How an Author Planner Boosts Your Writing Productivity

Plenty of people try planners and find it’s not for them. But a lot of them, I’d bet, haven’t tried author planners. If you’re a writer looking to keep track of your projects, it turns out that it can make all the world of difference to have a planner tailored to your needs. 

In this article, I’m going to talk about what author planners are, how you can benefit from using one, show you some author planners that might work for you, and give you some tips and tricks for actually using your author planner for more than a couple weeks. 

This guide to using an author planner covers:

  1. What is an author planner?
  2. Benefits of using an author planner
  3. Best planners for writers
  4. How to use an author planner successfully

What is an author planner?

A regular planner will be divided into months of the year and then weeks of the year—some also break down into individual days. They’re intended to encompass your entire life. You might keep track of your workout routine, make notes of upcoming doctors’ appointments, and schedule time to write

An author planner, however, is focused more on your writing. You’re meant to use it primarily for your authorly tasks, whatever those might be—I like to think of an author planner like a work journal. Freelance writers might use it to keep track of their freelance work, and novelists can use them to plan out their projects

Benefits of using an author planner

If the idea of grabbing a planner for your writing sounds like time-consuming hell, I totally understand. I also doubted the efficacy of using any kind of daily tracker before I found one that worked for me. And it may be that planners ultimately aren’t for you, but you can’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Used correctly, they can be extremely helpful for not just your writing, but also your professional growth and development. 

Here are just a few benefits of using an author planner: 

1. Keeps writing in one place 

Writing can get complicated quickly, and it can be difficult to condense everything that needs to get done into one tiny margin of your daily planner. If you’re already the type of person who loves to work with a planner, you might find a writing planner helpful because it gives you a designated space with lots of room to plan out your writing tasks. 

Additionally, it’ll keep your mind from wandering off when you’re trying to plan out your writing—in a regular planner, you might be distracted looking at all your other tasks for the month, but you won’t have that to stress you out in your author planner. 

Even if you’re brand new to planners, having a planner designated for writing is still a huge plus! Instead of needing to keep track of every little thing you do, an author planner is just for your writing. This is much more approachable, and it’ll be way easier to stick with long-term. 

2. Organize big tasks 

If you’ve written a novel before, you’ll know it’s extremely complicated. Writing and publishing a novel requires a thousand different tasks, from drafting to editing to cover art to finding beta readers and so on. It seems straightforward on the face of it—write a book, publish it—but it gets overwhelming quickly. 

A planner gives you space to map out these big tasks. You can break huge goals like writing a book into achievable chunks. Not only does this help you see what you need to get done to complete big tasks, but it also helps make those big tasks doable by breaking them into bite-sized pieces. 

3. Become a master at time management 

Ever sit down to write (for me, this is especially true of revising), stare at your computer, and wonder what in the world you’re even supposed to do? Sometimes writers burn up entire weeks of work piddling around in revisions, trying to sort through a difficult chapter, or unsure what the next step is in their publication process. This wastes valuable time, and it doesn’t have to be so stressful! 

Because a planner will help you map out your project into small, achievable goals, it will also help keep you focused on a day-to-day basis. Being able to write out what you need to do on any given day will make your job a lot easier, and it’ll make things less stressful if you need to skip a day or a week. 

You might be surprised how much you can get done in a given writing session or work day when you go in with clear goals! 

4. Keep track of little things 

You may have heard this advice before, but I’ll repeat it: if you think of an idea, you should write it down immediately. Ideas for revisions, new stories, or anything along those lines should be written down as soon as possible, because they will escape otherwise. 

If you have an author planner, guess what? You’ve got a designated place for this type of thing. No more furiously hunting through your Notes app! 

Author planners are also perfect for jotting small tasks that might otherwise get forgotten. Maybe you’re supposed to read someone else’s work once a week for a critique group, or maybe you meant to send a story to your friend to hear their thoughts. Writing things down, on their own, helps your brain remember them better, so even if you don’t have to check the planner to remember to do it, the planner still helps you out. 

Best planners for writers

There are approximately six billion planners out there, so where does one get started? I’ve got a few author planners I’d like to talk about here. 

90-Day Author Success Planner 

author planner

If you’re super serious about getting your project written and published and you’re looking for a planner that will guide you through the whole process, this is the planner for you. 

Not only will this be a place for you to keep track of your goals, but with this planner comes video training which guides your progress, as well as a complimentary one-on-one coaching call to discuss your goals. 


  • 1-on-1 coaching call to discuss your book idea, author goals, and plan for success 
  • Video training by Chandler Bolt which will show you how to best use your planner and principles for being successful with your writing
  • Weekly preview pages to map out your week to come 
  • Daily pages with outlines for maximizing your productivity 

The Novel Planner: A Daily Planner for Authors 

screenshot of the novel planner

This planner is intended for writers of all types! Novelists might find the pages relating to brainstorming and tracking long-term milestones especially helpful. 


  • 12-month calendar 
  • 52 weekly calendar spreads (start day: Monday) 
  • Places to set writing goals and schedule writing-related business tasks 
  • Pages for planning, brainstorming, and outlining your novel 
  • Pages to track yearly accomplishments and milestones 

The Freelancer Planner

image of a planner for freelancers

This journal is a great option for freelance writers looking to organize both their personal and professional writing. 


