how to start a story

How to Start a Story: Bestseller’s Guide [+ Examples]

You want to learn how to start a story because you’re smart. You know the introduction of the book is the most important part.

After all, most readers skim those first few pages before deciding to read or not.

The key to writing a story that intrigues readers from the first page is ensuring you have all the elements of a strong opening—and you don’t want to skimp on it.

So what if you had a process that intrigued readers from the first page?

What if anyone who read your first few pages immediately wanted to buy your book?

It’s possible, and we have a proven system to make it happen.

Here are the steps for how to start a story:

  1. Write a strong opening sentence
  2. Connect the readers and character
  3. Produce intrigue
  4. Elicit an emotion in your story
  5. Start your story with a strong visual snapshot
  6. Write a compelling first paragraph
  7. Leave a hint
  8. End the first chapter on a cliffhanger
  9. End the first chapter with a bookend
  10. What to AVOID in the start of a story

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How to Start a Story: Bestselling Author’s Blueprint

By default, nobody wants to read your book. Not even your mother. Not really. She’ll humor you, she’ll hope for you, but she doesn’t want to.

Since nobody is instilled with an innate commitment to read your book, you must craft that desire personally. Your opening paragraph, hell, your opening sentence is as much largess most people will be offered.

As any good salesperson knows, a crack is an opportunity and anything that opens a little can be forced to open a lot. All you need is confidence, technique, and the guts to push forward.

To this end, when starting a story, you must:

  1. Hook the reader
  2. Offer promises to sustain interest
  3. Cultivate a connection
  4. Sell the book!

Yes, that is a lot to ask from the first page, which is why so many writers stop before they get started.

Remember, the first page isn’t the first page you write, it is the first page someone reads. Of all the darlings you must get used to killing, your original first page should always be ripe for the axe.

If you want to learn more about creating a story readers keep coming back for, watch the interview with me below, where I break down the whole process, not just the start of a story:

#1 – Writing a strong opening sentence

Your opening sentence shouldn’t be a warning shot. No haphazard hail Mary you hope lands. It needs to be well-aimed and land solid. It sets a tone, introducing the reader to you and your world.

Like any first impression, it has as many don’ts attached as it has do’s. Let’s hit the do’s first.

You want to achieve a minimum of one and a maximum of three of these in your first sentence. Three is pushing it, you might want to try for that all-in approach, but you will just end up coming across disorganized.

A page long sentence can be an interesting, impressive feat, but as a first sentence, it reeks of smarter-than-the-room and will alienate most readers.

So try to bring in at least these three elements to your first sentence:

  • Connect the Reader to a Character
  • Produce Intrigue
  • Elicit an Emotion
  • Snapshot a Vivid Image

Diving off a cliff puts the reader immediately into the action. In film school, you will see this referred to as “in media res.” It works by forcing the reader to accept everything that is currently happening while also inviting them to see what happens next or hear what brought the character to this moment.

To execute this action-packed introduction, you need to have a firm idea of what is happening and deliver the setting with confidence, don’t over-explain and don’t linger.

Start of a story – opening sentence example:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

start a story first sentence example

#2 – Connect the character to the reader

One of the best things you can do at the start of a story is emotionally connect your character with your reader. If a reader is bought into the character and wants to learn more about them, they will buy your book and read the rest.

Connecting a reader to a character is done in several ways. You can show off a strength, reveal a weakness, or share an in-character insight. Each of these gives the reader a hook into the character, helping them to understand why they should follow along to see the character’s arc.

Brandon Sanderson, famous fantasy author, often gives the advice in his college writing class lectures that you want to do two of these three things to your character at the start of your story:

  1. Make them sympathetic
  2. Make them likeable
  3. Make them competent

You never want to do all three, because you run the risk of creating a “Mary Sue” or a character that’s so perfect readers don’t believe they’re real.

And this is why we also recommend fully developing your characters before starting the writing process.

Start of a story – character example:

“Locke Lamora’s rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever.”

#3 – Produce intrigue

Producing intrigue works a lot the same as the Dive. The difference is you want to leave more questions than generate answers.

Again, the more you know about the story when you drop this first hint, the more clearly it will communicate.

Avoid vague prophecy, hit them with something that will echo when the reader arrives at the resolution.

Start of a story – producing intrigue example:

“Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”

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#4 – Elicit an emotion

Eliciting an emotion is about getting the reader to feel something, not just displaying emotive language. You don’t want the reader to feel for the character or the world, as those fall into other categories. One of the main ways to do this is by adding literary devices to your story.

With this opening, you need to place the reader in a specific emotional headspace to engage with the rest of the page.

You accomplish this by using trigger phrases and touchstones.

Usually, these are words or phrases that elicit an emotional response in a person, including words that paint a vivid picture at the same time. If it feels real to a reader, they’ll be hooked.

In the example below, we have “dead” and “sky” that forms a sort of juxtaposition, pulling readers in.

Start of a story – emotion example:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

#5 – Create a strong visual snapshot

Finally, a snapshot is exactly that, a picture painted in words. You don’t want to make a whole landscape. Take a look at a random post card for five seconds.

What stood out to you? How would you describe that scene to someone else?

That’s the essence of a snapshot, the highlights, and standouts, not the overview.

Typically, the best tips for creating a strong visual will be to use these three writing hacks:

  1. Show, don’t tell
  2. Use strong verbs
  3. Use imagery whenever you write descriptions

In the example below in Little Birds by Hannah Lee Kidder, you really see the environment right from the first sentence. It pulls you in because the visual in your mind feels familiar, in a way. You can truly see it.

Start of a story – strong visuals example:

“Waking up every day to that goddamn shrilling tea kettle shooting steam into our kitchen, adding to the ever-growing smear on the ceiling.”how to start a story - imagery example

#6 – Construct a compelling first paragraph

If everything has gone to plan you have gotten a foot in the door, wedged the sucker open, stepped into the vestibule, and presented your wary, but accepting, mark… er reader, with your wares.

You haven’t made the sale yet, but you have an opportunity to deliver a spiel before they work a clever excuse to get you out.

Seize that advantage by showing that your opening sentence leads into an opening paragraph that isn’t just more of the same but a makes some promises that most of the rest of the pages are also going to offer something worth sticking around for.

Having gained some headway, you have more to lose than gain. That is, there are more wrong things to do with the first paragraph than there are right things.

The right course of action has three options for your starting paragraphs:

  1. Stay the Course
  2. Ramp Up Gradually
  3. Double Down

1. Staying the course

Staying the course means keeping the same tone and attention you presented in the first sentence. This works best for mystery stories or when you have started with a Dive.

In both of these cases, the idea is often to put the reader immediately into the world and you need to be careful not to shake the hook loose with too much pull.

Example: Back to Stephen King and The Gunslinger, the paragraph after the opening line is a delicious snapshot of the desert mentioned. It holds the reader, drawing them further into the enormity of the task presented by the preceding sentence. He already has us ready to find out more, so he sets the hook gently, rather than pulling us right into the boat.

start of a story - chapter example

Note also how he goes from one strong type of opening, the Dive (mixed with a character connection), into a snapshot. Right there he’s established three strong openings without breaking a sweat.

2. Ramping up gradually

Ramping up gradually is seen more often in character connections and snapshots. With each detail you add through the paragraph, you build interest. The character gets slowly separated from other characters of their type.

If you start with a high school student, you see how they break the mold. If you start with a city, you reveal what makes that city unique.

Example: Consider the wide panoramic opening of EM Forester’s Passage to India, how he shows the country in an almost dreamlike shot you can immediately visualize. The book was written before film was invented and yet it used a standard technique employed in nearly all aerial establishing shots.

3. Double down

The hardest technique to use is the double down. Here you pull hard and fast, hoping to take the opportunity gained by your first sentence to really wow the reader.

While this can be done with several techniques, you see it least commonly with the Dive. If your action is strong enough, more action blows the reader away. However, a complication to the action works.

By slipping in some Emotion or Intrigue you deepen the scene without pushing the reader out.

Example: In The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, a mysterious circus appears in the first sentence. Complicating this matter is the first paragraph which suggests the sudden appearance wasn’t the kind where it was simply not advertised in advance but hints it may well have materialized out of nowhere.

Regardless of the approach, remember that the first paragraph serves to grow your lead and hold the reader through the chapter.

While pulling is the goal, the main aim, as mentioned several times, is to avoid pushing the reader out.

We call these the Goldilocks Paradox:

  • Too Obvious
  • Too Obscure

In the Too Obvious scenario the reader develops a certain “Simpson’s Did It!” mentality. If they feel like they know exactly where the story is going, that this is just one more reprise of the hero’s journey, the fetch quest, the star-crossed lovers, they will put it down.

Conversely, if you go Too Obscure, they won’t have any investment. Sure, nobody has ever really read a book quite like those composed by Thomas Pynchon, but then again, ask anyone what Gravity’s Rainbow is about and be prepared to get a ‘the what and who?’ in response.

You want to land in familiar territory with some new spins. Don’t reinvent story structure or character, not in the first chapter. You need to gain trust before you start pulling the rug out from a reader.

#7 – Leave a hint in the last paragraph

While the first sentence gets the reader hooked and the first paragraph makes promises, the last paragraph needs to introduce more concepts while limiting resolution.

That sounds like a heavy order because it is. It isn’t all that bad once you break down the components.

Aim for one of the following:

  • Hint at the End
  • Roadmap to a Plan
  • Cliffhanger
  • Bookend

Each of these chapter endings provides the reader a reason to keep going. Many television pilots fail at this, they either wrap up the first story and have nowhere to go, or they toss in a last-minute villain preview to suggest a larger threat somewhere.

Sure, it worked out for Avengers to tease Thanos but they also had the advantage of a sixty-year comics history to assure viewers they know how to build a multi-part story.

When you give a hint, you want it to be broad enough to be interesting but narrow enough that your resolution (within the next chapter or two) satisfies it completely.

If you toss an owl through a window to get Harry Hunter or Harry Potter to explore a magical world, you better make good on the magical world sooner than later.

If you are building up a large world and need to set several things in motion before you get to the major plot, which is a risky move in itself, you need to show the reader a roadmap. The hobbits need to get out of the Shire before they can get to Rivendell on their way to the ultimate goal.

#8 – Opt to end the chapter on a cliffhanger

Ending on a cliffhanger is usually a good call. The pulp stories of the 30s were sometimes christened Cliffhangers because they used this technique extensively. When releasing serial stories, it is the default way to go, how will our heroes get out of this sudden predicament!?

It makes the ending exciting and demands the reader pick up the next installment, or, in your case, turn the page and keep going just a bit further.

Cliffhanger Generation Tricks and Tips:

  • Someone Appears!
  • A Lingering Question
  • A Sudden Insight
  • The Depths Appear

Dropping a new character into the scene, especially one that shows up with the same aplomb as a first sentence Character Connection, gets the reader going. They want to know who this is, and why they will have importance to the next section.

The end of the first chapter of Stardust by Neil Gaiman does this perfectly, introducing us to a baby delivered via faery door. You have to turn the page to find out more.

In a Lingering Question scenario, you invite the reader to ponder something about the event that just transpired.

Why was it so hard, so easy, what was the significance of the turns? Any question that goes unanswered makes the reader wonder. In a serial, they would have to wonder for weeks, or months. In a book, they can always find out by turning a few pages.

Sudden insight works somewhat the opposite of the Lingering Question.

Here, a character understands something that just happened, something the reader may have been in the dark about, this often goes hand in hand with the next tip. Knowing what is at stake drives tension and the character and reader both being ‘in on it’ delivers.

The Depths Appear works well in science fiction, horror, and fantasy stories.

Any place where the world isn’t just what is known, where other dimensional forces can act, where a universe of possibilities can exist, it is possible for something else to be out there.

Alluding to the larger forces at the end of a first chapter puts the story into a context against these larger, more meaningful threats. This is especially a good idea when your first chapter reads like a self-contained story.

#9 – Try a bookend for the first chapter

I lied about the mother thing, turns out she really does want to read your book. She always did, she can’t not, mostly because she loves you.

