Facebook Ads for Authors: How to Sell More Books

Writers often write for both the love of writing and the love of sharing story. There are dedicated pockets of people that would love to see and hear from you during your process. There are options for reaching more people on various social platforms. There’s one place that seems to be a hub of social content, Facebook.

In this post we’ll dive into Facebook Ads for Authors and why it could be a great opportunity to build your author platform.

Many authors I initially followed on social for their insightful content and became a fan of their work as a byproduct.

Learn how to use social media to build the right audience.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, story is the core of writing. Fiction creates plots and characters, nonfiction tells stories about real people.

But either way, story is at the core of writing

Writing your story is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Writing a book takes hours of time, commitment, and a strong work ethic. 

Writing a book is also a huge step in the process of being a writer. Obvious, right? If you want to be a writer, well, you need to write books! 

But if you want to be a writer who brings in readers, it’s essential to get eyes on your book. Drawing in loyal readers is an entirely other aspects of writing. Your target audience is the perfect fit for your work. Others are versatile and will write to market in order to get in front of readers.

But stories are meant to be shared. That’s half the fun of writing. And while you could spend hours going from bookstore to bookstore, asking them to carry your book, there are simple options that reach much, much further and do so much, much faster.

So, if you’ve written a book and are wondering how to get more eyes on it, Facebook ads may be the option for you. It’s true, you should invest in yourself, this is one way to do so in your author career.

The more people who hear about your book, the more potential readers you will have. The more potential readers you have, the better chance you have of converting those potentials into actual readers, and even fans who come back for more. 

So, let’s talk about how to get your book in front of more people. 

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

Why make Facebook ads for your book?

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to hit book sales. The more people who read your book and love it, leave reviews, talk to their friends about it, etc., the more news of your book spreads, the more new readers you bring in. 

However, getting those initial readers is an important step of creating those word of mouth conversations.

Most authors have experienced low book sales, there is a entire framework for fixing it once it happens, but realize that having an ads budget will help you avoid that phase potentially.

The more information you have about your book, the larger your chances of reaching more readers.

If you write your book and publish it on Amazon with no thought for marketing, while it’s possible you may land on a bestseller list, it’s not as likely as if you were marketing it. 

One way to get your book in front of a lot of eyes and potential buyers is with

Let’s talk about marketing through ads. 

Do Facebook Ads Work For Books?

Ads that are created in a tasteful way with a viewer-first mindset are likely to help you land more sales for your book. 

When you pay for an ad, you broaden your potential to reach a larger audience. You can even target a demographic based on age, interests, location, etc. Overall, ads allow you to broaden your potential of reaching your target audience, if you know who that audience is. 

Before creating your Facebook ad, consider your ideal reader so you can better target them with these questions:

  • How old are they?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Where do they spend time online? 
  • What apps do they use?
  • What topics are they interested in? 

When you create an ad, you can target specific demographics. If you are an entrepreneur who has successfully started and launched a business and just published a book on how to succeed in a start-up in your 20s, targeting retired-age readers is not as likely to work for you.

Of course, maybe these retirees have grandchildren who are entrepreneurs and they purchase your book for their grandkids…but ideally, you want to target your readers if you want your ad to work for your book. 

How Much Does It Cost To Advertise A Book On Facebook?

The cost of ads on Facebook really depends on how much you want to invest. If you’re new to using ads, you may want to consider starting small, investing ten dollars in ads, letting it run for a while, and tracking your success.

If this goes well and you start making sales, you may want to invest more. Don’t forget to track your progress and see what works and what doesn’t. Early on, you may experience quite a bit of trial and error. This is to be expected. Simply make small changes as you go, and don’t be afraid to try new things. 

The cost of Facebook ads can be defined by the overall amount spent as well as the cost of each result (such as a pay-per-click). 

Facebook for Business says that you have control over what’s spent through the budget you decide on. 

“You control your cost per result through your bid strategy. In addition, we offer other ways to ensure you spend no more than you want to:

You can also choose different strategies: Lowest cost strategy and or Highest value strategy. 

Before deciding how much you want to spend, look into both strategies, determine which one will most likely get you the greatest return on your investment, and then make your ad purchases. 

Facebook Ad Ideas For Your Book

Now that you know more about ads and which ones you should look into, it’s time to consider different marketing ideas for your specific book. 

Ads broaden your audience, but if they don’t connect with your audience enough that they take action, your returns will be low and other than raising awareness, your investment will not garner the returns it could have. 

When considering what types of ad to create, go through this list and some ideas to get you started: 

  • What is your elevator pitch? 
  • What about your book is unique to books that are similar to it?
  • How does your book take a new angle on the topic or story? 
  • How is your protagonist unique (fiction)?
  • How is your story unique (nonfiction)?
  • If you saw this ad, would you click it? 

Next, consider the format of your ad:

  • Do you want to use a single image?
  • Would a video work better?
  • Do you want a multi-image format? 

Tip: When creating your ad, keep your target audience’s communication style at the forefront of your mind. Does your audience prefer photo or video? Formal or informal language/speech? What time of day are they most likely to see your ad and respond to it? 

Bonus: Ads For Book Launch Teams

If you have not yet released your book, and you still have several weeks until your release date, you may want to consider creating Facebook ads for a book launch team. 

A book launch team is a group of people, usually created in an online, private Facebook group, who help you promote your book by sharing graphics, other promotional material, and writing reviews. 

A great way to target team members is by creating Facebook ads for your launch team.

Simply create an ad, target the type of person you want to help launch your book (fellow writers, entrepreneurs, etc.) and create a short application for them to fill out and submit. 

A launch team will help you reach countless more people, without having to pay a cent more than you spend on creating your launch team. 

Spending X amount of money on ads that bring in a team with large followings can broaden your reach and enable you to build your audience. 

In Conclusion…

The actual process of writing a book takes little to zero monetary investment. You simply sit down and either write or type. 

Writing a book takes time investment, that’s for sure, but taking a big financial risk to write your book is not usually necessary. 

However, if you spent the last several weeks or months pouring yourself into the process of creating a book, blank page to finished product, it’s worth it to share your work with readers. 

Facebook ads take little investment to test and learn from and can broaden your audience by hundreds and thousands. 

Tip: As you work on your first Facebook ad, make sure your author Facebook page is up-to-date and you’ve posted fresh content. This way if someone sees your ad and looks you up, you look like the hard-working writer you are, and not like someone who has little to no social media presence. 

Writers often write for both the love of writing and the love of sharing story. Story is at the core of writing. But stories are meant to be shared. 

It’s time to broaden your audience. It’s time to let the world know your book exists. You can reach people across states, countries, and oceans with Facebook ads. 

You can draw in readers who never would have heard about your book if you didn’t take a small risk and invest in an ad. 

You wrote your story, and it’s meant to be shared. 

It’s time to get those readers.

It’s time to take your book from written, to published, to shared. 

Want to learn more?

Check out this free video training on how to sell more books!

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

How Long Does it Take to Publish a Book? Real Timelines

Writing a book was a massive undertaking. You were brave enough to take it from idea to draft, through countless edits, and now you’re happy with your final product. Now it’s time to take the next big step and publish it

As we work through answering these questions, remember that just as writing is subjective, so is the publishing process. There are almost always exceptions to the norm, but hopefully this overview will give you a better understanding of what it may look like for you and your book. 

Ready to get started? 

How Long Does It Take To Publish A Book?

The duration of time it will take from deciding to publish your book to holding it in your hands is largely dependent on the which publishing option is right for you. 