  • Monthly view for monthly goals 
  • Sections to keep track of income 
  • Weekly pages 
  • End-of-month recaps where you can track goal progress

Free Planners and Worksheets by Productive Flourishing 

free daily and weekly planner pages

If you’ve never used a planner before and you’re hesitant to spend money on one, give planning a trial run with Productive Flourishing’s free planners and worksheets. These can be customized based on your writerly needs. 


  • Free 
  • Monthly, weekly, or daily options for different goals 
  • Easily customizable 
  • Available in digital form 

How to use an author planner successfully

Find the planner that works for you 

First and most importantly, you have to use something that works for you. You’re not going to use a planner you hate, and even if you do, it’s not likely to actually help you. 

Some people love to plan out every single hour of their day or their writing sessions, down to the minute. An author might want a daily word count with specific scenes in mind. Other authors might stick to monthly goals and more time-oriented daily goals, like “write for thirty minutes” instead of “write five thousand words.” 

If planning out your session down to the minute makes you feel stressed instead of prepared, don’t do it! If it helps, feel free. This is for you to use and make the most of your writing time, so find the planner that best helps you out. 

Schedule time to use your planner 

Building your planner into your daily routine will help you come back to it. As with any new thing in your life, you’ve got to incorporate it with some intention if you want it to stick. Here are a few different ways you might schedule time to use your planner: 

  • Use your planner for the first and last five minutes of every session to check in with your goals, set intentions for that day, and makes notes for what you want to do tomorrow 
  • Use your planner first thing in the morning, when you’re feeling refreshed 
  • Use your planner before bed, when you’re thinking about what needs to get done tomorrow 

Scheduling out time to use your planner will do two things: first, it will help you stick with it. Second, it will train your brain to actually think about your writing goals when you sit down for planner time. 

Map out big tasks 

Your goal for the year might be “publish a book,” but this is a hugely daunting task that you can’t do in one day. In a planner, you can break this into pieces. 

Maybe January and February are designated for drafting, and maybe you put weekly word goals in to help you get closer and closer to finishing that first draft. You can do this with any big project. Research what you need to do to get it done, divide the big tasks into as many small tasks as you need, and follow the path you’ve created for yourself! 

Customize it for your lifestyle 

Finally, remember that planners are ultimately notebooks, and you can do whatever you want with them. You’ll want to find one with features that are helpful to you, but there’s no obligation to follow its format to the letter if there are little things you don’t like or that aren’t useful. 

Maybe you ignore the hourly breakdown of each day, because you don’t like planning out your days to the hour. You might ignore the monthly calendar section at the beginning of a lot of planners (I do both of these things!). 

Maybe there’s a column that’s supposed to be for exercise, but you think it’d be great for keeping track of writing sprints—do that! 

An author planner is a great tool for writers, and as such, it should be something that you as a writer are excited to use because it works. 

SPS 138: Changing Culture & Representation Through Children’s Books with Dr. Thomishia Booker

Dr. Thomishia Booker is here to talk about the phenomenal success that her self-published books have brought her. She started publishing in 2016 after being inspired by the birth of her son and her inner child. Dr. Booker is a licensed therapist who provides programmatic and staff supervision for hospital outpatient services. She has also managed non-profit mental health programs. She also has diverse experience managing funding and grant writing. 

She is passionate about diversity and inclusion in children’s entertainment and building self-confidence and pride among children in the 3-5 year range. She used her passion and experience to create The Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series. She is the CEO and owner of Hey Carter! Incorporated. Hey Carter! Books curates books, products, experiences that ensure black children, specifically boys, are reflected positively. 

We get to learn what inspired her books and why she chose self-publishing. How her first launch went and what she did and didn’t do. We even discovered creative marketing for a niche that blew her books up and got her books featured on Netflix. We learn how continued marketing pays off and market more once it does. Dr. Booker also shares the pros of self-publishing, especially with children’s books. We learn how she used vendor events to promote her books, how her books ended up in schools and became a Teachers’ Pick on Amazon. 