This type of ending paragraph reflects the Bookend.

Here, you offer a mirror version of the first sentence to show that what has been set up and was so gripping originally has turned around. This works especially well for stories that start in a known world.

Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore, Alice ends up down the rabbit hole, and the once bright sky is now overcast with the coming troubles.

#10 – What to AVOID at the start of a story

While you toil to create these openings, you want to avoid a few key elements. Each of these can destroy your efforts and drive the reader into dismissal mode.

Avoid these elements when starting a story:

  • Mundane
  • Clichés
  • “He woke up”

World building is about establishing what your world is, not what it isn’t. Describing how the regular world works and then adding ‘but mine doesn’t do that’ wastes a lot of time.

Expect your reader to know mundane information and don’t bother repeating it. It bores you to write and the reader to read.

Cliché’s have their place in an established book genre. Don’t confuse a genre trope with a cliché. What you want to avoid is saying the same thing in the same way.

Your fantasy world may well have a dungeon and a dragon, but you don’t want to put those facts too close to each other.

Cliché will kill emotion in its cradle. Readers want to feel something genuine and cliché is the opposite of that.

Far too many science fiction stories start with someone coming out of some kind of sleep. There is a temptation to start the story from the very first conscious moment of the character but remember that you don’t even really remember the first few minutes of your day.

Start the story where you remember starting your day, usually after breakfast and post stimulant.

Not convinced? Alien 3 started with Ripley waking up in a tube. Nobody likes Alien 3, ergo, no starting by waking up.

How to Start a Story Example:

“The thing was big and white and hairy, and it was eating all the ice cream in the walk-in freezer.” — Monster by A. Lee Martinez

start of a story example

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publishing-options

Publishing Options: What to Consider & How to Choose

In this day and age, there are a ton of book publishing options. With the rise of the self-publishing industry (and subsequent dip in traditional publishing), your options to publish are wide and far.

Here at Self-Publishing School, we understand the power of self-publishing, which is why we have our Become a Bestseller program, where we teach people how to maintain control and become a bestseller.

However, there are a ton of other options, and we wanted to make sure you had all the information possible in order to make the decision that’s best for you and your needs as an author.

Here are your book publishing options:

  1. Self-Publishing
  2. Traditional Publishing
  3. Hybrid Publisher
  4. Vanity Publisher

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

When thinking about your publishing options, there are two main avenues to take into consideration: self-publishing and traditional publishing.

We’ll go into more detail in each individual section below, but just know this is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to decide on if you want to be an author.

The short overview is this:

  • Self-publishing gives you all creative control, is faster to publish, gives you full royalties, with more upfront investments
  • Traditional publishing takes a lot longer, no upfront investments, but you make a small fraction of royalties per book

One of the biggest things to keep in mind between these two core publishing options is how much you can actually bring home in pay from each:

Here’s an example of a comparison in earnings per publishing option, using two of our own Become a Bestseller students Alexis and Justin Black with their book Redefining Normal as an example:

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

We actually compiled a ton of data on self-publishing versus traditional publishing you can find in this free download here:

Which Is Better For You Based On YOUR Author Goals?

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional

Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.

Publishing Options: Where to Publish a Book & How to Choose

Not everyone will be a good fit for all of these publishing options. You have to think about your goals as an author, what you want to make financially, and where you see yourself in the long-term—as well as how many books you want to publish and how frequently.

All of these are important to consider when making your decision, but we want to give you all the information so that your decision is easier.

#1 – Self-Publishing

If self-publishing isn’t on your radar, you’re severely missing out on a huge opportunity. We truly believe this is the best publishing avenue for the large majority of people.

This is why Self-Publishing School started in the first place. Chandler Bolt (the founder and CEO) started this company because he had such a massive success with his first bestselling book.

Since, he’s published 5 other bestsellers, and he gave all his secrets for doing that away in our Become a Bestseller program.

Now, that being said, there are things to think about when it comes to self-publishing.

So what is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is when you have complete ownership and control of your book and its rights, and you can publish on any medium that allows for it (including Amazon Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Nook, and more).

Difficulty to publish:

It’s very easy to self-publish a book. In fact, pretty much anyone with access to Amazon’s publishing platform can do it.

But that doesn’t mean everyone should, nor should you publish a book that’s not ready (or not of high quality), which is why we have our programs in the first place.

Timeframe to publish:

Our students publish in as little as 90 days with our process for going from blank page (yes, nothing written!) to a fully published book. You can take longer to publish, and many students in our Fundamentals of Fiction program often do take longer since fiction can be more extensive.

Creative control:

This is the best part! You have 100% of the creative control over everything from your book’s content to its title, cover, everything. Especially the rights to your book!

Marketing responsibility:

This is all on you—just like it is with traditional publishing, which you’ll learn more about down below. Thankfully, there are a ton of resources online to learn how to market a book, as well as our Sell More Books program to increase your book sales.

Royalty rate:

When publishing through Amazon, your royalty rate will be anywhere from 35% – 70% depending on your book’s retail price. SelfPublishing.com has a fantastic book royalties calculator right here that you can check out for a comparison as well.

Cost to publish:

Self-publishing has a higher upfront investment and cost to publish. These can range anywhere from $300 – $1200+ for high-quality editing, book cover design, and more.

But do keep in mind, you make a lot more in royalties back straight away.

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This is all on you. From the cover design to the book editing (yes you have to get it edited if you want it to do well) all the way to the inside formatting is up to you.

Thankfully, there are resources to help you do all of this right, and we cover this entire process in our programs for our students, as we’ve seen this is one of the most difficult parts of self-publishing.

Questions to ask if you think self-publishing is right for you:

  • Do you need 100% creative control?
  • Do you have the ability to invest upfront for a higher royalty rate later?
  • Can you effectively market your book (even with help)?
  • Do you want to write and publish multiple books quickly?

If you answered yes to the above, self-publishing is likely your best option, and you can learn more about how to do that with our free training. Just click the image below!

Which Is Better For You Based On YOUR Author Goals?

ANALYSIS: Self Publishing vs Traditional

Get a full, deep-dive self-publishing vs traditional publishing analysis including royalty rates, book sales, marketing details, and more! Make an informed decision and set yourself up for success with your book.

#2 – Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is what we grew up learning was “publishing”: You get an agent through querying your book, that agent pitches your story to publishers, they choose to buy your book from you, and it gets published a while later!

Let’s look at some details about this traditional publishing option.


Difficulty to publish:

Very high. The traditional publishing industry is really hard to get into. It’s not impossible, but it often takes writers years just to land an agent. And then they have to wait until their manuscript is bought, which isn’t guaranteed.

Many will say traditional produces “better” books or you’re a “better” writer if you publish traditionally, but that’s not true. All this proves is that you have a book idea that’s “hot” and “trending” in the market: remember, publishing houses are after one thing and that’s book sales. If it’ll sell, they’ll purchase it, which means unless it’s a trending topic or book idea, you likely won’t get a book deal.

Timeframe to publish:

If we start the timeline to publish after your agent sells your manuscript, meaning a publishing house has purchased your book rights, it can still take up to 2 years for your book to actually publish.

And this doesn’t take into consideration the time spent trying to get an agent and the time it takes your agent to sell your book. You’re looking at a 2-4 year time period unless you get very lucky or have traditional publishing connections.

Creative control:

You don’t really have much creative control with this publishing option.

Ultimately, the publisher buys your book rights for the idea, but this is subject to change based on what your editor sees as selling the most.

Unfortunately, this can be everything from the main characters, the title, the ending, and even major plot points. The upside is that publishers do know what sells, so this could give your book a better chance of “taking off.”

Just know that you’ll have to make sacrifices with creative control through traditional publishing.

Marketing responsibility:

This is on you! Unless you’re a “big name,” (and even then) you do the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your book.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the traditinoal publishing industry. Many want to go with this publishing option because they think the publishing house will market their book, and they do, but only to a certain extent.

The bulk of the marketing is up to you, and this is increasingly more evident as book agents continue to ask about your author platform size as a decision criterion for representing you or not.

Royalty rate:

Many traditionally published authors can expect to make 10% – 12% and (very rarely) up to 15% royalties on their books. As you can see, this is significantly lower than self-publishing due to the publisher taking a big cut to pay for the editing, cover design, and everything that goes into it, as well as your agent taking a cut.

You do get an “advance” if you sign a book deal. This is a large sum of money, usually under $15,000 for new authors, that you have to make back in book sales before you actually get a royalty check.

Many traditionally published authors never see a royalty check because their books never sell more than their advance’s worth after publication.

Cost to publish:

Time. This is the real true cost of the traditional publishing option. If anyone tries to get you to pay them, this is not traditional publishing and is likely a hybrid or a vanity publisher (for the latter, RUN!).

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This is all done in-house at the publisher. They have a cover made, editing completed, formatting finished, as well as book distribution—meaning getting your book in bookstores across the nation.

You can learn more about the main differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing by watching the video below:

Here are some questions to ask if you want to go with this publishing option:

  • Will you be okay with altering your story, characters, and plot?
  • Do you want to publish less frequently, at a book every one or two years?
  • Do you want to relinquish ownership over the cover design and more?
  • Will you be okay with a smaller royalty rate for your book?
  • Are you willing to spend a year or more querying just to find an agent?

If you answered yes to all of those, this avenue might be for you!

#3 – Hybrid Publisher

If you’re not sold on either self-publishing or traditional publishing, there is another option called hybrid publishing.

Hybrid publishing is just as it sounds: a combination of both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Most often a hybrid publisher will have specific criteria for authors they work with and will have the distribution opportunities self-publishing doesn’t (like nation-wide bookstores).

One distinguishing factor here: the author usually has to make some sort of investment in order to publish through them.

Difficulty to publish:

This depends entirely on the publisher’s rules and regulations for new authors. Most don’t just take anyone in off the street, which means it is more difficult than self-publishing, though usually not as much so as traditional.

Timeframe to publish:

This is another differentiating factor. Hybrid publishers vary so greatly that most of these will depend on the specific publishing house. However, you can expect an elongated path to publishing here as well.

Creative control:

Since the publisher in this case usually deals with the book cover, title, and such, your creative control is at more risk here. However, most of these publishing houses are more likely to work with you to come to an agreement whereas traditional publishing houses don’t give you much of a choice.

Marketing responsibility:

Again, as with any publishing option, marketing responsibilities fall to you, the author. Though because this is a hybrid publisher, you’ll have more exposure due to their distribution capabilities (which is a note to make sure this is included if you choose this option).

Royalty rate:

Since this also varies, all we have is an approximation range: you can expect roughly 40% – 60% in royalty rates depending on the deal you make. This is definitely higher than traditionally published authors make, but you’ll make less than self-publishing simply because the publisher will still get a cut.

Cost to publish:

Guess what, the cost to publish here depends as well! Different hybrid publishers work on different models, which means their revenue will be earned differently. That said, some authors pay a large sum to work with hybrid publishers, as well as give up a chunk of their royalties.

Book production (cover design, editing, etc.):

This usually goes through the hybrid publisher, and the process is much like that of traditional publishing. This means you don’t have to worry about any of this and that you also don’t get to change or alter any of this.

#4 – Vanity Publisher

CAUTION!!

We wanted to include this in the options because it is an option you’ll see out there. However, it is not an option to consider.

It’s here so you can know what to look for when a vanity publisher is involved in order to AVOID one. We do not recommend this option.

We wrote a blog post all about vanity press scams here, what they are, and why you should avoid them at all costs.

In other words: you may see people who look like hybrid publishers but are not. Do not work with them!

So what type of publisher is Self-Publishing School?

None! We’re not a publishing option, we’re an online education school that teaches you how to successfully self-publish a book so you can save time, money, (and tears), while earning a steady income from your books.

You can learn more about us from our What We Do page, including all the various specialty programs we have (nonfiction, fiction, children’s, marketing, and more!).

Fantasy Creatures: A Guide to Using & Creating Mythical Beings

As a fantasy writer, one of the biggest things that attracted me to the genre was fantasy creatures. I love imagining new beings, mixing features and lore with ones that already exist, and incorporating those creatures into my stories to watch them interact with the world and characters.

