How Long Should A Children’s Book Be? Children’s Books Word Count

Whether you’ve written a series of 100-thousand word novels, or are working on the first page of your first manuscript, knowing what goal word count to shoot for is crucial to your writing success. 

Different genres fit into different word count goals. Children’s books word count are no exception. Some types of stories take more words to tell than others. Some require pictures from an illustrator.

How long your book is should be based on the story as well as the developmental stage of your target audience. This is especially true when you are writing a children’s book. There are sub-genres within the genre.

While which way a plot should go and which character makes the best protagonist are subjective, word counts are usually strict.

To see the best success for your book and your writing career, it’s helpful to know what amount of words to shoot for. This is especially important to note as you begin marketing your children’s book.

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Word and Page Count Calculator

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Enter your details below to get your personalized word and page counts for your book!

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*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

Of course, your word count will depend on the genre of book you’re writing and some genres can break the rules (as the Harry Potter series does), but overall, it’s important to follow word count rules.

Knowing the exact word count number you should aim for prior to plotting your book (or writing that first sentence if you’re a pantser) will save you lots of time. 

Imagine sitting down to write the fantasy novel you’ve dreamed of writing since you were ten years old, only to finish at 90-thousand words and realize it’s twice as long as it needs to be. 

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “I’ve read fantasy novels twice that length! How did this word count goal work for that novel?”

While genre does impact your ideal word count goal, the audience you are writing too is the main contributing factor. 

Eight-year-olds don’t have the capacity to read through four hundred pages of story, while adults usually want to read about 100-thousand words of story. 

What word count goal is right for you?

How long should a children’s book be? By Age-Range

As you read through this article, try to envision the story you want to tell as well as the audience you want to tell it to. Your target audience determines the length of your book, so it’s important to have that reader in mind. 

1. Picture Book

Picture books are some of the shortest books out there. Writers need to be extremely cautious concerning the word count of picture books, because industry standards are very firm. Picture book word counts are not guidelines, but rules to be followed. 

According to Writer’s Digest, “The standard is text for 32 pages. That might mean one line per page, or more. 500-600 words is a good number to aim for. When it gets closer to 1,000, editors and agents may shy away.”

Remember, one double-spaced page with 1” margins and 12-point font is about 250 words. Creating a picture book within the word count limits means typing less than three double-spaced pages. 

Many picture books follow a single character through one scene of life (such as going to bed in Goodnight Moon). It will likely work in your favor to focus on one character rather than two or three. You will be able to go into more detail about this character’s experience and draw the reader (or in this case, listener) into the story. 

Especially in picture book writing, every word counts. 

When plotting your story, try choosing your point-of-view (POV) character the story will be most interesting through. Tell it through their eyes, and their eyes only. This will help you as you pack an entire story into just a few short pages. 

As a general rule of thumb, resist the urge to write from the POV of a protagonist, villain, the stray cat next door, and the mother. While this may work for a young adult (YA) novel, it will be tough to tell a good story from that many POV characters in less than 600 words.

2. Early Readers 

The target age range for early readers is between 5 and 8 years old, with a word count 1000 to 2500 words.

Children’s literature specialist Jenny Bowman says, “Early readers are books with slightly more text than found in your average picture book. They have 32 to 64 pages, with simple, repetitive text. Usually every page or every other page has an illustration.”

When writing for early readers, keep in mind that your book is one of the first they will ever read. This is a new and hopefully exciting experience for them. 

As a writer, you want their experience to be enjoyable and for them to quickly come back for more.

While your word count is a bit longer than it would be if you were writing a picture book, just because you have a larger word count doesn’t mean every word should be different. 

Early readers are new to reading. Using words repetitively, going back to the same phrase over and over (as fits the story), and cutting most words that they wouldn’t be able to sound out will make their reading experience more enjoyable. 

You could also incorporate phrases that rhyme or use words that sound similar. 

This should help build their excitement for reading. Instead of getting frustrated at all the new words they don’t know, they’ll enjoy coming back to phrases they’ve mastered, and likely feel a sense of accomplishment at learning a new word or two by the end of the story.

3. Middle Grade Chapter Books

Typically, middle grade (MG) word counts are from 20,000-55,000 words. However, this number is dependent on the subject being written about as well as the age of readers as middle grade encompasses a wide age range. 

On the subject of age range, Writer’s Digest says, “When writing a longer book that is aimed at 12-year-olds (and could maybe be considered ‘tween’), using the term ‘upper middle grade’ is advisable.”

Upper middle grade is usually 40,000-55,000 words. This type of writing is the bridge between early readers and young adult. 

While your word count can include some themes acceptable in YA, young adult themes should not be the focus in middle grade writing. 

Writer’s Digest explains that, “With a simpler middle grade idea (Football Hero, or Jenny Jones and the Cupcake Mystery), aim lower. Shoot for 20,000-35,000 words.”

What word count is right for your children’s book?

Ask yourself who your target audience is, and then see if you can fit your story’s plot into that word count goal.

If you can, it’s time to get to work. 

If your story is too intricate for the specific word count you’re going for, consider trimming down characters, combining a few characters into one, or cutting a subplot. 

If your story is not long enough, consider using another POV character, adding a subplot, or starting the story with a different inciting incident. 

And as you write your story, enjoy the process! 

Writing is a joy and when the appropriate writing guidelines are followed, countless readers have the potential of enjoying your work. 

Remember, the enjoyment of story is for all ages. While different aged readers need different word counts, the art of storytelling is the same. 

Choose your audience, then write that story. It’s time to share your dream with readers! 

FREE TOOL

Word and Page Count Calculator

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Enter your details below to get your personalized word and page counts for your book!

Your Book Will Have

words

pages

*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

SPS 125: Live Your Message: Writing A Book That Readers Actually Implement & Turning Your Book Into An Online Course with Marisa Murgatroyd

Today I’m chatting with Marisa Murgatroyd, an award-winning documentary filmmaker with seven years of experience in the non-profit sector. Her goal is to help entrepreneurs express their bold, vibrant, self online to stand out among the millions of voices on the internet. Her mainstay is showing entrepreneurs how to create online courses that get results for her clients.

Meet Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the Founder of Live Your Message and the creator of the Experience Product Masterclass. Marisa brings a brand new perspective around creating, marketing, selling, and delivering online courses that we’ve never seen before! Through her own mid-seven-figure business and helping over 5,000 students succeed online, Marisa’s process around psychology and gamification gives you a unique way of planning your own online course.

Marisa’s unique process for creating online courses stands out from all of the others we’ve seen. With psychology at the heart of everything she does, Marisa shows how you can sell more, bring more happiness to your customers, and get more people to take action on what you teach. That’s not common with most online courses!

She is a firm believer that when people know better, they do better! Her consumers can reach a wide range of people; however, she believes consumers can get a more profound transformation with an online course.

Key Components for Your Online Course

You’ll need to orient your course around a specific promise or transformation, so your buyers will know what they will learn. The gamification process creates little wins along the way to keep consumers engaged in the course. She also recommends creating a future-self vision of the person you want your course buyer to become once your course is finished.

Listen in to find out how to create engaging online courses that your buyers will want to complete, how to gamify your online course for learners to stay on longer, and why she recommends a motivational structure.

Show Highlights

  • [01:54] Why Maria started her business helping others build online courses. 
  • [04:05] When Maria decided to create an online course.
  • [06:01] How to gamify your course to get better results.
  • [08:02] Using a motivational structure to build your course.
  • [12:55] How to turn your book into a course.
  • [18:03] Get all of the how-to information into a course that you can’t fit into your book.
  • [23:04] Creating your course first and your book second.
  • [30:10] Resources that you can use to build your course.

Links and Resources

What is Prose? In Poetry, Novels, & More

If you are writing a novel, are a blogger, nonfiction author, run a column on a writing website, or publish articles in other capacities, you write prose.

If you’ve ever sat down with a fellow writer and looked at their manuscript, you’ve looked at their prose.

Prose is essentially language without metrical structure. 

In short, prose is anything that is not poetry. 

Just as there are many different forms of prose writing, there are many different ways to become a talented prose writer. 

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What is prose in literature?

Prose form of writing is this blog you’re reading. Prose is the magazine you read waiting for the dentist. Prose is the Instagram caption you wrote yesterday. Prose is in poetry you read.

Prose is language, but prose is not poetry. 

Prose can have many different voices.

Often, your voice defines your prose. What does this mean? Reading examples is one of the simplest and most effective ways to learn what voice is in regards to prose form writing. 

It’s one thing to tell you what prose is, it’s another to show you. And as writers, we do our best to follow the show-don’t-tell rule!  

As you read the examples below, notice which type of prose writing you connect with most, and why. Is it similar to your own writing voice? Different? How so?

Examples Of Prose Writing

A cool breeze kicked up and forced Brady to don his jacket. Soon he had zipped it to his neck and raised the collar. He could have hitchhiked, but he wasn’t even sure where he was going, and fwe people picked up guys who looked like him anyway. He usually had luck getting rides only when Peter was with him because the kid looked normal. The sun disappeared behind dark clouds, and now Brady bent into the wind. Perfect. Everything was going to go wrong today. 

—Riven, Jerry B. Jenkins

As the girls hop to, dragging the carts inside, the men edge away, never once turning their backs on us, as if just stepping over the threshold will unleash our magic, making us swallow them whole. We wait for parting words…instructions…anything…but they just stand there in silence.

The Grace Year, Kim Liggett

Think of suspense as building worry or apprehension. What factors need to be present for your character to worry about someone? What would build apprehension for him as he’s walking into a deserted warehouse? Tap into your own understanding of, and experiences with, worry and apprehension to get ideas for developing those feelings in your fiction.” 

Troubleshooting Your Novel, Steven James

I rubbed my back, touched the several long scabs to remind myself that I could not afford to make mistakes. And the scabs forced me to remember that I had been away from this palace for only a few days. Not that I had forgotten — exactly. But it was as though during my walk I had been getting used to the idea that years had passed for these since I had seen them last. I had begun to feel — feel, not think — that a great deal of time had passed for me too. It was a vague feeling, but it seemed right and comfortable. 

Kindred, Octavia E. Butler

It doesn’t matter if divorce shreds the muscles of our hearts so that they will hardly beat without a struggle. It doesn’t matter if trust-fund money is running out; if credit card bills go unpaid on the kitchen counter. It doesn’t matter if there’s a cluster of pill bottles on the bedside table. It doesn’t matter if one of us is desperately, desperately in love. So much in love that equally desperate measure must be taken. We are the Sinclairs. No one is needy. No one is wrong.

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it? SOmetimes we do it because we actually need to learn to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t’ feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to avoid failure. 

Atomic Habits, James Clear

Tips For Strong Prose Writing 

Prose can differentiate your writing from all others. If a reader picks up your book and starts reading, how satisfying would it be for them to know you are the other before they ever look at the back cover? 

Just as your speaking voice has a certain sound to it, your writing voice can as well. Finding that voice and then presenting it in all the originality that it is, will make your prose stand out. 

Below is a list of tips for prose writing. Feel free to take notes on what stands out to you, and implement the points that make the most sense for you and your writing. 

1. Be Authentic

No matter what you write, you use language to do so. It’s the one factor of writing no one can get away from. Your writing then, is what sets you apart.

How you use language is what makes you unique. Be authentic to your voice. Write in a way that is true to you. This will help your prose! 

2. Be True To Your Characters 

How you use language is what makes you unique as a writer, and especially in fiction, how you use language is what makes developing your characters unique.

Look at the following two examples of dialogue: 

  1. “I was thinking maybe… Would you want to hang out sometime? I mean if you’re not too busy.”
  2. “I really enjoy spending time with you. Could I take you out this weekend if you’re available?” 

Both lines of dialogue communicate a similar request, but option A communicates a more reserved, shy character. Option B communicates a more forward, well-spoken character. 

In the Riven example above, notice how Jenkins writes from his protagonist’s perspective, even though the story is written in third person:

The sun disappeared behind dark clouds, and now Brady bent into the wind. Perfect. Everything was going to go wrong today.

Now notice the difference in the prose from the Kindred example:

 I had begun to feel — feel, not think — that a great deal of time had passed for me too. It was a vague feeling, but it seemed right and comfortable. 

In fiction (and nonfiction with dialogue), write your prose in a way that reinforces the thought processes of your characters. 

3. Share Information In A Fresh Way

Nonfiction writers: Most of us have nearly unlimited access to information. Communicating new information in an old way can feel flat.

Get creative and use your prose to communicate your information in a way that’s unexpected. 

4. Share Stories In A Fresh Way

While the three act story structure has been used for millions of stories, you can still communicate your story in a new way. What makes the way you tell your story feel fresh and engaging for readers? 

5. Steal Like An Artist

Knowing how to balance being inspired by others without copying their work can feel a little gray at times. The book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon speaks into this situation. It’s a fantastic book if you want to be inspired by other creatives and their ideas while communicating your own with integrity. 

6. Know When To Stop

Prose is powerful, but if you try too hard it can be self-defeating. Show your personality through your prose, reveal the mannerisms of your protagonist, engage your reader, but know the balance of when to use your voice and when to simply say something plainly. 

7. Know Your Audience

What type of prose does your audience connect with? What draws them in? Read what they are reading. Listen to what they listen to. Use your own voice, but allow the right other voices to influence your own.

You will connect with your audience that much better. 

8. Communicate Verbally 

As you work to improve your prose, listen to how you communicate when speaking. Notice how you talk to your family, friends, and coworkers. Simply listening to yourself with intentionality can draw attention to how you naturally communicate. Translate this to the page as dialogue.

9. Know Yourself 

What are your writing goals? What type of prose will help get you there? If you think you want to write YA dystopia but only read medical journals, you may want to ask if you’re actually passionate about YA fiction.

Pay attention to what you spend your free time reading and writing when there is no agenda. How you spend your time often reveals where your true interests lie. 

10. Read, Read, Read

Writers write. Writers also read. Read prose in the genre you write. Read prose in genres you don’t write. Read blogs. Articles. Transcripts. If you write nonfiction that is heavy with dialogue, transcripts of interviews can be very insightful in how people naturally speak. Of course, you don’t want to include as many filler words in your dialogue as untrained speakers may (this slows the action and takes away from the story), but paying attention to the natural ebb and flow of a conversation can be very helpful. 

As you turn your attention back to your prose, which tips will be most helpful for you? It may be a good idea to write them down on a sticky note and place it next to your keyboard or notebook. 

Implementing the right tips is crucial. 

While not every tip will apply to your current situation, having a well-rounded understanding of what makes prose great is important to your writing success. 

Poetry has rules.

Writing has rules.

Prose is up to you. 

Incorporate the tips that make sense for your writing style, your voice, and your personality. Communicate the feelings of your characters through their dialogue. Communicate your artistic style through the way in which you use language. 

And don’t forget your target audience. Remember, reader first, even in prose. Who will read your writing? What type of prose will they most gravitate to? 

Great writing comes down to two things: The story, and how the story is told. 

You have your story idea. Now it’s time to tell it. 

What tips will you include to take your prose to the next level? 

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isbn-number-example

How to Get an ISBN: Fast Guide & Need-To-Know (+ Tips)

Knowing how to get an ISBN as a self-published author is crucial.

Since you can’t publish without an ISBN, we’re helping you learn how in order to publish the right way and why you even need an ISBN number in the first place.

But you don’t have to even worry about an ISBN number if you don’t have a book ready to publish, right? And it won’t even matter if you don’t publish that book the right way

False. Becoming an author is about more than just the book, it’s about the business as well, and we’ll break down a very important part of that.

If you’re ready to get to the point and get your ISBN, here is the step-by-step breakdown of how to get an ISBN.

Here’s what to know about an ISBN as an author:

  1. How to get an ISBN
  2. What does ISBN stand for?
  3. What is an ISBN number used for?
  4. How much does an ISBN cost?
  5. What is the purpose of an ISBN?
  6. How to get an ISBN outside of the U.S.
  7. How long does it take to get an ISBN number?
  8. How to register your book and ISBN
  9. How many ISBNs to get
  10. Do ISBNs expire?
  11. How to read an ISBN with examples
  12. Where is the ISBN number on books?
  13. ISBN search
  14. How to read a barcode
  15. The difference between ASIN and ISBN
  16. Do I need an ISBN?
  17. Should you buy your own ISBN number?
  18. Libraries and ISBNs
  19. ISBN resources to make it easier

*click above to jump to a section

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How to Get an ISBN: Fast Guide & Need-To-Know (+ Tips)

Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBN numbers.

Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.

For more information, you can find out anything you want to know by visiting the official Bowker page or at myidentifiers.com

Here’s a simple actionable checklist for ISBNs.

To buy an ISBN for your next book, here is what you should do:

  1. Go to the website https://www.myidentifiers.com
  2. Under the ISBN drop-down tab, click on ISBNs—Buy Here. You can select 1, 10 or 100. For a bulk purchase, go to “Buying ISBNs in Bulk” and you can contact Bowker directly to discuss your options.
  3. Once you have your ISBN assigned, you can then use it everywhere that requires your ISBN number.
  4. At Createspace, under the “Setup” channel, you can choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN. When you buy your own ISBN at Bowker, just put in the 13-digit number and Createspace will use this in your paperback.
  5. If you publish your paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can fill in your number in the “Paperback Content” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP.
  6. Register your ISBN here at Bowker as soon as your book is ready for sale. Download the free ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration step-by-step guide.

What Does ISBN Stand For?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a 13-digit code used to uniquely identify your book amongst the millions out there.

What Is an ISBN Number Used For?

Essentially, an ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number, is a regulated 10- or 13-digit identification number which allows libraries, publishers, and book dealers to locate and identify specific books.

But where did these ISBN numbers even start and why do we have them?

In the early days of World War 2, the Japanese military sent messages back and forth and the Allies needed to crack their intricate numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables.

But how did they crack this complex system?

MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code.

Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking program in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith, a British retailer, to write a report on how to create such a system.

This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967 and eventually led to the ISBN system used worldwide.

Several years later, this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when a policy was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format and is now the standard used everywhere.

How much does it cost to get an ISBN number for a book?

It costs about $125 to get one ISBN number in the US. However, if you purchase more than one at a time, this cost could be lowered.

Warning: Amazon may grant you a free ISBN for your first book, but this can ONLY be used on KDP for distribution to Amazon and can’t be used for self-publishing services elsewhere.

Due to this, we always recommend purchasing a new one despite Amazon’s free ISBN.

Here are a few tips for buying an ISBN:

  • If you publish physical copies through IngramSpark, you get your ISBN for only $85
  • Buying your ISBNs in bulk can save you money if you intend to publish more than one book
  • Amazon issues you an ISBN for “free,” but you have to list Amazon as a publisher along with other limitations
  • If you’re in Canada or South African, it’s possible to get an ISBN issued through your government
  • Australians pay about $40 for an ISBN
  • UK residents will pay somewhere around 89 pounds for an ISBN

Here’s a table of the ISBN prices and what you can expect to pay:

Number of ISBNsCost
1$125
10$295
100$575

And here’s a video on overall book publishing costs:

What Is the Purpose of an ISBN Number?