Show Highlights

  • [02:13] Dr. Booker started writing when she was expecting her first son. She wanted to create something for her son where he could see himself in it. 
  • [02:52] Her first book was called My Brown Skin which was a love letter to her inner child. She wrote about some of the things that she needed as a little girl growing up.
  • [03:34] Speaking to her inner child just made the process easier and the intention behind the book much more clear. She wanted all children to know that they are loved and cherished. She wanted black children specifically to know their beauty. Having a child is kind of like holding a mirror up to yourself.
  • [05:11] Starting out with a passion project focused on her son really made the writing process easier in the beginning.
  • [07:12] Writing a book is similar to bringing a child into the world. As the parent or author of the book, Dr. Booker learns something about herself in every book that she writes.
  • [08:20] It’s important that what we put in children’s books reflects positivity. We want to allow children to learn in a way that makes sense for who they are.
  • [10:27] Dr. Booker wanted to own her stories. She went with self-publishing because of timing and wanting to own her stories. There are endless financial possibilities with self-publishing. She also enjoys being in control of the illustration process. 
  • [13:14] With her first books, she put her books on Amazon and did vendor events. She also used social media. Dr. Booker now knows to have a launch strategy with her newer books. She saw increasing sales when she had more clarity on that.
  • [17:30] Sometimes you have to just get out there and do it. It’s okay to learn along the way. Dr. Booker had a message that she wanted to get out. She kept marketing every year to reach more readers. 
  • [18:39] A pivotal moment for her was when she got a deal with Netflix for her books. She knew her ideal customer, and it was very clear why the books were created. 
  • [20:30] Niche vender events and niche Facebook groups helped her sell the most books. Local community events have vendors that can buy booths. Cultural events have worked well where Dr. Booker is the only book vendor. Schools have purchased books too. 
  • [28:10] Look at the potential event and think about how successful you will be there and whether it’s a good use of your time. 
  • [30:05] Netflix reached out to Dr. Booker. Her books aligned with the ideas of building self confidence and pride. It was a moment of synergy. She was the only self published author on the show. 
  • [31:10] At this point, she decided to diversify her marketing plan and bring on a PR firm. They worked on getting her message out there and crafting her story to get her books out there.
  • [32:46] One year after Netflix and people are still talking about her story and her book.
  • [33:29] She got Teachers’ Pick on Amazon. It came after Netflix. More people have seen the book, and they have it in classrooms. 
  • [34:41] If you have a book in you, just do it. Get some help and support doing it. There are so many resources out there. You don’t have to go it alone. 

Links and Resources

How Book Signings Boost Your Book’s Success

If you’re a writer, chances are you’re also a reader. Writers read. And if you’re a reader, chances are you have a favorite author. 

Have you ever perused through a bookstore, checking out titles by your favorite authors, and wished you could meet the author in person?


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That’s what a book signing is for. 

Maybe you’ve attended one before. Whether it was at a conference, a bookstore, or a different event entirely, book signings are common for authors. The hype surrounding a book signing varies from author to author, but no matter what stage you are at in the process, you can host a book signing. 

This guide to book signings covers:

  1. What is a book signing?
  2. Are book signings worth it?
  3. How to set up a book signing?
  4. How do I find a book signing?
  5. How do book signings work?
  6. How to have a successful book signing
  7. What to bring to a book signing
  8. What to wear to a book signing
  9. What do you say when signing a book?
  10. How long should a book signing last?

Before jumping in, there may be one big question on your mind. 

“I’m an introvert,” you might be thinking. “I love writing, and attending a book signing sounds alright, but my own book signing sounds way out of my comfort zone. Are they really necessary?” 

We’ll discuss the different aspects of book signing, and by the end of this article, you can make your own informed decision. 

Let’s start with the basics. 

What is a book signing?

A book signing is an event, often at a bookstore, library, or writing conference, where an author spends a period of time reading a portion of their book, interacting with readers via a question and answer time, and signing readers’ books. A book signing is a great way to bring readers together and meet the people who read your books. 

From a reader’s perspective, a book signing is an exciting way to meet the author of the stories they know and love. 

From an author’s perspective, a book signing is a great way to meet your target audience and actually see and interact with the people who are reading your book. It’s one thing to write to your ideal reader—the person who exists in your head after you’ve researched your comparable titles, the market, and social media analytics. It’s another thing entirely to look a reader in the eye, shake their hand, and see them as a real person. 

A book signing is also meant to be an interactive event. Readers can interact with each other, discuss their favorite parts of your books, banter over which character is best and why, and go away inspired and eager for your next release. 

Think of a book signing as an organic way to bring readers together as well as create buzz around you, the author. 

Now you know what a book signing is, but…

Are book signings worth it?

Whether or not a book signing is worth it is largely dependent on who shows up. Just as marketing the release of your newest book is crucial to its reception in the market, marketing your event is imperative to a successful book signing.

Before attending your book signing, make sure to schedule and market it in advance. It’s important to balance how far out you market your event with when it is scheduled. If you are a smaller name author and begin marketing your book signing nine months in advance, readers are unlikely to feel it’s necessary to put the event on the calendar. They have nine months to worry about it!

If you’re a big name author and begin marketing your event 24 hours in advance, you’ll likely have some readers show up, but also have many readers who are disappointed they couldn’t attend. 

As you schedule your book signing, do your best to be aware of what’s best for your readers. 

That begs the question…

How to set up a book signing? 

The location of your book signing will influence the details of how you set up your event. 

However, whichever location you choose, be sure to reach out to the venue well in advance. Venues schedule months out, so if you want to have a spring book signing, reach out to the venue in the winter to ensure you can book your slot. 

If your book signing takes place at a local bookstore, ask the venue if they carry your book and if so, how many copies they usually keep stocked. Be prepared to bring your own copies to sell, with the understanding that the venue may request a percentage of your sales. 

As the date draws closer, make sure to contact the venue and ensure your date is still available and that they expect you. Ask if you can arrive early to set up your table and any merchandise or books you plan to bring. 

How do I find a book signing?

If you want to attend a book signing, simply check with your local bookstores or do an internet search. You may also want to ask your writing community, whether it is in person or online, if they have heard of any events in your area. If you are willing to travel, consider looking up your favorite authors’ websites. Many times, authors list tour dates on their website.

How do book signings work?