How do you choose what type of publishing avenue to take? Ultimately that’s up to you as the writer. However, in this article we will cover different aspects of two publishing routes so you have a better idea which will work best for you.

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Self – Publishing Timeline

If you have some form of a large platform already (you already speak to large audiences, or you have thousands of social media followers, or you are connected with well-known people) self-publishing can be an excellent fit for you. If not you’ll need to think like a literary agent to gain leverage.

Don’t have an audience built yet?

No worries. You can still self-publish your book and make an impact. How much impact, will be up to you.

In self-publishing you are both the writer and the publisher. This means you have full control over your marketing plan, editing, and any other type of promotional material you want to create and put into the world. 

You choose how much you want to invest, and reap 100% of the profits from your book royalties from Amazon. There is a cost to publishing that should be considered

You also get to decide the release date for your book, if you want a book launch team (as well as who is on your team), and are responsible for working as your own public relations manager. This means if you want an interview with a certain radio or television station, you set it up. 

Self-publishing brings a lot of freedom to publishing. With freedom comes the full responsibility for your book, and every part of publishing. If this excites you and you feel confident to move forward, self-publishing may be the right fit for you!

You may have to do a bit more work than say, someone with an established audience, but it is doable with a little perseverance and a desire to learn.

Here at Self-Publishing School, when we take our authors through our publishing process, it can take as little as 90 days. 

(We also have new, advanced courses for authors that tackle topics like how to gain promotion for your book through public relations and speaking gigs, how to sell more books on Amazon through advanced marketing tactics, and even help you build and launch an online course that’s connected to your book and mission.)

If you are on the fast track to publishing your book and have time to book a call today, you could start your publishing journey and have a complete book in your hands in less than three months. 

Traditional – Publishing Timeline

Traditional publishing is a way for you to get your book out into the world without taking any financial risk but instead swapping that for a time risk. When you traditionally publish, a publisher offers you a contract, usually pays you an advance, pays for a professional editor to edit your manuscript and get it formatted correctly, a graphic designer to design a book cover, and usually works on some of the marketing.

You don’t pay a cent, but get to be part of the journey. 

However, most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means that unless you are signed with a literary agent, you will not be able to pitch your manuscript to an acquisitions editor unless you meet one at a writing conference. 

While signing with a literary agent is an extra step in your publishing journey, agents are a big help when it comes to reviewing book contracts, pitching to big publishing houses, and efficiently getting your work in front of industry professionals. 

In traditional publishing, because the publisher takes all the risk, usually the publisher makes the last call on choices like your book cover, title, and the marketing plan. Of course, as the writer, you are an essential part of the process. 

As the writer, you are likely aware that your sweet spot is writing. The publisher hires professionals in marketing, graphic design, and editing to help you with the rest of the process. In traditional publishing you get to mostly focus on the writing, some marketing and promotion, while the publisher focuses on and finances the rest. 

What Is The Process Of Publishing A Book?

The process for publishing your book will vary depending on which avenue you take. Self-publishing will take as long or as little as you like, depending on how much time you want to put in upfront.

If you are eager to get your book out into the world and feel that you’re ready to do so, your process will be relatively quick. 

However, let’s chat through all the steps so whatever stage you’re at, you know how to move forward: 

1. Book Editing 

Self-publishing a book is a process in which you, the writer, are in complete control. You get the idea for your book, choose to create it into a book format, and edit as you see fit. You can be your own editor. 

However, if you want to hire a professional editor to find those mistakes you missed, help you with characterization, plot, or for nonfiction, overall storytelling, you will need to add time to your process. 

self-publishing compared to traditional publishing is different in that the publishing house will hire a professional editor for you and the professional editor will edit your book. Often they format it so it is ready to be typeset as well.

2. Cover Design

Once your manuscript is edited, it’s time to create a book. This is where cover design comes in. Again, in self-publishing you are in complete control. You decide whether to design your own cover (Canva can be a helpful place to start) or if you hire a professional designer. 

Traditional publishing is different in that the publisher hires a professional designer for you. In traditional publishing, the publisher, not you, will have the final say on the cover design. 

3. Book Marketing 

In self-publishing, if you feel your manuscript is already edited well and don’t plan to do much marketing or promotion before your release date, your process will be much quicker. You can put your book out into the world, and then start marketing on platforms such as Amazon

The freedom with self-publish is you can decide when you want to market, how you want to market, and who you want to market to. However, you will be at risk of making marketing mistakes.

If you want to start marketing as you’re writing your book, you can do so!

If you want to wait to market until potential readers can purchase your book, you can wait!

If you want to do something in between, that’s up to you as well! 

When it comes to traditional publishing, the process follows a particular format:

In traditional publishing, acquisitions editors are the gatekeepers. If an acquisitions editor likes your book proposal and sample chapters, he or she will ask your agent for your full manuscript. They will read it until they either 1) don’t think it’s a good fit for their publishing house or 2) love it and read to the end. Then it’s time for them to research you, the writer, and how your book will bring in a good return on their investment. 

Once they do this research (this may include researching aspects from your current platform to finding comparable books that have done well in the past), they will then organize a publishing board (pub board) meeting. 

At this point, the acquisitions editor may contact your agent and tell them they’re taking your manuscript to the pub board. In this meeting, the acquisitions editor presents their research to all the big heads in the publishing house: Head of marketing, editing, sales, etc., and it will come to a vote. Some pub boards need all yeses for a book to go on to publication, some only need a majority vote. 

If your book makes it past the pub board, then it’s time to start working on marketing. 

Conclusion

As you can see, both processes take a manuscript and end with that manuscript in book form. 

Self-publishing has much more freedom and risk, but also the guarantee of earning 100% of the profits from your book royalties.

Traditional publishing has more steps, and little to zero financial risk, but you split royalties with the publisher, and allow them to have the final say on aspects such as cover design and title. 

As you work to take your project from idea to book, consider which route is best for you. 

And remember, it takes a certain level of bravery to put your book into the world. If you want 100% say over what your final project looks like, self-publishing is the route for you. 

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days—Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes  Per Day  Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise,  harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

SPS 120: Building An Email List, The Long Game & Becoming A Full Time Author with Dorie Clark (Behind The Scenes On My Next Book Launch)

Find out how Dorie Clark, a consultant, keynote speaker, and leading business coach, uses books to build her brand and her business. Listen to find out how Dorie uses books to promote her speaking gigs, how to monetize your expertise, and why she decided to over-index on her credibility early on in her book writing.

Meet Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark has been named one of the Top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50 and was recognized as the #1 Communication Coach in the world by Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards. Clark, a consultant, and keynote speaker, teaches executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School, and she is the author of The Long Game, Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of the Year by Inc. magazine. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, Clark has been described by the New York Times as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” A frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, she consults and speaks for clients including Google, Microsoft, and the World Bank. You can download her free Long Game Strategic thinking self-assessment at dorieclark.com/thelonggame.

Why Books are a Major Part of Her Brand

Dorie is a fan of books for many reasons, but mainly for the recognition she receives as a speaker due to being an author. “What I’ve come to realize is that there are three elements: content, creation, and social proof.”

Using Books as a Brand-Building Credibility Tool

For Dorie, she isn’t looking to make her primary income from her books; she is, however, looking to build her brand and brand credibility with her authorship. Dorie decided to create multiple income streams, and her books are responsible for about a third of her income. Most of her business revenue is generated from speaking, online courses, and webinars.

How She Built Her Email List

Dorie is a big fan of email lists, as they are the only social connection you own. Even if you’re on social media, these platforms change the algorithms constantly, creating a new type of environment and new rules to get followers. So you can trust social media to promote your venue, you need to create a good lead magnet to incentivize visitors to your site to sign up for your emails.

