SPS 110: Supporting A Cause Or Charity With Your Book Launch (How To & Mistakes To Avoid) with Susie Harder

About Susie Harder

Susie has a history of designing and building successful programs. During her time in Fresno Unified School District, Susie designed and piloted a successful framework for a Fluency Consultant role to utilize specialty skills and support SLPs. In 2016, Susie created a private practice focused on supporting children, teens, and adults who stutter.

Within her practice, she built a mentoring program for children and teens who stutter to help guide younger children experiencing similar challenges. Most recently (2020), following the devastation of the Central California Creek Fire, she decided to write a book to help children who lost homes in the fire. While writing the book, she created a unique platform to reinvent how children connect with literacy and books. Through the Junior Authors Program, children are involved in ongoing votes to help build the book from rough draft to a published book on Amazon.

Susie’s Personal Story about Why She Wrote her Book

Using books to promote conversations, Susie decided to reach out to kids who lost their homes in the California fires last year to emotionally support them while going through tough times. Then, she used her experience with helping children to write her book. The process evolved from a story that can help kids develop a business around her publication and support kids.

Advice for Children’s Book Authors

Susie says, “You can learn how to write a book,” especially if you have experience with kids and understand what they like. She suggests not to come from a preaching standpoint but to build your book in a meaningful way. “As educators, we have the ability to build-in any message we want.” You can choose the themed message of the book to become a guided conversation for your little readers.  

“The access to learning how to make a book unlocks all those things you know and love.” She explains how books impact kids on a different level, including helping kids process their emotions at home.

Listen in on today’s episode and find out why Susie chose to donate her profits to her cause, which marketing channels she decided to use for her PR, and how she developed her vision from her idea.

Show Highlights

  • [03:05] Why Susie wrote her book
  • [06:41] When Susie decided to add SPS coaching to her journey.
  • [10:33] Her advice for others who are writing children’s books.
  • [14:10] How she planned her book launch and incorporated her cause into her marketing strategy.
  • [18:21] Doing unpaid work and how it pays off in the future.
  • [25:34] Her biggest win and most rewarding part of her journey.
  • [29:53] The ripple effect of her book campaign into her business. 
  • [32:53] Going through the process of SPS children’s book school.

Passive & Active Voice for Beginners

One of the most talked-over pieces of advice, especially for beginning writers, is that you should ‘avoid passive voice, and use active voice whenever possible.’ 

But what does that mean? 

And is it true that we should never, ever use passive voice? 

In this article, we’re going to talk about what passive and active voice are, how they’re used in writing, give you some examples, and teach you how to utilize each for whatever you need them for–these tips will be perfect whether you’re a fiction author, nonfiction author, or even just a college student looking to improve your papers. 

So, first thing’s first.


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What is Active Voice? 

Active voice is when the subject of a sentence does the action described. It’s generally much clearer, more concise, and direct than passive voice–active voice has direction, drive, and intent. 

When reading active voice, you’re generally avoiding the word ‘be’ (and all its conjugations). Remember when your high school teacher took off five points every time you used a ‘be’ verb? Just me? Well, anyway, there was a pretty good reason for it. Learning to write in active voice early on will help you knock your tone and style out of the park, since you won’t be struggling under the weight of extra clauses. 

Let me give you a few examples, so you’ve got a clearer idea of what I’m talking about. 

Examples of Active Voice 

Mark kicks the ball to Anthony. 

The above sentence is a straightforward example of active voice. Mark, the subject, is performing the verb, which is kick. We also have the object of that action, Anthony, but for active voice, we’re really only worried about our subject performing our verb. 

Nervous about his absence, Jenny called Nick’s cell phone. 

We don’t necessarily have to start a sentence with our subject to write in active voice. Above, we’ve got a dependent clause (nervous about his absence), which sets the scene for our action. Then, notice we have the same setup–Jenny, our subject, performing the verb. 

I thought I could go to the movies, but I didn’t have enough money. 

Here’s a little complex sentence for you–here, we have the subject “I” performing the verb “thought.” 

Pop quiz! Which of the below sentences is in active voice? 

There were snakes living in the riverbank. 

Snakes liked to nest in the riverbank. 

Did you guess the second one? If so, you’re correct! 

We’ll talk more about how to make your passive sentences active in a minute. 

When should we use active voice? 

All the time! Seriously. 

Active voice is stronger, it’s clearer, and it forces you to look for a verb to drive your action. Check out that pop quiz I gave you–do you see how ‘liked to nest’ is a little more flavorful than ‘there were snakes living?’ Neither of them is grammatically incorrect, but one of them is a little stronger. 