A book signing is similar to a networking event, minus the pressure. If you are a reader attending, simply show up to the signing and purchase the author’s book. Some venues may allow you to bring your own, or if there is an entrance fee, a free book may be included. 

Because authors use book signings to promote and therefore sell their work, it is a polite gesture to purchase a book at the signing. 

The author may speak, take questions, and then there will be a line for readers to meet the author, have a conversation (length depends on the particular author, as well as how many readers show up), and get their book signed. 

How to have a successful book signing

A successful book signing depends on your particular goals, but there are several steps you can take to ensure your book signing is an enjoyable experience for those involved. 

What to bring to a book signing

If you are the author, make sure you have everything you need prior to the day of the signing. 

While the venue may provide a signing table and chair, be prepared to bring your own if necessary. You will also want to bring a banner with your name or your book title on it, copies of your books, a great pen, business cards, and any merchandise or swag readers may want to purchase. 

If you are a reader, simply bring a copy of the book you want the author to sign, or better yet, come prepared to purchase their book and ask the author to sign the new copy. 

What to wear to a book signing

A book signing is a fun event, so you want to be comfortable, but put together. Dress professionally, but for the occasion.

Remember, feeling like yourself is key. You don’t need to wear a suit or dress to be well-perceived. A simple but fashionable outfit can give you the extra confidence you need, while allowing you to still feel like yourself. 

Specifically, if you are the author, wear something camera-ready. Chances are, readers will want a photo with you. 

If you are a reader, dress well but remember that the event is for you. The author wants to interact with you and ensure you have a good time. Dress well, but comfortably. 

What do you say when signing a book?

You readers make your career possible. Without them, you may be an author but you won’t have sales. 

Keep simple phrases top of mind as you move through the line. It’s not necessary to have a long conversation with every reader, but simply saying, “Thank you for reading,” can go a long way. 

Here are some phrases to refer to as you prepare for your book signing: 

  • Thank you for your support. 
  • I appreciate you coming out. 
  • Thank you for prioritizing this event. 
  • I hope you enjoyed the book! 

If you have a bit more time, you could ask a simple question. Remember, if you ask a leading question, some readers may have an extended answer. (If you’re unsure how to have a brief conversation, maybe consider using these options later.) But if you have the time, expressing interest in their reading experience can go a long way. 

  • Who was your favorite character? 
  • What was your favorite scene? 
  • Did ______ surprise you? 

How long should a book signing last? 

How long a book signing lasts is partially dependent on the author. It’s important that readers feel they had enough time to enjoy the event, but it’s also important not to drag the event out. 

If you are a bestselling author, your event may last for three hours. You may start with a reading by the author, proceed into a time of question and answer, and then finish with a book signing. However, if you’re not as well known yet, a half hour for a reading, fifteen minutes for questions, and thirty to forty-five minutes to sign books may be sufficient. 

Regardless of where you’re at as an author, don’t let a book signing intimidate you. You are the author. You are the reason the readers come. They want to meet you, interact with you, and hear you read your work. They are for you. 

Be yourself. Resist any anxious nerves. The readers are probably just as nervous to meet you as you may be to meet them. Instead, relax. Enjoy the fact that you are at your own book signing! That is a huge step, and not one every author takes. 

Back to you…

Is a book signing worth it? That’s up to you, the author. 

A book signing is a great way to interact with your target audience and meet them in a more intimate environment. It’s also a great way to hear from their own mouths what they love most about your book. It’s one thing to share a poll on Instagram and ask which character readers like more…it’s another thing to hear their inflection and see their facial expression as they describe what they loved about your protagonist. 

Book signings are a great way to market yourself and create buzz for your upcoming books. Simply meeting a reader in person can go a long way. 

As you prepare for your book signing, remember that the readers are there for you and you are there for your readers. That’s a win-win. 

Prepare, get those business cards, set up your table, bring your books, dress well…and then enjoy. You’ve done the hard work. You’ve written your book. Published your book. Now you get to interact with your readers. 

Squash those nerves and have an amazing time!  

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SPS 137: Launch Week Recap- Results & Lessons Learned From Launching My Newest Book

My last two podcasts were about the relaunch of my book Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold. Now, I’m going to walk you through what I’ve learned in the process. I’m going to go over what worked and what didn’t and give you a general update as to how the launch went as a whole. I’m hoping these chronicles will be helpful to you in your book writing journey. I started this promotion on Black Friday, and I gave a free copy of the book to my past readers. I had a giveaway and a contest. 

This first promotion moved 2,619 books and resulted in 69 appointments booked with my team which generated about $49,000 in revenue. Then I had a pre-release promo that moved about 1,891 books and brought in about 91 more appointments and $43,000 more in revenue. These two promos led up to the launch and were unbelievably successful. My big goal was to move 5,000 books by the end of the year, and also generate 1,000 appointments for self-publishing school. I get into that and more in this episode. 