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and before it was implemented in 1967, the method and system for cataloging, ordering, organizing, and locating a specific book was a chaotic mess.

Today, to get your book into a bookstore, a library, or almost any book distribution channel on the planet, you need an ISBN number.

But the process can be really confusing for new authors. There are a number of questions you might be asking yourself about ISBN numbers:

  • How does this long string of numbers on the back of books work?
  • How do you get it?
  • If you’re a self-published author, do you need an ISBN?
  • Why would you need one?

These are all questions answered in this article.

Let’s unweave the intricate web of how to get an ISBN and how they work in the publishing industry.

how to get an isbn number

How to Get an ISBN Outside of the US

ISBNs are free in many countries, provided either by the government or a publicly administered branch. However, in the US and the UK, ISBN numbers are administered by Bowker and Nielsen respectively and require you to pay.

If you’re located outside the USA you can find out your local ISBN Agency here. While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.

If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com, run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.

How Long Does It Take to Get an ISBN Number?

You will receive your ISBN number five business days after Bowker receives your non-priority application. Choosing priority processing reduces the time to two business days, or you can get your ISBN within 24 business hours if you choose express processing.

How to Register Your Book and ISBN Number

As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker or the International equivalent in your local area, and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink.

This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print.

I recommend you download the free PDF “ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration” with step-by-step instructions on setting up your title.

How Many ISBN Numbers to Get

So how many ISBNs should you get?

First off let’s clarify a few common mistakes:

  • You can only use an ISBN once. The ISBN is a unique number for that particular book, and can be assigned once, and only once, to that title. It can’t be used with any other book in the future, even second versions of the same book.
  • You don’t need an ISBN to sell in each individual country. ISBNs are international, they are just assigned locally. A US-based publisher can purchase their ISBN through Bowker, but can stock their book worldwide using that ISBN.
  • You need an ISBN for every specific format of the book and any new versions. Want to sell your book in print, as an eBook, and also as an audiobook? That’s great, however, you need a different ISBN for each one. If you want to publish a revised and updated version you’ll also need a new ISBN. (This doesn’t cover fixing some typos and errors).
  • If you create a series of books you can’t use the same ISBN for them. You can use the same ISSN, however. Many fiction and nonfiction authors have an ISSN number assigned to their book series. ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number and can be purchased from the Library of Congress. However, each book in the series will need its own ISBN.

We mentioned that in the USA you can buy ISBNs as a single unit, a bulk of 10, 100 or 1000. Here are the prices:

Number of ISBNsCost
1$125
10$295
100$575

First off, it rarely makes sense to purchase a single ISBN. A single ISBN would cost you $125, but a bulk of 10 only costs $295. Meaning if you purchased 10, each ISBN would cost you $29.50, a 76% discount.

Buying a single ISBN might seem feasible if you only want to publish one title, but remember that you need an ISBN for each format. So if you want to publish your book as an audiobook, you’d need a brand new ISBN for that. As well as needing different ISBN numbers for your eBook and print versions.

Not to mention that you’ll need an ISBN number for any future books you publish, like if you’re writing a book series.

We recommend that if you’re serious about making book sales, you should purchase at least a bulk of 10 ISBNs. That gives you 3 ISBN numbers to use for publishing as an eBook, in print, and as an audiobook. You can keep the remainder for any future books you might publish.

Do ISBNs Expire?

No, ISBN numbers never expire or go bad. In fact, if you have one from a long time ago, you can simply reconstruct it for use.

But what if my old ISBN is really old and only has 10 digits?

That’s not a problem, either. With this handy tool from Bowker, you can convert the ISBN easily and immediately.

The Book Designer also has a great resource for learning how to reconstruct an ISBN if you finally decided to write and self-publish the book you’ve been thinking about since you bought the ISBN.

How to Read an ISBN Number with an Example

As of 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. This came about in part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year.

Knowing how to break down and interpret these 13 digits aren’t of much use and interest to most book readers, but for publishers and distributors, it’s a necessity.

If you want to publish lots of books under your own publishing name then it’s something you may want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book and its author by reading the ISBN number.

The 13 digit ISBN number helps:

  • Identify the specific title
  • Identify the author
  • Identify the type of book they are buying
  • Identify the physical properties of that particular book
  • Identify the geographical location of the publisher

Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.

isbn number example and explanation

Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.

Here is the ISBN for a particular book:

978-3-16-148410-0

You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “978” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. If we remove these digits we have:

3-16-148410-0

First is the initial digit, in this case: 3

The 3 is the language group identifier which here indicates German. For English speaking countries a 0 or 1 is used. Numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.

Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:

0 or 1 for English

2 for French

3 for German

4 for Japan

5 for Russian

7 for People’s Republic of China

It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944. You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency.

Next is “16”. This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number. This number can be as long as 9 digits.

“148410” — This six-digit series represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.

“0” is the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always a single digit.

This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and is calculated based on the other digits in the code.

Where Is the ISBN Number on books?

The ISBN is usually found above the barcode on the back of the book. However, they’re not the same.

The barcode is much different than the ISBN number.

This is an important distinction because:

  • When you purchase an ISBN you don’t automatically get a barcode
  • The barcode of your book can change, while your ISBN can remain the same.

We’ve already discussed what data the ISBN carries, however, the barcode includes extra information such as the book’s fixed price and the currency it’s being sold in.

Barcodes are a necessary element of your book as they allow for most retailers and distributors to scan your ISBN for retail and inventory reasons.

The standard barcode is known as the EAN (European Article Number) barcode, and your barcode must be in this format to sell your book in bookstores.

(Breakdown of the typical EAN barcode on the back of a book by Publisher Services)

If you want to look up the ISBN of any book out there, you can do so easily by visiting the website ISBNSearch.org.

where to get isbn

You’ll be greeted with a screen like the one above where you will be prompted to type in the ISBN, author name, or book title.

After hitting “search,” you will have a list of books matching your searched items with the both the 13-digit ISBN and the 10-digit, like in the example below.

isbn example

How to Read a Barcode

If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number.

The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5 and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.

For example, if the number reads 52995, this means the price of the book is set at $29.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, though the ISBN wouldn’t change.

This would only be replaced by a new ISBN number if the book is published as a new edition or as a new version.

To buy a barcode you must first purchase an ISBN. You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:

  • 1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
  • 1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.

The Difference Between ASIN and ISBN

If you’ve used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program you’ve probably come across an ASIN. ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners.

You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.

However, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms or in brick and mortar stores, you’re going to need an ISBN.

Do I Need an ISBN?

If you want to publish and sell your eBook on Amazon, then the quick answer is no, it isn’t necessary. Amazon will assign your eBook an ASIN number which will be used to identify and track your title.

However, that’s only with Amazon, and only with eBooks.

If you want your readers to get a hold of a print version of your book, then you’re going to need an ISBN.

This might be important if you have a brick and mortar marketing strategy, or if you want your book to be accessible through libraries (more on this later), or if you’re looking to deal with wholesalers or other online retailers.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you want to sell your book by means other than as an ebook on Amazon, then you’ll need an ISBN.

How Do You Buy an ISBN Number?

You might not even have to buy your ISBN number because of services offered to self-published authors. You can get assigned a free ISBN by Createspace, the On-Demand publishing company that has now merged with Amazon.

You can also get an ISBN when dealing with a whole host of On-Demand or self-publishing companies, like Draft2Digital, Smashwords or IngramSpark, and even Lulu.

If you can get a free or cheap ISBN with them, then what’s the use in paying for your own one?

Here’s the problem: most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.

Let’s say you get a free ISBN with Draft2Digital, but then you notice that there are some retail channels you can access through Smashwords that you can’t with Draft2Digital.

You can’t use the Draft2Digital ISBN with Smashwords.

Smashwords will only let you use your own ISBN or an ISBN they assign to you. So what do you do?

You get a free ISBN with Smashwords.

And now you have two ISBNs for the same book. Same book title, same book format, but two ISBNs.

You then hear of some exclusive channels you can get through eBookPartnership. The only wrinkle? You need an ISBN and they won’t take your Smashwords’ or Draft2Digital’s ISBN. So you sign up for their free ISBN instead.

Now you have three ISBNs for the same book.

Should You Buy Your Own ISBN Number?

This problem can repeat itself again and again as you discover more ways to distribute your book. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the ISBN, sometimes you won’t. But it leads to you having several ISBNs, all from different publishers, for the same book.

Can you picture how unprofessional that looks to a bookstore?

Wouldn’t it have been easier to start off by buying your own ISBN? Wouldn’t that make you look more professional?

On top of this, each of those free ISBNs identifies the self-publishing company as a publisher. It’s the equivalent of using your business email address as businessname@aol.com or businessname@yahoo.com instead of Matt@businessname.com (assuming you’re named Matt).

Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but there are some stores that will refuse to stock your book on this basis. If you have a CreateSpace ISBN, there are a number of bookstores that will refuse to carry your book.

All of these issues can be sidestepped by simply purchasing your own ISBN through Bowker.

Libraries and ISBN Numbers

We briefly mentioned that if you want to stock your book in libraries, you’ll need an ISBN. However, that might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might have decided to focus purely on eBook publishing and what part do libraries play in eBooks?

A big one.

Libraries are becoming more important to the distribution of eBooks. Overdrive is the largest supplier to schools and libraries in the world (serving more than 30,000), and they circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014, a 33% increase from their previous year. They also supply to retail stores globally, making $100 million in sales in 2013.

And guess what you need to be able to partner with Overdrive? Yup. An ISBN.

ISBN Links & Resources

These links appeared throughout the post but here they are for easy access.

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writing prompts

400+ Writing Prompts: 16+ Genres to Start Your BEST Story

Creative writing prompts are the missing link all writers need…whether you’re writing for fun or looking to write an amazing novel and live full time off your fiction writing like students in our Fundamentals of Fiction program.

Picture this: your imagination is a match…and you need to light it.

There are a number of different methods of setting a match ablaze to come up with story ideas. You can swipe it on the ground, against a rough surface, use your own nail, or even light it with another match that’s already burning.

But the best (and easiest) way? Striking it against the matchbox it came in. That’s what it’s for, after all.

This list is the matchbox with which you can strike your match. We have over 400 original writing prompts you can use across several different genres.

*click to jump to your genre

Save This Resource NOW for Quick Reference Later…

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts In the 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!

Creative Writing Prompts are Your Matchbox

All you need is one writing prompt to light your imaginative fire and you can burn through a book idea, formulating the plot and all with just a single prompt. You can even write a powerful short story with a small prompt!

And that’s exactly what we’re here to help you with, whether you’re writing as a hobby or looking to publish a novel that’s destined to be included on every bibliophile’s gift wish list.

Real writers know that you can easily come up with bits and fragments of a story but the overarching plot can be tricky to drum up.

You know what you want to write about: life’s happenings, a tragedy in your life, a deep memoir, magic, advanced science, realistic contemporary stories, but you just can’t figure out how to go from the genre and character development to a writing a novel.

200+ Creative Writing Prompts for Fiction Book Ideas

If you’re ready to take the plunge and finally start writing a book like you’ve always talked about, we can help you get started.

Something to keep in mind is that creative writing is largely driven by tone, style, characters, and your plot.

These are 100% original, never-before-seen creative writing prompts you won’t find anywhere else.

But if you’re ready to start right now, here are a few to set the creative wheel of your imagination in motion so you can find your writing style and master your craft.

Fantasy Writing Prompts

Fantasy is all about magic, creatures, and abilities. The possibilities with a fantasy world are nearly endless.

You can literally make up anything you want. This is why fantasy is my preferred genre to write in.

Here are 30 original fantasy writing prompts:

  1. Write about a characer who has a dream they got a certain magical power or gift…only to discover later that day that they DO now actually have it.
  2. Write about a fantasy creature who has searched the universe for its special bond: your main character.
  3. Write about a species of magical people who can conjure fire, control it, and thrive in it. Unfortunately, they’re world is headed toward an ice age…which could mean their extinction if they don’t learn to make peace with their water-weilding nemesis.
  4. Write a story where magic is abundant, everywhere, and used as currency. Your main character…lacks any magical powers—or maybe just the obvious ones.
  5. Write about a portal to another world, that is exactly like this one, except magic has been allowed to flourish instead of having been killed off thousands of years ago. Your main character ends up there by accident…and can’t go home.
  6. Write about a character who researches untouched societies as a living. While deep in the jungle on an assignment, they accidentally allow themselves to be seen by someone from the society, a big no-no. What that person is capable of is beyond the world your character knew existed.
  7. Write about a character whose world is dying. The actual earth is sick and killing all the plants and probably life as they know it.
  8. Write about a kingdom overrun by magical beasts who spit a toxin that makes you forget everything…from forever. Your main character wakes up on the ground in the middle of nowhere, not knowing a thing about themselves. They wander to the nearest town, where everybody seems to completely despise them.
  9. Your character and their brother have always been best friends. They know practically everything about each other. Until they catch him do something they never thought possible.
  10. Write a book about an ancient society where your character hears a voice within their own mind. Shunned by their village, they spend their life as a near-slave, waiting on others, doing the hardest work, and granted little freedom. Well, they did, anyway, until they uncovered who the voice belonged to.
  11. Your character boards a ship to sail across to a newly discovered land. What they find when they get there are undiscovered species – both animal and humanoid.
  12. Non-magic people are outlawed. Your character has no magic and their older sibling has been ensuring nobody knows since your character was born. One missed moment might ruin everything.
  13. Write about a character who needs a miracle, and they meet one too! Who knew miracles were actually beings and not just something that happens? Your character makes a bad first impression when their miracle shows up to help them out.
  14. Write a story about how all types of magic exists in your character’s world. While drinking liquid happiness (magic drink) from a local tavern, they’re hit with a vision that overpowered every drop of happiness consumed. They’ve never had visions before, either.
  15. Your character has always believed magic exists. They just didn’t know how close it really was.
  16. Write a book about how after an accident that killed your character’s father, they uncover secrets they can’t even understand. Then their father’s friend shows up out of nowhere and explains all of it.
  17. Write about how your character teaches children magic. When one kid proves to be way more than expected, they have to help them understand exactly what they can do – and stop them from doing something that could be dangerous.
  18. Write a story about your character and while awaiting test results in the hospital, they encounter an…odd  person who teaches them about a world beyond their own – and better than their own.
  19. Write about a character who embarks on a quest to locate a special type of rock that lights fires almost instantly – something their settlement needs. What they didn’t expect to find, however, was a mermaid-like species living in the cave that houses most of that rock.
  20. Write a fantasy story about a character who wakes up every day feeling the same thing: that something in their life is just…missing.  When they realize their frequent nightmares are actually memories, it all becomes clear.
  21. Emotions can be controlled. Thoughts can be stolen. In the world your character lives in, holding on to your own sanity is the difference between destruction and thriving. They must learn to push out anyone who tries to alter their perception of reality.
  22. Write about your character, who gets caught in the middle of an ancient feud between two families as a result of one of their failures. In order to make things right, they have to dive head first into a world they’d rather not know even existed.
  23. Your character is short on food, shelter, and even patience. When they (literally) run into someone from their past, their reality starts to make sense. If only that person could undo what’s been done to them.
  24. Magic is the currency. Your character is a rare breed who was born without it. When they find themselves in a dangerous challenge to prove their worth to the settlement, magic would’ve come in handy.
  25. Write a book about a character who can teleport – but only to places they’ve been before. Their dream? To backpack across each of your world’s countries in order to acquire the most locations. The only thing stopping them is a past that’s sprinting to catch up to them.
  26. Your character’s country is the best…until a new ruler steals the throne by force…of magic. The most shocking part? Nobody from that country knows magic exists…and everybody with magic didn’t know those without it exist.
  27. Write about a character who wants to do everything on their “bucket list.” But when they’re kidnapped and shipped off to the unknown, there’s only one thing left on their list: survive. It just so happens the place they end up stuck is one of dreams.
  28. Your character hears a language they’ve never heard uttered before that day…yet they understood every single word. Turns out, they’re not really from where they think.
  29. Your character is a compulsive liar, unable to stop themselves from spinning tales that make them the envy of everyone around them. Then they wake up one day to discover that their lies have all come true…
  30. Write about a character who goes looking for magic out of curiosity. They find more than magic in their family history.

How to Write Fantasy Stories

Fantasy is a wildly popular genre. There are countless fantasy worlds out there and that means you really have to focus on being unique within your world.