Active voice makes you clear up the extra words bogging down your sentences, which means you’ll be able to focus on your word choice and really hone your style. Again, I wouldn’t say that snake sentence is incredible groundbreaking, but it’s got a little more style than its passive version. 

Here’s a few specific places where active voice becomes very important: 

Fight Scenes 

Fight scenes need to be fast, descriptive, and crisp. You’ve got no space to waste in a fight sequence, so it’s especially important that your language is clear. Readers might get confused by an excessively wordy or indirect scene. For example: 

PASSIVE: Christopher was hitting Robin in the chest. Robin was trying to dodge the hit, so he went to sweep Christopher’s legs out from underneath him. There was sweat on his forehead from the effort. 


ACTIVE: Christopher hit Robin in the chest. Robin ducked, sticking his leg out  to sweep Christopher’s legs. Sweat blurred his vision. 


As I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to mostly rely on active voice when you write anything, ever. So it follows that your book’s narrative voice should also be active. Some situations call for passive voice, and we’ll talk about those later, but it’s safe to say that generally, you need a real good reason to make your sentences weaker. 

Description… usually 

Active voice becomes especially important when it comes to description and exposition. Working through an exposition-heavy chunk of any book is hard on its own (and you should absolutely avoid it, active voice or no, but sometimes it happens), and it’s made way harder by dull, indirect prose. 

Description also sparkles when set in active voice. Let’s have another example: 

PASSIVE: There were chandeliers shining above the dining room table, which was glossy with polish. The guests were seated at opposite ends, and they were wearing ornate gowns dripping with extravagant lace. 


ACTIVE: Chandeliers shone above the glossy dining room table. Guests sat at opposite ends, their ornate gowns dripping with extravagant lace. 

See how without changing the words I used, active voice cleaned it up and made it shine (no pun intended)? 

What is Passive Voice? 

Okay, so, we’ve talked a lot about active voice. But what is passive voice, really? Sometimes new writers understand they need to make their sentences clearer, but they’re still not sure what passive voice is, and you can’t avoid it if you don’t know what it is! 

In passive voice, the subject is the recipient of the action. 

Remember how we said that in an active voice, the subject performs the verb? In passive voice, the subject receives the verb. The subject isn’t causing the action–they’re just waiting for the action to come along and get them. 

Examples of Passive Voice

The ball was kicked by Mark. 

We have the object Mark is kicking (the ball), and we have the verb (kicked). But Mark is way at the end of the sentence, waiting for the action to come get him. This disconnects the reader from the action, since we don’t know who’s actually doing it. Passive voice often puts the subject further away from the verb. 

I was thinking I could go to the movies, but I didn’t have enough money. 

Here, ‘thinking’ and ‘I’ are still pretty close together. But they could be closer! ‘Thought’ is shorter, and it’s more direct, so it’s a better choice here. 

Rain is falling on the sidewalk. 

One common thing you’ll see in passive voice is that pesky ‘be’ verb clogging up our action. It’s almost always right between the subject and the verb, just delaying that good, stronger verb. 

When should we use passive voice? 

It’s not really as simple as always avoiding passive voice and always choosing active voice. It’s possible that you might need passive voice in your writing–it’s just that it’s better to actively (ha, ha) choose it, rather than unintentionally make your sentences indirect. 

So, when might we use passive voice on purpose? 

Creating Distance 

If you need to impart emotional distance or some kind of a traumatic event to the reader, passive voice can help you out. Because it’s a bit more numb and lifeless than its active counterpart, it can pack a punch if you use it sparingly. 

Be careful with this, though–even if passive voice does create distance, and you can sometimes use that distance to your advantage, you still don’t want entire passages written in passive voice just for the vibes. Use it sparingly, and make sure that sentence wouldn’t be a little more impactful if the subject were steering. 

For example, if you were writing a tragedy: 

ACTIVE: She left by sunrise.

PASSIVE: By sunrise, she was gone.

Neither is wrong! But pick the one you use for a reason. 

Avoiding Blame 

Here’s something that’ll change the way you read and write business emails forever. When you want to write a sentence and avoid specifying blame, it’s pretty convenient to flip the sentence into passive voice. For example:

ACTIVE: You stole cookies from the jar downstairs.

PASSIVE: Cookies were stolen from the jar downstairs. 

Now, all of a sudden, we’re not saying who might or might not have stolen the cookies. 

This can be useful when you’re giving advice (“there were a few typos in this manuscript” is a little softer than “you made a few typos in this manuscript”), and you’ll see it with business transactions all the time (“There was an issue with your order” instead of “we made a mistake with your order”). 