Show Highlights

  • [04:47] I had a goal of 2500 book reviews by the end of January and 1000 reviews on the audio version. I also want  1 million copies sold or given away by the end of next year.
  • [05:33] Chapter 22 of the book goes into the one-year launch. I’m in the process of wrapping up the launch and moving into the one-year launch.
  • [06:10] As of today, the physical copy of the book has 1051 reviews and 106 reviews on the audiobook. The campaign of people who read the first version of the book gave the review count a huge boost.
  • [08:11] Getting audiobook reviews is way more difficult. The launch team concept worked really well. The influencer campaign has kind of been in waves. It has led to podcast reviews.
  • [11:29] Supply chain issues have slowed down the pre-sale purchases from getting into the hands of the buyers.
  • [12:33] Chapter 14 of the book is about building buzz, and I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different social media campaigns. Podcast interviews have worked well.
  • [14:42] The giveaway has been good, but when there are too many steps things are less likely to happen. 
  • [18:11] My plan for the next year is to do 25 podcast interviews every month. I’m going to be doubling down on many of the concepts in the book like creating evergreen assets. 
  • [21:17] With so many authors, their launch is their finish line. It should be their starting point. You have to continue to market your book.
  • [23:27] Grab a copy of the audio book at It would mean the world to me if you leave a review. 

Links and Resources


Amazon Book Categories : What Authors Need to Know

You probably already know that Amazon is a huge bookseller, but did you know they’re responsible for over 60% of all online book sales? 

This goes for print sales as well as e-book sales. Regardless of format, they’re absolutely dominating the online bookselling industry right now. That information might make you delighted or bum you out, but either way, one thing is clear: if you’re a self-published author, understanding Amazon’s marketplace is an enormous tool to have in your arsenal. 


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Figuring out how to use Amazon effectively can expose your book to tons of new readers. Self-published authors who master the marketplace can turn a huge profit on e-books alone if they know how to play their cards right. 

How is it done? Well, you need to understand Amazon’s categories. Knowing what they are and how they can help you out can make a world of difference in how your book performs. 

In this article, we’ll cover what Amazon’s book categories are and how they work, how to pick categories for your book, and how to use categories to your advantage. 

This guide to Amazon book categories covers:

  1. What are Amazon book categories?
  2. How many categories of books are there on Amazon?
  3. What are the most popular book categories on Amazon?
  4. What are Amazon book subcategories?
  5. Why do Amazon book categories matter for authors?
  6. How to choose the best book categories on Amazon
  7. Tools for choosing better Amazon book categories

What are Amazon book categories? 

Categories, on Amazon, are sort of like genres. You wouldn’t want to walk into a bookstore and be faced with a thousand books arranged in absolutely no particular order. This would make finding what you want nearly impossible, and it would make placing your own book on the shelf difficult, too. Physical bookstores use genres to sort their books, and Amazon uses categories. 

These cover your typical genres, like fantasy, horror, romance, or mystery. But categories go far deeper than you might expect. 

How many categories of books are there on Amazon? 

For books alone, there are over 16,000 categories currently listed on Amazon. 

That sounds like a ton—and it is! But there’s no need to panic. This includes both enormous genres (like fantasy, horror, or thriller) as well as extremely niche subgenres. Because of the sheer volume of books and ebooks available on Amazon, having a ton of categories helps the site sort these books out in a way that makes them findable. 

A physical store can afford to use broad genres to sort books because there usually aren’t that many books to sort, generally speaking. Amazon, however, has countless books to offer. Having just ‘fantasy’ wouldn’t be of much use. You’d still have thousands of titles to sift through. Giving books more specific categories makes both writers and readers better able to locate them. 

Due to the sheer number of categories on Amazon, it can be tricky to figure out which categories are the most popular right now. However, there are a few ways to figure it out, if you’ve got the time. 

The first way (and my personal favorite) is to do some light Googling to see if anyone else has already figured this out. And great news! Articles like this one from Proactive Writer have lists of bestselling Amazon categories. There are a ton of different ones you can find online, but this one gives you a solid idea of the marketplace. Here are the most popular categories for fiction and nonfiction, according to this article: 

book genres on Amazon

nonfiction book genres on amazon

The second way to check for bestselling categories is to check the bestselling page. Amazon’s Best Sellers chart will tell you which books are selling the most right now. While this doesn’t tell you which categories are performing best overall, you can still use this page to get a sense of which books in which categories are performing well right now. 

As of 10/30/2021, the bestselling books on the Best Sellers chart included the following categories: children’s humor, children’s art techniques, television comedy, and epic fantasy. 

You can also navigate to specific category pages to see which subcategories are doing well. For example, if I click over to ‘United States History,’ Amazon will give me a list of featured categories associated with this category, as well as a list of bestselling titles under that category. 

Here’s what pops up for me under ‘United States History’ as of 10/30/21—this will obviously vary a lot based on which category you’re checking out and when you’re checking it out. 

examples of amazon book categories in the history genre

What are Amazon book subcategories? 

Earlier, I mentioned that those 16,000 categories also include subcategories. But what are those? 

Basically, they’re like subgenres. Subcategories are secondary categorizations for books. A book might be categorized as fantasy, then historical, then romance. On Amazon, subcategories are listed least to more specific. In other words, the first category will be the most broad, and the last category will be the most niche. 

Let’s use The Keeper of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis as an example. Here’s what this book’s page looks like: 

keeper of happy endings book categories

In the top left hand corner, you can see Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction. Books is the broadest category, while genre fiction is the most specific. 

Why do Amazon book categories matter for authors? 