If you’re interested in writing fantasy or sci-fi, you’re probably pretty familiar with a lot of different fantasy creatures that already exist. In your own writing, do you create your own unique beings, or do you use lore monsters and classic creatures?

Get Bestselling Plug-And-Play Structure Templates NOW…

Fully Customizable Story Structure Templates

Download your FREE story structures templates and formulate your story based on proven bestselling tactics readers LOVE!

What are fantasy creatures?

A fantasy creature is an imagined being, usually for storytelling. Whether it’s novels, video games, art, or spoken folklore, fantasy creatures are present in any culture you can name. Ancient civilizations, every continent, every subcategory of place and person–they all have fantasy creatures.

The Middle-Eastern Manticore, the Cajun Rougarou, the Scottish Kelpie, the Zulu’s Tikoloshe. Everyone has fantasy creatures. They might be toted as fact (like creatures important for the religion or customs of different regions), or they might be stories people tell for fun (growing up in Louisiana, we were told the Rougaru would come eat children or turn them into Rougarus if they misbehaved). 

Fantasy writers often pull from lore and fairytales to recreate them when writing their novels. They might also take elements of one or more creatures to put their own spin on them. And other writers make up their own original creatures, which is hard to do!

A writer would be hard-pressed to come up with a completely original character that didn’t seem at least a little derivative of an existing creature, so don’t sweat originality too much.

Benefits of Having Unique Fantasy Creatures in Your Novel

If you’re writing a high fantasy, using epic fantasy creatures can make it a lot more exciting! They can also add conflict and richer worldbuilding.

Imagine if Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings with no fantasy creatures. Just humans in a world with some magic–not as exciting or interesting, right? Adding unique animals and beings to your world is a crucial step in building a compelling and immersive fantasy.

A well-crafted fantasy creature can also make your story memorable and unique. It’s a real chance to use your creativity and logic to create “realistic” makebelieve. 

So how do we create good fantasy creatures?

How to Create One-Of-A-Kind Fantasy Creatures

You’re allowed to make up your own animals in your world, ones that can do and be whatever they please. However, if you create these fantasy creatures with intention to add to and build your story, it’ll be far more effective and memorable.

Here’s how to make fantasy creatures people create fan art for:

1. Consider the fantasy world they live in

The environment, lore, history–even politics and religion–can affect the creatures that are created and exist in your world. Think about what creatures would reasonably exist in the environment you’ve created. Would any of them be exterminated, relocated, or hunted? Are they sacred or worshipped?

As an example of using the environment to shape the creatures, here’s a short list of creatures I used in my fantasy novel who live in the swamp environment.

  • Komars. Komars are hivemind swarms of giant mosquito-like creatures with scimitar claws. Mosquitos love warm, humid places, so having a similar fantasy creature in the swamp made sense for that location.
  • Adelaide. Adelaide is a character who lives and works in the swamp, and she’s a scaly, amphibious person. Her biology and instinctual behavior makes her adept at surviving in an unforgiving swampscape.
  • Ragondin. Ragondin is a giant mount animal who resembles a nutria rat. He’s not sentient in the way humans are, but he works with Adelaide and acts as a named character. His coarse hair, thick tail, fat mass, and high nostrils make him perfect for swimming in murky water for long periods of time.
  • Garou. Garou is one of many swamp villains. He’s a wolf-human hybrid. Garou is influenced by the Cajun Rougarou and acts similarly to the lore I heard growing up.

All of these creatures work together to create the world of my swamp setting, and all contribute to the vibes, themes, plots, and character arcs that happen there. If you put any of the creatures I listed in another environment in the same universe (which I do a few times in the books), they would stick out and struggle.

That’s how well you want your creatures to make sense for the environment, because it makes for a much more believable world that your readers can really immerse themselves in.

We have a great blog post all about building a realistic fantasy world right here so you can get started.

2. Consider how the creatures interact with the characters and plot

Understand your creature’s place in the story universe. Is your creature its own sentient species?

Are they a friend, a pet, an enemy? What does the element of a fantasy creature add to your story, to the scene it’s in, and to your character arcs?

How can your creature create conflict for a scene or plot point in your novel?

Think about the ways in which your fantasy animal can play a role, and not just be a distant addition to your worldbuilding. When characters come into contact with them, it can make the world feel so much bigger and more real than if they’re just observed.

3. Build their physical features

This is where it gets fun. You can develop the way your character looks based on factors like its environment, its origin, and its purpose. You can pull ideas and elements from real animals or creatures of lore and fairytales.

If you’re taking a classic creature, like a vampire or an elf, what original thing can you bring to them? For example, Stephenie Meyer took vampires, introduced the concept of vegetarianism, and made them sparkle in sunlight.

There are benefits to taking a creature that already exists, like a vampire, because the groundwork is already done. Your reader knows what a vampire is. But then they get to learn what makes your (or Meyer’s) vampires unique in that universe.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re crafting your fantasy creature’s physiology:

  1. Evolution. What did previous iterations of this creature look like? Why did it develop in this way? Does it have vestigial features?
  2. Features. Wings, limbs, horns, tails, scales, fur–there are endless combinations of endless lists of feature elements. It can be hard to decide! Consider what use each of these features would have for the creature and its thriving (or failure) in an environment.
  3. Colors and patterns. This could just be for fun, or maybe your creature survives through camouflage or other pattern-related techniques. Also consider what the colors and patterns can mean for the creature socially–are some considered more attractive? Are some colored specifically to attract mates?
  4. Size. How big is your creature? How much does it weigh? Can it change its shape or size? How does its size change from infancy to adulthood?
  5. Variations and subspecies. How are members of the same species different from each other, and are there categorically different types?
  6. Habits, diet, etc. Knowing how your creature spends its time can help you decide what it looks like, how it acts, and what it needs to survive and thrive.

Examples of Mystical Fantasy Creatures

Let’s look at a few examples of fantasy creatures to get some ideas flowing! You can definitely use these in your own novels, but we challenge you to think a little broader and instead pull inspiration from the below examples and tweak them to make them unique with the tips above.

1. Phoenix

The phoenix is a mythical bird associated with Greek roots that is known for its cyclical regeneration. It ignites at the end of its life cycle, regenerating and emerging as a new creature–sometimes as a newborn version of itself, and sometimes as a new creature entirely. Phoenixes are where we get the cliche “rising from the ashes.”

2. Centaur

A centaur is a creature with the head, torso, and arms of a human, but the legs and body of a horse. They also come from Greek mythology, with various possible origins, all of which involve a human breeding with a horse, to confirm your fears.

fantasy creature - centaur

3. Dragon

Everyone knows what a dragon is, because there’s a version of them in every culture. This might be due to individual nations discovering the remains of dinosaurs and drawing conclusions.

An anthropologist (David E Jones) suggested that the fear of snakes is so common in humans due to an evolutionary fear recognition of dragons. That might seem like a silly assertion, but consider that it’s also very fun.

4. Selkie

Selkies are creatures that can shift from human form to the form of a seal. They come from Norse and Celtic mythology, featured in many stories and folktales.

The most popular stories involve a man finding the selkie’s skin (sometimes taking the form of a fur coat or another type of outerwear), hiding it, and forcing her to stay human and marry him (gross). Song of the Sea is an animated film featuring a selkie character.

fantasy creature - selkie

5. Griffin

Griffins are another mishmash creature, with the body of a lion and the wings and head of an eagle. Some griffins may also have eagle talons. The griffin is a powerful creature in mythology, because the lion and eagle are both seen as kings of the animal kingdom.

They appear in most tales as guards of treasure or other highly valued things. Some myths include that the griffin lays its eggs underground, and if you dig them up, you’ll find they’re surrounded by nuggets of gold. If I didn’t want people disturbing my eggs, I personally wouldn’t bury them with gold nuggets, but who am I to judge the choices of a griffin.

6. Bandersnatch

I’m including this gangly doofus because he has a specific and clear origin–Lewis Carroll. Carroll became famous for works like Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. The first mention of the bandersnatch is in Carroll’s poem, Jabberwocky:

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

fantasy creature - bandersnatch

7. Mermaid

Everyone knows what a mermaid is because, just like the dragon, there are iterations of the mermaid myth in nearly every culture. With the tail of a fish and the torso of a human, the mermaid has found herself in countless iterations and stories. One early sighting rumor was made by the infamous bandersnatch, Christopher Columbus, who mistook manatees for mermaids.

8. Werewolf

Speaking of creatures that multiple cultures independently invented, the werewolf is a creature who shifts back and forth between a human and a wolf. The rules and circumstances of that transition depend on the story. Some werewolves can control their shift, some turn on full moons or other key times without control, some only start shifting after they’ve murdered someone to enact a curse (shoutout Vampire Diaries).

9. Dryad

The dryad is a tree spirit or nymph. Sometimes they present as ghostlike figures of women, as lively trees, or as a person made of petals or leaves that can blow through the wind and reform whenever they please (shoutout Narnia). They’re usually quiet and shy, with people only catching glimpses of them in the deep forest.

fantasy creature - dryad

10. Golem

The golem finds roots in Jewish lore. They are human-like creatures, typically presented as clunky, clumsy beings that lumber around like Frankenstein’s monster. The golem is made of clay, mud, or other earthy substances. Their underdeveloped nature is probably due to Biblical influence, where “golem” is used to reference the unfinished person in God’s eyes.

fantasy creature - golem

11. Chupacabra

The Spanish translation of “chupacabra” is “goat-sucker.” If you think that means this silly little guy sucks on goats, you’ve nailed it.

Chupacabra’s main hustle is its vampiric treatment of treasured farm friends. Some tales represent it as a furry, doggish creature, while others describe it as reptilian. While there have been sighting reports of the goat sucker all over the world, the majority originate in South and Central America.

fantasy creature - chupacabra

12. Fur-bearing trout

This is a goofy little guy you might hear about in Icelandic and American lore. It’s exactly what it sounds like–a little fishy with a fur coat. Why?

To keep warm, to be fashionable. Like most fantasy creatures, the fur-bearing trout has multiple origin stories–from the water being so cold that they rapidly evolved, to hair tonic being spilled in the river. Either way, I think he’s charming.

fantasy creature - fur-bearing trout

Do you have a favorite fantasy creature? Are you having ideas for how to create your own? Let us know in a comment!

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how to publish an ebook

How to Publish an Ebook: 9 Action Steps + Helpful Hacks

Learning how to publish an ebook can be pretty painful without the right process.

Writing and publishing a book successfully by itself is a challenge.

But with kindle direct publishing, Amazon publishing, and other forms of self-publishing at your disposal, publishing an ebook can even be easy—with our help.

We get how much information is out there about learning how to publish an ebook.

So how do you know what’s legit?

How do you position your ebook to sell in a the current times of millions of ebooks available online?

And how do you sell your ebook effectively?

Get Your FREE eBook Copy of

“PUBLISHED: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author”

Learn the exact step-by-step method needed to write, market, and publish your book on Amazon THIS YEAR!

Here are the steps for how to publish an ebook:

  1. Write a strong book
  2. Create an Amazon KDP account
  3. Format your ebook for publishing
  4. Upload your ebook to KDP
  5. Choose your ebook publish date
  6. Build your book launch team
  7. Create hype for your ebook
  8. Publish your ebook!
  9. Create emphasis for it on your site

With all the different types of advice, how do you know what to follow and what will just elongate your already lengthy process?

Since we specialize in self-publishing, we can easily teach you how to publish an ebook without all the fuss and fluff that can bog you down along the way—because there is a lot.

Why Write an Ebook?

The ever-rising trend of ebooks should be more than enough of a reason to write and publish your own ebook but if you’re not quite sold, we’ll break it down a bit further.

Here are the benefits of an ebook:

  • In 2018, ebook sales are projected to account for about one quarter of global book sales.
  • Ebooks sell easier online
  • Ebooks can be used to grow your business more so than physical books
  • You make a bigger profit from ebooks
  • You can grow your blog and its income
  • Passive income
  • You help save trees!
  • You can embed links directly to your site and products you sell
  • They’re cheaper to produce

Many authors choose to sell both physical copies and ebooks when they write a book but you can easily sell only ebooks and reap all of the benefits above.