Show Highlights

  • [02:06] Why Dorie has built her brand and company around being a book author.
  • [04:29] What she has learned from book sales over the past few years.
  • [10:09] Standout: How to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it.
  • [14:20] The importance of over-indexing on credibility.
  • [20:00] How to build your email list quickly and effectively.
  • [25:11] Lead magnets and follow-up email auto-responders are effective marketing tools.
  • [30:54] Dorie’s tips for getting more reviews for your book.
  • [37:15] Promoting your book through podcasts.

Links and Resources

Short Story Ideas: How to Generate Unique Ideas + Prompts

Every story starts with an idea. Some writers are lucky enough to have the skill of dropping story ideas like it’s nothing. Some of us have to work a little harder for it.

Do you struggle to come up with solid, workable ideas for your short stories? This is for you!

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts in the 8 Most Profitable Genres  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!

How to come up with short story ideas

Short story ideas can come from literally anywhere. Your life, your dreams, other people’s lives, other books and media you might be consuming.

The trick is learning how to notice when you’re getting an idea.

6 Tips For Coming Up With Short Story Ideas

The best short story ideas will always come from you yourself. Those are the ideas that you’ll care the most about and be able to bring to life the easiest.

That said, I have a ton of advice for coming up with short story ideas yourself that will lead to the best and highest-quality stories from your own original mind.

1. Go outside! And write it down.

Listen and watch. Observe the world. Write down things you see, hear, and like. I keep three different note documents on my phone to keep track of ideas as I get them:

  • Imagery – anytime I sense something I find interesting, I jot it down. A few examples from my current imagery document are:
    • playing Cat’s Cradle with rosary beads
    • rain pelting on a flat bayou and a crane flying parallel with it
    • a creepy shed lit up in the middle of the night with a radio playing
  • Lines – these are either things I hear other people say or just dialogue that occurs to me randomly. Some examples:
    • “There’s something to be said for a bad thing done well.”
    • “Lonely till the walls talk back.”
    • “She survives the day to see the stars.”
  • Story and character ideas – these are generally notes I keep as I think of new elements for my works in progress, but sometimes they’re not related to anything and I just use them for writing prompts. Some examples:
    • Character A gets Character B drunk and into a bar fight
    • Kitchen dogs that are functionally used as garbage disposals
    • A spell that lets people cross into the water world (which is any water–if you stare into a puddle you can see glimpses of somewhere else)

I’ve got hundreds of lines worth of notes and observations of things I’ve seen/heard or have thought of because of something outside. Everyone’s different, but I just don’t get ideas when I’m sitting in my house!

2. Use your life

Think of impactful moments or important people in your life, and write about one of them.

The story doesn’t have to be nonfiction, or at all accurate to what happened. But just like the most convincing lies have a kernel of truth, I think the same is true for fiction. If you can plant a seed of realism in your story, it usually reads more genuine!

You can write about a childhood memory, an argument that didn’t go the way you’d planned, or you can ask a family member or friend about one of their core memories and write that as a story.

What you end up with can be as similar to or as different from the actual event as you’d like, but starting from a place of reality is a good way to generate ideas AND write a more convincing story.

3. Read other short stories and take note of what you like about them

You might like the way another writer opened their story, or the lines, characters, descriptions, and imagery they used–figuring out what you enjoy in writing can help you create stories you love too.

You might also take something and use it as inspiration or a writing prompt–for example, you might read my story Wolverine Frogs and like the image I used of the boy’s dried brown blood on Maya’s fingers mixing with her own fresh red blood and take that as a prompt to end up with a werewolf novel. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so you might as well double-dip while you’re already reading other authors to hone your craft.

4. Use prompt lists

You can Google any category or genre of writing prompt you can think of. They’re literally everywhere. Want romance prompts? Want sci-fi? Dystopian? Mystery? Fantasy? Contemporary?

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts in the 8 Most Profitable Genres  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!

5. Write fanfiction of your own writing

This is one of my favorite tips for generating story ideas. Take your own existing stories, then make an in-world spinoff, an alternate universe telling, or whatever variation you’d like!

For example, I could take the abusive mother from my story Margrove and write the same universe and characters from her perspective. I could even set it in a different timeline, like right after her second daughter is born, so we could see her dealing with her husband’s death and raising two kids on her own, then watch her start drinking and spiral.

I could also set in a different era or genre. Maybe I’d put her in a modern universe instead of the 1800s. All of these little tweaks can give you a completely different story experience.

Recycling characters and concepts you’ve already developed to make a new story is like a shortcut, because you’ve already created depth with those characters and universes. So not only is it a fun idea generator, but it’s a time save because you’re recycling things you’ve already created!

6. Consume media in your genre

If you’re writing a horror story (or a collection of them), it might be a good idea to listen to true crime podcasts, read dark authors, watch horror films, and consume other media that you enjoy in that genre.

If you’re working on your holiday romance series, maybe you marathon some Hallmark movies. 

Try to consume whatever media you enjoy in the genre you’re writing, because that can give you a lot of ideas, as well as helping you familiarize yourself with the tropes and expectations of that genre.

How do you know if a story idea is good?

Any idea can make an amazing story if it’s in the hands of the right author with enough time. So how do you know if your idea is good? The only tip I have for this is to ask yourself: Am I excited to write this?

I’ve had concepts that I thought were really solid and interesting, but I just wasn’t excited to write them–so I set them aside until I was. Other times I’ve tried to force through and execute the idea, and it’s just never worked if my heart wasn’t in it.

So I say if it excites you to write, it’s probably a good idea!

Do you have any indicators for if a story or book idea is good or not? Leave them in the comments!

What if the idea is unoriginal?

This is a very real concern many writers have, but I have great news! No idea is original.

There are so many people who have been creating art for so long that you’d be extremely hard-pressed to find a completely original idea. What makes a story special is that you are writing it. You, your perspective, and your experiences give you a unique way to frame your story. No one else could write it exactly how you would, and that’s what makes it original.

So don’t stress yourself out about coming up with something “new”–just find something you’re excited about, and write it in a way only you can. Once we free ourselves of the need to be unique, we can write what we love to write.

Now we have some ideas of how to find and develop story ideas, how to know if they’re good, and how to deal with them being unoriginal. Here are a few prompts to get you started!

10 Short Story Prompts

1. Write about a character moving into a place where they will live alone for the first time. What happens that first night?

2. Write about someone finding an unidentifiable egg on the beach. Do they take it home? What hatches?

3. What happens to the scientist who defies the government’s orders to tell the public about an upcoming cataclysmic event?

4. A character returns to their hometown for their sibling’s funeral and is confident that their murderer is also attending.

5. Write about your favorite holiday. The day is ruined by the weather, but it’s not what you’d expect.

6. Write a story about a family who adopt a baby and realize he’s not what he seems.

7. Think of your favorite childhood memory and write it from the perspective of someone else who was present for it.

8. Go to a restaurant or a coffee shop by yourself and listen for a while. Write down a few things you hear people around you say–are any of them good story openers?

9. Take the opening line of your favorite book and begin a different story with it. You can delete the line later–it’s just a prompt!

10. Write about a nature conservationist who finds a den of babies of an animal long-thought to be extinct…but the animal has adapted in an unexpected way.

Happy writing!

Want More Short Story Idea Generators?

Writing prompts are a great way to shake the ideas loose and get the fingers flowing again! Try these!

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts in the 8 Most Profitable Genres  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!