So, now you have a basic understanding of what Amazon’s categories are and what they’re for. Here’s why this is so important to you, the self-published author. 

Remember the bookstore metaphor from earlier? If you were selling your book in a store, you’d want to make sure it was put somewhere that makes sense. If you get super lucky, you might get your own display, but you at least want to make sure your book is visible and shelved alongside similar books. This way, customers who love your type of book are more likely to come across it. 

It’s the same on Amazon. You want to make sure you’re categorizing your book alongside similar types of books so that your readers will come across it in their searches or recommendations. Using categories to your advantage will also help readers find it more easily when they search for it. Picking the right category can also help you become a bestselling author (although it’s not super helpful to become a best-selling author in an incredibly niche subcategory—if you only sell two books but make a niche bestseller list, you still only sold two books).  

How to choose the best book categories on Amazon

Let’s talk about how to make sure you’re choosing the best possible categories for your book on Amazon. You can abuse categories to force your book to become a bestseller in some niche category, but this isn’t actually going to help you sell more copies or grow your readerbase. 

Thankfully, Amazon has some helpful tips for picking out the right categories for your book. 

How do I choose a book category on Amazon?

On Amazon’s ‘Browse Categories’ page, they break down the best methods for picking your book’s category. 

amazon's guide to choosing book categories screenshot

What can we learn from these guidelines? 

First, we learn that not only will choosing inaccurate categories make it difficult for customers to find your book, but it’s also against Amazon’s policy. While plenty of authors do take some creative liberties when it comes to choosing categories, there’s a world of difference between stretching and outright lying. On the other hand, choosing accurate categories is extremely helpful. 

Not only does this help customers find your book when they search for it, but it also helps Amazon recommend your book to people who might be interested in it. This is the major downfall of adding super niche subcategories or false categories to your book. For interested readers, your book will essentially disappear, since no one’s likely to go looking in those super-specific places. 

Second, we can see that specificity matters. Avoid ‘general,’ since Amazon includes this already, and instead opt for more specific genres and categories like they’ve listed in their example. This is especially important when you’re picking categories for publication, since you publish with two categories. If you’re wasting one of them with ‘general,’ you’ve only really got one category working for you. Check out the other books published in categories that you think might fit your book, and if they seem to match up, that’s probably your best bet! 

Finally, while it’s important to make sure you’re adding the correct subcategories, it doesn’t actually benefit you to tack on needless categories for the sake of doing so. If you’re adding a subcategory, it should be something new, and not something already included in another category you’ve added. Since you’re only allowed a certain number of categories, it’s important not to waste space adding information that won’t actually help you out. 

How many categories does KDP allow?

This brings us to another important point. How many categories does KDP allow? 

In total, you’re allowed twelve. When you first publish your book, you include two categories in KDP. After that, you can include up to ten more. 

This allows for a ton of specificity. For example, you might publish a book under Fiction>Romance, then add categories like Historical: Tudor Era to help the search engine. 

It might seem overwhelming to pick ten categories out of thousands, but in reality, the process isn’t so hard. Once you know which two categories you’re starting with, click around for books similar to yours. Look at which categories these books are listed under, and get a sense for what those categories look like and how much traffic they get. 

How to get extra book categories on Amazon

Not sure how to add those extra book categories once you’ve published a book? Don’t worry! Here’s how to add new categories to your book. Once again, this comes straight from the ‘Browsing Categories’ page. 

amazon screenshot of how to add or update categories

If you’re unable to add extra categories using this information, navigate to the Help tab at the top of your KDP bookshelf page. 

Tools for choosing better Amazon book categories

We’ve covered a ton of ground here today, but believe it or not, this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to choosing better Amazon book categories. There are plenty of people out there who have developed entire systems for checking out which categories are performing well, applying those categories to their books, and getting themselves on bestseller lists which actually promote sales

So, here are a couple of tools for your personal reference! 

This video on Amazon’s ‘Browsing Categories’ site also contains a ton of information regarding how categories work, how metadata works, and how you can use it—it’s a longer watch, but it’s got a ton of foundational information that will be super helpful, so it’s worth the extra time! 

If you want to get approved for more Amazon book categories, Scott Allan walks you through how to get those additional “coveted” categories on Amazon for your book to help you sell more copies and become a bestseller in the article.

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how to write a leadership book

How to Write a Leadership Book That Impacts Lives

A huge number of leadership books are published every year. 

Are you surprised by that? I definitely was. 

It seems there’s a huge market for leadership books, as people look for a way to get ahead in their personal lives and businesses. Even people who might not want to use the information in them can sometimes find them inspiring—there’s a ton of value in a good leadership book. 

While the sheer number of leadership books published every year might suggest that they’re a walk in the park to write, the opposite is true. To write an effective leadership book, you need to have a solid idea of what you’re doing, or you risk discrediting yourself or miscommunicating your ideas. Thankfully, we’re here to help! 

In this article, we’ll talk about why leaders write books, how to write as a leader, and walk you through the 8 steps to writing an effective leadership book. 

This guide on how to write a leadership book covers:

  1. Why do leaders write books?
  2. How do you write a leadership book?
  3. Step 1 – Know your subject
  4. Step 2 – Make an outline
  5. Step 3 – Draft the book
  6. Step 4 – Set it aside
  7. Step 5 – First round of revisions
  8. Step 6 – Second draft
  9. Step 7 – Reader feedback
  10. Step 8 – Second round of revisions
  11. Examples of effective leadership books
  12. How to get started

Why do leaders write books?