Now that you know the why, let’s talk about how to publish an ebook.

If you want a bit more insight into how ebooks can be beneficial, click play on the video below:

https://youtu.be/4aIsiyCSVzc

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

How to publish an ebook on Amazon

Amazon is the biggest retailer online and with the world of book-buying migrating and settling on the internet, Amazon is the place to publish.

Here’s how you can publish an ebook on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing.

#1 – Write a book worth buying

There’s no point in publishing a book that’s not your best work. But if you’re not much of a writer or have no idea how to write a book in the first place, that can make this entire process much more daunting.

In order to write a great ebook to sell on Amazon or even on your own website, you first have to pick a book idea that you’re passionate about. Remember, you’ll be writing up to and even more than 25,000 words so you want to make sure you have a topic you know a lot about and love.

Here are the overall steps for writing a book and getting it ready for publication:

  1. Choose an idea
  2. Come up with a good book title and subtitle
  3. Create your mind map
  4. Write a thorough outline from your mind map
  5. Schedule your writing time and get your book done!
  6. Thoroughly self-edit
  7. Hire an editor to ensure perfection
  8. Hire a book cover design artist to bring your book to life

This might seem overwhelming but I promise, it’s not. We even have free training for you to understand exactly what it takes to write and publish your book.

https://youtu.be/z0fxIXLuRL4

#2 – Create your Amazon KDP account

Learning how to publish an ebook means navigating the online space in a way you may not be familiar with, like using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing to get your ebook out into the world.

Setting up your KDP account is actually really easy.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Visit https://kdp.amazon.com and create an account. You can either use your existing Amazon account or a different email address.
  2. Set up all your tax information. You can’t submit your published ebook unless you have all of these steps completed.
  3. Once your tax information is all filled in, hit “Finished” and you’re all done.

See? It’s pretty easy and simple to use from there. If you’re having trouble, we detailed more in-depth instructions over here.

https://youtu.be/CFw9iS9pZJc

#3 – Format the ebook properly

Book formatting is really, really important. If you just upload your manuscript as is, you’ll run into a number of different problems.

And this is awful because with the “Look Inside” feature Amazon offers, anyone can see the formatting of your book right away.

If it’s bad and difficult to read, they’ll avoid buying your ebook and your sales will tank.

Most people hire a professional to format their book to ensure everything looks great but we also have a guide to help you format your book properly.

#4 – Upload your ebook to KDP account

This is a very simple step for publishing an ebook. All you really have to do is “plug and chug,” as they say.

You have all of the information you need and now it’s just about uploading your formatted manuscript to your KDP account and filling in the information you need to.

That means you’ll need to fill out the title, subtitle, and the description.

Now, you really don’t want to write a boring “filler” description. After the cover, this is the single most important part of publishing an ebook.

If people aren’t sucked in by your description, they won’t buy your book.

Here’s an example of a killer description that has helped sell thousands of copies of this book:

how to publish an ebook - amazon uploading example

#5 – Choose a launch date

Believe it or not, there are actually good and bad days to launch your book. Typically speaking, the winter holiday season is the worst time to publish a book simply because the advertising market will be super saturated.

Everyone is putting their best ads forward so they can reap the rewards of those holiday spending dollars.

And although this might seem like the perfect time to launch, it’s actually one of the worst.

Your book can easily become lost in the hype of literally every other book and product marketed during that time.

If you want to launch a book during the best possible time for its sales, use this guide below:

Month to LaunchGood ForBad For
JanuarySelf-help, goal setting, inspirational/motivationalSummer-focused reads, fiction
FebruaryLove, romance, poetryFiction, recipe books
MarchBaseball books, sports, spring, women's booksSelf-help, holiday
AprilReligious, Easter, memoirs, World War II, FictionLove/romance, winter/holiday
MaySummer reads, fiction, history, parentingRomance/love, self-help
JuneContemporary fiction, fatherhood/parenthoodDiet/exercise, romance
July/AugustFiction, heavier reading materialsHoliday, self-help
SeptemberHistory, politics, memoirs, school, collegeFiction, romance/love
OctoberMysteries, horror, thrillers, dark nonfictionLove/romance, happily-ever-afters, self-help
NovemberCookbooks, holidays, religion, children's booksSelf-help, romance/love
DecemberGenerally avoid launching during heavy buy/ad monthsMost books

#6 – Put together your launch team

This is such an important step when it comes to self-publishing an ebook. What you really need is a great group of people who can help launch your book to heights you wouldn’t reach otherwise.

If you want to learn more about how a launch team can help you, check out the video below:

https://youtu.be/bNy7hK1S4tc

Your launch team should be composed of people who:

  • Love your book
  • Want to help you
  • Are very enthusiastic about your book
  • Have some sort of following or online presence
  • Are fans of you and your work

Since you’re trusting these people to help get the word out, make sure they’re all committed. A great way to do that is to have an online application form that each person has to fill out.

This will help narrow down those who are serious about helping you and will put in the time and effort to do so.

Make sure to also check out this guide to building and managing your book launch team if you need more help for what to have your launch team do.

#7 – Build hype for your ebook on your website or blog

Many who publish ebooks usually have a website or blog they can use to drive traffic to it. Not only that, but some actually use the ebook as a lead magnet and even the main source of income on their site.

And publishing a book – even just an ebook – can do wonders for growing your online business as well.

What you have to do before your launch is to build interest about the ebook.

Here’s how you can build hype for publishing your ebook:

  • Link to your book within blog posts
  • Create blog posts related to the topic of your book
  • Create graphics for your book and place in your sidebar and within blog posts
  • Create a graphic to use on the front page of your website
  • Create an email sequence to sell your book (this is for those more advanced with a larger email list)
  • Continuously look for ways to integrate your book into blog post ideas and on social media

The idea with optimizing your website with your book is to convert your blog followers into customers and to give those coming to your website from your book the content they’re actually looking for.

All of this builds fans and most importantly, a loyal and engaged following!

For example, we use Chandler Bolt’s book Published. as a main point of interest on our website. This gives those who are already interested in the publishing industry something of high value right off the bat.

publish an ebook - marketing example

#8 – Publish your ebook!

It’s time to kick off your ebook and launch! If you’ve followed the steps above, then you’re ready to get your book published and start reaping the rewards.

The best part about publishing an ebook is that you don’t have to worry about ordering prints and going through the proofs and the entire process of adjusting how they look.

Once the ebook format is complete, that’s all you need to concern yourself with in terms of delivery!

Your launch day is very important and exciting.

Make sure your launch team is ready for a day of sharing and even some activities.

It’s best to host activities that your audience can actually engage in. Some fun launch day activities include things like hosting a live webinar, doing a Q&A on Twitter or Facebook or your preferred platform, sending out an email to your entire email list, and any other fun pursuit your readers will benefit from.

Get together with your launch team beforehand and have everyone brainstorm some launch day events.

You can even give prizes to those whose ideas get used!

#9 – Create emphasis of your book on your webiste, social, or email list

Now is the time to leverage that book!

Writing the ebook itself isn’t the hardest part of this process; making continuous sales is. And the best way to ensure you keep pushing buyers to your book is to make it the focus of your blog and website.

Plus, if you have those great reviews from your launch team, you can actually leverage those to make more sales.

Place reviews on your website on the same page your book is linked to. They’re kind of like testimonials for a service. Except, in this case, your service is a book.

You can feature them on your website wherever you want.

Obviously, if you’re someone who only wants to sell your ebook, a blog or website might not even be something on your ebook publishing to-do list.

You should, however, think about creating a website to at least host your book and information on in case others want to find you and even connect with you about speaking engagements and other amazing opportunities a book can grant you.

Get Your FREE eBook Copy of

“PUBLISHED: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author”

Learn the exact step-by-step method needed to write, market, and publish your book on Amazon THIS YEAR!

how to write faster

How to Write Faster: 10 Effective Strategies to Finally Finish Your Book

Learning how to write faster has many uses, whether you’re writing a book with the intention to publish as quickly as you can or just want to get ahead in another writing field.

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

We’ve all been there: You finally squeeze in some writing time in between all your commitments but rarely have a solid writing habit built into your busy life.

However, when you sit down to write, something odd happens.

These are our strategies for how to write faster:

  1. Write every day
  2. Use an outline to write faster
  3. Avoid editing as you go
  4. Research later
  5. Practice your typing speed
  6. Sit up properly to write faster
  7. Use talk-to-text
  8. Do writing sprints
  9. Get accountability buddies
  10. Challenge yourself

You thought that a torrent of words would flow out — after all, you have so much to say. Yet, each word that comes out of you is dragged out. Writing feels less like fun, and more like bleeding.

At the end of the hour, you find you’ve only written 100 words, and not the 500 words you budgeted.

Any writer understands how frustrating it is to make time for writing, but to have almost nothing to show for that time.

In the video below, this method can help you write up to 1500 words per hour. Just hit play to watch:

https://youtu.be/K2VtLfr4oeU

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

How to Write Well Faster

There’s a great debate over whether or not doing something quickly produces good quality. After all, fast food restaurants are known for their low-quality food being unhealthy.

However, writing is not like the food industry.

In fact, we have plenty of tips for maintaining that quality while learning how to write faster.

So can you write well while doing so quickly?

The answer is yes, and here’s how…

How to Write a Faster & Get More Done at a Quality Level

I have some good news: This doesn’t have to be the case.

You can set up your writing process in such a way that it’s guaranteed you’ll find your writing flow and have words stream out of you faster than you can catch them.

You can make sure that your writing session is as efficient and effective as possible so that not a single minute is wasted.

Writing faster will not only mean that you finish your book’s first draft, which can be a life-changing achievement, it’ll also mean that you’ll be quicker at anything you write—your blog posts, emails, letters, and even your social media updates will be written faster.

Here are all the practical tips I’ve gathered over the years to help me and my students learn how to write a book in less than 30 days.

#1 – Write Every Day

I’m going to start with an essential tip: If you want to write faster, you have to write every day and make that your primary writing goal.

Writing, like any craft, gets better the more you do it.

The more you practice your writing skills, the faster the words will come to your mind and your fingertips.

You’ll get better and quicker at connecting different pieces of knowledge, forming new ideas and improving your natural storytelling abilities.

You’ll also get quicker at the mechanical process of writing.

You’ll develop muscle memory for your keyboard and your writing speed will go up. Soon you’ll wonder how you could have ever survived at your slower words-per-minute speed.

What to write? You could update your WordPress blog every day, or a chapter of your book every day. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re writing.

However, even writing every day won’t stop you from facing that feeling you get when you see a blank page. To avoid that and guarantee your words flow every time you see a new page you need to create an outline.

#2 – Create an Outline

FREE TOOL

Book Outline Template Generator

Choose your Fiction or Nonfiction book type below to get your free chapter by chapter outline!

Enter your details below and get your pre-formatted outline in your inbox and start writing today!

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In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

Here’s the writing world’s worst-kept secret: outlines work to help you write faster!

To achieve any goal, you need to plan first. The same can be said for writing.

Even if you’re able to crank out 3000 words an hour, it won’t matter much if your content lacks direction, as readers will get confused and drop your book.

A solid outline gives you the direction you need to keep your readers engaged and it also allows you to plan roughly how many words are in your novel, working backward from how many chapters and how many words in each chapter.

This ensures you can plan and create your writing goal to succeed.

https://youtu.be/kieAfi3hLEY

Writing a book is a lot of work, but we can cut out a ton of obstacles with a well-written book outline that builds passion and purpose into your writing.

Here’s how an outline can double or even triple your writing speed:

Outlines Eliminate Writer’s Block

One of the reasons writers experience writer’s block is by not having an outline, or having a poorly written outline. If your outline is well-organized and fleshed out with all the ideas, chapters, and sections flowing in a logical sequence, chances are writer’s block won’t be an issue.