Manuscript Critique: Learning From Other’s Impression of Your Draft

Have you written your first, second–maybe nineteenth–draft of your book, and you know the next step is to hire an editor but you’re a little nervous to drop all that money just yet? You might be ready for a manuscript critique!

The manuscript critique usually fits best after the self-edit and before the professional edit.

What is a Manuscript Critique?

A manuscript critique is either a paid or free service where a person reads over your book and gives their opinion. It might be structured, where you have a list of interview questions or an outline for them to complete after they’ve read it, or it might be casual–like a friend reading over your current draft and giving you a couple thoughts.

The most common manuscript critique form you’ve likely heard of is beta readers. Beta readers are volunteers who read your book and give you feedback. If you’re looking for more in-depth and qualified advice, you might hire a professional manuscript critiquer.

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Should I get a Manuscript Critique for My Book?

Every author has a different process for completing a book, but I haven’t met anyone who couldn’t benefit from a manuscript critique. After sitting with our own projects for so long, we tend to become a bit myopic about it, missing the bigger issues and losing track of what’s actually on the page and what’s just in our heads. This is where those crucial readers come in, before you go through the excruciating process of editing a book, and WAY before you publish it.

So should you get a manuscript critique? Probably! But what type of critique, how many rounds, and how you structure it depends on you, your preferences, and your goals with the book.

manuscript critique

What’s the difference between a book critique and a book edit?

An editor has a very important job, typically with a very important price tag attached. When you’re paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for a professional edit, you probably expect an extremely thorough job (and you should!).

A manuscript critique is more casual (thus cheaper–or free, like with beta readers). While an editor will go through your manuscript multiple times with a fine-tooth comb for things like grammar issues, historical and technical accuracy, etc., someone critiquing your book will focus on things like overall plot, flow, and character arcs.

Basically: an edit looks with a microscope, a critique looks with a raw human eye.

How do you critique a book?

If you’re interested in a manuscript critique, but you’re not quite sure what it would involve–or if you’re even planning on offering this as a service yourself–let’s talk about what it actually is, step-by-step.

Critiquing can be as subjective as reading, so I’ll tell you how I do book critiques to give you an idea of what that might look like.

1. Taking into account what type of feedback the author wants

When taking on a new client, I ask them what they expect from my feedback, which aspects of their book they think are weak or just aren’t sure of, and sometimes I’ll ask deeper questions after I’ve read the piece to determine their goals and what they want the story to accomplish. That way, I can confirm if those goals have been met or give suggestions for hitting those goals.

While a general critique without knowing the author’s goals is helpful to get that unbiased reader effect, it’s also helpful afterward to see if what you got from your read aligns with what the writer was trying to do.

2. In-line comments

As I’m reading through the manuscript, I’ll make in-line comments on the document. These can be reactions, observations, or predictions. This is also where I mark up awkward wording, grammar issues, and other line edits I notice.

Since this is a critique and not an edit, I only mark grammar mistakes as I see them–I’m not carefully checking for them. But if I notice something as I’m reading, I go ahead and mark that for my clients so they’ll end up with a book that’s cleaner and a little cheaper to edit when they do get to that step in the process.

3. Running list of things

I like to keep a separate document as I read with headings like Plot, Characters, Flow, Prose, and any other categories that feel relevant for that manuscript and writer. This way, I can jot notes as I think of them to prepare for my write-up at the end of the critique. I also keep notes of what the writer asked me to look out for so I can make sure I’m hitting those points. The running list makes it easy to be sure I haven’t forgotten anything, especially for those longer manuscripts that might take me a few weeks to finish.

4. Write-up

The final step is the write-up. This is where I give a thorough rundown of what I thought worked and what I thought didn’t. I try to give a few suggestions for ways authors can tackle certain problems, but I avoid giving direct fixes. If you ever receive a critique from someone who tells you exactly how to “fix” your book, that’s usually them projecting their own style and taste onto your story. While their solutions might be absolutely fine, be sure to follow your gut. It’s your story, and you know what you want it to be better than anyone else could.

5. Q&A

Often, clients will have follow-up questions or things they’ll need clarified. This can be as simple as clarifying what one of my editor shorthand terms means (WC = word choice, for example) or as complicated as breaking down their plot beat-by-beat to find weak spots.

On my website, I suggest that writers take time to sit with my feedback before they reach out with questions for a few reasons. One reason is that our gut reaction to critique is usually to be defensive. If a client is offended by my feedback, they often just need a few days to set aside their initial instinct to fight in order to be receptive to another opinion. Another reason is that it’s much more time effective on both of our ends if they compile all of the questions they have for me to address into one email, instead of having a back-and-forth thread for several days.

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What if I get a bad book critique?

Even if you do your due-diligence in researching the critique services, finding reviews, asking around, and doing all you can to make sure you’re hiring a qualified person–sometimes it just goes poorly. So how can we tell if the critique is bad or if we’re just being too sensitive about our work? It can be tough, especially because writing and reading are both incredibly subjective, and because we can get so close to our own writing.

Here are a few things you can keep in mind to help determine that distinction.

1. If you haven’t taken a few days to sit with it, your perception might be the issue

It’s very easy for us to jump on the defense if we get unexpected feedback from a critique. Try to remember that you’re paying this person, and you’ve done what you could to screen and select someone capable–so are you sure the feedback is wrong, or are you just hurt? If it still feels wrong after you’ve set aside your personal feelings and gave it a few days to air out, let’s look at some other ways you can tell if feedback might not be accurate.

2. If they give you exact fixes

An example of a good critique: “Character A and Character B’s dynamic confused me–if they were so close in childhood, neither has had a major character or outlook change, and there was no event to make them enemies, the present feud didn’t track for me. It felt forced, and I was expecting some kind of reveal to explain it, but I never noticed one.”

Example of a bad critique of the same problem: “Character A and Character B’s relationship doesn’t make sense. Write about their moms having an affair that gets revealed and breaks up both of their parents–then they’ll have a reason to hate each other.”

Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re ever getting an exact solution to a problem, take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes I’ll leave a few specific suggestions if an interesting one occurs to me, but it really comes down to the way it’s framed–is it a suggestion, or are they telling you exactly what your story needs?

3. If their feedback is needlessly mean

And of course, sometimes even kindly phrased critiques can have a bite to them, but if your editor or critiquer is just not bothering to phrase things nicely, you might think about hiring someone else in the future.

Example of a kindly phrased critique: “I think we can add some backstory to Character A to add depth and intrigue.”

Example of a needlessly mean one: “Your characters are boring. I wasn’t engaged with a single one of them, and I found myself nodding off.”

Both examples address the same problem, but the first one does it in a way that opens conversation, not scare off and shame the writer. Make sure you and your writing are respected, even when you’re paying for feedback.

4. If they fundamentally misunderstand the story

This one is difficult to spot! I’ve had stories on both ends–as a reader and a writer–where the point just didn’t come across. Communication is a two-way street. Someone has to convey the information, and someone has to receive it. If the message is misconstrued, that could be a problem on either or both sides. So how do you know if the story doesn’t make sense, or if the critiquer just doesn’t get it?

One hint that the critiquer just doesn’t understand, is if they’re outside of your target demographic.

For example, if you’re writing a young adult sci-fi adventure for queer kids and you’ve hired a fifty-year-old, heterosexual reader who specializes in historical fantasy–it’s pretty likely they’re not going to understand what you’re trying to do. Avoid this problem by hiring a reader who enjoys your genre and is ideally close to your target demographic. If they’re not in your target demographic, they should have experience reading and critiquing it.