This is also great for leaving out information. “The woman who lived here was killed.” By who? We don’t know! It’s in passive voice. 

There’s Just No Other Way 

Sometimes, the sentence would just be worse if you tried to make it active. It might also ruin the tone, especially in dialogue. Someone would definitely say “We’re interested in renting this apartment,” but no one really says “This apartment interests me.” In that example, it’s because the subject ‘we’ is the primary focus of the sentence, not the apartment. 

But really, there’s not a hard rule for this. If you’ve got a sentence in passive voice, try to put in active voice. If it’s not working, and the most clear way to deliver the information is to keep it passive, then that’s fine! Remember, passive isn’t grammatically incorrect, and sometimes you’ll need it. 

Following a Subject 

Sometimes, we want to keep a certain subject the focus of our sentence. This was the case in that apartment example last time—the subject ‘we’ was the focus, so passive voice made sense there. 

If you had a story about Carly and her friends going to dinner, you might write “Carly and her friends were waited on by a man with a ridiculous bow tie” to keep the focus on the gals. However, you can usually flip these sentences, too, for clarity, so just do a double-check to make sure passive voice is the option that reads more easily. 

How to Transform Passive Voice to Active Voice 

Alright! Now it’s time to really hammer home what we’ve learned. If you’ve got a sentence in passive voice, how do you make it active? 

As we’ve seen in our earlier examples, you want to put the action as close to the subject as possible. Remember: the subject drives the action, not the other way around. 

Let’s take a look at this sentence:

PASSIVE: Josie and her kids were waiting by the dock, and it was raining pretty hard. 

First, identify the subject. Here, it’s Josie and her kids. Next, figure out what our action is–here, it’s waiting. 

Now, we want to cut out all the extra stuff between them and get rid of the gerund on that verb. 

ACTIVE: Josie and her kids waited by the dock, and it was raining pretty hard. 

Better! Let’s look at the second part of that sentence. ‘It was raining pretty hard’ is still in passive voice, and we can make it crisper. We want to reword this to make it more active, and we also want to keep the writing natural. Here’s a few ways we can adjust ‘it was raining pretty hard.’ 


Josie and her kids waited by the dock while it rained. 


In the pouring rain, Josie and her kids waited by the dock. 


Josie and her kids waited by the dock, flimsy umbrellas barely shielding them from the downpour. 

Changing it to active doesn’t mean, necessarily, that it has to be shorter. You can use description to convey information–notice that in that last example, I didn’t outright say that it was raining. And you can move things around to set your characters up for the rest of the sentence, like in the second example. 

You’re ready to identify passive voice in your own writing and make those sentences active! Do you know any good uses of passive voice? Let us know in the comments! 

Ready to take the next step? Check out our free training to get tips on mind-mapping your book, overcoming writing hurdles, and self-publishing in 90 days.

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SPS 109: How To Sell More Books & Make A Full Time Living As A Non-Fiction Author with Scott Allan

About Scott Allan

Born and brought up near Surrey, close to London, in the town of Epsom, which is home to The Derby, one of the most famous horse races in the world.

As a child, Scott wanted to be a footballer, boxer, clown, cartoonist, and a taxi driver. At 17, he began writing for a football fanzine and presenting a weekly radio show on hospital radio. He majored in media production at university and was going to be a cameraman, but found that writing scripts and doing bits of journalism was more fulfilling. “It was only after I left uni working for free on local papers, fanzines, and an extra journalism course that I stumbled into my first proper writing job.”

Twenty years later, Scott wrote his first book and has continued to write books ever since. He is the author of Fail Big, Relaunch Your Life, and Empower Your Thoughts. He’s sold over 200,000 copies in six languages worldwide and is the co-creator of one of our SPS courses.

Why Scott is Passionate About Being an Author

In junior high, Scott found a typewriter and proceeded to “hammer out this book I’ve been writing all summer.” Although he took a hiatus, he always had to author a book in the back of his mind. “One day I got so tired of telling myself that I have to write this book I just sat down and started doing it.”

He sat down with no outline or plan and started writing his book from the content that came to his mind. Four years later, he produced a book that contained 100,000 words. Splitting his book into three parts, he hired an editor and completed his book publishing.

Marketing and Selling His Books

When he first published his books, he wasn’t sure how to market or sell his new publications. He didn’t have a plan on how to market and decided to join Self-Publishing School, which gave him the connection to a community of authors.