When you have to stop to think about what comes next, you’re no longer in writing mode. Instead, you fall into confusion and frustration and then default to book research mode.

“I know I can get through this if I just it look up…” You start doing everything else but writing. The next time you hit a wall, check the flow of your outline. Revise what you need to and keep moving forward. Be sure to do as much research as you can before the initial writing begins.

Outlines Provide an Organized Framework for Your Book’s Structure

Your outline is the roadmap for your book, a place where your story structure is laid out in front of you. Without it, your writing time is slow and grueling, like running up a mountain with a ball and chain. Sounds tough, right?

A well-organized outline boosts writing productivity throughout the writing phase.

The secret to completing any big project, like writing a novel, is to break it into small manageable chunks, and an outline breaks this marathon project into small manageable writing tasks.

You’ll write much faster when the chapters flow from one to the next and ideas are combined and clustered.

When your outline flows with a well-organized structure you don’t have to stop to think about what to write next. Your fingers can keep moving in flow with the plan you created.

Outlines Give You a Bird’s Eye View

When you can see your book in its entirety on the page, you feel compelled to write as much as possible. Think of it as a race. You’ll perform much better knowing the exact distance you have to run — especially as you near the finish line and you have the end in sight.

Behind every great post and book is a bulletproof outline. Here are some steps you can take today to get started with this process.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Spend some time today and go back and revise your book outline. If you don’t have one, make one.
  2. Look at areas that could be better researched. Review the chapters that have ideas that require deeper development.
  3. The aim is to make your outline the best it can be. Revise your outline as you go, but make sure your words keep hitting the paper.

For other writing:

Commit to this rule whenever you’re writing anything: Five minutes of outlining for every 500 words of content. Writing a 1,000-word article? Spend 10 minutes developing an outline.

Writing a 100-word email? Spend a minute outlining your points. Every minute you spend outlining will save you a heap of time later.

#3 – Don’t edit as you go

Want to write better quality stuff? Then you’re going to have let go of your inner perfectionist and stop your self-editing.

Hemingway is often attributed with the quote, “write drunk, edit sober.” While I’m not advocating you become an alcoholic to produce content, you can adopt the figurative meaning of the quote.

The largest obstacle to entering that zen state where the words zip out of us effortlessly is our tendency to censor ourselves. We continuously correct what we’re about to say before we put the words on the page.

Us writers tend to be perfectionists, yet this self-criticism gets in the way of our creativity.

A better strategy for writing faster, is to write a rough draft first. Think B- quality instead of A+.

This is what Hemingway means when he says to write drunk. During the drafting phase you let go of caring about the quality of your work, but instead focus on the quantity.

Aim to finish your daily writing goal, no matter how bad the draft is. The goal is not to have a perfect manuscript.

Once you’ve finished, then and only then, begin the “edit sober” phase. Here you can engage your inner critic. You can cut what doesn’t work and polish what does. It’s best to begin the editing phase with a fresh set of eyes, usually after you’ve taken a break.

If it’s a short article, then sleep on your draft before editing.

If it’s a book draft, then take at least a week off the project before looking back on it.

It’s hard to let go of that inner judge when drafting our work, but once you do, you’ll write significantly faster. Often when you look back on the draft that you thought was horrible, you’ll find it’s better than you thought. Not perfect, but better than you imagined.

You’ll also see that there were some ideas you put in there that couldn’t have happened if you were writing as a perfectionist.

Also, if you’re still worried about the quality of your book draft, remember that you’ll hire an editor to polish your book to be the best it can be.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. When you begin writing a piece, throw perfection out of the window and aim for a rough draft. Think B- work and not A+.
  2. If you find it hard to lock up your inner perfectionist, set yourself a challenge to write a word count in a set time, like 500 words in 30-minute chunks.
  3. After you finish your draft, put it away for a bit of time before you begin editing.

#4 – Write Faster First, Research Later

Here’s a piece of great advice many journalists receive: write first and research your book later. It might be counter-intuitive, but before you close this page and think I’m crazy, hear me out.

When you start writing a book you have one mission: enter flow. This is the state where the words come out of you effortlessly and you lose awareness of time flowing by. This is the key for quality and effective writing.

Once you enter flow, your mission is to stay there.

A sure way to get thrown out of the zone is to stop mid-sentence to find the capital of that country you want to reference, and then get sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Instead of interrupting your flow of writing, use a writer’s tip I’ve talked about before: TK your research point.

TK is short for “to come” and is a handy placeholder to use for research points you want to look up later. There are barely any words in the English language that have those two letters next to each other, making it easy to use the Command+F function to find these placeholders.

For example, let’s say you were writing about the Golden Gate bridge and couldn’t remember the date it opened and its length.

If that were the case, this is what your draft would look like and doing a quick “command+f” (for mac) will help you fill in these gaps later:

write faster - tip using TK

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in TK and was the longest bridge with a main span of TK.

This takes 10 seconds to write, and you can stay in your flow and move on to the next sentence. If you had Googled each of those facts, the sentence would have taken you 60 seconds and taken you out of your flow.

After you finish the draft, you can go back in and fill in the blanks:

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and was the longest bridge with a main span of 4,200 feet.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. When drafting, if you can’t remember a piece of detail, put TK as a placeholder, instead of going to Google.
  2. During your editing phase, use Control+F to search for “TK” and replace each result with the relevant piece of research.

#5 – Schedule Brief Typing Practice Sessions

Think of your typing speed as the bottleneck between your brain and your piece of content, like the narrowest part of the road that’s causing a traffic buildup. Your fingers simply can’t type as fast as your mind is working.

Unfortunately, technology hasn’t yet progressed to the point where we can think of the words and they magically appear on the page, but with the help of a few fun and simple online games we can improve our typing speed.

I’ll share a secret with you: I used to not be able to type very well. I was like someone from the early 20th century, using two fingers to pound out my content. My typing speed was barely above 30 words per minute. Yet, writing was important to me, like it is for you, so I worked at it.

Even now, for ten minutes a day I play online typing games to test my writing speed and provide feedback on how efficient I am a typist. It’s a great way to master the skill of getting your word count up. Check out 10FastFingers or Key Hero.

# 6 – Use Proper Sitting Posture

The position of your body has a lot to do with typing speed and efficiency.

If you slouch in your chair you’ll cramp up and find it hard to concentrate.

Here is how you should position yourself:

  • Make sure that you are sitting up straight — don’t lean or hunch over towards the desk.
  • Position your elbows at right angles to the keyboard — avoid bending your arms upwards or downwards.
  • Properly position your fingers on the keyboard.

You can even buy a standing desk to help your posture.

It’s scientifically proven that the standing desk has major benefits for your health.

Standing gives you higher energy levels and better blood flow. But that’s not all! It also boosts productivity and makes us more efficient when typing.

#7 – Use talk-to-text

One of the greatest parts about the advancement in technology is the fact that there are now options to use talk-to-text to even write a book, and not just compose a text message.

Google docs has a fantastic diction program that allows you to speak your words onto the page.

Here’s how you can use diction on Google docs to write faster:

  • Open a new doc in Google Docs
  • Go to Tools
  • Select “voice typing”
  • Make sure your microphone is working
  • Push the microphone that pops up on the left side of your doc and start speaking
how to write faster - type to text example

That’s all there is to it. This way, those of you who can speak faster than you type and are audible people in general (usually you extroverts!), you can write a book faster with this method.

#8 – Do writing sprints

Writing sprints are one of the best ways to write faster.

There’s an entire community of writers (typically found on Twitter using the #WritingSprint hashtag) who write their entire books by using sprints.

A writing sprint is when you set a certain amount of time on the clock (15 minutes for the first, then 25, then 10 minutes) and you write as fast as you can for that amount of time.

The goal with writing sprints is to NOT edit, not go back and read, just write.

Here’s an example of the writing community on Twitter doing their sprints:

how to write a book faster writing sprints

#9 – Get an accountability buddy

One of the best ways to write and finish a book faster is utilizing accountability partners in order to keep you on track.

Here at Self-Publishing School, we help students find accountability partners in our Mastermind Community on Facebook. This is largely responsible for students finishing their drafts faster.

These are some benefits and reasons having an accountability partner can help you write faster:

  • Someone else can keep you accountable
  • They can help lift your spirits if you’re feeling down (which usually prevents writing)
  • They can talk through writer’s block with you to get rid of it
  • You can do writing sprints together

Ultimately, you’ll only benefit from having a writing buddy on-hand to keep you on pace to finish your book faster.

#10 – Challenge Yourself

Writing faster will not only allow you to finish your book’s first draft faster, it’ll make you quicker at all forms of writing. You’ll be speedier at composing emails, recommendation letters, cover letters, social media posts and articles.

Writing is also closely related to thinking. Being a faster and clearer writer will make you a faster and clearer thinker.

Follow the above tips on your next great article idea or book chapter and see how many words you can get out in a timed writing session. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your writing speed.

Instead of your draft taking months to produce, you might find that you’ll be able to pound out full-length novels on the weekends.

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amazon categories

Get Approved for More Amazon Book Categories: 3 Steps

When it comes to self-publishing your upcoming book, do not make light of selecting your Amazon book categories!

Although it may appear to be a small detail, you must realize that your readers often resort to categories when looking for books on a specific topic.

Therefore, selecting the best book categories for your upcoming bestseller is a critical decision as it will impact your book sales.

Here are more notable reasons why your book should have best-fitting categories:

  • It can help you become a bestseller. Like the New York Times bestseller, Amazon can also tag your book with an orange badge that says “#1 Bestseller”. And with thousands of Amazon categories to compete and rank for, this means that there’s plenty of opportunity for you to become an Amazon bestseller!
  • You can gain more exposure on Amazon. By appearing in different categories, your book can appeal to different audiences. And if your book ranks in the top ten of any category listings, Amazon will include your book to its “Recommendations Engine”  which will generate more publicity!

But with plenty of book categories on Kindle Direct Publishing as well as the plethora of books competing for attention, how do you choose the right categories to make your book stand out to your reader?

In this post, we will share our best strategies to help you pick the right categories for your book that will increase your sales rank and obtain maximum exposure through Amazon’s search engine.

Here are the three topics we will cover:

  1. Research Your Competition
  2. Strategically Select Your Category
  3. Apply for Additional Categories

Let’s get started!

SELL MORE COPIES CONSISTENTLY

How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn’t Working and How to Fix it in 3 Easy Steps!

How many categories can my book be in on Amazon?

Amazon will allow you to apply for three book categories as the maximum at first. However, with our method outlined below, you can get into up to 10 categories total, which will expand your book’s reach.

How often should you update categories and keywords?

In order to keep your book in the right categories, we recommend to our students to update your book’s cateogires on Amazon 1x a year, and also add 10 categories to the UK and DE store using Publisher Rocket.

For your Amazon keyword (separate, but also related to Amazon categories), check these every 3 months. You may find that you’ll often replace these several times a year.

Not all of them but only those not as relevant anymore (since this space and the Amazon algorithm change so much.

Where can I find the best Amazon categories for my book?

If you want to find the categories that will best set you up for success with your book, we recommend using Publisher Rocket, and our students even get a discount code to purchase the software.

When it comes to keywords, what works best is actually looking at the keywords other books like yours (that are ranking well) are using, and refreshing those when needed, as stated above.

How to Get Approved for More Amazon Book Categories

If you want your book to be more visible on Amazon, the trick is getting it into more categories so it can rank in them. Not just any category, though.

It has to be a category that will put your book in front of your unique target audience.

#1 – Research Your Competition

If your goal is to appear on the first page of search results on Amazon, then you must take advantage of every window of opportunity to succeed. In order to do so, you first must research your competition.

When you begin researching for book categories, you should start by scanning the bestselling books on every first page results of your target category.

amazon categories

The reason is simply due to the fact that the first page results are most likely what your readers are going to be looking for! Therefore, it’s important to identify the top selling books for each category you want to target.