If your reader is in your target demographic, has experience in the genre, and really has no reason not to misunderstand the book, your next question should be if other readers understood it. If you’ve already done several beta rounds with 30+ readers and the majority of them fully grasped and enjoyed the story, maybe the misunderstanding is on your critiquer’s side.

If you’ve only shown the story to a couple of people and one was your mom who said it was “super neat,” maybe side with the critiquer and give it another look. One way I avoid this problem is by asking beta readers to give a quick summary of the story and themes. That way you know if their feedback is founded, because they have an accurate grasp of the story.

Those are some of the basics of manuscript critiques! What do you think? Are manuscript critiques for you?

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SPS 119: Read To Lead: From Podcaster To Published Author with Jeff Brown (And How To Write A Book From Your Podcast Topic)

Meet Jeff Brown

Jeff is an award-winning radio producer, and personality turned podcaster since 2013 after a successful four-decade career in radio. He created the Read to Lead podcast, becoming one of the top business podcasts. 

Creating a Book from His Podcast

Many of his friends and colleagues would ask him when he decided to write a book, but the thought of authoring a book and the process involved was overwhelming. Finally, he was approached by his co-author, who was interested in using Jeff’s platform to distribute his book. Jeff enjoyed working with his co-author and created his book named for his podcast.

Co-authoring a Book

For Jeff, co-authoring a book was a no-brainer. His experience with telling other people’s stories lent a great partnership to his co-author Jessie, who is a research guy. Jessie also had a writing background, so their skill sets complimented each other, making them an excellent team to write a book. First, they decided to build a framework around the book before they started writing. Next, they went down the conquer and divide path for the work ahead.

Setting a Schedule to Write Your Book

Working backward from their publishing deadline, Jeff and Jessie decided to create a word count per day they would have to write to finish their book by the publisher’s deadline. This was the easiest way to know that they were on target with a goal of a daily word count.

Listen to find out how Jeff plans to use his book inside company culture, how Jeff created his launch team, and why he decided to use a traditional publisher for his first book.

Show Highlights

  • [02:30] Why he decided to create a book from his podcast. 
  • [04:20] The pros and cons of working with a co-author.
  • [08:25] How they set a schedule for writing their book together.
  • [11:52] Designing their book for people to become better readers.
  • [14:02] How his book will contribute to his business goals over the next few years.
  • [16:47] Creating all-day or half-day workshops for companies centered around his book.
  • [20:42] Getting the book deal with his publishing company and using his platform to support book sales.
  • [29:20] The importance of asking people to endorse your book
  • [34:55] Creating social media around your book that connects with people. 
  • [38:00] Believing in yourself and taking action to do what you set out to do.

Links and Resources

Snowflake Method: Designing Your Novel in Steps

There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story, and there an infinite number of ways to create that story. How do you write? Are you organized? Do you love a road map telling you exactly where you’re going to take the plot and how the characters will change? Or do you prefer wandering out in the dark and finding your way as you go?

There’s no wrong answer! Every writer has a different style and unique preferences, and that rocks. Only you can tell your story the way you’ll tell it.

But if you’d like to try a method that provides a controlled writing process with clear goals and direction, the Snowflake Method might be for you.

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What is the Snowflake Method of writing?

The Snowflake Method is a strategy for designing your novel, popularized by Randy Ingermanson. It uses ten steps to build your novel one bit at a time. The metaphor is that you’re starting with a base (triangle shape), and building out until your novel has many individual spires and shapes, like a snowflake. It’s a structured and controllable way to outline and write your novel, so if you love having a firm grip on the reins of your projects, this outlining method might be for you!

This method starts small and simple with some base elements of a novel, then expands upon those until you’re left with a full first draft.

How does the Snowflake Method for outlining work?

snowflake method

Before you dive into the first draft of your novel, it’s helpful and time efficient to get organized.

So open a document, or grab a notebook and pen, and let’s get started with the ten steps for planning your novel using the Snowflake Method.

1. Write a one-sentence summary

This is a short, snappy hook for your novel. This summary can become your elevator pitch for people who ask what your book is about, and it should be an important element in your book pitch, your press kit, and your marketing materials. Take at least an hour developing this sentence, because it’s important!

2. Now expand that sentence to a paragraph

This step should also take around an hour. The paragraph should take us through the setup, major “disasters” of your book, and the ending of the story.

If we reference the classic Three Act structure, your paragraph might look like this:

  1. Sentence one – background, story setup, introduce the characters
  2. Sentence two – first disaster, end of Act 1
  3. Sentence three – second disaster, midpoint of Act 2
  4. Sentence four – third disaster, end of Act 2
  5. Sentence five – the end

You’ll only show this paragraph to other people for something like a proposal, because it should spoil the whole story. This paragraph is not teaser text, and it won’t be a blurb on the back of your novel or in your Amazon description–it’s for you and whoever you’re trying to sell your book to.

Now that we have a bird’s eye view of the whole novel, it’s time to zoom in and start developing the finer details.

3. Create character profiles

While you may have completed those first two steps in a couple of days–or a couple of hours–now we’re getting into the nitty gritty, so it’s time to strap in for the long haul. Expect to take a week for this segment. In this step, we’re developing our characters’ storylines.

Your characters are the most important element of your novel–you can have next-to-no plot and readers will still be hooked if you’ve created compelling characters who have interesting arcs. It’s good to invest the time upfront to give yourself a strong foundation for the journey each major character will go on.

Randy Ingermanson recommends writing a one-page summary sheet on each of your major characters. What’s on that summary sheet can depend on you, your writing style, and your goals.

Here’s a list of elements that you might want to include:

  • Character’s name, nicknames
  • A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline, just like we did for the full novel. For example, a character summary for my character Neva from my current WIP might be: “Neva doesn’t want to choose a Bond and take over the nation–good thing she gets lost in a deadly swamp to battle inner and outer demons before she has to decide.”
  • The character’s motivation – this is what they want (for Neva, a sense of agency and independence)
  • The character’s conflict – what is preventing them from getting what they want (for Neva, lack of confidence and anger management problems)
  • The character’s epiphany – what they’ll learn, how they’ll change (for Neva, realizing *spoilers* and finding out that she can take care of things herself)
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

Your character sheets don’t have to be perfect on your first go, because you can always come back and edit these documents as the story further develops. That’s super normal, and honestly preferable! If your characters’ actions don’t change as you get to know them better, you’re probably taking a myopic view of them, which will leave you with a less dynamic and more stagnant result.

4. Expand the paragraph from Step 2 into a page

It’s time to hone in on the details of that summary paragraph. Take each sentence and expand it into its own paragraph. Each paragraph should end in a “disaster,” except for the ending.

After this step, you should have a pretty detailed outline of the book! This makes writing quick and easy, and if there are major problems with your story, you should be able to see them now to iron them out before they become a 30,000 word mistake.

5. Write character descriptions

Write a one-page description for each major character, then half a page for other important characters. These descriptions should tell the story from that particular character’s point of view. This might give you new looks at your characters and story, so keep your other documents close by so you can make edits as you learn more!

6. Expand the one-page summary from Step 4

Turn each paragraph of that summary into its own page. This is a great opportunity to lean into the specifics, and to edit for mistakes that you will probably notice by this point.

7. Expand the character descriptions

This is my favorite step–expand each character’s description into a full chart detailing everything you know about the character. Their demographics and technicalities, their likes and interests, allergies, friends, family, background, education, background–everything. Really focus on how the character will change by the end of the novel, and how they’ll end up there. This is another good point in the process to learn a lot and go back to edit your previous steps with the new information.