He recommends making a good launch for your book, which starts creating a good branded cover, title. Next, you want to get reviews within the first 30 days and create ads to get your book noticed. Also, you’ll want to have a connected series that flow well together and make sense in the order that you publish your series.

How to Sell Your Book Long-Term

“Know your genre and know if your book is going to sell or not.” He recommends researching your book topic with tools that are available online. Next, look at other book covers in your genre. From there, create an eye-catching book design. “Go deep into keyword research and embed those SEO words into your book description and in your title and subtitle, if possible.”

Listen in on today’s episode and find out why Scott decided to continue to write non-fiction work, how to sell more copies of your self-published book, and how to relaunch your book.

Show Highlights

  • [02:25] Where Scott gets his passion for writing and being an author.
  • [06:45] Why he decided on continuing to write non-fiction
  • [08:23] Scott’s advice on how to sell or sell more of your currently published book.
  • [11:26] When you should relaunch your book and how you can successfully relaunch.
  • [16:04] Fundamentals of selling your book long-term.
  • [20:33] How the three-legged-stool concept can help you sell more books.
  • [25:21] What you should spend time on when marketing your book.
  • [30:49] Commonalities among successful booksellers.
  • [36:27] How to get the most out of your book coaching sessions.
how to make an audiobook

How to Make an Audiobook Step-by-Step [With Video]

Not having an audiobook version of your book might, quite likely, be the death of your success. Which means you must know how to make an audiobook to fix that.

We’re in the age of podcasts, radio apps, and audiobooks, and now couldn’t be a better time to convert your eBook into an audiobook. But many writers get scared off by the thought of creating an audiobook.

“Isn’t it expensive?”

“Won’t it take a ton of time?”

“How do I even do it?!?”

Thankfully, self-publishing an audiobook now is as easy as self-publishing your book. It has become cost-effective and approachable for self-published authors, and there is a range of options depending on the budget you want to spend on it.

Here are the steps for how to make an audiobook:

  1. Prep your book for audiobook recording
  2. Decide who will record it
  3. Hire an audiobook narrator
  4. Record the audiobook yourself
  5. Work with an audiobook producer
  6. Create the audiobook at home
  7. Upload your audiobook to ACX

Here are the exact steps you need to follow, and our suggestions for turning your book into the next big audiobook.

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How to Make an Audiobook Step-by-Step

Audiobooks are on the rise, and if you’re an author who’s not pursuing this book format, you’re missing out on an entire audience who could be enjoying your story.

Here are our top steps for creating an audiobook.

#1 – Prep Your eBook Content for Audiobook Recording

If you’re starting from the beginning, you may have no idea how to convert your manuscript from writing to audio. Your first step will be to prep your eBook content for audiobook recording.

This creates a script you can read as you record the audio version of your book. You don’t want to get tripped up while you (or someone else) is reading through the manuscript, so you need to remove everything that won’t make sense in the audio version.

These are the pieces you should go through and look for to cut out:

  • Delete hyperlinks
  • Delete captions
  • Delete visuals
  • Remove any calls to actions or click here prompts

Once you’ve created your new script, read through it one last time to make sure it all makes sense in audio form.

#2 – Decide who will record your audiobook

The next step in the creation of your audiobook is actually recording the book. But before you can do that, you have to decide who will record the book.

Here are your choices when deciding who will record your audiobook:

  1. Hire someone to record it for you
  2. Record the book yourself in a studio
  3. Work with an audiobook producer
  4. Do it yourself at home
  5. Hire an ACX narrator

You now get to pick which option to take.

If you’re writing nonfiction, particularly a story about your life, you may want to record the book yourself. However, if you aren’t confident in producing the best quality audiobook, you can still hire a narrator.

For those of you writing a fiction novel, you’ll likely want to hire an audiobook narrator, as these stories often need a narrator with an acting skillset.

#3 – Hiring an audiobook narrator

Most authors find that hiring a professional to record their audiobook is the most expeditious and least painful route. You may be concerned about the cost of hiring a pro for voice work, but you may be surprised to learn that the cost of this service can be quite reasonable.

In fact, converting your self-published book into an audiobook using a pro can cost less than half the price of doing the work yourself.

Many freelancers will quote a price of under $500 for a full eBook to audio conversion; so don’t let the perceived high cost deter you.

If you’ve never worked with a freelancer before, you might not be familiar with the steps necessary to find the right talent. First, you’ll need a proposal.

The purpose of your proposal is to help delineate the work that’s needed. You’ll want to make sure to include the scope of the work and terms of your offer in your proposal. Your second step is to create sample audio content to share with potential freelance narrators. This is your “retail audio sample.”