Here are a few ideas to do these writing prompts justice when writing your fantasy novel:

  • Create 100% unique cultures
  • Avoid these worldbuilding mistakes
  • Develop slang for your world based on what’s popular/trending/makes sense with the time it takes place
  • Do not use common phrases like “train of thought” if trains don’t exist in your world
  • Use unique names
  • Don’t forget about diversity!
  • Opt for an unexpected and different journey and outcome (many fantasy novels follow a similar formula)
  • Write what you want to read!
  • Schedule your writing time and follow your deadlines if you really want to finish

Sci-Fi Writing Prompts

Here are 30 Sci-Fi Creative Writing Prompts:

  1. Write about a character who wakes up in a space pod alone…next to a ship so massive it’s actually carrying a planet beneath it. Your character has no memory from before they wake.
  2. Write a story about a character who lives in a world where every single person’s DNA is carefully genetically designed for something to help the community. Your main character despises what they were created for. This has never happened before.
  3. Write about how your character lives on a planet other than Earth. In fact, they don’t even know Earth exists. Well, they didn’t until some sort of advanced, technical probe crash-landed in their settlement, exposing the fact that they’re not alone. Now they have to decide what’s best for their settlement.
  4. Write a book about how the world used to be plagued with war and famine and inhumanity. But after years and years of developing a technical system that is the center of and controls everything, it’s almost completely peaceful. Your character is the engineer keeping the system running and when they uncover how it works, they contemplate abandoning everything they know.
  5. Write about the newest advancement in virtual reality that adds a physical sense. Now your characters can even hook up with people through your phone, all while staying at home. But when a glitch alters the mechanisms, what was once pleasure becomes pain and the user gets trapped in a VR state.
  6. Write a story about how others have been keeping your character alive for over 300 years because of a secret they know. When someone new finally learns the truth, reality becomes…confusing. Now, with only a short adulthood left to live, your character must ensure nobody else learns of this secret. But…well, news spreads fast.
  7. Write about how they didn’t mean to, but in an attempt to build a time traveling machine, your character actually discovered alternate universes – and then accidentally trapped themselves there. Oh, and this alternate universe hasn’t discovered electricity yet.
  8. Write a story about a character who lives in an ancient society. When a shiny, unnatural looking contraption touches down and creatures emerge, everything they once knew changes.
  9. Write about how the only reason your character is alive is because of a test device implanted around their heart. It wasn’t supposed to work and now, they’re not only healed, but they’re also changing. Just what exactly was that device made out of?
  10. Write about a character who wakes up in a dark, hot room dressed in hardly anything. Their memory is foggy but clearing up, and they have some sort of technical device securing their hands together. They stumble over to a tiny window that gives them a clear view of a world far below them.
  11. Write about your character’s sister who is discovered dead and the cause of death ruled an overdose. Your character knows better. She was the only person in the family who never had an issue with drugs. In fact, she was developing a cure for cancer in the most advanced research center in the world. Your character finds that…suspicious.
  12. Write a story about how computers are outlawed. Having access to technology is punishable by life in prison. Your character runs an underground cyber center that gets crashed by local law enforcement. But during interrogation, they get hired instead of prosecuted…because something unworldly has touched down.
  13. Write about a character who accidentally created a virtual reality software that taps into the user’s psyche and creates their ultimate dream reality. They were on track to become a billionaire until some users became addicted and unable to free themselves from its hold.
  14. Write a story about how the world your character currently lives on is nearing its breaking point. While the rest of the world rushes to evacuate everyone to a space pod with a destination of a livable planet, your character remains behind bars, left to die with the rest of the world’s prisoners. The kicker? They’re wrongfully convicted.
  15. Write about how disease is finally eradicated. Cancer is nothing more than an old nightmare. Your character spent years working his way into a lab dedicated to making sure it stays that way. Their secret? They’re a hardcore believer in natural selection. He decides to take Darwinism into his own hands.
  16. Write a book about a city that’s the first to implement an entirely technological government. It’s under strict surveillance from the outside in order to determine if this is the future of your country…and the world. Your character stumbles into trouble when they discover that technology isn’t in charge at all – a group of people they’ve never seen or heard of are.
  17. Write about hot time altering is possible, but fatally illegal. In this world, characters can bend, pause, rewind, and even fast forward time…but at the risk of their lives. Your character, in a midst of panic, accidentally alters time…by going 300 years into the past.
  18. Write a story about how the outdoors is plagued with radioactive particles created by a new technology once thought to eradicate airborne diseases. People are confined to the indoors unless they use a special, very expensive suit. Citizens who can’t afford them are driven mad by confinement. Your character wants to find a way for everyone to have a suit – no matter what law enforcement says.
  19. Write about a character who invents airborne particles with the intent to eradicate diseases. Unfortunately, they become radioactive, toxic, and severely deadly to anyone who breathes in even a tiny amount.
  20. Scientists have created a man-made atmosphere around the planet of Mars in order to make it completely livable. Your character is one of the lucky few who are chosen to be among the first to inhabit the planet. What they don’t know is that there is no atmosphere…and others already inhabit it.
  21. Write about your character who lives in a world where the outdoors is plagued with natural disasters daily. Venturing outside is dangerous and rarely done. When they’re forced to leave their home to rush to the aid of someone struggling outside, they learn that those “natural” disasters are completely fabricated. Their new life mission is to find out why.
  22. Write a story about how in your character’s world, identity is implanted into your forearm at birth. It’s scannable and contains any information someone would ever need to know, including age, overall health, risk for diseases, and more. Your character, having spent their life in a type of foster care, applies for a job only to realize that now, at the age of 18, their identity is showing two different sets of information.
  23. Your character’s job is to lead the mission of colonizing new planets – even if there’s life present. When the truth of how they manage to find habitable planets surfaces, a new recruit shows them just how wrong it really is. Your characters new goal? To stop it.
  24. Write about how oceanic cities have been built for the rich. They float atop the ocean, traveling hundreds of miles a day, all while its citizens go about their everyday life. Unfortunately, your character discovers a superstorm developing below the ocean’s surface, something that has never happened before – something they are wildly unprepared for.
  25. Your character develops a new device you implant in your ear that reads the minds of those they focus on. After light testing, they accidentally discover that the local baker has a massive, dangerous, potentially even deadly secret.
  26. Write about how in the distant future, magic is discovered as being real…at least for the humanoid creatures inhabiting an Earth-like planet. Your main character is among the few chosen to venture to the planet and study them. They just never expected to discover the source of the magic like they did in the process.
  27. Write a story about how oxygen levels on Earth have been plummeting for centuries. Now, with the population dwindling due to suffocation and disease, your main character has to find a way off the dying planet without attracting too much attention from the Keeps, also known as the highly deadly enforcement force tasked with making sure only certain individuals leave.
  28. Write a story about how centuries ago, a solar flare damaged the Earth’s atmosphere in the opposite way expected; it actually made it stronger. But now the sun’s rays have difficulty penetrating it and the world is slowly growing colder. Your character is among the many determined to find a way to fix it.
  29. Happiness is an illusion, as are every other emotion. In your futuristic society, humans are bred in a lab without them as a means of creating equality. The only problem is that your main character was born the natural way…with every emotion intact. If this is discovered, they’ll have to fend for their life.
  30. Write about how your main character was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tasked with delivering something seemingly unimportant, they witness something they shouldn’t have and are pulled into a world of secrecy, dangerous weapon manufacturing, and a virtual war the public is blind to.

How to Write Science Fiction

This genre is another very popular one, and for good reason. You can imagine a realistic, yet very different future than what we currently have.

Here are a few guidelines when creating your science fiction world from these writing prompts:

  • Decide if the story will take place in this world or a completely unique one
  • Create realistic advanced technology that your characters would actually use
  • Avoid modern-day slang unless the story takes place here
  • Create your own slang. A great example of this is in Jenna Moreci’s sci-fi novel, EVE: The Awakening pictured below)

writing prompt tips for fantasy

“Dynamic” is the slang the author created in this instance. It fits with the sci-fi world and further creates a sense of realism and it pulls the reader deeper into the world.

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200+ Fiction Writing Prompts In the 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!

Dystopian Writing Prompts

As this genre gains more and more popularity, you may find yourself wondering what a certain post-apocalyptic world might look like.

Why not write about it?

Here are 30 dystopian creative writing prompts:

  1. Write about a character who finds an odd-looking egg in the forest. When they take it home, they never could have predicted what was inside it.
  2. Write a story about how natural farming doesn’t exist anymore. Due to climate change, all food has to be manufactured in bulk and distributed. There is no flavor and is the same every day. Your character, who has spent their entire life in this world, takes a trip to the mountains far away from their home. There, they discover real plants, and on them, berries.
  3. Write about nature extremists taking over the government, stopping at nothing to ensure all man-made harm on the planet is eradicated. Your character ends up in their clutches, forced to do their bidding.
  4. Write a story about how, due to climate change, wildfires have engulfed the large majority of living land. Your character is one of many attempting to board a ship set for a new in-ocean settlement. The problem? That settlement doesn’t actually exist.
  5. Write about how after a devastating illness that rocked only the wildlife population over 200 years ago, a scientist created a virus that strengthens animal’s immune systems with the purpose of creating balance and stabilizing the wildlife population once again. The problem is that it worked too well and the wildlife has exceeded (and reduced) the world’s population
  6. Write a book about how after a devastating storm that encompassed the entire  world, the population has thinned significantly and your character, who lost all of their family but their youngest sibling, has to go up against the new “government” with a group of allies as they attempt to gain control over the living population of the world – in the worst way.
  7. Write about how over the course of a few hundred years, cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses caused the death and destruction of generations. Then an airborne substance was created to balance all levels of each person so they’re created 100% equal in every way. Turns out, your character is immune to the substance.
  8. Write about how the third World War is done and over with for many years now. It was the downfall of the world’s economic system. Now your main character must navigate a world where governments no longer exist, money is useless, and survival is the only objective. Oh, and they have a debilitating medical condition to look after, too
  9. Write a story about how two thousand years after a massive wave of a fatal illness swept over the entire world, your character navigates a life of poverty and hardship, struggling to feed their very young twin siblings and alcoholic father. That is, until a new form of choosing a leader is proposed. Now they can finally compete to rule over their settlement.
  10. Write about how books have nearly been abolished. Your country is separated into three main regions with a dangerous “neutral” zone in the center. With a rumor of a way out located in the midst of the neutral zone, your main character must venture through two other regions to get there.
  11. Write a book about a character who is fortunate to have been born into a powerful family after the downfall of the world. They have everything they would ever hope to have…except for a clue as to what happens outside their very large, protective walls. Once they find out, they can’t help but need to change it.
  12. Write about a single tower that powers what’s left of the country’s population. When an outsider tampers with its mechanisms, the tower breaks down, leaving your main character and everyone else struggling to survive.
  13. Write about how the birthrate has dropped significantly. So much so that children are now worth millions. Your main character, a very poor woman, just found out she’s pregnant – and won’t be able to hide it for long. Kidnapping and worse await her if anyone finds out that she can reproduce, and will soon have a child up for “grabs.” In order to save herself – and her child – she must confess her pregnancy to the father, a very wealthy man in politics.
  14. Write a story about a character who ventures away from the only town they’ve ever known, despite warnings and many attempts to make them stay. What they find is emptiness…for miles and miles and miles.
  15. Write a story about a hidden temple is the only thing standing in the way of your character becoming the next ruler of a post-apocalyptic, off-the-grid society. When a newcomer ventures into their land, their chance of finding the temple becomes dangerous…maybe even impossible.
  16. Write a book about how they really thought they were helping by creating a single drug with the power to eradicate diseases, illnesses, and even cancer. What they didn’t anticipate was the massive super virus 100% resistant to the drug. Your main character seems to be the only one who can’t catch it…that they know of.
  17. Write about how society has collapsed over hundreds of years, not with war or a single event like they always thought would happen. Your main character discovers a voice message from 700 years prior detailing the downfall’s construction. The 300 years it took to destroy society was completely planned. But why?
  18. Since the manmade radioactive superstorm that destroyed most of life as they knew it, extreme measures have been taken to document every move of every person. Your main character scans a chip when they eat, sleep, travel, and even when they have sex. When offered a way out, your main character takes it without question…which might be their biggest mistake.
  19. Write a story about how the government was taken over by the rich nearly 50 years ago. Your main character was lucky enough to be born into the wealthiest family. What they never thought of, though, was the fact that one day, the could be kidnapped and used as leverage.
  20. Write about a character who, after witnessing horrors of rising crime and drug rates, ran away at the age of 12 to live on their own in a secluded wooded area. Now, after 10 years of solitude, people start filing into their neck of the woods covered in wounds, tattered clothing, and bruises.
  21. Write about a super tsunami that’s demolished the eastern portion of the United States. But contrary to what was expected, the water is actually creeping inland, not back out to sea. Your main character’s home is a victim of the ocean.
  22. Write a story about how electricity is scarce…and very expensive. Your main character walks home one night to discover a brand-new electric car sitting idle in behind a forest tree line. They follow its tire tracks to find a massive house lit up and blasting music. A stranger waves at them to come in.
  23. Write a book about how at the height of your character’s career – and life as a whole – an attack destroys their city, kills their spouse, and forces them into poverty…and maybe even war. With new laws, new standards, and new rulers in place, their life obtains a whole new purpose.
  24. Write a story about how a little boy is running toward your main character, a look of absolute joy lighting up their face. Then they freeze, their joy turning to anger, rage. Your character cocks their head, confused, and then the truth hits them. He must be one of the Ruin Children, born from the people affected by the Great Tragedy.
  25. Write about a trial being the only way your character can ever hope to rise above their current abysmal ranking. Your world’s current society is one bred for advancement. Anyone who can’t meet the standards is done for. Your character needs a near miracle to pass their trial.
  26. Due to an error made by someone in the distant future when time traveling, the world’s societal (and time) structure has collapsed. Each day may produce a completely different reality than the one before. Survival isn’t guaranteed and strangers could have been your best friend – or more – only yesterday.
  27. Your character’s world is what happens when an experimental chemical compound intended to sustain plant life is pumped into the atmosphere. Now trees have overgrown, plants are squeezing into homes, and the Earth’s oxygen levels are (if you can believe it) too high.
  28. Tagged, chipped, and shuffled into line. That’s your character’s everyday reality. They’re herded like cattle…to be used in the same way as cattle. Then a single guard takes pity on your character and offers them a way out.
  29. Write a story about a main character who’s read all about the warning signs of a solar flare and the flipping of the Earth’s magnetic field. They’ve scoured through studies and research papers depicting what would happen. Since both occurred within the same year over a century ago, they’re stuck to live in the aftermath.
  30. Peace. The world is ruled by one person dedicated to keeping the peace. There’s been no war or poverty or famine in centuries. Your main character is newly employed to be the ruler’s personal assistant. When they discover how the world is kept at peace, their life changes forever.

How to write Dystopian books

Dystopian novels are one of the biggest trends sweeping the literary world. With books like The Handmaid’s Tale stirring more post-apocalyptic stories, it’s easy to get stuck in the same mindset as many other dystopian novelists.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to write dystopian using these writing prompts:

  • Think way outside of the box
  • Use literary elements from your story’s past to form their present
  • Paint a very clear picture of everyday life for your character from the very first page
  • Get creative with the laws, culture, and customs
  • Don’t just “go with the flow”: The Handmaid’s Tale is so popular largely due to the fact that it’s unique. Not many people would have thought of a world that was overrun by a religion – and that’s what makes it so tantalizing; it’s unexpected.
3 tips for a dystopian tale

Contemporary Writing Prompts

Some people don’t necessarily want to escape from this world. In fact, they just want to escape from their own life for a little bit but prefer to read something realistic, something they can relate to.

Contemporary writing is all about forming connections with readers.

Here are 28 contemporary writing prompts:

  1. Write about a character who’s done everything they’re told. They just graduated high school and are off to a very good college to get their degree in something reliable. But when they get there, they realize there’s a whole world of opportunity they never knew existed. Now they have to maintain the façade of going to college even though they decided to pursue a different endeavor.
  2. Write a story involving a character who answers the door to nothing but an intricate envelope on the ground; an invitation. After attending the secret underground event, they become a part of the biggest activist group out there…and nobody even knows who they are.
  3. Write about how, while on a hike with friends, your main character discovers a small tower buried beneath the ground. After some digging, they realize it’s filled with scrolls they can hardly make out. What they contain will change your character’s view of life forever.
  4. Write a book about how a character has been living a very sheltered, very dangerous life. After the death of their overbearing father, they’re thrust into the real world – only to realize just how different their life really is from those around them.
  5. Write a book about how your main character gets called out of school/work by someone they don’t know for something they are clueless about. But for some reason, the person addressing them thinks they already know everything about it.
  6. Write a story about how, as an artist, your main character has it well. But when everything they’ve worked for is burned in a tragic fire, they have to start all over with nothing to their name and a roommate determined to hold them back.
  7. Write about how life for your main character has never been easy. After venturing in and out of foster homes, they’re finally an adult and on their own. When their birth mother reaches out to reconnect, they never could’ve predicted what’s kept her away for so long. Now your character has to decide between getting involved with their real mother or cutting ties forever.
  8. Write about how death is a natural part of life. Your main character has been feared it or been affected by it. But when their best friend goes missing and their body shows up in front of their house, your character makes it their mission to find out who’s responsible – even if it means breaking the law…a lot of laws.
  9. Write a story about a character who’s in an accident that leaves them blind. When they meet a stranger who shows them how to enjoy life again, everything seems to be perfect. Until tragedy strikes that stranger.
  10. A strange person approaches your character claiming to be their long-lost parent. But your character isn’t adopted…so they think. Now they have to make sense of a new reality and an identity that’s shocking.
  11. Write about how a half-eaten apple flies through the air and smacks your character on the head. There’s nobody around and no way for anyone to hide. Then it happens again the next day. They do some digging and discover the source…a small child with rags for clothes and hollow cheeks.
  12. Your character’s identity is stolen, racking up thousands of dollars in debt. They were just fired, and to top it all off, their long-term significant other just broke up with them for their friend. And they said your twenties would be the best years of your life.
  13. Your character was adopted from foster care when she was 5. Their memories of their time in that foster home are almost non-existent. All they can remember is feeling scared and a distinct song that gets stuck in their head from time to time. As they’re walking to class one day, they hear that familiar song in the distance.
  14. Write a story about how your character woke up in a stranger’s home with a gaping, painful wound on their leg. They have no idea where they are, how they go there, or who the strange man in the corner of the room watching them is.
  15. Write about how your character had been studying their whole life. With everyone in their family having gone to an ivy league school, your main character feels the pressure to get in and get A’s. They even stoop to low levels to do so.
  16. Your character embarks on a mission to prove that the key to happiness is doing whatever they want, whenever they want. But that mentality quickly lands them in serious trouble with drugs, new “friends,” and decisions they can’t undo.
  17. Write a story about a dimly lit street at 3 am. Your character strolls by like they have many nights before after a long shift at the bar. A building they’ve never noticed before flashing an “OPEN” sign catches their attention. Once inside, the direction of their entire life changes.
  18. Write about how nothing has ever really been difficult for your main character. They’ve been able to coast through life, get a good job, make good friends, and are happy. Then a social worker shows up at their door with a six-year-old child – the same child that was adopted six years prior. Turns out, raising a six-year-old is very, very difficult.
  19. Your main character has worked their entire life to make their dreams of curing cancer a reality. But when it seems like a cure is within reach, a suspicious fire burns all of their research…or so it seemed.
  20. Write about a character who survived an accident that killed one of their siblings. When they thought life couldn’t get any harder, a scary diagnosis rocks their already unstable boat. Dealing with grief, your family blaming you for a sibling’s death, and a debilitating disease isn’t easy. Thank goodness they make a new friend.
  21. Write about purple glasses. Black hair. Polka dot shoes. Your main character has seen this person on the subway every day for two years. When they notice their absence for a week straight, they decide to find out who they are. Turns out, your character shouldn’t have gone snooping.
  22. Your character lines up at the bank very early in the morning, dreading another day of mind-numbing work ahead at their corporate job. A gentleman in a grey suit with white hair greets them and engages in some small talk. Then, out of nowhere, he hands your character a gun, takes a few steps back, and fires a couple of rounds into the ceiling.
  23. Write about how fire is your main character’s solace – their addiction. Their home is littered with candles, a lighter is never more than a foot from them, and bonfires are a nightly occurrence. Addiction of any kind can be a very dangerous thing.
  24. Write a story about how your character sees balloons – hundreds of them – floating toward the sky from miles away. They go to investigate the cause and end up really regretting that decision. They get pulled into something that could change their life forever.
  25. It’s been two years since your character has actually had a steady job. After growing increasingly desperate, they answer an ad for a personal assistant position. They just didn’t expect it to be for a major drug cartel leader.
  26. Hospitals have never been your character’s favorite. They think they smell…weird. Unnatural. But they work there now and will have to get used to it. They throw on their white coat and enter the building. Ugh. The psychiatric ward always smells the worst; like wet stone and rotting wood mixed with subpar antiseptics.
  27. Your main character starts to hear voices shortly after experiencing a trauma. Now they’re in therapy, fighting with their own mind in order to sort out what really happened that day and why they can’t stop hearing another voice.
  28. Write about how children are the future. They have the power to right our wrongs and start anew. Your main character befriends an orphaned child and learns more from them than they realized was possible.

How to Write in the Contemporary genre

I personally believe contemporary can be one of the hardest genres to write because you have the least wiggle room when it comes to creativity.

Everything has to be realistic in today’s society.