By this step, you might just start writing your novel! You’ve got a solid foundation, and your plot should be all laid out. But if you’d like to keep moving forward solidly and thoroughly, let’s hit the next step.

8. Write your scene list

The scene list takes an outline to the next level. In this step, you’re literally going to write out every scene in your novel. You can format it however you’d like, but a spreadsheet might make organization easier.

Personally, I use NovelPad because of their chapters page where I can click-and-drag organize and label my scenes for an overview of everything:

Or you might just use Google Sheets, and that works too! Whatever method or program you use, making a scene list can help your drafting process to go smoother and faster. You might make a column for each scene and a column to describe what happens in it, then leave it at that.

But it could be helpful to get a little more detailed and add columns for things like character POV, location, and other elements that can help you visualize the scene. As you can see in the above screenshot, NovelPad lets you label the locations easily.

9. Write the narrative story description

This is another optional step, but it’s basically where you describe each scene. You might briefly describe the conflict, the characters involved and what they’re doing, any setting elements you’d like to include, lines of dialogue that occur to you, etc.

If this isn’t your speed, no worries! Skip right on to Step 10.

10. Write it!

Now it’s time to write your first draft. Since you’ve thoroughly planned it, this should be a breeze. You might find that you’re discovering new things about the story and characters as you write it, and that’s great!

A story that develops naturally is often more fun to read, so follow your instincts, and remember to keep your plot and character sheets updated in case you need to reference them for later drafts.

These ten steps can guide you through a controlled and organized process for developing your novel, concept to finished draft. Have you ever tried writing something with this level of planning? Do you prefer to free hand your book with a “discovery draft” instead? Let us know in a comment!

Want One-On-One and Group Coaching To Hit Your Author Goals?

In the video training below, best-selling fiction series coach for Self-Publishing School, Ramy Vance, walks you through:

  • how to create raving fiction fans for your book (think Harry Potter level allegiance)
  • the replicable process that full-time fiction authors use to write and publish books (and you can use it, too)
  • and how to know what your series is worth (a.k.a. how much money you could be making as an author).

PLUS, when you join Ramy on the training, the SPS team will gift you a copy of our Full-Time Fiction Writer Resources Bundle – full of templates, guides, and more!

Have fun and grab your notebook! It’s time to get serious about being a published, full-time author.

FREE Ultimate Fiction Writer Tutorials  Gain access to 5 lessons of high intensive writing training on ideas,  plotting, stronger writing, and even the technical side (grammar) with  examples, and more!  YES! GET THE TUTORIALS!

How to Become a Writer: So You Wanna Give It A Shot?

When you were a little kid and people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say? What did other kids say? A vet, an astronaut, a firefighter, an author.

Becoming a full-time author is a dream so, so many of us have, but the majority of us give up on before we’ve even started. For a lot of people, being a writer is the lofty, if-only dream that we set aside again and again in pursuit of more practical careers.

But what if it was possible? What if you could make a real living creating worlds and telling stories? Would you do it?

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How do I start my writing career?

The hardest step in any endeavour is usually the first. Where do we begin? Unfortunately, there are many options for how to launch your writing career. You might start with a strong focus on your author platform–building out your mailing list, queuing social media posts, perfecting your website, getting your headshots taken.

Some authors start fully focused on their writing craft and getting their first book or series solidly planned or written before they even mention it to anyone.

And others might spend a ton of time researching their first move–self-publish or traditional? Which genre or niche? Pen name or real name? How do you launch and market a book?

The truth is, you’re probably going to be doing all of these things simultaneously. Juggling the research, the writing, the admin, the marketing, the platform–the amount of time you spend on each at the beginning will depend on you as an author and your goals, but you’ll likely dip into all three and more of these categories as you’re starting out.

We’ll hit a list of steps for pursuing a new author career later in this post, so keep reading!

how to become a writer

How much money do writers make? A Breakdown of Calculating It

The money you can make as an author wildly depends on several factors. One big factor that will affect what you make is whether you self-publish or publish traditionally.

Let’s break that down a little bit.

Who makes more—self-published authors or traditionally published authors?

Again, there are many factors that will affect how much money you make as an author, so I’ll go over the main ones to let you can see the difference monetarily between self-publishing and traditional.

Publishing schedule

One of the most common complaints authors lob at traditional publishing is the publishing turnaround. It typically takes two to three years to traditionally publish a single book, where a self-published author can easily publish three quality novels in one year. This is obviously going to make a huge difference when it comes to how much money you make. The more books you publish, the more sales you’ll get, the bigger your paycheck.

Royalties

The royalty rate greatly favors self-published authors. Depending on where you self-publish, you’ll see around a 40-60% royalty rate per book, in some cases more. Whereas with traditional publishing, your royalty rate is in the range of 10-12% per book.

To put those numbers in perspective, if a traditionally published author and a self-published author each sold a book for $13.99, the traditionally published author might make $0.95, while the self-published author would make around $4.77 for the same book.

With those numbers, why on earth would anyone choose to publish traditionally from a fiscal standpoint? That’s where the up-front advance comes in.

Up-front advance

Traditionally published authors typically receive an advance payment for their book. That payment must be “caught up” to before the author begins receiving royalties per book. The majority of traditionally published books never reach the threshold to receive royalty payments at all. There’s also a chance that the book will never be published, even though the author was paid for it.

With self-publishing, there’s obviously no one there to pay you that advance, but you begin earning those higher royalties with your very first book sale. There also isn’t a chance that you’ll unwillingly shelve your own book and never publish it.

Other revenue streams

Self-published authors can utilize their platform, books, characters, and other creative work for additional income streams a bit easier than a traditionally published author can. This is because a self-published author retains 100% of the rights to their work. They don’t have a publishing house, editor, agent, or marketing team telling them what they can or cannot do with their platform or intellectual property. This means self-published authors can make and sell merchandise, sell short stories using the same characters, produce audiobooks, run sales and specials, and pursue other alternative revenue streams that a traditionally published author might be barred from attempting.

How do I make more money selling books?

What you make from selling your books highly depends. How you create it, how quickly, how you market, how many books you publish a year, the size of your author platform, and countless other factors will affect how much money you bring in from book sales.

The best thing you can do is research, experiment, then settle on a proven system that you don’t have to fiddle around with or fail with over and over again. Once you have a formula that works, stick with it! The guesswork, going over budget and over schedule, and trial-and-error of not having a set process in place can eat into your profits bigtime.

You should also calculate how many books you have to sell to meet your sales goals. Having these specific numbers will help you to keep control of the money you make so you can keep producing books.

FREE TOOL

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Your profit per book: $20

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

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

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

How to become a writer

So how do you do it? Where do you start? Every author has a different journey based on their preferences, goals, and niches, but here’s a basic rundown of steps in a logical order. This should give you an idea of your own game plan for becoming a career author.

1. Figure out your niche/demographic/genre

Knowing who you’re selling yourself and your writing to is a big step in developing those materials and guiding the way you write your book. Authors might hit several different demographics and genres, and it might change and fluctuate over time. That’s fine! It’s great to stay in touch with how you, your writing, and your audience evolve and respond to those changes.

But—

It’s still really important to know who you’re selling to when you’re starting out.

2. Learn from successful writers

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery–and one of the quickest ways to learn a trade. Look at writers who are doing what you want to be doing, and emulate their process. If you’re self-publishing, look at successful indie writers, preferably in your genre. How are they marketing? What do their covers look like? Don’t copy their work, but follow them on social media, take note of what you like and don’t like about their writing and platform.