The purpose of your retail audio sample is two-fold:

  1. It can be shared with potential narrators during the freelance-hiring phase, and
  2. It can later be shared with your future audience on Amazon to pique their interest in your book.

Have some fun creating your retail audio clip—it can be anything you want it to be! You may opt to read a full chapter, or simply condense a summary of plot highlights.

The ultimate goal of your retail audio sample is to intrigue both potential narrators and your potential audience. If you can capture their collective attention and pique their interest in your book, they’ll want to hear more.

If you’ve never worked with a freelancer, check out Voices or Upwork for a list of narrator pros.

You can also do a simple Google search to find those who have a career in narrating audiobooks.

#4 – Record the audiobook yourself

Your second option for creating an audiobook is self-recording in a studio. Realize that self-recording may be more costly in terms of effort, time, and money, especially from the paid time to use a pro recording studio.

We recommend that you block out a significant amount of time to complete your self-recorded audiobook.

Here’s a good timeline for self-recorded audiobook production:

  • Book your recording studio three weeks ahead of time.
  • Record your book in-studio. Plan for up to sixteen hours of recording studio time.
  • Plan for at least two weeks of post-recording editing.

Of course, these times are just guides; the time-frame may change once you start your project. Obviously, a longer book will take longer to record and edit.

Plan accordingly, and give yourself plenty of time to polish, edit, and finalize a professional product.

#5 – Work with an audiobook producer

The third path to creating an audiobook is to hire a professional producer. If you have never recorded an audiobook before, working with a producer would help you through the technical difficulties.

For example, when Joanna Penn did the recording for her own book Business for Authors, she hired a professional producer, Andy Marlow.

A producer for your audiobook can ensure the quality of the audio tracks as well as mastering the file for the final production load.

You can find audiobook producers [audiobook engineers] on freelancing sites such as Fiverr or, again, Upwork.

Simply log in to Fiverr or Upwork and type “audiobooks” in the search bar, as seen in the example below.

hire audiobook narrator

If you go on Fiverr, select the “mixing and mastering” option on the left side. This will give you plenty of choices for finding audio engineers, editors and producers.

#6 – Create an audiobook at home

Many authors feel very close their work and would rather the content be told in their own voice. This is particularly true if the book is focused on personal stories or a family memoir.

There are many books that do sound better when told from the voice of the author.

Do you have the confidence and the voice to create your own audiobook at home? If yes, then here is what you need to know to get started in doing that.

Equipment for Making an Audiobook:

If you are a podcaster or music recording talent, you may already have access to the necessary equipment for recording your audiobook.

Here’s what you need to make an audiobook:

  1. A good USB mic. The Blue Snowball condenser mic or the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone are recommended.
  2. A pop filter. The Earamble Studio Microphone Pop Filter is recommended.
  3. Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing. You can download Audacity here.

You could go fancier and get higher-end equipment, but these tools should be more than enough to get the job done.

microphone stand with audacity logo

Location and Space for Making an Audiobook:

You want to find an isolated, padded room or recording box. “Room Tone, or “Noise Floor” can bring in all sorts of sounds from around the environment.

Recording in your room is an option but make sure your space is set up for recording and that it is “silent.” If this is difficult, hiring a producer, in this case, would be a recommended option.

Audiobook Recording Tips:

Next, you need to make sure you avoid any random noises that might pop up, and any variances in the recording quality.

Here are some tips to help make sure you do that:

  • Turn off all fans and machines.
  • Read in a small, carpeted area
  • Stay a consistent distance away from the microphone.
  • Be prepared to make mistakes and record sentences over when necessary.
  • Read the chapter through from start to end.
  • Keep your voice at a similar level and tone across recording sessions.
  • Modulate your breathing and don’t hold your breath.
  • Read from a Kindle or device. No page turning sounds.
  • Schedule sessions several days apart. Avoid sounding exhausted.

With the Audacity software and your mic, you should be able to get a decent quality recording of your book. But keep in mind that, recording you own audiobook is an exhausting process and it isn’t for everyone.

You have to set yourself up with the proper environment, and set aside the time for recording. If you have never used Audacity or any type of recording equipment before, there is a learning curve that adds weeks to the audiobook production.

For these reasons you may decide to hire someone for the first audiobook, learn what you can, and then try it for your next book.

#7 – Upload your audiobook to audiobook creation exchange

Now that you’ve recorded your book, either by yourself or with the help of a freelancer, you’ll need to upload your book to Audiobook Creation Exchange, also known as ACX.

 When you publish on the ACX, your audiobook will be made available on Amazon, Audible, and the Apple audiobook store.