Next, go through each of the books on the first page results and study its category string links. For example, here are the category links for Taylor Pearson’s book, The End of Jobs:

book categories on amazon

Notice that for a book on Entrepreneurship, it’s ranked highest for “Labor & Workforce” and “Economics”. This goes to show that by placing their book into such unique categories, the author completely understood their target audience which is why The End of Jobs appears on several first page results.

So if you want to have a high ranking for your category, make it a priority to research your competitors’ categories and emulate their methods with your book.

Action Plan: Research the first page competitors in five categories of your choosing. Take note to any unique categories your competitors rank in, and apply them to your upcoming book.

#2 – How to Strategically Select Your Category

Because the Amazon’s Kindle Store has thousands of categories to choose from as well as an overwhelming amount of books fighting for attention, the competition can be relentless and unfair to new writers. But there is one approach that will have you stand out: Select trending categories with little competition.

What is considered a competitive rank?

We find that any categories with books ranking higher than #2000 is considered very competitive and not a recommended category for new writers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t place your book in a competitive ranking, but if you do, be sure to have a well-planned book launch with a sizable audience that can provide a lot of verified reviews. For new authors with a smaller following, we recommend aiming for certain categories with books that rank between #10,000-30,000.

Once you’ve completed this research, you should have a list of thriving categories to place your book in that will outrank your competitors.

Action Plan: With the five categories you’ve researched, take the time to review your competitors’ ranking that fall between #10,000-30,000. For even better results, we also recommend using the KDP Calculator to calculate how many books you would need to sell in order increase your ranking.

#3 – How to Acquire Additional Categories

When you publish your book on Amazon, they will offer you a select list of categories to choose from. At a first glance, you will notice that the selection seems rather limited and is missing plenty of categories that you’ve seen other books rank for.

Unfortunately, Amazon has done this intentionally so that they can place new books into their own kindle categories.

Don’t let Amazon determine your categories! There are thousands of sub-categories you can rank for, and you can even include an additional eight sub-categories not found in the usual channels.

Here how you can acquire these categories:

  1. Use Amazon Keyword Selection. Include the name of your category as one of your “Amazon Keywords”. In order to obtain a particular category, you must include specific keywords in the Kindle submission form. For more information on Keyword requirements, visit Amazon’s browse category page to learn more.
  2. Place your categories in strategic places. To convince Amazon that your book should be placed in specific category, strategically work the words of the category onto the title, subtitle or even the summary of your book page.
  3. Contact Amazon. You can contact Amazon and request your book to be placed in a particular category. Amazon will then assess your entire book and determine if it’s an appropriate fit for the specific browse category. If approved, These categories will appear in the “Look for similar items by category” at the bottom of the book page.

Action Plan: Experiment with these strategies to acquire additional sub-categories for your book. Remember you can include eight additional keywords that can convince Amazon to place your book in the categories of your choosing.

If you want a successful book launch, you must not overlook even the tiniest of details.

By following these guidelines on how to select your book category, your first book will have maximum exposure and the best chance to appear in the Amazon bestseller list.

SELL MORE COPIES CONSISTENTLY

How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

The Real Reason Your Current Promotional Strategy Isn’t Working and How to Fix it in 3 Easy Steps!

how to make an audiobook

How to Make an Audiobook (Video Tutorial + Tips)

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

Because as an author…you have a need to fulfill, and if you do that successfully, it results in book sales.

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

We get questions all the time from our Become a Bestseller students, like:

“Isn’t it expensive?”

“Won’t it take a ton of time?”

“How do I even do it?!?”

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

Here are the steps for making a good audiobook:

  1. Prep for recording
  2. Narrator options
  3. Hire a narrator
  4. Record the audiobook
  5. Work with an audiobook producer
  6. Create the audiobook at home
  7. Upload your audiobook to ACX

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

Claim your free audiobook AND eBook copy!

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How to Make an Audiobook: Steps, Tutorial, & Resources

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

Here are our top steps for creating an audiobook.

If you’re the type who learns best with videos, we have even more tips and tricks in the video below that you might not find in this blog post, click play to watch it below:

https://youtu.be/FhNuIUWLTkU

#1 – Prep Your eBook Content for Audiobook Recording

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

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

Here are a few to-dos to prep your audiobook for recording:

  • Delete hyperlinks
  • Delete captions
  • Delete visuals
  • Remove any calls to actions or click here prompts (unless you still want them to visit a certain link to download a lead magnet – in this case, make it a short/pretty link that’s easy to remember like Self-publishingschool.com/published)

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

Another thing to think about is if you have a hard time reading over things outloud. Some section may read better than they sound aloud, so reword or rewrite anything to sound as natural as you can.

#2 – Decide who will record your audiobook

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

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

  1. Hire someone to record it for you
  2. Record the book yourself in a studio
  3. Work with an audiobook producer
  4. Do it yourself at home (with a hacked-together studio setup we’ll explain below)
  5. Hire an ACX narrator

You now get to pick which option to take.

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

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

At our live event, Author Advantage Live this year, our fiction coach R.E. Vance answered this question from an aspiring author:

Aspiring Author: “If I’m writing fiction, can I record the audiobook myself?”

R.E. Vance: “Are you an actor?”

Aspiring Author: “…no.”

R.E. Vance: “Then no.”

#3 – Hiring an audiobook narrator

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

And when it comes to audiobook narration, most authors are concerned about the cost most.

How much does it cost to hire an audiobook narrator?

Turns out, converting your self-published book into an audiobook using a pro can cost less than half the price of doing the work yourself, mostly because you don’t have to buy equipment.

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

That said, fiction can cost much more because of the acting skills involved. However, with certain packages, a narrator will also share their audience with you—meaning you could potentially be paying for the narration + promotion.

How to find an audiobook narrator to hire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 – Record the audiobook yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 – Work with an audiobook producer

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

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

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

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

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

hire audiobook narrator - fiver example

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

#6 – Create an audiobook at home

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

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

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

Equipment for Making an Audiobook:

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

Here’s what you need to make an audiobook:

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

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

example of audiobook narration equipment

Location and Space for Recording an Audiobook Yourself at Home:

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

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

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

Here are some tips to help make sure additional noise doesn’t ruin your audiobook recording:

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

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

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

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

#7 – Upload your audiobook to Audiobook Creation Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are audiobook royalties on ACX?

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

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

This is typically why authors like to produce their own audiobook if they can, it’ll give you a bigger pay bump for the outcome—but sometimes this is at the cost of quality.

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

audiobook royalties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make an Audiobook: Resources for Help

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PUBLISHED. The Proven Path from Blank Page To Published Author

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SPS 123: The War of Art & Turning Pro As A Writer with Steven Pressfield (Fiction, Nonfiction, and Screenplays)

Today I’m chatting with Steven Pressfield, who has authored several books, both fiction and non-fiction. We’ll talk about the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing and what you need to do to turn into a pro author.

Meet Steven Pressfield

The “War of Art” is about work. Steven believes that although we can’t control the level of talent we’ve been given; because we have no control over the nature of our gift. What we do control is our self-motivation, self-discipline, self-validation, and our self-reinforcement. So we can control how hard and how smart we work.

Because there’s no magic bullet, you must arm yourself with the proper knowledge and resolution, so you can acquire the self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-belief necessary to become a focused, mentally tough working pro.

Tips on Writing for Authors

Steven suggests writing lean, meaning when you write, don’t use wasteful words. Instead, use as many impactful words as possible. He also recommends going with what your heart tells you to write. Steven also gives his advice on becoming a good screenwriter and organizing your screenwriting work.

Listen in to find out how to decide your characters’ narrative voice, how to decide on the tone of your book, and how you can play the author game long-term.

Show Highlights

  • [02:05] Why Steven decided to write books. 
  • [04:23] The importance of writing lean and not using wasteful words.
  • [05:23] How do decide what to write first – fiction or non-fiction.
  • [06:24] His first experience with writing and how he created his first three novels.
  • [08:02] Essential elements and components of a good screen writer’s script.
  • [13:22] The different approaches to writing non-fiction and fiction novels.
  • [16:36] How to decide on the tone of your book.
  • [20:04] Having resilience as an author and writer.
  • [23:26] Lessons learned from being an entrepreneur.
  • [27:41] Self-sabotage is your biggest enemy when writing a book.
  • [37:15] Steven’s advice to anyone who is considering writing as a career.

Links and Resources

book genres

Book Genres: 24+ Genres for Writing (With Guides)

As a writer (or author) knowing the different book genres is vital to your overall knowledge as a professional, and for your book’s success. Picking the right book genre matters immensely on your journey to become a bestseller.

Not only is labeling your genre correctly important but…

Not doing so can result in low book sales, negative book reviews on Amazon, and unsatisfied readers overall.

Overall, people want to know what they are in for when they take a chance with buying your book.

Remember there are literally 3.4 million books on Amazon. You’ll need to be in the right categories in order to reach people as they search—& those categories come from your book’s genre.

When you’re writing a book, the genre you write in is super important because it will dictate the different literary elements within your book.

Knowing Your Book Genre is Important

When becoming an author, it’s important to know the differences in genres so you’re well informed about what you’re writing.

Obviously, your audience may change from genre to genre.

Not only that, but the “rules” for writing also vary depending on which genre you write in, which means you’ll have to understand them in order to get it right.

Those “rules” also often include how long your book is, meaning how many words and pages it will be.

This varies per genre based on audience and industry standards.

To find out yours, check out the calculator below:

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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!

Your Book Will Have

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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

How many book genres are there?

There are more book genres than you might think. In this blog post, we’ll cover 24 of them, however, there are upwards of 40 genres and even more if you count sub-genres for books.

For example, you can have a book that’s a dystopian fantasy novel.

Dystopian and fantasy can be genres on their own but if you have a dystopian story that involves magic, your book will then have two genres.

This is also important to keep in mind when you have subplots within a novel that might fall into a separate genre.

You’ll see this most often with romantic subplots in broader genres like fantasy or sci-fi.

What are the popular book genres?

There are such a large number of genres that we can’t cover them all in this post, though we will cover 24 of them for you.

That being said, being familiar with the most common can help you identify which your book will fall under.

These are the most popular book genres:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Westerns
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary

Let’s go into more detail with these and nonfiction book genres as well.

Book Genres: 24+ Genres for Writing (With Guides)

If you’re looking to sharpen your knowledge as an author or are just trying to find which genre your book fits in specifically (perhaps to decide which Amazon categories to go after), we’ve got you covered.

Here are 22 book genres, both fiction and nonfiction, to help you understand which is which and how you should label your novel.

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25-page Fiction Book Outline Template

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#1 – Fantasy

Fantasy encompasses a huge part of the book world. It’s one of the most popular book genres out there—a personal favorite of mine to read and write.

Fantasy is a genre that’s identified by the use of magic within it.

Overall, fantasy is the genre of possibility. You can write in a little magic, like Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion or you can write a book where magic is the forefront of the plot, like with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

To take this a step further, let’s look at the different categories within this genre that has more specific characteristics.

Young Adult Fantasy Genre:

Young adult is typically meant for readers between the ages of 13-17. However, adults enjoy this category of writing just as much as teens.

One thing to keep in mind when writing young adult fantasy is that the themes and messages within the literature will often revolve around teen-aged problems, like coming of age and exploration of identity.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000 words

Adult Fantasy Genre:

When you think of adult fantasy, think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings versus Harry Potter or Children of Blood and Bone.

The main plots or themes in adult fantasy will likely revolve around more grown issues like the difference between right and wrong, death, adult relationships, and more.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 110,000

Epic Fantasy Genre:

An epic fantasy novel is characterizes by the overall lengthy and grandiose nature of its plot, characters, setting, or theme.

Books that tend to call into this book genre are Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, like we mentioned above. Most often, epic fantasies will also fall under fantasy adventures.

Average word count for this book genre: 100,000 – 200,000 +

Tips for Writing in the Fantasy Genre

  • Focus on building a really rich world that feels real, even if the readers know it’s not technically real
  • Create rule systems for your magic, always. You never want to have magic that has no limits or no costs, as that will leave room for too many plotholes
  • Write the fantasy book YOU want to read—forget about everyone else and focus on the things you find interesting in your plot, characters, and scenes
  • Create fantasy creatures to give your world a breath of fresh air—either from existing ones or make up your own

#2 – Adventure

Writing a novel in the adventure category will require a trip, journey, or quest of some kind as the overall plot.