You can also check out classes, webinars, and other events where these authors present or participate to learn from them directly.

3. Don’t forget the author platform

The trickiest bit for most new authors to learn, traditional or self-published, is the author platform. If you don’t have experience with things like mailing lists, social media, and content production, it can be a lot to learn! But don’t panic–go one step at a time.

  1. Branding. “Branding” is one of those words people use that can mean and encompass roughly nine thousand different concepts, but it’s still important. Your brand is essentially what people think of when they think of you. For example, my brand includes short stories, swampscapes, educational writing videos, snarky humor, and rewriting Twilight. Your brand might not be something you sit down and figure out all in one go, but giving some thought to how you’ll brand yourself and your platform at the beginning can give you a big advantage.
  2. Mailing lists. Mailing lists and newsletters are a cornerstone element of any writer platform. They’re fairly straightforward to set up and maintain, so I definitely recommend this as one of your first stepping stones to building your author platform.
  3. Social media. Social media is also important! Even if you only have one or two accounts, having a visible presence helps readers connect with you, and it helps you promote your books.
  4. Content creation. This is more optional, but many writers turn to content creation to build an audience for their writing. For example, I make YouTube videos and I stream on Twitch. You might also give talks, host events, do reading streams, etc.
  5. Networking. Meeting readers, other authors, and people in and around your genre and industry can throw you in the way of many different opportunities, and it helps to get your name out there. So even before you have a book to sell, keep an eye out for networking opportunities.

4. Write your books…and actually finish them 😉

This is listed fourth, but hopefully you’re writing your books through everything else! That’s why you chose this career, after all. As you grow as a writer, you’ll get quicker and better at producing books. There are many different processes to experiment with and perfect, so try to have patience with yourself through that journey.

5. Make your plan

Keeping control of your schedule and process is going to be imperative. When, where, and how do you write? Do you have self-imposed deadlines? How often are you posting on socials? Some writers like to have their calendar laid out with specifics, while others just wing it. Find a method that works for you to keep track of your progress and publications.

6. Learn how to launch a book successfully

Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, two of your most important events will be your pre-sale and your book launches, so learn how to do them right! A launch strategy can make the difference between a star and a flop book. Many bestseller lists and other accolades are determined by your preorder numbers, so don’t leave that strategy session for after the book is published. 

7. Learn how to market a book

Before, during, and after your book launch, you’ll need to be marketing. Even if you’re traditionally published, companies aren’t looking to throw their marketing budget at a newbie writer. Plan on doing most of the legwork yourself. That involves the newsletters, social media campaigns, events, and other marketing elements. Studying up and planning before your book is ready might be a clever use of your time to give you an edge after you’ve launched it.

There is no right or wrong way to be and become a writer. Everyone’s books and audience are unique to them, so only you’ll know what works. Do your research, get things done ahead of time if you can, and don’t give up! What was or will be your first step to becoming a writer? Let us know in a comment!

Want to learn how to become a published author in 90 days?

We have the training if you have the time!

Check out the resource below first to learn more about our courses, AND get a bit of free training as you learn about our method.

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days—Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes  Per Day  Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise,  harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

After you check out the training, make sure to book a call with one of our Publishing Strategists to learn more about which course is the best for you to teach you how to self-publish your own book, or many books, or use your book as a way to make money!

Fantasy Book Cover: Design Your Story From First Glance

Whoever said “never judge a book by its cover” definitely never took a marketing class

Obviously, we shouldn’t judge books by their covers–the contents matter, and it’s not totally fair that we make snap judgements based on the cover, the blurb, or the first page. 

But we do. And especially now, in the digital age, where people sort through books by scrolling through what are functionally thumbnails of your cover art…like it or not, your cover matters. An intriguing cover can draw someone in, while a cliched, dated cover can keep readers away. 

Fantasy books in particular have some issues with cliche when it comes to book covers. You don’t want yours to be lost in a sea of hooded figures holding daggers against a white and black background, but you don’t want yours to look out of place, either.

In self-publishing, you’re in full control over your finished product, but picking out a cover can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not artistically inclined or well-versed in graphic design. 

So what should you do? Stay tuned! We’ve got some tips on how to make a good fantasy book cover, some examples of great covers, and a list of fantasy book cover artists to check out. 

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What Makes a Good Fantasy Book Cover 

What makes a book cover work? And what makes for a great fantasy book cover? 

We’re going to cover the components of book covers, what they can do, and how we can use them to convey information to our audience about our book’s themes, target demographics, and subgenre. 

Elements of a Fantasy Book Cover 

fantasy book cover

Miblart.com outlines the three major elements of book design as typography, imagery, and color scheme. Across all genres, a book cover is going to consist of these three pillars, and these are the tools we’ll use to get information across to the audience. Let’s go through them one by one a little more fully: 

1. Typography

This is the font you use on the cover. Sometimes authors will use a different font for their title, subtitle, and author name–sometimes it all matches. Don’t think this matters? Grab the nearest book off your shelf. Would it honestly look as good if that font were, say, Comic Sans? Probably not! 

You’ll notice that certain genres have certain tendencies towards fonts. Romance titles tend to be more swirly, while nonfiction and memoir trend towards academic fonts. Take a look through the fantasy aisle at your local bookstore and note the trends you see! 

2. Imagery

This is the pictures and images used on the cover. This is where a lot of well-known cliches come in–we’ll talk about those later. Finding good imagery can be especially challenging without a background in graphic design. It turns out you can’t just find a free photo on Canva and slap it on your cover (or, well, you can, but it probably won’t look great). 

Do you want a person on your cover? A painting? Abstract art, or something minimal? While you’re on your bookstore field trip, note the imagery that pops up. See if you can spot trends by subgenre or decade! 

3. Color scheme 

Last, but certainly not least, we have: color scheme. Anyone who’s taken a marketing or graphic design class can tell you that the colors you use matter a lot. 

Social media sites tend to lean towards blue backgrounds, since those colors boost your alertness, have proven to be almost universally appealing, and tend to make people feel safe and creative. Red is an urgent color that catches your eye–when you walk into a supermarket, notice all the bright red or yellow price tags. 

It’s no different when you’re putting your book together. Having a grasp on what colors mean and how they work can go a long way in conveying your mood and theme. A dark purple cover with rich green foliage gives a creative, moody feel, while a minimal white cover with straight blue lines might feel more like a textbook. 

On your bookstore field trip, note trends in color schemes. Don’t pay attention to the imagery for this one: just see if you can see recurring colors or color schemes. 

Urban Fantasy vs High Fantasy Book Cover Designs 

Urban fantasy is all about mixing the magical world with our real world. How do we get this across in our book cover? We show both! Maybe you have a photo of a regular-looking teenager wearing contemporary clothes, but she’s standing in a medieval castle. How’d she get there? Tell me more! It might look more like a contemporary setting featuring something magical going on, like a street corner with magic lightning jolting through it. 

By contrast, high fantasy takes place in its own universe, so your task here is a little different. You’ll want to give readers a hint of what sort of universe they’ll be entering into.

A more sci-fi cover might feature some sci-fi looking elements, like a spaceship. A more epic high fantasy vibe might be a knight in full armor or a medieval-looking scene. You’ll want images that get across what your world is like, a color scheme that conveys the mood, and typography that ties it all together! High fantasy especially tends to go for an epic, dramatic feel. 

Fantasy Book Covers for Adult, Young Adult, or Middle Grade? 