It’s the only place you need to go to make sure your audiobook gets heard by as many people as possible. You retain all of the audio rights, while ACX handles all of the distribution for you, similar to how the Kindle Direct Publishing platform works.

While there are a lot of steps, uploading is a user-friendly and self-explanatory process.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to upload your audiobook on ACX:

  1. Go to the ACX website.
  2. Log in to your account at amazon.com.
  3. Click “Add Your Title.” [Note: You must have a Kindle ebook published]
  4. Search and find your book then click on “This is My Book” prompt.
  5. Click on the “I have this book in audio and I want to sell it” prompt.
  6. Choose your territory and distribution.
  7. (Note: We recommend the “World” rights options with 40% royalties for the best results.)
  8. Choose the language(s) you’d like to sell the book in.
  9. Agree to the “Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement” terms
  10. Complete the “About My Book” section.
  11. (Note: You can duplicate the content from your Amazon page or create original content.)
  12. Complete the proper copyright information.
  13. Complete the info about the narrator, audiobook publisher, and any reviews.
  14. Click the “add audio file” prompt.
  15. Go to browse for the first section of your audiobook to ensure it was added.
  16. Continue this process until your entire book is uploaded.
  17. Don’t forget to change the chapters and section titles as you go.
  18. Finally, upload your book cover.

Make sure all info from your printed book matches that of your audiobook. Your author name should be the same and the book cover should be the same as appears on your eBook.

ACX will not allow you to continue if there are discrepancies in identifying information.

Get your FREE Audiobook 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!

What are audiobook royalties on ACX?

When you publish your audiobook on the ACX, you’ll earn between 20%-40% of their title royalties. If you work with a producer, then you’ll have a royalty share with them, and the rate that you receive is dependent on how your producer is compensated.

If you work by yourself, you keep the whole 40%, if you split it with a producer, you could each earn 20%.

It all depends on how you decide to share it, and you can read more details on the ACX site or check out this directly from their site:

audiobook royalties

Also, a quick heads up: Your audiobook will not post immediately. ACX will hold your submission to confirm that all is in order before it posts you audiobook.

Don’t be alarmed if you see an ACX note telling you “This title is: Pending audio review.”

That’s a normal part of the process and not something wrong on your end. When ACX approves your book, you’ll then have the green light to sell the audio copies online.

For a detailed, step-by-step explanation of the entire process—from production to distribution—check out ACX Author’s page.

Even if you’ve never done it before, technology makes the process of creating your audiobook easier than you can imagine.

A well-produced audiobook can help you expand your fan base and earn you new readers.

Don’t be deterred by the idea that creating an audiobook is outside of your wheelhouse—we promise it’s not!

With pro help (or even a little elbow grease on your part), you can have a completed audiobook within weeks, and be on your way to boosting those book sale numbers!

How to Make an Audiobook: Resources for Help

Don’t forget your free audiobook to learn the steps to successfully self-publish!

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Writing Contests: Why They’re Worth it, and Where to Get Started

Writing contests are events where writers submit their work for review, usually in the hopes of winning a prize. There’s lots of different kinds of contests depending on what sort of work you do–some are specific to short stories, for example, or some might only want flash fiction written by or about a certain demographic or theme. 

There are writing contests for essays, film scripts, TV pilots, novels, novellas, short stories, poems, and more–there’s almost definitely a writing contest for whatever you want to submit. 

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Are Writing Contests Worth It? 

writing contests

For some writers, the thought of entering a writing contest is terrifying. Where do I enter? What are the stakes? Isn’t it terrifying to have people judge my work? 

But there’s no need to be afraid! Writing contests are actually pretty laid-back when it comes down to it, and they’re an awesome way to get your work out there. To break down why you should start trying your hand at writing contests, I’ve got 3 P’s for you to keep in mind: publication, prizes, and practice. 


The specifics of the prize will vary depending on the contest, but most of these contests offer publication if you win. If you’re a novelist, you might think there’s no point worrying about short story or flash fiction contests, but that’s not necessarily true! 

Think of it like this: if you win the contest, you’ll have some of your work published in a magazine. This means people will see your work! This is your time to make a name for yourself. Get readers interested to follow your journey! Then, when it’s time to publish your novel, you’re already established in the community. 

Prize Money 

Let’s be honest–a little extra cash never hurts. Again, check the details of the contest you’re entering, but a lot of the time, you get some prize money for winning. These prizes can be small, but some of them are upwards of a thousand dollars. Self-publishing can be expensive, and a writing contest is a great way to grab some money and save up. 