Here are a few tips to remember for writing contemporary from the very talented author of Little Birds and Writing Youtuber, Hannah Lee Kidder:

  • “Realistic dialogue is important. All the characters should sound different from one another, their vernacular should make sense for their background, and the writer should read it out loud.”
  • “Tiny details are hella dope in descriptions. It should be so specific and vivid that when the reader finishes the story, they feel like they’ve lost a bit of reality.”
  • “Imagining characters complexly is also important. Work on understanding real people. If you understand people and why they do what they do, you can understand characters and what they do”
  • Create a conflict many can relate to or sympathize with
  • Spend a lot of time on the character arc as many contemporary novels are primarily character-driven

Contemporary Writing Exercise From Hannah Lee Kidder: Sit in public and pick a random person, then write a completely made-up story about them.

Romance Writing Prompts

Here are 30 romance writing prompts:

  1. Write about how your character has gone through life believing that love is a choice. Their decision? To never get involved because love can only lead to pain and hardship. But after an argument with a stranger, their view of love, and life itself, is changed.
  2. Write a story about how marriage is just what happens when you’ve been with someone forever. For your main character, that seems obvious. But when they’re months away from their wedding and an old friend barges into their life unannounced, a wedding seems like the furthest thing from their desires.
  3. Write about a character who is up for a big promotion within their company. They’ve put everything on hold for it – including their love life. But when an outsider is hired instead, they lose it, focusing all their energy on bringing this newcomer down. They just didn’t think about the fact that they might end up likingthem.
  4. Write a book about how a character and their significant other have been together since childhood. After a war between their people rips them away from each other, they’ll have to fight, manipulate, and fool in order to get each other back.
  5. Write about how a package is mailed to your main character. It’s filled with what seems like hundreds of letters all to a single person. Memories and confessions of love are penned within those letters. Your main character feels drawn to the person on the other end and sets out to find them – and the letter’s true destination.
  6. Write a story about how arranged marriages are the standard. In fact, nobody marries for love. Love doesn’t even exist in your character’s world. But when they’re drawn to someone who’s already spoken for, they start to question everything they know about love.
  7. Write about how your main character lives in a society of slavery. If you’re not born in a certain family, you’re shipped off and sold. When your character is sold for the 8th time in their short 20 years, then end up at one of the top houses – and become a personal servant to the next leader of their settlement. Soon, they’re enthralled in a romance that could get them both killed…because he’s already promised to another…a very dangerous other.
  8. Write a story about how cheating is wrong. Your character’s society puts emphasis on loyalty above anything else. In fact, cheating and betrayal of any kind in any relationship are punishable by life in prison (and even death in extreme cases). So why does something that’s been illegal for as long as they can remember feel so right when your character meets someone new? Avoiding jail just became the most difficult part of your character’s life.
  9. Write about how your character started going blind at the age of six. Fifteen years later, they meet someone who makes their life better in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Then they realize that they’ve actually met that person before.
  10. Your main character has seen the same person at the bus stop every day for what seems like over a year. They also bump into them frequently at coffee shops, grocery stores, and even restaurants. Finally, they decide to introduce themselves to the person who Fate seems to be pushing their way.
  11. It had been 10 years since your character last saw their biggest crush. How they both ended up in the same city away from their hometowns makes no sense to them. It’s got to be more than a coincidence, right?
  12. A waft of something flowery washes over your main character as they jog down the street. They turn and follow the scent to someone dancing in the middle of the street to no music while reading a book.
  13. Write a book. about how your character runs away from their tribe in the dead of night. After an injury leaves them exposed, an unlikely ally of a rivaling clan saves their life.
  14. Reading minds might seem like an advantage in the dating world. But when your character can hear every single thought someone has about them, it quickly reduces their chances at finding love.
  15. Write a. story about how a treehouse in the deep woods is your character’s favorite place to relax. But when they get interrupted by the weird kid at school, they have to set some ground rules for its use. Sharing a treehouse with the weirdo might just be the best thing they’ve ever done.
  16. Write about how it’s rare to find true love as a child. Your main character did – and they grew up to marry their childhood sweetheart. But after an unexpected death, your character is forced to live without their true love. Oh…and they have a one-year-old to take care of on top of it.
  17. Write a book about how your character waited two weeks for their date to call. What seemed like a perfect evening must’ve not been all that great for them. Then their date’s sibling called…to tell them they had died. But they did leave a few notes with your character’s name on them before it happened.
  18. Her brother’s friends are off limits. Her dad’s friends are off limits. She knows those rules. But when a new coworker of her dad’s enters the picture, she’ll have to find a way around her father’s rules.
  19. Write a story about how many memories of love and loss come to your character’s mind when they’re invited to an all-adult summer camp. They decide to go for it and spend 6 weeks in paradise with complete strangers.
  20. Write a romance story about how you don’t know unconditional love until you’ve ever felt it at your core. And once you do, you can never settle for anything less ever again.
  21. “Marry your best friend,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. But when your best friend turns out to be the complete opposite of how you thought, a relationship can get tricky. Your character is on the lookout for a new best friend.
  22. Write a romance about how your character is basically a “starving artist,” an art student just barely getting by. Their roommate, another art student and your character’s crush, opens a gallery featuring breathtaking paintings of your character. It’s everything your character could want…and then they meet the person who pays thousands for their portrait. Now their roommate is hardly on their mind.
  23. In an ancient world, your character is getting ready for a life partner ceremony. Their partner – someone they’ve known their whole life – is already chosen and it’s time to secure the bond. But when someone your character has never met before steps up to challenge your supposed-to-be life partner, they’re forced to be with a stranger.
  24. Write about how two old bicycles are embedded in a tree – grown into it from years of being chained to it. Upon further inspection, your character finds a bottle in one of the baskets and in that bottle, a letter. They attempt to return the letter to its owner to find someone else entirely.
  25. Write a story about how in order to marry in your character’s society, suitors have to fight a person’s entire family for their hand. On the same day your character challenges their love’s family of 8, someone else challenges theirs – a family of only 3.
  26. “All’s fair in love and war.” Does this still ring true when your character is fighting a war for love? Some say they’ll move mountains to get to the love of their life. Others will move kingdoms.
  27. Write a romance about how falling in love is dangerous – especially for your character, who must stay focused if they want to rule someday. But when their mother’s friend brings her daughter to their palace, their entire focus changes. If only she would notice your character.
  28. Write about what happens when your very particular character meets the least likely person to ever be a good match for them.
  29. Falling in love is never easy. It’s even more difficult, however, when you find out the person you’re head over heels for is a torturer. And worse…they enjoy it.
  30. Write about a character who decides to take a vacation for themselves to a secluded little town in order to figure out what to do with their life after college. Little did they know that this small town could house so much of what they’re really looking for in life – including a hottie with a less-than-favorable reputation.

How to Write Romance

Even though romance is an extremely popular genre doesn’t mean you can be lazy when it comes to the actual romance and creative writing prompts isn’t always enough to help you develop a full-blown romance.

People read romance to be invested, to feel something real.

Consider these additional tips when writing romance:

  • NEVER romanticize abuse as “love” (AKA, a jealous boyfriend should never be praised for “loving your character more” because this is harmful to readers)
  • Create real chemistry by giving your characters qualities that would actually foster a connection
  • Avoid “insta-love” by giving your characters time to bond and get to know each other
  • Look out for serious romance cliches and overused plot lines like love triangles, forbidden romances (these can be great if done uniquely!), and crazy exes
  • Continuously up the stakes whenever the reader gets comfortable with the relationship
romance creative writing prompt

Horror and Thriller Writing Prompts

Because being terrified is entertaining to some people, horror and thriller books exist and are quite popular!

The great thing about this genre is that you can get really creative and really dark.

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25-page Fiction Book Outline Template

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Here are 30 horror and thriller writing prompts:

  1. Write a book about how your main character is home alone, just like most nights. This time, however, a new neighbor pays them a visit. And it wasn’t for the last time.
  2. Write a story about how eight murders have taken place in your character’s town in the past 8 weeks. Once a week, on the same day, at the same time. When your character gets abducted after being out past the town’s new curfew, they have only 48 hours to discover why this is happening and how to get free…all while being tortured by the murderer.
  3. Write a horror story about how it’s a day of celebration in your character’s hometown! A 100-year-old time capsule is about to be opened, so of course, they go, just like most of the town. When a deceased human hand with a sinister note attached to it is the only thing in the capsule, questions start to buzz. The first being, who is the person who wrote the note? Oddly enough, the note is written in your main character’s handwriting…with their signature…dated 82 years before they were even born.
  4. Write about how your main character suffers from a condition that gives them periodic blackouts for seemingly no reason. The only thing they can seem to remember from before each blackout is a bike. A red bike with a white basket and muddy tires. One day, they see that very bike leaning up against their house but this time, they don’t blackout.
  5. Write a thriller about how odd and unexplainable events are said to happen in a certain seaside town. Your main character takes it upon themselves to visit in an effort to see just how accurate the sightings are. What they find is beyond anything they imagined. But now they can’t seem to escape the town.
  6. Write a story about how your main character and a couple of friends take a boat trip to a tiny, vacant, off-limits island for a night of celebration. When the sun goes down, they realize just how occupied the island actually is…and there’s a reason it’s off-limits.
  7. Write a book about a character who’s in therapy because whenever they close their eyes at night, they see (very vividly) someone’s tragic death. Some say it’s just their twisted imagination, their new therapist thinks it is something much, much different…and dangerous.
  8. Write a story about how your main character gets into an accident. While they make a seemingly full recovery, something has just been off inside their head since the crash. When they wake up next to a mutilated body in an unrecognizable place, they start to worry.
  9. A new town, a new job, a new life. Your character moved away to start over and become someone they’ve always wanted to be. The problem? They just can’t seem to stop killing people.
  10. The lure of a mysterious person will never get old. Their dark hat, sly smirk, and inquisitive eyes pull your main character in…until they can’t get out.
  11. Write about a dare. That’s how it all started, like all those horror movies your main character loves. They venture into that basement from the outside with confidence…only to discover two kids and a decaying body chained up. Now they have to make sure they don’t get caught. The hidden camera on the basement stairs doesn’t help with that.
  12. Write a horror about how your character gets a new job in a restaurant as a waiter. The tight-knit family running the place welcomes them with open arms…and then invites them to take part in what really happens when they close at night.
  13. Your character’s significant other has always talked in their sleep; it’s nothing new. But when their voice changes and their words take a dark turn, your character can’t help but do some digging into why that is…and they don’t like what they find.
  14. Your character thinks they must be the last person left on Earth. After a devastating disease swept over the entire world, they wander aimlessly. Then they come across a town that seems unchanged, inhabiting seemingly normal people. They learn that’s far from the truth.
  15. Write about how after wandering into a brand-new book store, your character thoroughly enjoys the last few books they’ve read. When they go to buy another, the owner recommends a very specific book. They start reading only to realize it’s about that very town, 50 years earlier, about a book shop owner who preys on customers.
  16. Your character is walking home midday when they hear an usual sound coming from an ordinary house in the suburbs. They soon forget about it for the rest of the day. Then, when they’re falling asleep, they hear that same sound outside their window.
  17. A boot, a broken glass bottle, and a scuba diving mask show up on your character’s front lawn after a city-wide festival. Thinking nothing of it, they toss them in the garbage…only for them to reappear the next morning.
  18. Write a story involving a character who officially meets the person they’ve been bumping into all over town. After hitting it off, they go out on a date that ends very poorly for one of them.
  19. Write about how the painting that’s been in your character’s home for over 50 years starts screaming.
  20. They said not to visit the museum at night. They said strange things might happen. Your character never imagined just how much they should’ve listened.
  21. Your character’s best friend just got back from some intense rehab. They seem better than ever…until your character discovers their method of staying clean; a new addiction has taken its place.
  22. Write a thriller novel about how your character wakes up to a door slamming. They rush to their toddler’s room only for them to be missing. A single gardening glove is in their place on the bed.
  23. Your character’s mom is caught sneaking into their house in the middle of the night…a trail of mud patterning the floor in the shape of her heels. She’s in a trance and won’t answer to her name.
  24. Write about how your character gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and is alarmed to see their dad standing in the hallway. After shaking it off, they ask him what he’s doing. Without a word, his eyes start to bleed.
  25. Write a book about a character who’s known the neighbor across the street for years. But after witnessing them limping into their home, covered in something dark at 4 am, your character has questions. Getting close to them might be the only way to find out their secret.
  26. Write about how all the pictures of your character and their sister go missing from their home…one by one.
  27. Your character wakes up one morning and all the candles in their house are lit. They haven’t lit them for weeks.
  28. Witnessing someone’s descent into madness is something your character never thought they’d experience. It soon becomes increasingly clear that they might not witness it in its entirety.
  29. Write about how the school gym is filled. It’s a day of celebration. Your main character graduates today and when it’s their time to take the stage, a scream is released from someone in the stands.
  30. Write a horror book about how there have been attacks in your character’s town as of late. Instead of physical injury or even death…the victims are injected with heroin over and over and over until they’re completely addicted. Then they’re released.

How to Write Horror and Thriller Genre

Scaring people so much so that they sweat while simply reading is a difficult task. You really have to focus on the structure of your writing in order to create that reaction.

Here are a few tips for writing horror and thriller genre:

  • Building anticipation will be your #1 focus
  • Readers need to feel surprised and scared so dig deep and get twisted
  • Plot twists are a must; never let your characters or readers see what’s coming
  • Continuously up the stakes
  • Focus on building deep sympathy for your character from the very beginning. This will make the stakes seem even higher and increase tension, just as Stephen King does in his infamous novel, IT, pictured below.

annotated text showing how Stephen King creates sympathy for his characters

Mystery Writing Prompts

Human curiosity is what makes this genre so incredibly popular. We always want to figure out what happened. Mystery books are natural page-turners because we just aren’t satisfied until we find out what happened.

But that can be difficult to create from nothing.

Here are 30 mystery writing prompts:

  1. Write a mystery about how your character is 16 and just learned they were the last person to see their crush the night they were murdered. But when they come forward with these details, they become the new main suspect. They’re determined to solve their crushes murder or risk going to jail for something they didn’t do.
  2. Write a story about how recently, there’s been a number of abandoned cars scattered throughout the city. Nobody knows where they’re coming from and there’s not a single personal item in them. That is, until one is discovered with a freshly removed human scalp on the dashboard.
  3. Write about how for the past month, your character has received a number of disturbing and detailed drawings in their mailbox. After chalking it up to immature kid stunts, they try to forget about it. But when the drawings come to life in brutal, horrific ways, they’re the only person who knows of the drawings and therefore, knows what one will come next.
  4. Write about a character who gets a DNA test for fun – just to see where they really come from. After becoming obsessed with one little detail, they soon discover a number of their ancestors from all over the world were once located in a single, unpopulated place; a gathering of sorts.
  5. Write a mystery about how your character’s spouse nearly falls through the door, beaten nearly to requiring hospitalization. When an unknown but distinct brand marking is discovered between their shoulder blades, your character has to find out who they are and why they did it.
  6. Write about a single member of each noble family who has been murdered every week for the past two months. Your character is of a very noble household and can barely sleep each night. So they decide to find out who is responsible.
  7. Write a story about a character whose religion has a talisman as old as the religion itself. After it goes missing, all fingers point to the chief’s oldest child of 19 years, engaged to the healer’s oldest child. But they never could’ve done it. They were (romantically involved) with your main character when the theft occurred.
  8. Write about how your main character wakes up every morning feeling as though they didn’t get more than a couple of hours of sleep. After sleep studies, medications, and trying everything available, nothing seems to work. They decide to videotape a night of sleep to determine if maybe they’re sleepwalking. Turns out, they are. Except they seem completely conscious. In fact, in the video, they approach the camera, smirk, and walk away with a wave before disappearing for nearly the entire night.
  9. Write about how your main character is a key witness for a murder case. Video footage of them at the scene during the murder shows that clearly. The only problem? They can’t remember anything from that night.
  10. Write a story about a character living in an average sized town. As of late, a very large number of people have been going missing. They leave no trace. There’s nothing connecting them. It’s as if they all vanish in the middle of the day.
  11. Two years after your character’s significant other goes missing, presumed dead, they start getting messages that could only be from them.
  12. Your character is going about their normal day when suddenly, a low sound blares outside and doesn’t stop. For weeks. Nobody knows what’s causing it.
  13. During a follow-up set of interviews, your character conducts around a certain mob member, long thought to have put an end to that very mob, they find out that the mob member has been lying – for 30 years…about everything.
  14. Write about how, to make some extra money, your character puts their spare room on Airbnb. The first few people seem fine and the extra income is great. Then someone comes to stay for a week and very…odd events keep taking place in that room.
  15. Your character is a professional photographer. When processing images from a recent event, they notice a single person on the outskirts of every photo…and it’s not a coincidence.
  16. Your character opens an old sketchbook to try their hand at it again after years of being too busy with their corporate job. When they open it, their half-finished pieces are completed…and it wasn’t their doing.
  17. All the plants in and around houses in your character’s town are dying even though all other foliage is left untouched. It started happening after the last meteor shower.
  18. In your character’s world, crime is nonexistent. Everyone lives in harmony with each other. That’s why the murdered child found in the street sets the town into complete and utter chaos.
  19. Write a mystery about how when the Internet was first invented, warnings of sharing your personal information were everywhere. Now your character knows why. Cyber information is being used to frame innocents in extreme crime cases.
  20. Write a book about how a crack in the window was all the thief needed to secure the right position that allowed them access to the town’s most famous piece of history. Your character is the one who was supposed to keep it safe.
  21. Your character’s people believe a certain boulder is sacred. It’s the heart of their civilization and religion. One day the town wakes to find it pulverized, reduced to nothing but dust and sand.
  22. Write about how there’s a house at a dead end that’s not abandoned, but hardly anyone has even caught sight of who lives there. Your character decides to pay them a visit and discovers why nobody has seen them.
  23. Your character is introduced to someone that seems perfect for them. After digging into their past, a string of crimes has followed them but your character can’t necessarily prove it was them. So they decide to ask about them.
  24. Someone left their bag on the bus. Your character, being the good person they naturally are, grabs it and rushes after the person. They never turn around and your character is left with a bag full disturbing ransom notes.
  25. All the statues in your character’s entire town go missing. They were carefully removed from building, monuments, and schools. Nobody knows how or where they are now.
  26. Write about how your character moves to a new town with hopes of finally settling into real adult life. But they soon realize that nobody remembers who they are day after day, despite making very clear and memorable introductions.
  27. The leaves on all the trees have turned black but refuse to fall off the branches. It’s the middle of spring.
  28. A number of dead bodies are uncovered when your character decides to participate in the upkeep of the city’s public garden. No wonder the food has been so great – it’s been freshly fertilized.
  29. Write a story about how your character wakes up to a little girl’s screams outside. They rush to her but she’s not hurt. She just has no idea who she is, where she’s from, or how she got there.
  30. Write about how your character receives a number of letters in the mail to a name they don’t recognize. After weeks of letters piling up, they finally decide to read one. The first letter contains nothing more than a set of coordinates…so do the rest.