Your cover should also look appropriate for your target demographic. There’s a world of difference between Stephen King’s latest cover and the covers on the Junie B. Jones books, right? This is because the genres and target audiences are radically different. Cover art is meant to catch the viewer’s eye, and depending on the viewer’s age, different things will catch their eye. 

1. Middle Grade 

Kids are drawn to brighter colors, more punchy fonts, and action scenes. Children’s covers often look like something out of a comic book, with friendly illustrations and an intriguing title. Middle grade covers are a little more mature–we might have imagery closer to what we would seen in young adult or adult covers, but it should still feel kid-friendly. 

Middle grade fantasy covers often feature real people, for example, to get kids’ attention. The title should be clear and easy to read, and in general, it should look exciting. 

2. Young Adult 

Young adults covers are a little more mature still. You may remember the long-standing trend of fantasy YA covers featuring women turned away from the cover–A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is a great example. Because young adult fiction is more likely to deal with serious romance or darker themes, we’ll see more mature color palettes across the board. 

Recently, YA covers on the whole have shifted to look more like adult covers. There are plenty of adult readers still reading YA novels, and marketing to them as well as to kids goes a long way in boosting sales. 

3. Adult Fantasy 

While YA and middle grade covers need to catch the eye of their younger audience quickly, adult fantasy has a little more wiggle room–just a little, though. In the digital age, it’s become especially important to create impactful covers that also make great thumbnails, and having an obscure, complicated cover won’t help you out. 

Adult covers in general tend to feature less real people–you won’t see as many actors on the cover, and you might see more mature illustration work. If you do see people, those people will reflect the target demographic–it won’t be a kid, it’ll be an adult. A fantasy romance, for example, might feature two adults posed in a risque manner. This makes it pretty clear what the book is and who it’s for. 

Watch for Clichés with Your Cover 

Whatever your genre, subgenre, or target audience, watch for cliche! 

Even if you’re not reading contemporary fantasy books (which you should be, if you intend to publish one), you should at least be taking a look at the covers when you go to publish. Twilight, for example, set the tone for paranormal romance covers for… well, at least a decade, and arguably forever. Dark backgrounds with bold, saturated objects in the foreground basically dominated the aisle at B&N for a hot minute. 

This is because readers like things that are familiar, and fantasy readers are no exception. If you go to the bookstore and you see a book that reminds you of one you loved, you’re more likely to pick it up and check out the blurb. It’s good to keep tabs on trends to play into this, but it can go wrong quickly. 

For example, you don’t want your book to look dated. Women in billowing dresses running away from the viewer, for example, is a long-mocked cliche in YA fantasy. More contemporary examples include hooded figures with daggers, black and white backgrounds with slashes of color in the foreground, or so. Many. Men. With. Swords. 

Having a woman in a billowy dress or a man with a sword doesn’t automatically make your cover cliche. After all, creating a modern fantasy cover that fits with the rest means it’ll share some elements with others. But before you settle on a design, take another field trip to your local bookstore. Does your book look like it would fit on the shelves with the new releases? Does it look more like it belongs in the 1990’s, or does it look too much like everything else? 

It takes some tinkering to find a unique design, but it can be done! Let’s look at some phenomenal fantasy covers for inspiration. 

Fantasy Book Cover Design Examples to Learn From

As we say here at Self-Publishing School, learning by example is often best, which is why we have our coaches work closely with authors who join our programs—including our Fundamentals of Fiction & Story program.

To get a feel for all of this advice for your book cover in action, check out these examples and really digest their differences so you can learn and implement for your own book.

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab 

The sharp color contrast on this cover draws the reader right away. The font is a little whimsical, but still completely legible, and the balance between red and black as well as the symmetry on this cover make for an appealing visual. 

2. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Shannon Brown 

This is a classic example of using sprawling imagery and a dramatic color scheme to sell a high fantasy novel.

We’ve got a dragon and a castle right on the cover, both giving us a solid idea of what genre we’re dealing with, and the color palette conveys all the fire, magic, and intrigue to come. 

3. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir 

We have a dark color palette here, with a high contrast that draws us to the character’s face and makeup. We see skeletons, we see a sword, and there’s ‘Gideon’ in a font evocative of a boneyard–we also get a great glimpse of the sky above, hinting at space.

What sells this cover for me, personally, is the best blurb of all time printed just below the title. 

Fantasy Book Cover Designers 

Hopefully, you’ve learned from this that it’s imperative to invest in a good cover. If you’re self-publishing, you’re responsible for coming up with your own cover, but there’s no need to panic if you’re not an expert cover artist already. Here’s a list of fantasy book cover designers to check out! 

While we wish they didn’t, people do judge a book by its cover, which is why we always recommend a professional book cover design, especially if you’re going to self-publish your book.

Want real-time feedback on your book cover designs?

Our students get that everyday in our student coaching groups! To learn more about our self-publishing school courses and coaching options, check out the resource below or book a call with one of our Publishing Strategists!

FREE Ultimate Fiction Writer Tutorials  Gain access to 5 lessons of high intensive writing training on ideas,  plotting, stronger writing, and even the technical side (grammar) with  examples, and more!  YES! GET THE TUTORIALS!

SPS 118: How To Create & Launch An Online Course From Your Book (And Get Your First Sales) with Amy Porterfield

Meet Amy Porterfield

Amy is the author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies books, and has been recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. Amy started in the marketing and event arena with Harley-Davidson and from there worked for six years with Peak Performance Coach, Anthony Robbins. She’s consulted for top real estate moguls, celebrity chefs, travel industry executives, and Fortune 500 companies. She is currently speaking, training, and consulting on such topics as social media and content marketing. Amy currently resides in Carlsbad, CA, with her husband, Hobie, and her son Cade.

Creating Your Digital Course

Amy recommends creating your digital course, launching your online class, then selling it repeatedly through your marketing channels. Amy’s advice is to be laser-focused and to place your energy into one project at a time.”Your digital course is a living, breathing entity in and of itself,” says Amy. When you create your online course, you can take your students into a deeper dive into subject matter from your book. Then, after completing your class, you’ll want to get feedback from your users, update and modify your class, and make better versions of your online course along the way.

Translating Your Online Class into a Book

When creating your book and online course, there has to be a slight distinction, so folks don’t have to choose one or the other. Amy recommends building both with a bit of different value so readers and learners can benefit from the information found in both products. You’ll want to decide which order you want people to purchase your book or class, and start building your marketing funnel from this point.

Adding Specialty Content to Your Online Class

Although you can make money from both an online class and a book, your online class will be more profitable. Make sure to craft specialty content for your digital class, such as interviews, activities and exercises, case studies, or audits. Be creative and add content that you haven’t given in other offerings you provide.

Listen to find out how to get the first sales of your online class, how to sell your online course via webinars, and why you want to use a step-by-step process for marketing your company.

Show Highlights

  • [01:58] Online course or writing a book – which one should you create first?
  • [07:55] Turning your online course and translating your class into a book.
  • [09:19] Differentiating your digital course from your book content.
  • [12:17] Adding interviews into your online class to give examples and enhance content.
  • [13:15] Pre-launch your digital class to get more online sales.
  • [14:08] Selling your new online class via webinars.
  • [18:43] Your goal for webinar attendance is a 30% show-up rate.
  • [24:05] Challenges of writing a book from start to finish.
  • [28:22] Use a step-by-step process to implement your marketing plan.
  • [31:29] Amy suggests writing your book first, then building your online class.
  • [32:12] Creating an online quiz to compliment your book and double as a lead-generating part of your marketing funnel.
  • [35:36] How to connect with Amy online.

Links and Resources