Keeping up with writing contests means you have to keep up with your writing. It means you’ll need to produce something you feel is good enough to win you a prize, and that guarantees you’ll be practicing your craft. 

Besides practicing your writing, though, you’ll also be getting some practice in other adjacent skills. Maybe you’ll need to write a bio or write an application letter–these are skills that we need to have in this field, but that we often don’t practice when we’re just drafting at home. 

Plus, it makes us a little tougher. Having people read your work can be really scary, and entering writing contests will make you less and less worried about it. You’ll get used to the process of submitting, the process of waiting and waiting for results, and you’ll learn how to deal with rejection. These are all vital skills for writers! 

What to Watch For 

Now, that isn’t to say that writing contests are, without exception, worth entering. So how can you tell which writing contests are for you, and which you should stay away from? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re submitting to any writing contest. Note that these don’t necessarily mean that a writing contest is bad or not worth your time–these are just some things to watch for. 

Admission Fee 

When you’re submitting for publication in a literary magazine, you generally want to avoid paying a reading fee. Sometimes smaller publications need them because they’re still getting off the ground, but for the most part, you shouldn’t be paying thirty-five dollar reading fees to get your story published. 

In a writing contest, it’s a little more common to see a reading fee. The money is pooled toward the prize money and pays staff to judge the contest. In contests with a bigger money prize, the reading fee will often be a little higher. 

However, you shouldn’t be breaking your bank with these reading fees. There are a ton of writing contests you can enter for free. There’s no real benefit to paying to enter a writing contest unless, for some reason, you really love that specific contest or publication. 

First Publishing Rights 

Some writers worry about the rights to their work. If they win a prize, does that publication own their story now? If they’ve submitted it, does that mean the magazine owns it forever? 

Some magazines ask for work that’s never been published, and others won’t care. It’s the same as when you’re submitting for publication outside of a contest. If you want to be super sure about the rights to your work, check out my final and most important tip: 

Read The Rules! 

Rules for writing contests are going to vary widely by contest. Read the submission guidelines and get all up in that fine print to make extra sure you understand before you submit! 

If you have a story that’s been published somewhere else, but this contest demands unpublished work? You can be disqualified or even blacklisted from that magazine. Also, don’t submit a prose poem to a flash fiction contest. Sending off a horror story when the contest specifically asks for coming-of-age pieces would also be a no-no.

Everything you need to know will be available in the contest rules for wherever you’re entering. Know what sort of formatting they look for, whether there’s a word count, what the genre is, and so on. Check this information out ahead of time and save yourself a ton of headache. Don’t get rejected because you forgot to double-space your work on your submission, when ‘double-spaced’ was the format required.

Writing Contests For You to Enter! 

I’ve got a master list of writing contests for you to enter here, and I’ve divided it up by category: first, we’ll cover writing contests that are totally free, and then we’ll take a look at some with a submission fee. 

Free-to-Enter Contests 

Young Lions Fiction Award 

“Established in 2001, The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award is a $10,000 prize awarded each year to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. A panel of judges selects the winner.”

Category: Young writers who have written a short story collection or novel. 

53 Word Story Contest 

“It’s free, it’s fun, and the winner gets published in Prime Number Magazine and receives a free book from Press 53.”

Category: Anyone! This will be judged based on answers to a prompt. 

W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction 

“This award honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. It recognizes the service of American veterans and military personnel and encourages the writing and publishing of outstanding war-related fiction. Donated by William Young Boyd II.”

Category: Young adult or adult novels (check website for more specific guidelines) 

The Gabo Prize 

“Lunch Ticket is honored to host The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts. The Gabo Prize is funded by writers, translators, and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Alumni Allie Marini and Jennifer McCharen, who launched the prize to support the work of peer translators.”

Willie Morris Awards for Southern Poetry & Fiction

“The Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing are named for the late author, Willie Morris, in the spirit of his words, “hope for belonging, for belief in a people’s better nature, for steadfastness against all that is hollow or crass or rootless or destructive.” The selected book and poem may contain violence and despair, and feature terrible events, but in the final analysis must be uplifting, and suggest hope and optimism.”

Category: According to the site, authors should read previous issues to determine whether their work is a fit for this publication. No guidelines are listed regarding demographic, age, or previous experience. 

Pen/Heim Translation Fund Grants 

“Over the 16 years of its existence, the Fund has given grants of $2,000–$4,000 to nearly 200 translations from over 35 languages, including Armenian, Basque, Estonian, Farsi, Finland-Swedish, Lithuanian and Mongolian, as well as French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.”