If you’re a business leader or a community leader, it might not seem worth the hassle to put together a book, especially when you consider the work and money that goes into self-publishing. But putting out a book can actually be hugely helpful for leaders, and here’s why. 

1. Establish Credibility 

A published book has an element of prestige to it. Although you could technically self-publish just about anything, and a lot of people do know this, it doesn’t change the fact that a polished book on its own lends a feeling of credibility to the author. 

A book also gives its author the space to assert their knowledge on a given subject. Instead of condensing their information down to a speech, for example, or a conference, they have all the time they want in their book to thoroughly demonstrate their understanding of their subject, and to share that information with the reader. 

2. Share Information 

A book is a perfect place to share information with an audience.

If you’ve been a successful business leader for a long time, it’s probably because you’ve learned some valuable information that’s informed your business and leadership decisions—same goes for long-time community leaders.

3. Community Connection 

Everyone’s story has value.

The information leaders have to share is valuable, and there’s potential for real connection with your business, community, or even with the public at large. 

Books about connecting with other people, for example, can be personally impactful for both networking experts and people who aren’t involved with business at all. Books about leading a company might be most relevant to aspiring CEOs, but they’re also helpful to anyone looking to learn better management or leadership skills. 

4. Writing for Yourself 

Have you ever kept a journal? If so, you’re probably familiar with how it can feel to get the stuff in your head down on paper. It can help clarify your thoughts, sort out problems, and keeping it written for personal reference helps with future issues. 

It’s the same with leadership books. A leadership book can give you a place to sort out your ideas, and once they’re sorted, you might find yourself expanding on them and further developing your ideas and theories. 

How do you write a leadership book?

Perhaps most significant to your leadership book will be your credibility. After all, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, why should anyone listen to what you have to say? 

To establish a credible tone and write as a leader, hone in on the following: 

  • Write within your area of expertise. Pick something to write about that you are an expert on, whether that’s leading a company, making connections with other people, or explaining different learning and leadership styles. This will both help you keep the book personal, as you’ll be passionate about the subject matter, and it will keep you credible.
  • Keep your subject matter at the top of your priority list. You can share personal experience if it helps you explain your points, but remember that this is a leadership book and not necessarily a memoir or autobiography. You’re here to share information first and foremost. 
  • Keep your writing style concise and professional. This isn’t the place for florid prose or excessively casual writing. While you do want to stay accessible and personable, part of sounding credible will come with producing a polished book free of typos and grammatical errors. 

How to write a leadership book in 8 steps

With these guidelines in mind, here are the eight steps to writing a leadership book! 

Step 1. Know your subject 

As I mentioned previously, you’ll want to pick a subject you care about and know a lot about. You’ll want to do a ton of research and read other books about your subject—this includes books written by people you might not agree with, since considering opposing viewpoints will make your own arguments and ideas stronger. Make notes of these viewpoints. 

You might find that disagreeing with other people gives you a helpful jumping-off point and helps to reveal things you’re really passionate about. And, of course, you’ll want to read books similar to the one you intend to write

This subject should also be something you’ve personalized. There’s a market for everything, which is another way of saying that everything’s been done before, and there are definitely countless leadership books floating around covering just about every topic under the sun. 

This doesn’t mean there’s no place for your book—it just means that you need to focus on what you, as a unique individual, bring to this subject. This will be what sets your book apart from the rest. 

So, to sum it up: your subject should be personal (something you care a lot about), well-researched, something you know, and something you’ve personalized. 

Step 2. Make an outline 

Now that you’ve got your subject ready to go, it’s time to make an outline. Compile your research, opposing viewpoints, and general information, and consider how you want to present it to your audience. 

This is where reading other leadership books will become especially helpful. Looking at how other authors structure their work will be instrumental in helping you figure out how to structure your own.

You may have one basic idea that you need to break down and develop over the course of the book, or you may have a list of tips and tricks to share with your reader—the format will vary depending on what you have to say. 

Decide on a structure, then organize your information. Chapters should have an easily identifiable subject, as should each section. Getting all of this organized before you start drafting will help you keep your thoughts clear and prevent the information from getting jumbled—the information should go in a straight line, making an easy path for the reader to follow. 

Step 3. Draft the book 

With your content organized, you’re ready to draft. You may think of new ideas as you go, and that’s totally fine! You can either go back to the section where that idea belongs, make a note to add that information later, or write it down in a new document for reference later. 

There are tons of differing ideas about the best way to go about drafting a book, but there’s one piece of advice that holds up best, at least for me: draft it all the way through as quickly as you can without burning out.

Find a writing schedule that works for you and stick to it—a word count goal or accountability partner might be helpful here. The more consistently you’re able to write, the better your writing will be, and the sooner your draft will be done. 

The reason I emphasize writing consistently and drafting the book as quickly as possible is simple: if you put it down too long, you might not pick it back up. Coming back every day and doing a little more builds momentum, and it’s much harder to pick a draft back up once that momentum’s come to a halt. 