How to Write Mystery

Mystery is a very difficult genre to write. You have to ensure that you don’t give away too much information so the readers don’t figure it out.

These are some of our tips for writing a mystery novel:

  • Make readers thinkthey know what will happen by planting false foreshadowing along with real hints
  • Make the antagonist verylikable
  • Juxtapose tense scenes with mellow ones to increase tension
  • Keep the story moving forward always

Reddit Writing Prompts

Reddit is home to many different things—including writing prompts that you’d never find anywhere else.

Oftentimes, people go ahead and create threads expanding on writing prompts they read.

Here Are 15 of the Best Reddit Writing Prompts:

#1 – “You have a machine that tells you the effect of an action you are thinking about making, but you can only activate/use it once.”

#2 – “Well…you never asked.”

#3 – And to top it all off, they give you a medal for it.

#4 –  Every Christmas, Santa delivers gifts to the children who have been ‘nice’. But there’s a lesser-known brother Santa who every five years takes gifts away from children who have been ‘naughty’ even once. You just don’t know when…

#5 – You are casually walking down a deserted road when you fall into an open manhole.

#6 – You weren’t sure which was real.

#7 – People thought society would be better if we killed the worst 1% every year. Today is the hundredth anniversary, and the notion of the “worst” is getting really tricky.

inspiration for a dystopian story

#8 – Absolutely everything that makes you uncomfortable is beneficial for you. Weakened viruses train your immune system, small muscle tears make you stronger…and small bullets make you more resistant to larger bullets. Turns out, the government is awfully interested in your unusual ability.

#9 – Before you, the villain holds your sidekick and love interest over a cliff, taunting you to choose one to save. You take one (1) second to think about it. You then shoot them both, to the shock and horror of your archenemisis.

#10 – You’re a man/woman happily married with kids but in severe financial difficulty. A genie gives you the chance to irreversibly rewind time back to the date of your tenth birthday and you accept, hoping to make your current life better with the knowledge you have…

prompt for writing a genie story taken from Reddit

#11 – Every time you die, you are reincarnated into a new body. Unfortunately, the first few times, you failed to act as a normal child after being reborn. You are now a known factor for world powers, crazy nutjobs, major religions, and people who would give anything for the immortality you possess.

#12 –You have a name in your contacts that isn’t in any language you know, you delete it but the next day the number appears again. And that’s when life becomes a little weirder.

#13 – You get to heaven only to find that the judgement is entirely based on how many promises you’ve broken.

#14 – Before you became apprentice, nobody told you learning a new spell is the easiest part of your studies. The real challenge is learning to survive the diverse and alien consequences of casting a spell.

#15 –  A war-thirsty species is finally defeated after rampaging through the galaxy for decades, and their remains are exiled to a far away and dangerous planet. Everyone panics when, millennia later, Humanity comes out of that planet asking where is everybody.

a prompt to help write a sci-fi war story taken from Reddit

Non-Fiction Writing Prompts

I bet I know you.

You’re the type of person who has dreamed of writing a book for however many years, only held back by the lack of ideas – or good ideas, rather.

Or maybe you’re the type who has tons of ideas but aren’t sure if they’re worth pursuing.

It’s hard. I get it. A book is a big commitment and one you might actually want to go through with. But without having a clear idea of what to write about, that dream can seem too far out of reach.

But I’m telling you, it’s not.

In fact, using writing prompts can help you free your mind from its current constraints so you can explore ideas you might not have otherwise thought of yourself – in addition to a number of other benefits.

It’s one thing to use a writing prompt, it’s another to ensure that idea is actually a good one.

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, we have great ideas for you to focus on.

While reading these, note which ones cause you to pause and think – if only for a moment longer than the rest.

Those are the ideas to ponder and create a mind map for.

Here are a few writing prompts for a number of different broader categories that have proven to be prosperous.

Writing Prompts about Morals and Values

This is one of the top book ideas right now. Writing about your personal beliefs, how you came to them, and how they steer your life is something almost everyone can relate to.

And in a time where morality is being questioned time and time again by the media, it’s the best time to write on this topic.

Here are 25 Writing Prompts about Morals and Values:

  1. Write about a time when you were wrong and didn’t realize it for maybe years.
  2. Consider morals and how one discovers what truly matters to them.
  3. Portray the biggest value in your life.
  4. Dissect the biggest problems in the world and how it impacts us every day.
  5. Write about hidden problems in the world nobody is paying attention to.
  6. Consider a time your morals were compromised and how it affected your life.
  7. Write about a time your values were challenged and you had to face it.
  8. Compare and the difference between a value and a moral.
  9. Weigh societal values that actually negatively impact our lives.
  10. Write about morals that have inadvertently negative impacts.
  11. Spotlight an inner struggle between what’s morally right and what feels right.
  12. Write about how to find what you value in life.
  13. Write about what life would look life if morals were not in place.
  14. Present ideas of values affecting your morals in life.
  15. Expose popular moral dilemmas in the world.
  16. Write about how morals and values differ within different cultures and regions.
  17. Conflict arising from out a time when you had to debate morals and values.
  18. Write about your idea of the best combination of morals and values.
  19. Conflict you once endured because of mismatched morals.
  20. Overcome doubting your morals and beliefs.
  21. Write about how morals and values shape happiness in life.
  22. The importance of matching morals and values in relationships.
  23. Write about how to share your morals with others.
  24. Open discussion on ways in which one can develop new morals and values.
  25. Write about how our morals and values change as we grow up.

Tips for Expanding on these Morals and Values:

  • Be honest but don’t force your ideas on someone else
  • Use research and facts to back up your statements
  • Give real-life accounts of your experiences
  • Avoid adopting a “know-it-all” voice

Writing Prompts about Health and Wellness

This is another book topic that has seen a rise in sales and engagement over the past few years. Society is starting to focus on health and well-being more so than many other important life ventures and now is the time to write about it!

Here are 25 Health and Wellness Writing Prompts:

  1. Your struggle with an addiction of some kind and how you overcame it.
  2. Write a book about your journey to become healthy.
  3. What being healthy inside and out means to you.
  4. How others can overcome unhealthy habits.
  5. Create a book about the importance of mental health and wellness.
  6. Write about how to form healthy habits.
  7. How to find the best exercise type for your needs.
  8. A book about the idea of self-care and what it means to you.
  9. How to find health through personal reflection.
  10. Write about the technicalities of being “healthy.”
  11. The different ways in which someone can find health and wellness.
  12. How others can affect your health.
  13. Write about the impact of mental health on your physical health.
  14. A specific form of exercise you’ve grown to love and why.
  15. What it means to have overall life wellness.
  16. The impact of who you surround yourself with on your mental health.
  17. How learning can impact your health.
  18. Dietary needs and how they affect your mental health.
  19. Write about how to break unhealthy habits that drag you down.
  20. How negativity can greatly impact your health.
  21. Write about your ideal health and wellness system for long-term success.
  22. A time when you had to overcome super unhealthy ways.
  23. What you’ve learned about yourself through pursuing wellness.
  24. How professional athletes approach health and wellness.
  25. Societal standards of health and wellness.

Tips for Expanding on Health and Wellness Writing Prompts:

  • Always use facts and research with something as sensitive as health
  • Talk about what has worked for you personally and why
  • Feature advice from experts in the field
  • Include actionable steps others can learn from

examples of nonfiction health books

Writing Prompts about Love and Relationships

This can be a tricky topic to write about because love is different for everyone.

Each relationship has different needs and trying to tell someone what their relationship needs can often cause issues if it’s not actually what their specific relationship can benefit from.

That being said, keeping your message broad enough to impact a lot of people while also hitting specific key points can make it easier.

Here are 25 Relationships and Love Writing Prompts:

  1. Tell a story about how you see love.
  2. Write about what’s most important in a relationship.
  3. How to enjoy your relationship in every phase of life.
  4. Your idea of a successful relationship.
  5. What it really takes to have a successful relationship.
  6. Write about how your friendships play a part in your relationships.
  7. How self-doubt can affect your search for love.
  8. Write about how to love someone else in a way they need.
  9. How to find what you truly enjoy in a life partner.
  10. Becoming open-minded in your pursuit of love.
  11. The importance of loving yourself before loving someone else.
  12. Your journey to find love and what it’s meant for you.
  13. Write about a time you thought you found love but were very wrong.
  14. How finding love has changed the way you care for others.
  15. How to develop healthy and nurturing relationships.
  16. Friendships and how they play a role in your happiness.
  17. Creating relationships that lift you up and not drag you down.
  18. Write about what it means to truly love unconditionally.
  19. How intimacy can help your self-esteem.
  20. Ways in which you can improve your sex life.
  21. Write about ways in which you can improve your romantic relationship.
  22. Ways in which you can improve your platonic relationships.
  23. Loving yourself and what that fully means.
  24. Building strong relationship foundations in a family.
  25. Write about how to communicate in relationships.

Tips for Expanding on Relationship and Love Writing Prompts:

  • Never assume every single person loves and wants love the same way
  • Tell personal, real-life stories to build relatability
  • Keep your advice open-ended and always encourage communication

Writing Prompts about Childhood and Family

We all had a childhood and we all have a family – even if we’ve decided to adopt friends to be a part of our family.

That means everyone can relate to being a child and having a family.

That being said, it’s hard to decide on which direction you can take when writing about your childhood or family.

Here are 25 Writing Prompts About Childhood and Family:

  1. Write to your parents about all they’ve taught you about life, love, and happiness.
  2. Family about what they mean to you.
  3. Parenthood and how it’s changed you.
  4. Your parents and what they taught you.
  5. What your parents didn’t teach you and how it affected your life.
  6. Write about how not having parents impacted your life.
  7. Your childhood and how it shaped you.
  8. Write about what the definition of family truly means to you.
  9. Finding family in the least expected places.
  10. Discovering who you are within your family.
  11. The lessons you didn’t realize you learned as a child.
  12. How your childhood friends affected your adult life.
  13. Whether or not your family can truly impact who you are as an adult.
  14. How to have healthy communication in your family.
  15. Trials and tribulations of a blended family.
  16. Your journey as an adopted child.
  17. Write about whether or not emotional closeness with family affects your life.
  18. Your vision as a child and whether or not you lived up to it.
  19. Write about childhood pains that have followed you into adulthood.
  20. How to let go of a crappy childhood to find happiness as an adult.
  21. How your family doesn’t define you.
  22. Write about letting go of toxic family members to find happiness.
  23. How you’d change your childhood if given the chance.
  24. The journey of parenting and what it’s taught you about yourself.
  25. Write about how to make your own family when you can’t rely on your own.

Tips for Expanding on Childhood and Family Writing Prompts:

  • Family can be a sensitive subject so avoid hard “facts” about “all” families
  • Make sure to include details about differences
  • Tell stories others can easily relate to at the beginning

Writing Prompts about Happiness

Happiness is very subjective. We all have very different ideas about what true happiness is and how it comes about.

What you have to remember, though, is that everybody wants to be happy.

Here are 26 Writing Prompts about Happiness:

  1. Write about the idea of wants versus needs in life.
  2. Work and finding happiness in your career.
  3. Not being happy in your career and how to conquer it.
  4. Write about finding success in your career.
  5. Finding success in every aspect of your life.
  6. Building a successful love life, family life, and career.
  7. Write about balancing a career and family life.
  8. Being open-minded in life.
  9. Write about what rewards you can reap from being kind.
  10. What you can gain from being open-minded in every aspect of life.
  11. Goals in life and how to accomplish them.
  12. What living a happy life is defined as according to you.
  13. Write about a time you had very little happiness and how you found it again.
  14. The ups and downs of life and how to get through them.
  15. What truly contributes to happiness in life.
  16. Write about the true measures of happiness in life.
  17. How success ties into happiness and how to define them separately.
  18. The difference between how you view happiness now versus when you were a kid.
  19. The biggest life lessons one can learn through finding happiness.
  20. What people should focus on instead of happiness in life.
  21. The difference between self-fulfillment and happiness.
  22. The biggest problem in today’s society revolving around happiness.
  23. The idea of NOT looking for happiness in order to find it.
  24. How self-reflection can increase happiness.
  25. What you expected happiness to be versus how it truly is.
  26. How to include the people in your life when finding happiness.

Tips for expanding on these writing prompts:

  • Remember that your happiness is not what makes everyone else happy
  • Focus on helping others find what makes them happy
  • Talk about times you were unhappy frequently to drive the point home

Writing Prompts about Self-Esteem and Confidence

No matter who you are, you’ll experience moments of self-doubt and a lack of confidence.

Yes, even Beyonce has felt down about herself occasionally (though probably not often!).

The point is, writing about a lack of self-esteem and how to gain it is something everyone has experienced and therefore, everyone can relate to.

Here are 25 writing Prompts about Confidence:

  1. Write about accepting who you truly are and how it can change your life.
  2. How to ignore societal expectations when they clash with who you are.
  3. How to change your overall outlook to be more positive.
  4. What it’s like to go from disliking yourself to truly loving yourself.
  5. Write about what it truly means to have complete confidence in yourself.
  6. How to conquer inner demons in order to love yourself.
  7. Your journey to accepting your flaws and seeing them as strengths.
  8. Daily habits that will lead to overall confidence.
  9. How bettering your health can increase the way you view yourself.
  10. Write about how physical appearance actually has little to do with confidence.
  11. How journaling can relieve negative thoughts about yourself.
  12. Write about your journey with therapy and the quest to gain confidence.
  13. Alternative methods one can use to gain confidence.
  14. How using certain essential oils daily can help with your mood and self-esteem.
  15. Write about the internal effects of a negative opinion of yourself.
  16. Create a workbook dedicated to making someone feel positive about themselves.
  17. The negative impact toxic friends/family have on your self-esteem.
  18. How toxic relationships can alter your self-esteem for the worse.
  19. Write about how to overcome a learned toxic thought-process when thinking about yourself.
  20. How to introduce self-love into your life.
  21. The difference your life can have if you have self-confidence.
  22. Struggling with self-esteem and how it can affect relationships.
  23. How to know if you actually do love yourself or not.
  24. Write about how to use your passions to increase your confidence.
  25. How to help someone else learn to how themselves.

Tips for Expanding on these Writing Prompts:

  • Be honest, real, and raw when writing about your experiences
  • Offer different solutions even if they didn’t work for you personally
  • Interview a psychology expert in order to further the book’s credibility

Faith-Based Writing Prompts

Faith is a very personal journey for people. Whether you’ve been a lifelong believer or have recently stumbled into something that has changed your life, others have been there.

And they’ll want to read about it.

Here are 25 writing prompts about faith:

  1. Write about your faith and how you discovered its meaning.
  2. How your faith changed your life.
  3. How you learned to love yourself through your faith.
  4. Your journey from not having any faith to where you are now.
  5. A message to anybody who doesn’t think they have something to believe in.
  6. Write a book to the person who helped you discover your faith.
  7. How your faith shapes your family.
  8. Write about overcoming questioning your faith.
  9. Unexpected realities of having strong faith.
  10. How your faith can steer your career and life.
  11. How much others can gain from pursuing faith.
  12. Your own struggles with faith and how you maneuvered them.
  13. Juggling faith, family, friends, and love.
  14. Write about how school impacted your faith negatively or positively.
  15. Common struggles with faith and how to overcome them.
  16. Write a memoir about your life’s journey to accepting faith.
  17. Write about being part of a family with split faith
  18. Friends or family not understanding your faith.
  19. How there’s more to life than JUST your faith and how to avoid blinding yourself to it.
  20. Different faiths and how to separate differences.
  21. What faith means to you and how you express it daily.
  22. How-to guide for finding something to believe in.
  23. Write a guide for how to discover what’s truly meaningful to you with your faith.
  24. How faith can give you a whole new family and a sense of belonging.
  25. The differences in your life since believing in something bigger than you.

Tips for expanding on faith-based writing prompts:

  • This is a great time to be open and specific about your beliefs
  • Avoid shaming others in an attempt to get your message across
  • Tell deeply personal stories so others can relate

examples of books written about faith

Writing Prompts about Personal Journeys

Everyone has a personal journey. No matter what you’ve been through, there is a lesson hidden within it.

You can use these writing prompts to not only discover more about yourself, but perhaps light the way for others to see and understand as well.

Here are 25 writing prompts about personal journey:

  1. Write about a moment in your life that changed the way you saw the world.
  2. Don’t censor yourself and write about what you believe the meaning of life is.
  3. Biggest struggle you’ve faced in life.
  4. Your journey to finding yourself and all you’ve learned.
  5. Life lessons you believe everyone should learn.
  6. How you got to where you are in life and where you’ll go from here.
  7. A tragedy you, unfortunately, lived through and how it has shaped you.
  8. An internal struggle of yours and how you were able to solve it.
  9. Your pet/s and what they mean to you.
  10. How you were able to accomplish so much by a young age.
  11. Your life and what lessons you learned that others should know.
  12. What you’ve gained from networking throughout your life.
  13. Your top life values and how they contribute to happiness and success.
  14. Learning to live with something difficult or painful every day.
  15. Write a memoir about your unique life.
  16. A story to your younger self about life, love, and happiness.
  17. Write about conflict in your life and how you managed to get through it.
  18. Your life’s expectations versus its reality.
  19. Art and how it can show you a lot about yourself.
  20. A time when you thought all was lost.
  21. Looking for the light in life instead of succumbing to darkness.
  22. Your journey to understand what it means to truly be alive.
  23. Write about how to conquer toxic desires.
  24. Your journey through sports and how they shaped you.
  25. Write about your journey to write and publish a book 🙂

Tips for expanding on personal journey writing prompts:

  • Don’t censor yourself
  • Talk to a therapist or psychologist to better understand your own journey
  • Bring your real-life experiences into play
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLyPjiHgH6A&t=1s

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Fiction Book Outline Template

Ready to write? Get the parts of your story RIGHT and finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

character archetypes

Character Archetypes: 14 That Matter for Writing (+ Tips)

Using character archetypes in your book is a great way to ensure you have a diverse cast with specific roles.

Because without good characters…your readers won’t find a good reason to keep reading…

The character development of your story can make the biggest difference in hooking real fans for life…and losing readers for good. A bad plot can be saved by good characters, but even the best plot will fail if the characters are bad.

We’ll help you discover some character archetypes you can use to ensure your readers are ensnared in the grasp of your story from start to finish.

Here’s a list of 14 character archetypes:

  1. The Leader
  2. The Outsider
  3. The Caregiver
  4. The Rebel
  5. The Mentor
  6. The Professor
  7. The Warrior
  8. The Hunk
  9. The Wise
  10. The Orphan
  11. The Hero
  12. The Jester
  13. The Seducer
  14. The Bully

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

Keep your characters feeling REAL and organized at the same time with a fully customizable and printable character development worksheet designed to make your characters shine!

What is a character archetype?

A character archetype is a typical character that represents specific actions, nuances, and characteristics, and can also be known as “character tropes.” These characters have well-known qualities that shape their narrative and the story.