Category: emerging translators and works by marginalized writers 

Writing Contest w/Admission Fee 

Newfound Prose Prize 

“The Newfound Prose Prize is awarded annually to a chapbook-length work of exceptional fiction or creative nonfiction. The work may be in the form of a long story or essay or a collection of short pieces (60 pages max). Other than the page limit, the only formal requirement is that some aspect of the work must inform or explore how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding.”

Category: fiction and creative nonfiction 

Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest 

“Is your shortest fiction soft and appealing with a hidden sting?  Send us your short, sweet, and sassy fiction for a chance to win $300 and publication in Pulp Literature.  Get an editorial critique for only $20 more.  Judged by flash fiction master Bob Thurber,  winner of numerous awards and author of the novel Paperboy.”

Category: flash fiction

2021 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction

“$2,000 will be awarded for the best short story, which will be published in the fall/winter 2021 issue of Colorado Review.”

Category: previously unpublished short stories 

F(r)iction Contests 

“We seek work that actively pushes boundaries, that forces us to question traditions and tastes. If your work takes risks, we want to read it. We like strong narratives that make us feel something and stories we haven’t seen before.”

Category: short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction 

Need some help getting started?

Grab our Fiction Writing Prompts to get your story on track for the next contest! Not writing fiction? Not to worry. These prompts can still inspire you. 🙂 Take a peek!

200+ FREE Writing Prompts  Come up with your NEXT great book idea with over 200 unique writing prompts  spanning 8 different genres. Use for a story, scene, character inspo, and more!  YES! GET MY WRITING PROMPTS!

SPS 108: Giftology, “Love Bombs”, And Why I Have A $250 Book with John Ruhlin (Using Your Book To Build Relationships & Get Referrals)

About John Ruhlin

John Ruhlin took the principles of generosity learned from “Attorney Paul,” and started selling the largest deals in Cutco history. Not only was he gifting knives, but he was being asked to speak on stages around the country to teach sales and marketing teams how to build relationships in unconventional ways.

With the Ruhlin Group starting in 2000, John and his team quickly broadened gifting options and strategies; however, many of his original principles never changed. Knowing how and when to give gifts is just as important as what to gift. These “minor” details and expert knowledge have been tested and proven over a decade to bring a guaranteed “wow” to any industry, from financial services to manufacturing widgets.

Today, John and his team have created gift packages for some of the world’s largest companies and pro sports teams. Still, their mission and heart are to serve and take relationships for mid-sized, privately owned businesses to a new level using their Proven Process.

Why John Chose to Write Giftology

A book wasn’t in John’s plans when he first started his business, “People were asking for it – I had no desire when I started the business to write a book.” He hated speaking and didn’t see the point of writing a book. However, after clients hired him to speak in response to his stories, his business partner pointed out that they needed to author a book to position themselves as thought leaders in their vertical.

How His Book Took Him Places He Couldn’t Go

When they realized they couldn’t be everywhere simultaneously, John and his team focused on creating their book Giftology. He wanted to speak more; however, more travel wasn’t a viable option with a third child on the way. John realized that he needed a way to get in front of more people without traveling and speaking. In addition, he realized that other speakers who weren’t as talented would land higher-paying speaking gigs as a result of having a book.

Promoting His Book Giftology

John created a unique coffee table-style book with a monogrammed leather cover that his friends would be excited to show off to others. He looks for the areas that other people miss in their marketing plan, “Where everyone goes expensive, I go cheap, where everyone goes cheap, I go expensive.”

John sends his $100 VIP leather version of his book to his friends and business network. “I keep ratcheting up what we’re doing because I feel that this is my anchor.” Gifting his book is so important, and he is so consistent with giving his book away that he often gets noticed by many of his CEO friends.

Listen in on today’s episode and find out how John decides who he sends the VIP version of his book, how he makes his book “sticky”, and how he creates specialty swag with the same stickiness as his book.

Show Highlights

  • [02:11] The reason why John chose to write a book and make his book the core of his business.
  • [06:15] How John decided to market and promote his book sales.
  • [10:11] Who he offers his VIP book version to and why he chooses these business people in his network.
  • [12:14] Playing the long game for decades, not days.
  • [15:39] How John gathered over 600 reviews for his book.
  • [18:02] Using Giftology to sell more books and grow your business.
  • [20:32] His view on holiday gifts and what to send your clients.
  • [26:26] Making it easy for others to share his VIP book.
  • [30:19] Having his book do the heavy lifting of his methodology.
  • [36:39] John’s advice he would have given himself before he wrote his book.