Your average adventure novel often focuses on both the character’s physical journey as well as the journey they go through as a person throughout the novel.

Average word count for this book genre: 90,000 – 130,000

Epic Adventure Genre:

As stated above for an epic fantasy, any genre that’s “epic” is characterized by the magnitude of the plot, character, or themes themselves.

An example of an epic adventure novel is Moby Dick, which stands at about 190,000 words and 720 pages long.

Average word count for this book genre: 120,000 – 200,000

#3 – Romance

Romance authors have one specific goal when it comes to their books: to make you fall in love with the characters just as much as the characters fall in love with each other.

In this book genre, the romance is the center point of the plot. The entire novel moves around the relationship, though other plot points may be present.

A classic example of a romance novel is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

When used as a sub plot:

Romance can also be used a subplot in many novels, and is, in fact, used quite often as a complementary element in books.

When romance is used as a sub plot, the main plot does not have to do with the relationship but rather, is something completely different. The romance simply adds to the plot in order to increase conflict or intrigue.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 100,000

Tips for Writing in the Romance Book Genre:

  • Never romanticize abuse (meaning, if there is a toxic element in the relationship, never make this seen appealing or “good”)
  • Write healthy, consensual, fitting romances by developing both character to work well together
  • Avoid these common mistakes when writing romance

#4 – Contemporary

This book genre is among the most popular, though most writers aren’t sure of what this category even is.

The contemporary book genre is simply books written in the current time period with most of the parts of the novel revolving around common issues in a character’s life.

But really, this genre is actually more of the absence of a genre. You may have heard this genre lumped in with others, like Contemporary Fantasy or Contemporary Romance.

The term is used to tell readers that this book takes place in current times, though it might cover other genres as well.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Contemporary Book Genre:

  • Create a realistic and widely-experience conflict in order to draw readers in
  • Create a sympathetic character readers will feel bad for
  • Up the stakes by introducing an element, character, or conflict completely out of left field to shock readers

contemporary genre

#5 – Dystopian

This is a newer book genre that’s really been picking up popularity within the last 5 to 10 years.

Though many stories of this nature have been published prior, the term “dystopian” was recently coined to describe a book genre in which the current government or society has been destroyed and the book centers around the aftermath.

Writing Dystopian fiction can give you a ton of freedom in how you develop society while lowering the worldbuilding you’d have to do for a fantasy or sci-fi novel.

The dystopian genre can also be used as a secondary genre label in order to clarify the contents of the book, much like with contemporary.

For example, you can have a Dystopian Fantasy novel as well as a Dystopian Science Fiction novel.

Here are some examples of dystopian novels:

  • The Hunger Games
  • Young World
  • Handmaid’s Tale

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

Tips for Writing in the Dystopian Book Genre:

  • Learn what types of dystopian books have been done before (this genre blew up in recent years and is on the verge of becoming vampire-esque in the novel world, aka, overdone)
  • Mix this with another genre, like horror or mystery to add a something new
  • Get more creative with the reason for the collapse of society before your book happened as disease and/or zombies is far overdone

Dystopia defined

#6 – Mystery

We’ve all heard of the mystery book genres. It’s an extremely popular genre, and for a good reason.

This book genre is defined by the plot focusing on solving a mystery, most often with the mystery impacting the main character to the point where they’re the ones involved in solving it.

Many other genres can have mysteries within them (in fact, most do), but what makes a book specific to this genre is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Mystery Book Genre:

  • Outline your story thoroughly if you want to shock your readers with the twist as planning allows you to provide foreshadowing that makes sense
  • Know your ending before planning out the rest of the story
  • Make sure your main character is really, really interesting (the reason mystery novels work well is because of the protagonist, not always just the mystery)

mystery book genre

#7 – Horror

Horror novels are characterized by the fact that the main plot revolves around something scary and terrifying.

Oftentimes, you can find that Horror and Thriller describe the same book, though we’ll touch more on why thrillers are not always horror novels in the next section.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Horror Book Genre:

  • Do what your readers least expect by setting up a scenario in which they can guess the result, and then do something completely different
  • Use strong verbs and the rule of “show don’t tell” to appeal to the senses in order to achieve a physiological response in readers
  • When thinking of your “horror” elements, add something real or common to them in order to make them more horrifying. An example is to have a serial murderer who is a huge fan of the local high school baseball team—and attends the games regularly

#8 – Thriller

If you’re writing a thriller novel, the book will focus around a high suspense and action-packed plot.

This book genre most often deals with danger and dread instead, with high emotional impact involving fear.

Here are some examples of popular thriller novels:

  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • The Woman in Cabin 10
  • The Shining
  • It

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

Tips for Writing in the Thriller Book Genre:

  • Use the literary device of juxtaposition in order to increase the tension in those “thrilling” moments
  • Whenever you have a moment of high tension, add in a personal conflict to up the stakes in a non-physical way
  • Continuously ask yourself how you can increase the stakes in a realistic way that fits with your story idea

reader expectations

#9 – Paranormal

Paranormal books are characterized by including paranormal activity, like ghosts, clairvoyance, mediums, demons, vampires, and more.

The difference between fantasy and paranormal is the elements within. Paranormal doesn’t typically have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, and more.

But the paranormal book genre includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world, like fantasy sometimes can be.

However, keep in mind that you can have a paranormal fantasy novel if your book covers both types of abnormal occurrences.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Paranormal Book Genre:

  • Opt for paranormal beings from different cultures
  • Create your own paranormal beings for a culture or religion of your own creation
  • Use some of the writing tips for thriller novels in order to up the tension with your paranormal story

#10 – Historical Fiction

This book genre is exactly as it sounds: a fictional story that takes place in the past.

Usually, historical fiction centers around known events or problems that take place in a time significantly prior to the present.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Historical Fiction Book Genre:

  • Be sure to avoid the common excuse of “there weren’t many people of color” when writing historical fiction from any time period and any location. This is a cop-out and the world was just as diverse then as it is now
  • Research your book and its details for complete accuracy. Any slip-up in facts can pull a reader out of your book
  • Add in personal and emotional conflicts that make sense for the time period but are still relevant issues today so readers can connect to your book better

#11 – Science Fiction

Sci-fi is among the most popular book genre there is. With movie adaptations like Star Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this genre has exploded and is abundant in the book world.

Science fiction novels are those that take place in a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally otherworldly beings.

This is another genre that can add to another, like with Sci-Fi Fantasy, which would include a futuristic world with advanced technology and some sort of fantastical being or magic.

The word count for this novel genre can be extensive depending on the storyline.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Science Fiction Book Genre:

  • Create new technology that works with and/or against your protagonist’s agenda
  • Develop slang when writing dialogue that’s appropriate for the time you’re writing in (and avoid using current-day slang that will likely be outdated for your world/era)
  • Like other genres that are not set in a realistic time and world, make sure to add internal conflicts that we still struggle with in our current lives in order to appeal to readers more

scifi book genre

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

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

#12 – Memoir

On to the nonfiction writing portion of these book genres and first up is memoirs.

When writing a memoir, you’re essentially telling the reader about the most defining moments in your life that have led you to where you are and who you are today.

Memoirs differ from autobiographies in the sense that an autobiography is more of a timeline of your life, events, and accomplishments whereas a memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message you wish to share with readers.

Average word count for this book genre: 45,000 – 80,000

https://youtu.be/R1V3X9h8HRI

#13 – Cookbook

You already know what a cookbook is.

Cookbooks are those featuring recipes and directions for making the dishes correctly. Not only that, but many cookbooks features stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.

Average word count for this book genre: Cookbooks vary greatly and are more dependent on number of recipes instead of total words.

#14 – Art

This book genre encompasses several different types of books. However, all of them require the same thing: a focus on something art-related.

There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre.

Here are a few ways your book would be a part of the art genre:

  • it covers art-facts
  • it teaches specific art methods
  • it discusses are in detail (art history)
  • art is a primary focus of the book

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 60,000

Art book

#15 – Self-help / Personal Development

If you’re writing a book aimed to aid someone in their personal life, as well as lift them up to make positive change, it’s likely you’re writing in the self-help or personal development book genre.

Essentially, if your book helps others have a better life by empowering them, it will fall under this genre.

Keep in mind, this book genre is one that encompasses many other genres as well. You can have a health self-help book in additional to a relationship self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#16 – Development

The development book genre is growing rapidly as the world focuses on self-improvement as a whole.

If you’re writing in this genre, you’ll likely write about specific struggles pertaining to character and personal problems as well as overcoming these obstacles.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#17 – Motivational

This book genre is on the rise significantly as of late. If you write in this genre, your book will center around empowering people to do whatever it is they’re struggling with.

Essentially, motivational books focus on problems that can prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams, and how to solve them.

Most often, motivational books can be lumped in with other book genres like health, fitness, business, and self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#18 – Health

The health book genre is vast and covers a wide variety of different topics.

Your book will fall under this wide genre if it features anything health-related. This can be topics ranging from fitness, holistic healing, to more complex medical topics and in-depth coverage of different health conditions.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#19 – History

Any book covering historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. And since this is nonfiction, they all have to be accurate.

Many history books are much different than what you might have read in school. In fact, there are several books simply covering different events in history written in a more entertaining fashion versus a factional play-by-play textbook.

Those books still fall under this book category.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#20 – Travel

Whether you’re writing travel guides or an in-depth review of different travel destinations, this book genre will cover all of them.

Your book would also fall under this genre if you’re writing about travel-hacks or ways to travel for cheap or even free.

Average word count for this book genre: 20,000 – 50,000

#21 – Guide / How-to

There are so many guide books and how-tos out there that it’s fairly easy to know if your book fits this genre.

The way to know if your book falls in this genre is to think about the core purpose. Is your book written in order to show someone how to do something specific?

The biggest giveaway is in the book title. If your title features “how to…” then it’s in this genre!

Average word count for this book genre: 3,000 – 50,000

#22 – Families and Relationships

You can write a book about how to build a stronger familial foundation or a book about improving your relationship. Either way, those books would fall under this category.

Oftentimes, books in this genre will fall under a smaller, more specified genre as well, like family bonding or romantic relationships or even fostering friendships.

The relationships genre is not to be confused with the fiction romance genre.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 50,000

#23 – Humor

If you’ve ever read a joke book or a book revolving around a humorous endeavor of some sort, it falls under this book category.

Books in this genre are also often gag gifts or are meant to be facetious.

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 50,000

#24 – Children’s Books

While there are several genres of children’s picture books, we wanted to touch on some details about them as a whole.

When writing a children’s book, it’s important to keep these details in mind. If you don’t, you run the risk of writing a book that you like instead of one that a child would.

A children’s book describes any book written for an audience between the ages of 0-8 years old.

Now, of course, children of older ages can enjoy this book but ultimately, you’re shooting for those who can’t read at all, or are relatively new to reading.

Average word count for this book genre: 300 – 1200 words.

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how to write a nonfiction book

How to Write a Nonfiction Book (13 Steps for Quality)

There’s a specific way you should learn how to write a nonfiction book if you want it to do well.

Whether you’re looking to write and publish a book to grow your business or if you just want to write a book to make an impact, doing it well the first time makes a major difference.

Imagine throwing a book together with no rhyme or reason…and then wondering why it isn’t selling. That won’t be your reality if you follow this system.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

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

Here’s how to write a nonfiction book:

  1. Come up with your nonfiction book idea
  2. Do some market research
  3. Nail down your book’s target audience
  4. Mindmap and outline your nonfiction book
  5. Schedule book writing time
  6. Write a strong book introduction
  7. Write your nonfiction book in order
  8. Write your first draft straight through
  9. Do book research
  10. Self-edit your book
  11. Choose a nonfiction book title
  12. Send to betas for feedback
  13. Go through the production process or query agents

What is a Nonfiction Book?

