up Amazon’s rankings, which will drive more sales! There are even websites that help you with rankings, such as Kindle Ranker. Make sure to have a look at that!

Action Plan:

Create your book marketing launch plan using these methods. Measure each of these methods to see which will best get your book in the hands of new readers and convert into sales.

#13 – Celebrate Learning How to Self-Publish a Book!

Publishing after writing a book is just the beginning. Depending on your goals for your book, self-publishing can get you more customers, free publicity, and establish you as an expert in your niche.

This can help you land speaking gigs and build a business within your area of expertise.

Your book sales can also help fund your lifestyle with passive income.

Dream big about what you want your book to do for you. When you have a vision for where you want your book to take you, it will be easier to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Getting clear on what you want will also help you to be more effective when expanding your network along on your journey.

what a book can do for you

What to do Now

Now that you’ve learned how to publish a book, it’s time to take action and bring yourself one step closer to your goals and dreams.

If self-publishing a bestseller is something you want to do, and you’re serious about changing your life and your business for the better by getting your book out there in the world, then you need a step-by-step system to follow to take action.

Check out the free class below to get started!

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

The World of Done for you Writing & 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.

  • Reasons to hire a ghostwriter
  • Reasons to write the book yourself
  • Pros and cons of self-publishing
  • Pros and cons of third-party publishing
  • DIY or done-for you?

Get a FREE EBOOK of Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published  Author  Learn the exact step-by-step method needed to write, market, and publish your  book on Amazon in 2021!  YES! GET MY FREE COPY!

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.

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 ghost writer 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

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

Fulfillment

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 get to experience that 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 upward of $70,000.

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. 

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 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’s 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. 

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:

Recognition/pride

Like I said, 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.

Easier

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. Trad 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 it 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.

Conclusion

If you love writing, write the book yourself. If you’re invested in your book or its content, maybe 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.

If you want to write a book JUST for the book’s sake, as in you’re not necessarily using it as a tool to build your brand or business, then traditional publishing might be for you.

If you’re looking to control your book and use it as a tool to build your brand or business AND make money, self-publishing might be your route.

Get a FREE EBOOK of Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published  Author  Learn the exact step-by-step method needed to write, market, and publish your  book on Amazon in 2021!  YES! GET MY FREE COPY!

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.

How?

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.
    FOR EXAMPLE:
    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.

Thanks!

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

Research

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

Money

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!

Conclusion

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxvgR2g_kLA&feature=youtu.be

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.

Make a Full-Time Passive Income
From Book Sales

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

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

Conclusion

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: 

Free Video Training Reveals…

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

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

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.

Free Video Training Reveals…

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

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

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. 

Conclusion

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.