There are many characters that have similar and recurring qualities that are easy to recognize in stories.

Take mentors or professors for example. This can include any “wise one” that is a resource for support and knowledge for the main character.

We’ll cover more of this in that section below, but Albus Dumbledore is a great example of this character archetype.

Examples of Character Archetypes

We’ll go over multiple examples for all of the 14 character archetypes below, but here are a few to get you started:

  1. Harry Potter – Harry Potter Series – The Hero
  2. Haymitch Abernathy – Hunger Games Series – The Mentor
  3. John Keating – Dead Poet’s Society – The Professor
  4. Yoda – Star Wars – The Wise
  5. Tony Stark – Marvel Univeruse – The Orphan

You can look in every movie and book and pick out at least three archetypes used by the author/s. The key is knowing which go together, which clash, and how to shape them to create your own unique character in your novel.

Character Archetypes: 14 That Matter for Writing (+ Tips)

Not every story needs a character archetype, and having a few doesn’t mean your characters aren’t well-rounded or unique. At the same time, your characters can also have multiple qualities of these archetypes, which adds to their complexity.

Character archetypes are used in order to ensure your character cast is diverse, while also fulfilling plot and story structure needs.

There are certain elements every good story needs in order to satisfy readers and character archetypes are a big part of what does that.

That’s why we’re covering 14 character archetypes to think about when writing a novel.

#1 – Character Archetype: The Leader

The leader is a well-known and widely used character archetype for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this archetype is always active, meaning they don’t allow things to happen to them but rather, they move the plot forward through decisions and their own actions.

You’ll often find that main characters often possess the qualities of a leader, which makes for an alluring book.

Qualities of a The Leader character archetype:

  • Active and not a passive character
  • Makes decisions for other characters
  • Leads the “charge” in almost all scenarios
  • Is the go-to character for advice
  • Can grow into the leadership role if they’re not there right away
  • They are typically a key-player in the plot and overall story

Examples: The Leader Archetype

For more clarity, here are some recognizable examples of this character archetype where you can easily identify these traits.

Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Throughout the series, Rowling paint Harry as a leader in several ways. We first see him as less than a leader, living under the stairs but as the story progresses, his leadership shines in several ways. Firstly, he decides to forgo friendship with Draco Malfoy because, well, he doesn’t believe him to be a good person. This sets the stage for even more leadership characteristics as he stands up to Snape, and ultimately takes on Voldemort in the end. His leadership continues to grow as he leads his friends and classmates through difficult times in the series.

Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – The first act of leadership we see from Katniss is the very beginning of the story. She is hunting for her family…so they can eat. It’s a very basic form of leadership that’s necessary due to her mom’s state after her father passes away. We continue to see her leadership flourish as she volunteers as tribute, sets a precedent of distaste for the games, and ultimately saves both her own and Peeta’s life by the end of the first book.

Tobias Kaya in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci – Tobias begins the book as a provider for his family. This leadership role is necessary due to his sister’s disability. As the book progresses and Tobias enters the deadly tournament, allies seem to be his only means of survival. He bands together (somewhat reluctantly) with a few key competitors and soon finds himself as the voice of their group, making decisions out of instinct without even realizing the position he’s in.

character archetypes leader

#2 – Character Archetype: The Outsider/Wildcard

This character archetype serves a very distinct purpose. Oftentimes, this is a character that adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the story.

For example, this character won’t be “close” to your main character or even other secondary characters. They often come into the story to aid or solve a specific issue, but can also be seen as untrustworthy.

Examples: The Outsider Archetype

Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games trilogy – Johannah Mason meets Katniss and Peeta during the opening of the 75th Hunger Games. Wild, unpredictable, and untrustworthy is our first reactions to her, solidifying her character archetype as the outsider or wildcard. Because her character is so unpredictable, we’re both worried and interested in what she’ll do next, which increases the tension when she appears on the page.

Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series – Luna Lovegood is a very important character in the Harry Potter series but is often seen as an outsider not only from her own perspective but from others. We don’t really know what she’ll do next and this adds to the intrigue of any scene she’s in.

#3 – Character Archetype: The Caregiver

This character archetype speaks for itself. The caregiver is essentially the character who serves to take care of others.

They often have qualities that are “parently” and can be the voice of reason when the plot thickens. This character is one others often turn to for help, reassurance, and even encouragement. A character archetype like this in a story can be a place of calm, soothing, and can also serve as great juxtaposition to heavier and more tense moments.

Characters may also wonder how they’d get through what they have without this one character ensuring their safety and wellbeing.

Examples: The Caregiver Archetype

Louisa Clark in Me Before YouThe main purpose of this character’s role is to be a caretaker. Her job in the story is to care for a disabled man. The characteristics she possesses in the story are directly in line with this character archetype of being a voice of reason, encouragement, and caring for others in the story.

Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series – While Hermione’s character serves several purposes throughout the story, a major contributing factor to her narrative is the care she takes of both Ron and Harry. How many times throughout the series do the two of them even say, “What would I do without you?” This is a common reaction to the caretaker character archetype.

#4 – Character Archetype: The Rebel

Many main characters can fall under The Rebel character archetype because this trait often leads to interesting and intriguing conflict readers latch onto.

Keep in mind, however, that this is also a great archetype to use for villains or antagonists.

The qualities that make up The Rebel archetype are exactly what you’d expect; the characters often go against the grain, resist rules, regulations, and orders, as well as follow their own paths.

Examples: The Rebel Archetype

Fred and George from the Harry Potter series – While Fred and George, twin brother of Ron Weasley in the series, are also known as The Jester character archetypes (which we’ll cover below), they’re primarily rebels as well. The most infamous instance that showcases this is in book 5 when Delores Umbridge takes over. They drive her out with their own invented pranks, “sticking it to the man” in the way they know how best.

Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy – Katniss may not have thought herself a rebel at first, but her actions quickly showcase her natural rebel side. From threatening to eat Nightlock berries at the end of the first book to actually leading the rebellion as a whole, she’s The Rebel through and through.

#5 – Character Archetype: The Mentor

One of the most iconic (and sometimes clichéd) characters in stories is The Mentor.

I’m sure many examples are already popping up in your mind for this one. A classic example of this is Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.

The Mentor character archetype is someone who serves as a source of information, motivation, support, and encouragement usually for the protagonist or that group in a novel.

This character is also commonly used as an exposition element in the sense that they can provide information to the protagonist that the audience also needs to know, but in a natural way that doesn’t feel like “info-dumping.”

Examples: The Mentor Archetype

Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series – As mentioned above Albus Dumbledore is a prime example of a mentor in this series. He guides, teaches, supports, and encourages not only Harry, but several students he grew close to throughout the series.

Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games trilogy – This may be unclear at first, but Haymitch is literally and figuratively The Mentor in this trilogy. His character literally mentors Katniss and Peeta in the games as his duty but later mentors them in ways unrelated to the games by offering advice and taking on their personal conflicts.

character archetypes mentor

#6 – Character Archetype: The Professor

The Professor and The Mentor are very similar character archetypes. However, with The Professor the emphasis is on their role as an educator and teacher instead of just a mentor.

Therefore, Dumbledore can be seen as The Professor, though another character occupies that role in this series.

This character archetype is usually a teacher or educator the main character grows close to. The key defining factor is that The Professor both teaches in a formal way, but also takes an interest in aiding your character’s personal life and journey. They offer guidance and help when the characters need it most and can be a go-to for information for your characters.

Examples: The Professor Archetype

John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society – In this iconic story, Professor Keating guides his students on a journey through poetry…and adolescence. Not only does he teach his students poetry in a way they can understand and appreciate, he’s also instrumental in developing Todd Anderson, the main character and student.

Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series – This archetype is evident in Professor McGonagall as well. Her role is to be an educator and to hold students to the highest standard, pushing them and even creating conflict within the story.

Mr. Bruner in The Edge of 17Mr. Bruner is Nadine’s teacher and also someone she goes to for guidance in her personal life. He not only serves as her educator in school, but he’s a confidant for Nadine’s personal problems and helps her get through them.

#7 – Character Archetype: The Warrior

When you think of this character archetype, it’s very evident which characters fall under this category.

Think of the best warriors in any movie where they appear. Those characters are often tough, confident, and skilled in combat. Many army officers, commanders, and persons in charge of armies will occupy this archetype.

But a character doesn’t need to be in a role of combat or military in order to be The Warrior. They can possess qualities of a warrior without the title.

The Warrior can also be both a good or bad character.

Examples: The Warrior Archetype

Gray Worm in the Game of Thrones series – Chosen to lead the Unsullied under command of Daenarys Stormborn in this series because he “has no fear,” his character is the epitome of The Warrior. He is fierce, skilled, battle-ready, and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish what he wants and needs to.

Cinna in The Hunger Games series – This might be a very underrated quality of Cinna’s in this series with The Warrior traits not evident upon first glance. But we later learn how instrumental this character’s role is to rebelling against the Capitol, marking him just as deserving of the title “warrior” as anyone on the battlegrounds.

#8 – Character Archetype: The Hunk

Also known as “The Adonis,” this character is the stereotypical “hot guy” in stories.

While he may also serve other roles, this character is a distraction (often to the main character) and is usually the love interest in stories.

This character can go one of two ways. You can have the stereotypical hunk who is unintelligent and only gets by on their looks, or he can be the hot guy who is misunderstood and has more going for him than people believe.

Either way, the main factor is that he’s very handsome to the point of distraction.

Examples: The Hunk Archetype

The Adonis in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci – In the Sovereign’s Tournament, a competition to the death to win the hand of The Savior, there are several competitors, one of which is nicknamed The Adonis. This character is very much the stereotypical hunk with no brains, and it serves a very distinct purpose in this novel. He’s a fan-favorite of the spectators and stirs up jealousy amongst the competitors.

Christian Gray in 50 Shades of GrayOn the other hand, this character is more in line with the second version of The Hunk, a hot guy with more to him than meets the eye. Christian Gray is written as being so attractive, it turns heads when he walks by. But he’s also a billionaire businessman with a lot more than meets the eyes. He’s very smart while being a hunk, and then some.

Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter series – This character serves as a mix of both types of The Hunk. He is a competitor in the Triwizard Tournament, and the ladies love him. He’s handsome, charismatic, and also a highly intelligent and skilled wizard. All of these add to the conflict of Harry competing because others root for Cedric and not him, creating issues at school and in his personal life. Not to mention the fact that Harry’s crush ends up dating Cedric.

#9 – Character Archetype: The Wise

This character archetype is someone who often serves as a destination for characters in adventure or epic novels.

You may recall stories of characters needing to travel to meet this “Wiseman” who could tell them what to do or where to go next.

With a character like this, their role in their personal life is also in line with being The Wise in the sense that they also serve as aid, advice, and intellect outside of your main character’s needs.

Examples: The Wise Archetype

Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings Series – While this character also serves as The Mentor, it’s important to note that he’s a very wise, all-knowing character as well. Throughout the series, he proves himself a source of information for several characters.

Yoda in the Star Wars franchise – We can’t talk about The Wise without mentioning Yoda, one of the “wise man most in books.” He knows the most, aids anyone he comes by in their efforts, and is a classic example of The Wise character archetype.

character archetype wise

#10 – Character Archetype: The Orphan

While many authors aren’t bad people, we do tend to put our main characters through the wringer and orphaning them is one of the top ways to create sympathy for the character…and we all know that doing that makes readers love them more.

There are so many examples of characters whose parents passed away shortly after they were born or even later, into their teen years.

The most distinguishing factor for this character archetype is that the loss of their parents, whether it when they’re a baby or adult, has to add to the conflict of the story, including internal problems. If the story can exist as-is without their deaths, it’s not useful for the parents to be dead.

Examples: The Orphan Archetype

Tony Stark from The Marvel comics – Although Stark loses his parents at the age of 21, this plays a big role in who he is in the franchise. After they pass, he has to take over his father’s company, where he grows into the person we really know him as: Ironman. Their death also plays a pivotal plot point in storylines later as well.

Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series – Harry’s parents died when he was a baby but they left before something so important, the series could not have been written as-is without it: Harry’s scar and connection to Lord Voldemort. Their deaths catapulted the entire conflict of the story, and it also causes him internal conflict in that he struggles with his identity due to their absence.

Snow White – We all know this story. Because her mom dies, her father has to remarry, which puts her in the path of Maleficent, the villain of this story.

#11 -Character Archetype: The Hero

The Hero is one of the most common character archetypes there is in stories, and this is because good stories often have a “triumphant” character who prevails over evil and save others.

Many heroes also embody other character archetypes as well.

The best defining factor for The Hero is that they save others through their actions against the antagonist.

Examples: The Hero Archetype

Here’s a long list of The Hero character archetypes:

  • Harry Potter
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Marvel Superheroes
  • Matilda Wormwood in Matilda
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • Beowulf
  • Atticus Finch
  • Neville Longbottom
  • Hermione Granger
  • Ron Weasley
  • The entire Order of the Phoenix
  • Peeta Mellark

#12 – Character Archetype: The Jester

If your favorite character in stories is ever the goofball who’s really funny, they’re likely The Jester character archetype.

This type of character has a few jobs, the main one being comedic relief. They can serve as a strong literary device to cut the tension in order to give characters a relief, or to distract from something worse coming up.

A couple of key identifiers of The Jester in stories is that they cut tension either with what they say or do, are the butt of every joke, or make others the butt of every joke. The Jester’s job is to elicit laughs and keep the scene and mood light.

Examples: The Jester Archetype

Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter series – We’ve already talked about these rebels but they’re also very much Jesters for this series. They make jokes and even pull pranks, both of which lighten the mood of a story that’s very dark.

Fat Amy in Pitch PerfectThe story of Pitch Perfect is made hilarious by Fat Amy, one of the main characters. She adds jokes, comedy by the way her character acts, and generally brings the story to a new level of funny.

Dory in Finding NemoWe’ve all laughed at Dory in this story. Because of her short memory, there are plenty of moments for jokes and laughter, not to mention her character’s general demeanor.

#13 – Character Archetype: The Seductress/Seducer

With this character archetype, there’s a very specific goal of the seducing behavior.

Most often, this character is someone who’s attractive and can seduce someone in order to get something they want, or even to subdue them in order to do this.

The main point of The Seducer archetype is to trick someone into being vulnerable in order to gain the upper hand in any type of situation, whether that’s life or death or simply getting out of a speeding ticket.

Examples: The Seductress/Seducer Archetype

Dominika Egorova in Red Sparrow – This character archetype for this movie is quite unique. While her character, with the alias of Katerina, may not have been this type to start, she is taught this very specific skill in order to achieve her goals as a spy.

Black Widow in the Marvel comics – Similar to the previous example, this character was trained in many art forms, seducing being one of them. Her character often has to seduce men, playing to their deepest desires, in order to extract information for the intelligence agency she works with.

#14 – Character Archetype: The Bully

We all know a bully in real life and stories have no exception to their presence. Of the character archetypes, this one is easy to stop.

It’s is often used to make your main character’s life a lot harder. They can be a bully physically or even emotionally. As long as they belittle your character to the point of increasing conflict in the story, they’re The Bully.

Examples: The Bully Archetype

Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series – From the get-go, Draco Malfoy has bullied Harry Potter and his friends. He puts them down, tries to disrupt them with their plans, and even tries to have Harry killed (and kill him himself) later in the series.

Regina George in Mean Girls This character is the epitome of a bully. She puts others down and makes them feel like less than, so much so that the climax of the movie comes to a head with her “burn book,” which consists of a diary of bullying comments about others.

Patty in Diary of a Whimpy Kid –There are several bullies in this story, the main character’s own brother being one, but Patty indeed holds this title as well. She consistently bullies Greg throughout the story.

At the end of the day, character archetypes are meant to be examples you can use and tailor to fit your story. They work well because they’re familiar; people know, trust, and like them! This can bode well for you and your journey to write and publish books and series.

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

Keep your characters feeling REAL and organized at the same time with a fully customizable and printable character development worksheet designed to make your characters shine!

how to write a children's book

How to Write A Children’s Book: Steps, Structure + Tips

Learning how to write a children’s book involves a number of steps. Writing and publishing a children’s book successfully is possible, but it’s more than just writing out a story idea and drawing pictures…

And there are a lot of mistakes you can easily make that’ll cost you book sales, fans, and ultimately the success of your book.

If so, then we can help you.

I’ve met my fair share of authors who’ve been swindled by vanity publishers (scam alert!) or spent years investing time, money, and energy into an industry that has given them little in return.

Never fear! We are here to help you!

These are the steps for how to write a children’s book:

  1. Determine your book’s audience
  2. Learn what makes a good children’s book
  3. Read a lot of children’s books
  4. Expand your children’s book idea
  5. Outline your children’s book
  6. Narrow the details
  7. Write your book!
  8. Re-read and revise your first draft
  9. Get your book edited
  10. Find a children’s book illustrator
  11. Celebrate writing a children’s book!

*click to jump to that section

And if you want to get right to the steps to writing a book without learning more important details first, click here to jump to those tips.

Free Video Training Reveals…

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

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

What is a Children’s Book?

Children’s books are everything from Young Adult down to board books for your teething kiddo, however, a book is considered a children’s book when it’s intended for an audience between 0-8 years old.

But there are a wide variety of standards and skill between these opposite ends with children’s books.

For example, books for young adults are full of details, world-building, plots and subplots, setting creation, and strong character development, with no pictures, for thousands of words.

Picture books, on the other hand, serve our 0 to 8-year-old audience and have very few words, lots of pictures, simple plots but intense engagement.

For our purposes here, let’s think Early Reader down to Mom-or-Dad-reads-it-to-you. Everything else is essentially novel writing for an older child audience.

Why write a children’s book?

There are a number of reasons to write for children. The bonuses and motivation for writing children’s books will often be much different than if you want to write a full novel.

Here are some of the wrong reasons to write a children’s book:

  • “I’m retired now and want to make a livable wage doing something easy.”
  • “Children’s books are short so I know they’re easy to write and fast to the money.”
  • “I want to write but I’m not sure what. Kids don’t expect much so I’ll write for them.”
  • “There are some awful children’s books out there. I know I can do at least that well.”

Here are some of the right reasons to publish a children’s book:

  • “Children are the present and future of our world, I really want to impact them.”
  • “I want to make writing for kids my business and have a plan to write many books.”
  • “I LOVE children’s books (even though I’m an adult) and want to write them so much, that I’m willing to learn how to write well in order to exceed their expectations.”
  • “There are some awful children’s books out there. I want to improve the quality of children’s literature to give kids a better reading experience.”

The reality is, children’s books are the most difficult type of literature to write and produce.

You have to engage an adult audience (the people who hand over the money and are likely to be the one reading your book Every. Single. Day.) but you also have to engage the children, who will beg their money-wielding parent to buy the book and read it to them Every. Single. Day.

Additionally, you only have zero to 700 words to communicate an entire story, with inciting incident, climactic moment, and final resolution, to the full satisfaction of both adult and child—much like when writing short stories. On repeat.