A Nonfiction book is a piece of written document that is focused on facts. It’s opposed to fictional stories such as Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia.

It can be a memoir, a captivating biography, an instructional book on how to make a coffee table, a self-help book, or even a travel guide to Chile. As long as the content is real and none of it is made up, it can be considered a nonfiction book.

Writing a Nonfiction Book for Beginners: Quick Tips

The biggest reason most people don’t write a book is because they think they’re not a good writer. But as a C- English student who used to hate writing… Trust me, you can do it.

Even though I didn’t have the best English skills, I still wrote and published 6 bestselling books. That’s why I started Self-Publishing School and our Become a Bestseller program to begin with.

I figured out how to write a high-quality book despite writing skills, and that’s what I want you to know: you don’t need to be a good writer to produce a good book.

All you need is an idea…and we here at Self-Publishing School believe that everyone has a book in them. We just specialize in getting it out and published to its best form.

But in addition to that, I wanted to drop some other tips for beginners, those looking to start writing a book for the first time:

  • Don’t compare yourself
  • Don’t try to copy or recreate a popular book
  • Write about what you know, have experienced, and what people ask you about often
  • Be honest with yourself (and therefore, the readers)
  • Look to those with experience to go through this process correctly (think of: How vs Who…you always want to look for the Who to solve things)
  • Get some support from friends or family (our students usually make an accountability buddy in our exclusive Mastermind Community)
  • Commit to it, that’s one of the hardest parts

Ultimately, it’s a learning curve, but that’s why we have this content available on the blog, plus my free book writing and publishing training.

Nonfiction Book Writing Template

We actually have a book outline template generator created by one of our coaches who has written and published 30 books.

That’s right, she has a ton of experience and knows what she’s doing.

You can fill out the generator at the top of this post and the template will be emailed to you right away. You will have to go do File > Make a copy in order to save this template for yourself, otherwise you can’t edit it since this is used for everyone needing a template.

How to Write a Nonfiction Book in 13 Quality Steps

We’re finally to the great stuff! Let’s go through how to write a nonfiction book step by step.

I’ve been through this several times and am breaking it down to the essential steps only. Save some time and stick to these basic principles of writing a nonfiction book.

https://youtu.be/z0fxIXLuRL4

#1 – Choose your nonfiction book idea

If you’re here, you likely have a book idea… Or maybe a few. This can be really difficult if you have more than one idea ready to go that you think is important.

Here’s what we tell our students in terms of choosing which book idea to tackle first:

  1. Write the one that will be the easiest for you
  2. Write the one that you can finish the quickest

It’s really that easy. That’s the best way to choose a book idea to go with if you’ve got too many or aren’t sure which should be done first.

But if you need to generate ideas, here are a few tips to come up with a book idea:

  • Use some writing prompts or check out this post on things to write about
  • Sit down with a sheet of paper and jot down subjects you consider yourself an authority on (you know a ton of accurate information)
  • Write down a few things people often ask you questions about (I originally wrote The Productive Person because many people wanted to know how I got so much done)
  • Think about the topics that make you talk a bunch during get-togethers/gatherings
  • What are you crazy passionate about?

This is a great start and you’ll likely even have a few ideas pop up as you read this. Make sure to write them down and choose the one that falls into the above two criteria I mentioned.

#2 – Do market research

One thing we do a little differently here at Self-Publishing School is teach our students how to ensure your book is hot in the market. While this isn’t necessarily “writing to market”, it does ensure you’ll bring in some income from it.

If you’re not worried about that, then this isn’t necessarily something you need to do, but we still recommend it to understand what books in your genre are doing as far as the cover, title, etc.

Here’s my process for market research for the book idea/s I’m planning to write:

  1. Go on Amazon
  2. Choose “Books” from the search dropdown departments
  3. Search for something in the range of what you want to write, keywords help (publishing, paleo recipes, mental health self-help, etc.)
  4. Take note and even save some titles/topics that are close to what you want to do
  5. To go deeper, click on a book that is close to what you want to write about
  6. Scroll down to the “Product Details” section view the categories they’re ranking in under “Amazon Best Sellers Rank”

Repeat that exercise with various categories related to your idea.

The reason we do this is to see what’s working so you can build off of an already stable foundation.

Additionally, if you want to know more about Amazon Categories, check out Dave Chesson’s PublisherRocket service.

#3 – Nail down your target audience

This is one of the most crucial steps for your book’s longevity. The more you can create a clear picture of who your avatar is, the better your book will perform and the better Amazon reviews you’ll get.

This is something that’s really special about our programs. Every one of them has 1-on-1 coaching with a highly experienced bestseller, and they go through a big deep dive on your target audience, before you even start your outline with us.

Ultimately, you want to get to the point where, when you’re writing your book, you’re speaking to one person: your ideal audience member.

This helps the book be concise, highly targetted so it will be received better by people who need it, and those who do read it will review it highly because it’s made for them.

But how do you nail down your target audience details when writing a nonfiction book?

Steps for building a book’s target audience:

  1. How old are they?
  2. What do they do for fun?
  3. What’s their financial status?
  4. Are they aware of their problem?
  5. What have they done already to try to solve the problem that didn’t work?
  6. Where have they been looking for help with this problem?
  7. What type of style do they have?
  8. What’s their vocabulary like?
  9. What will their name be for your own reference?

These questions can help you get started so you know exactly who you’re writing for, what type of writing/style they respond to, and what problems and objections you’ll have to face when writing your nonfiction book.

#4 – Mindmap and outline your nonfiction book

Mindmap first, then outline.

That’s the system we follow and it’s by far the best because when your mindmap is complete, you can just pull over each topic into an orderly outline like one you (hopefully) downloaded earlier.

You can learn how to mindmap a book right here, and download your free printable mindmap here.

When it comes to this tactic, you have to sit down with no distractions and jot down everything and anything you can think of in your mindmap. Go nuts! This is not the time for thoughts like, “is this necessary here?” No.

The idea is to get out every piece of knowledge you have on the main topic that’s in the middle of your mindmap.

Then when that’s done, move on to filling out your outline in order of what topics you think should go in what order. Once your book outline is done, it’s (mostly) smooth sailing from there.

#5 – Schedule time to write your book

If you don’t put it on the calendar somewhere, it probably won’t get done.

Writing a nonfiction book isn’t something you can just shrug at and say, “I’ll get to it when I get to it,” because you and I both know there are a million things that could get in the way of that—like watching Tiger King on Netflix.

But if you give it space in your calendar, you’re announcing to you and everyone else that it’s a priority, it’s something you’re committed to.

Check out this great video about building a writing habit if you want to get this down better:

https://youtu.be/IAFJwTxsJ4E

#6 – Write a strong book introduction

We actually have a blog post completely dedicated to this topic you can check out here: how to write an introduction for a book.

But we’ll also go over the main details here as well, so you can get started right away. You can also download our book outline template if you haven’t already, which has an introduction detailed and outlined (developed by one of our coaches who has 30 self-published books).

Really what you’re doing with a book introduction is selling your book. It’s more in line with copywriting than anything else. Copywriting meaning salesmanship in writing.

Which is what you need your introduction to be. Otherwise, why would they buy the book? Why else would they read the whole thing?

Now onto your introduction…

  1. Identify the problem you’re going to solve
  2. Present the solution you have to that problem
  3. Reassert your credibility and why you can solve this
  4. Show them the benefits of solving this issue
  5. Give your reader proof as to how and why this works
  6. Give them a huge promise, a major, bold promise
  7. Warn them against waiting to start/reading
  8. Prompt them to start the first chapter (if someone’s only peeking at the Amazon “Look Inside” this can prompt them to buy!)

Check out this video I filmed for y’all for more details:

https://youtu.be/ek335uJInpw

#7 – Write your nonfiction book in order

Once you know the order you’ll keep your book in from the outline, write it exactly in that order. This is really important because there needs to be a sense of progression and cohesiveness overall.

If your book reads like it skips around, people will be put off by the lack of consistency in the style.

That’s why we always recommend writing it in order and not just writing whatever you want first. Trust us on this one.

It seems simple but being able to mention previous parts of the book for reference is super important for refreshing a reader’s memory and pulling them back into that same frame of mind.

#8 – Write the first draft straight through

This means no stopping to research or edit. Nope. We write our drafts completely through because this is the fastest way to make sure your draft gets done.

What we’ve found that the biggest obstacle between someone who has a book idea and someone who becomes an author is finishing that first draft.

Too many writers get caught up in making the first draft perfect and when it’s not (because it’s a first draft) they throw in the towel. Don’t be that person.

Don’t be someone who just wanted to write a book…be the person who did, and then published it successfully.

If you have places where you need to do some factual research, put the letters TK in place of data you need, and move on. You can later do a Command/Ctrl+F in order to search each of these places and provide the right information.

This video has some additional hacks for finishing your book faster, so it actually gets done at all:

https://youtu.be/vk3VsUOEQEs

#9 – Do nonfiction book research

After you completed your draft and put that TK in place of research, do a Command/Ctrl+F and search those letters.

You’ll find all the areas of research you need to complete and you can go through in order, same as you did when writing. This is the best way to do research because you’ll only spend time finding exactly what you need to find instead of spending hours digging through information for stuff to “pull” into your book.

Research should be used to confirm and validate your own experiences, not as a starting point for you to start writing. It comes off as much more authentic and authoritative this way.

#10 – Self-edit your book

You’ll both love and hate this part. Going back over your first draft can be a little emotionally troubling because you’ll want it to be perfect the first time.

It can feel like a setback but this is why we self-edit!

First, you got out what you needed to. Now, you chisel away the excess, sharpen the message, and drill your solution home. This is the part where you make everything merge together.

We have a full blog post on how to self-edit your book you can read to learn more about the process and what specifically you should be looking for.

#11 – Choose a nonfiction book title

You might be wondering why this is so far down on the list. Most people come up with the title before they even write…don’t they?

If they do, it’s likely not a fitting title. When students go through our Become a Bestseller program, they’re most shocked by this because our coaches instruct them to not title their book until they’re finished and have edited it.

The main reason for this is because so much can change from your idea to your outline to the finished product itself. So instead of trying to fit your book to a title that just might not work, write the book and then craft a compelling title that will actually encompass and sell the book’s content.

Here are our overall tips for choosing a book title:

  • Make your title searchable
  • Make it clear and concise: your reader should know exactly what they’re getting
  • Write 5-10 main titles and then narrow it down to your favorite 5
  • Push those out for feedback in writing groups or to your friends/family. Our students often post polls for feedback in our exclusive Mastermind Community for upwards of 25 responses.
  • Craft your subtitle only after you have the main title
  • Make sure this goes deeper into what content your book will cover, using keywords people search is also highly encouraged
  • Here’s an example of what a strong title would be – The Mental Health Mindshift: How to Take Control of Your Mental Health, Manage it Easily, & Shift Your Point of View

Do you have any special tactics for coming up with great titles? Drop a comment below with your own process!

Here’s another great video overview of the process with more tips:

https://youtu.be/7X4iBZ45-TA

#12 – Send to betas for feedback (optional)

Not all books need this and it’s certainly more important for fiction than a nonfiction book. However, if you have a few weeks to spare, it can help uplevel your book significantly.

What you really want here is a group of people who fit your target audience who can read through your book and answer questions and give feedback about it.

These people are known as beta readers. They read your book before the professional edit and give you feedback as someone reading it for the first time.

This helps you see your book through the eyes of a “fresh” reader because as much as we wish we could, we just can’t read our book as if we’ve never seen its contents before.

Making sure it all makes sense, is clear, and there isn’t any confusion goes a long way to producing a high-quality book.

#13 – Go through the production process or query agents

I won’t detail the process from editing to cover design to formatting for those of you looking to self-publish a book, since this is mainly about how to write the book.

But here are our best resources covering the production process:

If you’re self-publishing, you’ll have to go through all of these yourself before publishing.

If you’re someone who wants to go the traditional route, you’d bypass this stage, write a book blurb and synopsis, and then query agents until you land one (this could take months to years).

Don’t forget your free outline!

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

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