Writing Children’s Books Is Increasing in Popularity

The good news is that children’s book sales are on the rise. According to a 2017 article in Publisher’s Weekly, children’s books have become a centerpiece for many traditional publishers because the increase has surpassed those of every other book genre counterpart.

Between 2012 and 2017 children’s book sales doubled, with a trajectory to continue increasing.

In 2018, 31 out of the UK’s 100 bestselling books were children’s books. That’s a huge percentage!

If I’m honest, I didn’t enter the children’s industry for the “right” reasons. I have always been a writer and was finally ready to pursue that professionally.

So, in 2007, I began the hunt toward publishing. Self-publishing was nearly unheard of and I knew enough about traditional publishing to know that who you know matters as much as the quality of your work.

Before we teach you how to write a children’s book, it’s important to understand a few key things I wish I knew when I got started.

Here’s what I learned writing a children’s book:

  1. The children’s industry is highly competitive. So even though sales are on the rise, so are people writing and publishing them.
  2. Books that thrive in the industry are extremely well written and well marketed.
  3. It takes time to study the craft of writing for children well and of marketing and selling your book well. Thus, it also takes time to make money.
  4. Self-publishing children’s books is a totally viable and profitable way to produce your stories. From conversations I’ve had, I learned that I make more money per book sold than my traditionally published counterparts, have to do the same level of marketing as they do, have more creative control, and can get my book out in three months instead of one to two years. (I have many friends in the traditional industry and I love their contribution to market research and high-quality value. Together, we partner to impact children.)
  5. Writing for children is the best. Fan mail for kids? Nothing else like it. Experiencing the giggles and gasps of kids who are caught up in your words is life-giving. And knowing that your story is a safe space, gives kids permission to be uniquely them, and passes on important life skills to our upcoming generation is among the highest of honors.
  6. You can also write a children’s book companion to your adult nonfiction book as well, like our coach Ellaine Ursuy.

With time and practice, I learned how to set my expectations correctly, develop a writing habit, and produce high quality, professional, and engaging children’s books.

If, after reading the right reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then stick with me a bit longer and I’ll walk you through some standard first steps.

If, after reading the wrong reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then consider writing a book for adults. We have some great resources on how to determine what you should write, starting with something that gets you excited, that you can write quickly, and that you can write easily.

For the rest of you, there are a number of standards and steps to get you going on writing your first children’s book.

How to Write A Children’s Book: Steps, Structure + Tips

Writing a children’s book has a different overall book writing process than say, when you’re writing a novel.

We’ve broken down the steps for writing children’s books with a strategy that works.

If you’re one for learning by listening or watching, check out the video below for some tips not in this post:

https://youtu.be/VG9Lvw8c1bc

#1 – Determine your children’s book’s audience

Everything about how you start your book: your story idea, book layout, page count, number of illustrations, and depth of the plot depends on who you are writing for.

A picture book, for example, is normally read aloud by an adult. The child is captivated by full spreads of illustration and relies almost entirely on listening to the story.

Language can be a little more developed, poetic, and nuanced since the book is as much for the reading adult as it is for the child. Early chapter books, on the other hand, are for the older budding reader who still relies on some artwork while gaining vocabulary.

If you don’t know the age and stage of the child you’re writing for, you might lose their interest. The following is a guide for your book according to age group.

Determine What You’re Writing:

Children’s books length varies depending on the age group you want to write for and the detail of the story you want to tell. You also want to consider whether or not you’ll write a children’s book series or just a single book. Series are great for kids because they often get attached to certain characters and love to see them again.

If you want to write for children 0 – 4 years old, then you’re most likely writing a board book or a very simple, short concept book.

These books often teach children their colors or how to count or demonstrate a routine like bath time or bedtime, in 0 – 100 words.

Children ages 3 – 8 love picture books. These are stories 0 – 700 words (1000 at the most) that use full page images to tell a story.

These books are often read aloud to children by an adult. Picture books rely in part on the quality of the story as told through text and the work of the illustration to communicate the story.

With so few words, picture books must be compelling and tell a complete story, meaning that every word must be purposeful in moving the story forward.

Early Readers are short chapter books aimed at 5 – 7 year-olds and range from 200 – 5000 words.

This youngest chapter book is designed for kiddos who see big kids reading chapter books and really want to read them, too.

However, these kids are still developing reading skills and need simple language because they are reading it solo. Chapters are short so kids can feel successful as they make their way through such a “big” book. These are most popular in the educational market as a bridge for younger readers between picture books and chapter books.

Here’s a handy table for an easier overview:

Children's AgeBook Length
0 - 4 years old
0 - 100 words
3 - 8 years old0 - 700 words
5 - 7 years old200 - 5000 words
6 - 7 years old5000 - 20,000 words
8 - 10 years old20,000 - 35,000 words
Tweens40,000 - 55,000 words
Young Adult50,000 - 70,000

Naturally, as age of target child increases, word count increases, and the depth of the plot increases as well. These books include illustrations, in lesser measure as the word count increases, stopping around Middle Grade.

This is a great resource for determining what you want to write (and for whom). This article was written primarily for writers in the traditional industry but is a great standard for us as well.

#2 – Know What Makes a Good Children’s Book

Children’s books are unique in the sense that their lesson and what children learn are so very important, but you also have to create this in a way that holds their attention.

Here are some criteria for writing a good children’s book:

  1. It has an important lesson
  2. The story is easy to follow for your chosen age-range
  3. The illustrations are high-quality and professional
  4. It’s relatable to a wide range of children
  5. It can entertain adults at the same time

Using these criteria can help you structure your story, create a better story setting, and ensure you’re hitting the milestones needed for a good children’s book.

#3 – Read LOTS of books in your category

There are many different genres to choose from when writing for children and the best way to write them well is to read them often.

The following are a sampling of the options:

  • Realistic Fiction: Made up stories that could happen today in real life (but didn’t).
  • Historical Fiction: Made up stories based on actual historical events.
  • Biography: A story like this, or a memoir, is based on the life of a real person.
  • Fantasy: Made up stories that involve ideas that don’t happen in real life.
  • Science Fiction: Made up stories that generally aren’t plausible and are normally set in the future involving some level of science and technology.
  • Poetry: Writing poetry is telling stories told in verse, rhyming or not, mean to communicate in such a way as to evoke emotion.
  • Non Fiction: True stories that are informational (to teach facts) or based on actual real-life stories.
  • Folklore: These are the stories, often told orally first, that represent our history, our culture, our stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, songs of the past, and even some passed on fairy tales. These are often retold since we don’t know the original author.

Reading books in your genre can help you understand the story structure that works, including how to start your story, the maturity of the content for your intended audience, and more.

#4 – Come up with a children’s book idea

Children’s story ideas can be silly, deep, inspiring, hilarious, zany, serious, and straight up weird. They can make you laugh, cry, gasp, squeal, giggle and guffaw.

Ideas like these come from so many places: the kids around you (eavesdrop on ‘em, it’s great), adults around you (eavesdropping actually goes a long way as a writer), nature, books, movies, newspaper articles, youtube videos, animals… be an observer and you’ll find ideas everywhere!

Here are a few of my favorites places to come up with children’s book ideas:

  • Fractured Fairy Tales: Take a commonly known myth or legend and retell it in a new and creative way. Think “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” (as told by the wolf), Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, or my very own book, Tercules. I took the legend of Hercules, combined him with a wild turkey chick, and voila.
  • Unlikely Characters and Settings: Speaking of Tercules, another great place to get ideas is by throwing together two very unlikely characters and dropping them in an unlikely setting. Shark versus Train is a great example of this.
  • Putting Characters in Child-like Settings and Circumstances: Some book ideas are life skills we want to teach our kids in creative ways. The Princess and the Potty worked magic with my daughter. Or Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, illustrated by my friend, Daniel. Taking a unique character and putting them in the position of a child will help kids catch all sorts of great life skills. Or on a more serious note, my own Speranza’s Sweater: A Child’s Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption, gives children permission to experience the many conflicting feelings of adoption through the lens of Speranza. Our own SPS coach, Jed Jurchenko, also does this with his recent release, The Stormy Secret, helping kids navigate the safe places to share secrets imposed on them.
  • Take the theme or message of a nonfiction adult book you’ve written and alter it to fit a child’s needs to teach the same thing, earlier

#5 – Outline Your Children’s Book

Once you have an idea, start laying it out in a book format. Yes, this is essentially outlining. Depending on the book category and genre, this outline will look different. For a picture book, the story will be, on average, 28 pages of story.

Create a book dummy and fill in the pages with your idea. (To make a book dummy, take 16 pages of regular paper and fold them together in half to make a small booklet.

This should create a 32 page “book.” The first few pages are your title page and copyright page, 28 pages of story, and then any end matter you’d like to include, like “About the Author” or an author’s note.

Use this book dummy to layout your scenes and choose where in your story you want the page to turn.

For chapter books, make sure to outline the entire story with the five important milestones of a strong plotline, as well as the individual chapters. If you’re more of a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), then at the very least have a framework for your story so you don’t get lost on rabbit trails.

Don’t get lost! Your readers will, too!

We go over many different tips and types of children’s book outlining methods you can use in the video below:

https://youtu.be/kieAfi3hLEY

#6 – Focus on Your Children’s Book Details

Choose whether you’ll write the book in poetry or prose, first person or third person, past tense or present tense.

Use other books in your genre to guide you as a standard.

If you choose to write in poetry, be aware that if you can’t do it perfectly, you really shouldn’t do it at all. Writing poetry is much more than rhyming words. It’s meter. Rhythm. Timing. Pacing.

If one of these is off, it throws your reader off and discredits your book and your storytelling skills.

If it can be told just as well in prose or poetry, do it.

#7 – Write that first draft!

Don’t stress the details, just get the story down.

One of the biggest hangups preventing all authors from being successful is finishing writing a book.

If you can accomplish this, you’re further along in the process than most other writers you never get past the idea phase.

Here are a few tips to finish your draft:

#8 – Re-read and revise your first draft

Do you have enough words? Too many words? Add or cut as necessary.

  • Does your story make sense?
  • Are there plot holes you need to address?
  • Did you break any of the “rules”?
  • If so, why? If not, why?

Tighten up your draft.

This self-editing process can take a while, but you’ll feel better sending a cleaner, tighter manuscript to the editor because it can only get even better from there.

#9 – Get a critique and/or an edit.

Getting a book critique gives you a chance to get a children’s book professional’s feedback on the marketability of your book, the content of your book, and to address any grammatical issues.

No matter how well you think you’ve nailed grammar or understand a child’s brain, your set of eyes alone will never be sufficient for a perfect draft.

I’m a seasoned writer and editor and I still don’t trust myself to catch every grammatical issue or plot hole. Invite a professional to give you content feedback as well as outside eyes on your grammar and syntax.

But not just any professional! Make sure they have strong experience in the children’s writing industry and credibility to back up their work.

Editing for children’s book is not the same as editing for books for adults.

Trust me, I do both. Consider the editors feedback and make any necessary changes. Stay true to your voice and your story while honoring the tradition of literature and writing quality books.

#10 – Find a children’s book illustrator

This is the most fun part! Your book will now come to life in the hands of someone amazing.

The illustration in your book are extremely important. You have to think about which style you want and find someone who can bring that to life.

Here are a few places you can find a children’s book illustrator:

P.S. — Do you know any great children’s book illustrators? Drop their names in comments below so we can check them out!

You can also check out our article on how to find an illustrator for your children’s book.

#11 – Celebrate!

This is huge! These words you’ve been pouring over are about to be read by children!

Take a minute and have a dance party before stepping into book production, including formatting your book and even getting a book cover design.

You did it!

Free Video Training Reveals…

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

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

how much do authors make

How Much Do Authors Make? Salaries [With Examples]

If you’re looking to become an author, you might be thinking how much do authors make? Is it a sustainable career option?

Many will look at being an author as being a “starving artist.” And while this may have been true when the traditional publishing industry turned away almost everyone, it’s just not the reality anymore.

There are so many people out there making a living writing and publishing books. And not just barely making a living, making a full, healthy full-time income while pursuing something they truly enjoy.

With self-publishing becoming more and more relevant, people looking to become a full-time author can make more now than ever before, which is actually something we teach our students to do in our Become a Bestseller or Fundamental of Fiction & Story programs.

We’re not just here to tell you how much authors make—we’ll also teach you how to make the most, and even earn a full-time living from your books if you read this whole article.

Here’s what you’ll learn about how much authors make & how you can make more:

  1. Author salary per year
  2. New author salary
  3. Common royalty earnings
  4. Making more money as an author
  5. Self vs traditional publishing
  6. Write to market
  7. Publish often
  8. Publish a series
  9. Build an email list
  10. Commit to being an author

There are self-published authors who can make a living writing with a sustainable income of $5,000 per month to $8,000 per month, even some self-published authors who make an excess of $10,000 per month.

Remember to use our royalties guidelines (below) to calculate accurately!

FREE TOOL

Book Profit Calculator

Enter Your Information Below To Cacluate
Your Potential Book Sales

Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!

CONGRATULATIONS

Here's What You'd Earn:

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 Much Do Authors Make a Year? Salaries [With Examples]

Authors can expect to make a full-time living provided they have multiple books, know how to market them well, and an active, engaged fan base.

There are a ton of factors that play a role in how much authors make in a year, including books sold, royalty rate, and book printing costs. No two authors will make the same amount, though we all wish we could be lumped with the income of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

Depending on which route you take to publish, your earnings will differ. Here, we use the example of Justin and Alexis Black, students of ours who sold over 6000 copies of their book in under a year, and authors of Redefining Normal compared to the average traditionally published author:

Traditional Earnings:

Book retail price: $14.99

Initial Royalty Rate: 10%

Income per book: $1.79

Books Sold: 6000


Earnings: $10,740

Self-Published Earnings:

Book retail price: $14.99

Initial Royalty Rate: 60%

Income per book: $5.74

Books Sold: 6000


Earnings: $34,440

As you can see, there’s more than a $24,000 difference between traditionally published authors and Alexis and Justin’s book, at the same number of copies sold. These two students of ours were actually able to buy a home with their additional book earnings, as well as quit their jobs to pursue their author and business goals. (Small disclaimer: the above calculations were made using print copy rates only, they may have sold variations of types, including ebooks).

While most people think traditionally published authors make more than self-published authors because of the fame of authors like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, that’s not actually true.

How much an author makes per year depends on:

  • Royalty rate earned per book sale
  • Up-front advance offered (traditionally published only)
  • Scope of book marketing
  • Size of audience
  • How many books are published per year
  • How many books are currently out
  • How many books are actually sold consistently

The averages actually swing higher in favor of self-published authors, as you can see in our real example above.

Note: Traditional publishing houses may have a lower printing cost through partnership deals or owning a printing press, but a $4.45 printing cost was used in the above calculations for both.

Regardless, you can see the major difference between the two: several dollars per book for a self-published author and sometimes not even a full dollar for traditionally published authors.

For example, using the book calculator tool above, plus the information in the chart above, we can estimate how much a self-published author could make selling only 35 units of their book each day (on average), on Amazon, and retailing the book for $4.99.

That author could expect to make over $9,000 in profit (before advertising costs, etc.) on their book in only 3 months.

Imagine how much that author could make if they only charged a little more, or simply sold more books!

How much money does a new author make?

This is such a common question we get here at Self-Publishing School, and it’s understandable. Most people think you have to be really well-known to make money as an author.

However, that’s not true. All you need is the right process to increase visibility for your book on Amazon, which is what we do with our Become a Bestseller and Fiction Publishing program. The example above of Alexis and Justin black is representative of new authors who committed and worked hard.

We even developed a calculator to help you see just how much you can make in profit right here.

Try different price points, and different royalty rates to see for yourself!

FREE TOOL

Book Profit Calculator

Enter Your Information Below To Cacluate
Your Potential Book Sales

Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!

CONGRATULATIONS

Here's What You'd Earn:

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

This will help you understand how to price your book and help you calculate sales goals in order to reach an income level you really want.

Many of our students sell 2 -3 books per day through our Sell More Books program, and with many having multiple books, this number increases rapidly.

For example:

Using the example above, pricing a book at $13.99, selling 3 books a day on Amazon, an author could expect to earn a little over $750 per month.

Price the book a little higher, the number could go up (just make sure you’re pricing your book to fit with others in your genre or people may skip over it).

Sell more books, the number will go up.

Selling books as part of a series is a terrific way to stack earnings for new authors, helping them earn a full-time income writing and publishing books for a living.

Additionally, many new authors also use their books to help grow leads for their business or to gain them access to speaking opportunities to grow their audience. Using a book this way, the immediate profits can be much higher.

Ultimately, if you want to make money as a new author, your best bet is to write often, publish often, and create series or at a minimum, multiple books.

What are common author royalty earnings?

Since we covered this above for the most part, let’s give a quick overview of what author royalties look like.

Self-published authors can make between 40% – 60% royalties on a the retail price of a single book while traditionally published authors usually make between 10%-12% royalties.

First-time authors who want to traditionally publish can get an advance, which is usually $10,000 (usually not that much more for a first-timer). However, with traditional publishing, you do not start to earn royalties until you have sold $10,000 worth of books at your royalty rate.

Basically, you have to earn back that $10,000 before you actually start to earn a royalty check from your publisher. And many publishers make a deal with the author that if they sell X amount of books, their royalty rate will go up, hence the difference there.

Experienced and proven traditionally published authors can negotiate a higher royalty rate, with 15% being very rare.

For self-published authors, you start making money from your first sale and every sale after at an average of 60% royalty rate.

Ways to Make More Money as an Author

So now that you have an understanding of how much authors make, we wanted to let you in on a few tips for making more money as an author.

Here are our best tips for becoming a full-time author.

#1 – Choose between self-publishing or traditional publishing

First and foremost, you’ve got to learn the difference between self-publishing vs traditional publishing, and then make the choice that will be best for you.

Setting yourself up for success with this is crucial if you want to make the most money you can as an author.

There are successful paths with both avenues. Just know that traditional publishing will take longer (2-3 years with the entire process it encompasses) and you might not see big returns unless you end up getting lucky with a bidding war between publishing houses.

Those bidding wars are what usually get authors massive advances, like those 6 or 7-figure deals you hear about. Otherwise, an unproven author may only get a $10,000 advance to start.

If you want a quick overview of the main differences between the two, here you go:

Traditional Publishing

  • 10% – 12% royalties per book
  • Can take 2-3 years to publish one book
  • Up-front advance (but you don’t make royalties until that advance is “paid back” to the publisher)

Self-Publishing

  • 40% – 60% royalties per book
  • Can publish 2-3 high-quality books a year
  • No advance, but you make money right away, though you pay for book production costs

#2 – Write to market

Did you know traditional publishing houses have staff who come up with book concepts that are “trending” or hitting really well in the market, and then they also employ writers to bring those ideas to life?

Sometimes it’s the same person, but not always. They do this in order to have the biggest chance of making money by capitalizing on what’s “hot” in literature right now.

The best part? You can do this yourself as a self-published author.

But how do you write to market? And is it a less “legitimate” form of being an author?

There’s an argument between some more entitled authors and those who write to market under the guise of writing to market being a “sell-out” or some of the equivalent.

That’s just people being, well, entitled.

The truth is that if you love to write and can come up with story ideas easily, can write quickly, and are able to publish quickly, then writing to market is a legitimate (and smart) career opportunity as an author.

As a self-published author, you can write to market by looking at categories you enjoy creating stories in and seeing what types of stories are doing really well.

An example would be the Age of Vampire Novels that was initially kicked off by books like Twilight, triggering an explosion on vampire stories by many authors and publishing houses. And these sold really well.

Today, vampires aren’t quite as popular as Urban Fantasy in the Young Adult category.

If you’re someone who likes to write fantasy, you can benefit from writing those types of books and publishing them frequently.

Check out this post we made all about how to write to market to more tips.

#3 – Write every day and publish often

The coach for our Fundamentals of Fiction and Story program here at Self-Publishing School helps more than 30% of our students write and publish more than one book.

After they get one done and published, they’re itching to do it again, and again. This is our best advice for making a living writing.

Our coach actually started the InNoWriLife within our exclusive fiction Mastermind community, which is a knock-off NaNoWriMo, and it stands for: International Novel Writing Life.

[Check out our Fundamentals of Fiction & Story program if you want to be a part of InNoWriLife]

The idea is to create a lifestyle with writing your novels. Instead of dedicating an entire month to it, you dedicate your life to building habits around writing every day.

Because if you want to make money as an author, you have to make it a habit, a part of your life, and a job.

So we recommend creating writing habits you can stick to in order to always be working on a story.

https://youtu.be/IAFJwTxsJ4E

#4 – Write & publish series

If you truly want to “make it” as an author, writing and publishing a book series is a fast way to get there, especially if you publish multiple series.

The reason you make more money with publishing a series is simple: one customer is more likely to make multiple purchases.

If you have a great first book, they’ll buy the second and then the third, etc. This means you can make more money off of a single person.

This idea is explore more (with a calculator for understanding how much your series is worth) in our post here: Fiction Readthrough Rates & Calculator.

And not only will readers buy more books, but if one customer buys every book in your series, they’ll also usually leave reviews as well as buy other books you’ve published that aren’t in that same series.

Series establish a strong fanbase, which keeps you “employed” as a full-time author.

#5 – Put together an email list or other platform

Having a singular way you can communicate with people who have said “yes!” to wanting information from you is crucial. It’s like having a sales list.

We always recommend authors build an email list because you own your list. Whereas with social media platforms, the company owns your followers, you don’t.

So if anything were to happen to a social platform and you lose all those followers, you’d have no way of communicating with them–just imagine if a social platform went down the DAY of your launch.

Email lists are also a great resource for recruiting beta readers, launch team members, and getting people excited about your book come launch time.

Here are a few things you need to create an email list:

  • Email provider like Convertkit (we have an SPS student exclusive deal through them!), Mailchimp, Mailerlite, or other
  • A way to capture emails: like a website, a lead magnet in your book, etc.
  • That’s it! If you can capture an email address to a service provider, you’re done.

#6 – Commit to being an author

“If you treat writing like a hobby, it will pay like a hobby.” – R.E. Vance (our Fiction writing and book marketing coach).

Just like with any other job, you have to work whether you’re in the mood or not.

One of the best pieces of advice we have for you is to make a commitment. You can’t expect to make a full-time income if you’re only sort of interested in writing or you only work on writing when the mood strikes.

This is the biggest mindset shift our fiction coach Ramy instills in our students. So much so that our exclusive community decided to take InNoWriLife a step further and track their progress with each other in a massive spreadsheet.

This is their dedication, and it’s why these students are so successful in being authors.

They wanted it and they made the changes needed to make it happen, like investing in Self-Publishing School to teach them the ropes.

How does one “commit to being an author”?

  • decide that it’s your path (just like you would choose to go to college)
  • invest where you need to (again, just like college or other training needed for professions)
  • make a plan of the date you want to be “full-time” by
  • work backward to create writing goals to reach that timeline
  • learn the true path to full-time earnings as a self-published author
  • say no to the things that get in your way and make the necessary sacrifices to do what you love for a living

It’s not just our fiction students who are growing income from their books. Our Become a Bestseller nonfiction students are just as dedicated and have created the same habits.

Want to know how much you could make as an author?

Check out the Book Profit Calculator at the top of this post!

SPS 124: How To Sell More Fiction Books & Build A Full-Time Fiction Career with Ramy Vance

In this episode, Ramy Vance talks about why focusing all of your efforts on week 1 is the wrong approach…and why he’s making a 3 year commitment to promoting his book (and why you should too).

We also talk about:

– How to get 100’s of reviews on your book within months of your launch (practical steps anyone can take)

– How to sell more audiobooks (and how Amazon promoting his book led him to #9 on all of Amazon)

– The playbook to selling anything on Amazon (physical products or books)

…and so much more. Don’t miss this interview!

Ramy Vance is a former SPS student turned coach. He is the lead coach and creator of the fiction online course at Self-Publishing School. Ramy leads both Fundamentals of Fiction courses, has authored 29 books and coached over 400 students in the past five years. Listen in to find out the fundamental errors to avoid when writing a fiction novel and his seasoned advice on fiction authors’ best writing approach.

When asked what it takes to sell fiction books, Ramy advises, “You don’t have to have a great story to sell, but you have to have a story that hits certain genre expectations.” To head in the right direction for fiction publishing, Ramy suggests meeting the genre and subgenre expectations right at the beginning of your book. “If you don’t meet these expectations in the beginning, then you’re not going to sell it.” Make sure to hit the critical market selling points in your book and your book description and cover content.

If you want to bring clarity to your writing, Ramy suggests to figure out your Tier 1. “Your Tier 1 is a set of criteria, such as guidelines, that you can contribute to your book and look at the key points of your book that make your book unique.” Once you’ve identified these Tier 1 elements of your novel, check out other published books with 6 out of 10 of these same vital ideas to paint a picture of your ideal avatar – the audience you are writing for with your reader in mind.

Figure out the “trope” or storyline that your book fits into when thinking of your story outline. Form a compilation from the combination of your Tier 1, avatar, and trope to create a compelling book cover and description. “These are giving me direction, so I’m not randomly throwing darts in the dark.”

In addition to these components of writing fiction, an author must look at genre expectations. “It’s a holistic approach because you can’t just look at each part; you have to look at how each part plays together.” At the top of your business funnel, you want to attract the right readers to your book page with great reviews and solid front matter content. Ramy suggests doing your best to capture the right readers early on, to train Amazon AI to push your novel to your avatar.

Show Notes

  • [02:59] What to expect when you publish your first fiction book. 
  • [04:12] The worst thing that can happen to a fiction writer.
  • [07:05] How the Tier 1 Concept can bring clarity to an author.
  • [13:30] The process of getting in front of your avatars on Amazon.
  • [15:50] Two types of mistakes that lead to failures when creating your fiction book.
  • [17:41] Why genre expectations matter in fiction books. 
  • [20:05] Make sure to deliver on the promise that you’ve made in the first few pages of your novel.
  • [21:42] How to build a fiction career through a series of books.
  • [26:58] The process of cyber-stalking your favorite authors to choose your genre expectations. 
  • [31:45] Lessons Ramy learned when writing his fiction novels.

Links and Resources

amazon marketing services

Advertising Books on Amazon: 20 Unique Ways to Use Ads

AMS Ads are dead,” said the not-so-savvy self-published author.

Don’t believe this lie. Advertising books on Amazon, or using Amazon Marketing Services ads, are stronger than ever, and – whether we like it or not – they are here to stay.

As a matter of fact, Amazon just rolled out a brand-new, improved UI for AMS; they have added new features, and are constantly creating training material to help authors better understand the platform.

Would they do that if AMS were on the way out? Not likely.

Sure, not every book is a good fit for Amazon ads: that’s why many Amazon published authors grow bitter and blame the platform for not being able to sell a book that would not be marketable anyways.

Don’t be discouraged. Now is the time to jump onto the AMS wagon if you want to actually get paid to write.

Those who don’t read the Self-Publishing School Blog and believe that Amazon advertising is dying will gradually move away from it, making the space less crowded and much more profitable for all of us.

Here are our tips for using Amazon marketing services effectively:

  1. Target famous authors with Amazon marketing services
  2. Target Amazon published books
  3. Target books featured on BookBub
  4. Target books that are recent movies
  5. Target paperback books
  6. Target audiobooks with Amazon Marketing Services
  7. Think about Amazon ads for your book series
  8. Grow your email list
  9. Advertise your backlist
  10. Use The Greatest Hits method
  11. The Amazon Ad puzzle
  12. The Ad stacker
  13. Pre-populate with pre-orders
  14. Use AMS for reviews
  15. Use Amazon’s Bid+ system
  16. Use negative keywords
  17. Target your own book

Stay put, don’t give up. When others zig, just zag 🙂

SELL MORE COPIES CONSISTENTLY

How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021 (and beyond…)

Get The Simple 3-Step Strategy to Selling More Books In This Free Web Class!

Why advertise books on Amazon?

Advertising books on Amazon (using ads), called “Advertising Console” inside Amazon’s portal, is a collection of effective tools to help vendors drive traffic to their products and sell more.

For authors, this means using ads can be a hub for increasing low book sales and maintaining a steady income with their books.

Advertising Books on Amazon Made Easy

I get it, click bids have gotten more expensive, finding profitable keywords is more difficult and winning is harder than ever. But this is only a byproduct of the space getting more crowded.

However, let me assure you: those CPC prices are nowhere near what our friends in the physical product markets are paying.

Strange as it may seem, AMS is still a happy place for authors.

The key is to get more creative, thinking out of the box. Find new ways of using AMS, test and tweak, and you’ll be way ahead of the (still relatively small) competition.

How?

Here are 20 ways in which you can use Amazon Marketing Services Ads for your book marketing ventures. Each tactic is coupled with a brief explanation of how to implement it in a practical way.

Enjoy the list and remember: now is the time for Amazon advertising!

#1 – Target a famous author in your genre

You’ll do this in order to try to get into his or her also-boughts. You know, the little section in this screenshot that shows you what other people who bought an item have also bought 

advertising a book on amazon - example

It’s no secret that ‘also-boughts’ are the main source Amazon uses when they recommend new books to readers. And if your book is in one of your competitor’s ‘also-boughts’, then there’s a good chance it will get shown, recommended and ‘pushed’ to the exact audience you’re after.

Happy days.

Try bidding heavily on one of your competitors as a target so that your book shows up everywhere on their book’s page and ‘steals the show’ in your reader’s eyes.

#2 – Target books published by Amazon

Amazon has various imprints through which it publishes books, the most famous being Thomas & Mercer.

Targeting authors and books by these subsidiary companies is a great idea. Amazon (and their algorithm) love when people buy their stuff, which they continuously promote left and right.

Try to get your book next to one of Amazon’s own babies, and you’ll be a happy writer indeed.   

#3 – Target books that are featured on BookBub

Once a book is featured in BookBub’s daily email (aka their ‘Featured Deals’), it’s likely to get thousands of downloads and a load of traffic on all the retailers.

Which of course means more eyeballs on the said book.

By keeping an eye on the books that appear daily on BookBub’s email blast and targeting them with your Amazon ads, you’ll be the first to place your book next to the day’s hottest title, thus piggybacking on its visibility and – hopefully – sales.

advertising books on amazon - kindle example

#4 – Target books that have recently been turned into movies

A hot new release (just as explained in point 3) is always going to garner bigger attention, at least for a few days.

Keep an eye on new movie releases in your genre, especially big blockbuster films that have been inspired by bestselling books. Again, the trick here is to target those hot new titles so that your book shows next to them, thus collecting some love from all those hungry readers.

#5 – Use Product Display Ads to target paperbacks

Amazon’s Product Display ads give you a unique chance to specifically target paperback versions of your competitor’s titles (unlike Sponsored Product ads). The first benefit of doing this is that you’ll undoubtedly broaden the reach of your ads.

advertising a book on amazon - display ad example

But most important perk is that you’ll also likely increase the sales of your own paperback copies.

As it were, ‘physical book lovers’ have a preference for physical books, which are more expensive and thus will likely result in higher royalties for you to pocket!

#6 – Use Product Display Amazon Ads to target audiobooks

See point 5 above, but this time use PD ads to target audiobooks!

Don’t have an audiobook version of your title? You’re definitely missing out on one of the hottest and fastest-growing trends in the indie publishing industry.

You can find a step-by-step guide on creating an audiobook right here.

SELL MORE COPIES CONSISTENTLY

How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021 (and beyond…)

Get The Simple 3-Step Strategy to Selling More Books In This Free Web Class!

#7 – Lose money on the first book in your series

Your first in series is likely to be free on Amazon (or at least it should be). But don’t fret, pure ROI seekers!

Sure, by going a bit ‘heavier’ on Amazon ads pointing to that book, you’ll likely lose money. But you’ll make it back when readers go on to purchase book 2, 3, 4, etc. in your series. Make sure you have a good idea of how to calculate your audience’s ‘read-through rates’, and adjust your CPC bid and daily budget accordingly.

#8 – Lose money (again) to grow your email list

Be sure to display an opt-in form in the free book you’re running ads on (pro tip: also place it in the first pages of the book, so that readers don’t have to ‘wait’ until they’ve read the whole thing before parting with their email address).

This will inevitably result in more signups to your email list. Again, this isn’t stellar for pure ROI, and you might be losing money now, but in the long term, this will be super-beneficial.

#9 – Advertise Your Backlist

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (aka, don’t point all your ads and spend all your budget on one book).

Running Amazon ads for other titles in your backlist is always beneficial in keeping the books ‘sticky’ in the rankings, often also providing a load of read-throughs to the other titles in the same series (see point 7).  

#10 – The Greatest Hits method

Start your ads by bidding low-ish on keywords and competing authors/book-titles.

Once you have a good idea of what is actually performing well, take those successful phrases and compile them in a ‘Greatest Hits’ ad, with higher CPC bids and daily budget.

#11 – The Amazon Ad Puzzle

Try using your own book as a target keyword, but this time to advertise your higher-priced titles or box sets.

The ‘Sponsored’ results on the latter’s book page will likely populate with all your other titles, just like the pieces of a puzzle.

If a reader lands on your one book and sees your other stuff in the Amazon ads, they might buy a higher-priced title in your collection (and go on to become an aficionado fan of yours)!

#12 – The Ad Stacker

Don’t limit yourself to Amazon Marketing Services ads. Ad ‘stacking’ is often the best way to get a gazillion eyeballs on a new release (especially if you’re aiming at hitting bestsellers’ lists when running a hard launch).

Try your hands at BookBub ads, Facebook Ads, and others. You don’t need to spend thousands on them: a small budget will be more than enough to Discover where your readers are hanging out, so that you can place your books right under their eyes.

#13 – Pre-populate with pre-orders!

Start running AMS ads well in advance, even when your book is still in the pre-order phase. If you get your targeting right, this will help add your book to the ‘also-boughts’ of other books in your genre, thus igniting the sacred ‘recommendation loop’ from Amazon.

You can do this one week to a few months in advance. The bigger your author platform is, the longer you can get away with putting your book up for pre-order before the actual publication date.

advertising books on amazon - pre-order example

Plus, people will be exposed to your book, will pre-order it, and when the book is live, the instant truckload of downloads will shoot it into the stratosphere!  

#14 – Use AMS for reviews

Spend a bit more on AMS during a free promo you have scheduled.

This might sound counterintuitive when it comes to pure ROI, but you’ll be amazed at the number of downloads you’ll get. Be sure to add a ‘call for reviews’ to the end of your book.

Some readers won’t, but many will actually leave an honest (and verified) review.

#15 – Bid+

With their recent ‘upgrade’ of the Amazon Marketing Services platform, Amazon has given authors the chance to use their ‘Bid+’ system (an old acquaintance of those using Vendor’s Accounts).

This new feature basically lets Amazon know you’re willing to spend up to 50% more on CPC for the terms that are performing well. It’s really simple to use, as you can see in the example below so don’t be afraid to use this!

ads on amazon - keyword choosing example

Think about it: if Amazon has given us this new tool, why not take advantage of it?

You definitely won’t go broke (the daily budget still being the highest cap on spend): rather, you’ll likely outbid all of your competitors on your most prized keywords and phrases!  

#16 – Use negative keywords

As you surely know by now, hyper-relevant laser-focused targeting is the name of the game with AMS, but sometimes, this is much easier said than done.

Have an epic fantasy novel that appeals to teens, but that YA readers would absolutely hate? Don’t risk getting one-star reviews by unsatisfied vampire-hungry audiences.

Another new feature that Amazon has just implemented into their new AMS platform is the ‘negative keywords’ field.

Use it wisely to list all of the keywords you absolutely DO NOT want to associate your ads to through Amazon Marketing Services.

The sniper approach has never been easier.

#17 – Target your own book

Why on earth would you want to spend money targeting your own book? After all, it already shows up ‘organically’ in the search results for your key terms, no?

Well, not exactly.

Amazon is putting a lot of emphasis on advertising (another reason why you should use AMS ads), so it sometimes favors paid results over organic – something other platforms (e.g. Facebook) have been doing for a while now.

Crazy, right? Try punching one of your keywords in the search box and see if your book appears. It doesn’t?

Then you might want to give it a nice little push with a couple super-targeted ads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDm9uvyKBw0

Bonus: 3 more advanced Amazon Marketing Services tactics

If you’re really ready to make some money, you can try to tackle some of these more advanced Amazon Marketing Services methods to increase your book sales.

These might be tricky for you at first, but with enough practice, they’ll prove to be more than effective.

#18 – Use a Vendor’s Account (part 1)

An Amazon Vendor’s Express account will let you advertise your ebooks, but also audiobooks or paperbacks.

Use this incredibly powerful tool to advertise your physical or audio copies on relevant pages by your target authors.

As seen above (point 5), this will often result in sales of your own audios and paperbacks, yielding a lot more royalties!

#19 – Use a Vendor’s Account (part 2)

A Vendor’s Express account through Amazon Marketing Services will also let you advertise titles that you didn’t publish yourself.

Why would you want to do that, you say? For multi-author box sets you’re a part of, for example! This will bring more eyeballs to your stuff and… don’t forget to include an email-optin in your portion of the text!

#20 – Use a Vendor’s Account (part 3)

As seen above, why not use a Vendor’s Account to also promote a traditionally-published book you wrote before going indie? Your publisher will likely not be using AMS, so show them who the savvy author is and get some sales rolling!

Hope you enjoyed some of these tactics for Amazon Marketing Services ads. As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, don’t listen to those who want to attract you to the ‘next best thing’.

Think out of the box, test, test, and test again. And you will succeed!


This is a guest post by Brian Berni, a Self-Publishing School alumnus, now bestselling author under multiple pen-names. He blogs for writers and self-publishers at AuthorsTech and is the co-founder of BookAds, an agency that helps authors advertise their books through AMS and BookBub Ads.

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