Step 4. Set it aside 

Once the book has been drafted, set it aside. Don’t look at it, and try not to think about it too much. Focus on other projects, writing or otherwise, and let it rest.

This space away from your project will help you come back to it with clear eyes, which will make jumping into revisions much easier. 

Step 5. First round of revisions 

You’ve taken some time (ideally about six weeks) away from your project, and now you’re ready to revise. Take the manuscript back out and read straight through it. Make notes as you go if you find obvious mistakes, but try to get through the entire manuscript at least once with minimal notes. Again, this is to make sure you make it through the entire manuscript without getting stuck on revising your first chapter forever. 

For your first round of revisions, try to focus on developmental issues. Are there areas where you could explain yourself more thoroughly? Are there any redundant chapters or sections, or anything that doesn’t strengthen your overall message? Is there a better way you could lay out your chapters? 

Step 6. Second draft

When you go into your second draft, go into it with set goals. Making a list of your edits helps with this, as does keeping that first draft with its notes handy. Some writers like to work from an entirely new document when they start their second draft, while others edit the first—whatever works for you is fine, so long as you stay on track. 

Some writers will revise as they go for things like grammar and formatting. You might dedicate the first fifteen minutes of each writing session to reviewing your work from last time. Again, do what works for you. If you don’t revise as you go, you might want to do a quick check for polish before you go on to the next step. 

Step 7. Reader feedback 

Now that you’ve ironed out the big developmental issues, it’s time to get some feedback. Reach out to close friends or coworkers and ask them for their thoughts. Having a few specific questions will help them provide you with more targeted, useful feedback. 

Here are a few examples of questions you might ask: 

  • What was your favorite part of the book, and why? 
  • Were any parts of the book confusing or difficult to follow? 
  • What did you get from this chapter/section/book? What do you think it was about? 

Step 8. Second round of revisions 

With your feedback handy, you’re ready to start revising again. Having targeted questions can help point out weak spots in your manuscript—go back and address readers’ concerns, as well as any additional flaws you might notice this time around. 

And, again, some writers might add additional rounds of revisions or rounds of feedback. It’s all up to you. But this is the bare minimum of what you should do before you reach out to an editor and start the publication process. 

This means that after this step, you can go ahead and pat yourself on the back! You’ve written a leadership book, and you’re ready to start with the publishing process.

Examples of effective leadership books

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book dedication examples

10 Book Dedication Examples to Help Your Next Book

When I was a kid, I had a fascination with book dedications. I saw them as pockets into an author’s personal world—I rarely had any idea who the person or place was, but knowing they existed and hearing the author talk about them made the author feel tangible and real. And this made the entire book to follow feel more personal, knowing from where the author drew inspiration. 

Book dedications are a wonderful way to honor someone or something integral to you or your writing. They’re meaningful to you as an author, since you’ve been inspired and moved by them, and they’re meaningful to their subject. Writing a great one can be a ton of pressure, especially if you feel particularly strongly about your subject. 

Good news, though—it doesn’t have to be stressful! In fact, it can be incredibly gratifying or even fun, so long as you know what you’re doing when you get started. 

In this article, we’ll talk about what book dedications are, how they work, and cover some tips for how to write a great one. We’ll also give you some real examples of book dedications to get you brainstorming your own! 

This guide to book dedication examples covers:

  1. What is a dedication in a book?
  2. Dedication vs acknowledgements
  3. How do you write a book dedication?
  4. Book dedication examples

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What is a dedication in a book?

A book dedication is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a small section, generally given its own page before the beginning of the book, where the author gives special mention, thanks, or acknowledgements to a certain person or group of people. To dedicate the book to this person or to these people is considered an honor—imagine having a statue dedicated to you, for example, or an entire building named for you. 

A dedication might be a brief sentence fragment, like ‘to my mother,’ or it might be a paragraph listing multiple people to whom the author would like to dedicate the book. Dedications are usually no longer than a few sentences. 

Some authors will also use this section to set a specific tone (especially in comedy writing) or to make a joke. There’s no hard and fast rule for what a dedication must include, except that it should be short, and it should come before the beginning of the book. 

You also don’t have to include a book dedication if you don’t want to! It’s very common to do so, but there’s no rule that says you have to. 

Dedication vs acknowledgements 

Crack open just about any book you own, and you’re likely to find a dedication right before the opening page, as well as acknowledgements immediately after the last page. What’s the difference between the two? 

Well, most obviously, there’s length. Dedications are meant to be short, succinct, and a sort of honorary gesture. You might dedicate your book to your partner because you love them, to a teacher who always believed in you, or to your hometown for giving you lots to work with. 

In the acknowledgements, however, you’re specifically thanking the people who helped you write the book. This may also include loved ones who provided emotional support during the writing process, but it’ll also include people like your editor, beta readers, friends who read your work at different stages of the process, professionals with whom you may have consulted, and so on. In this section, you’ll have more room to list these people and what you’re thankful to them for. 

Dedications are usually right after the title page, while acknowledgements are usually at the end of a book, but these aren’t hard rules. Acknowledgements might appear at the beginning of a book, for example, on either side of the table of contents. 

How do you write a book dedication?

There may not be any hard and fast rules for writing a dedication, but there are definitely some tips and tricks to making your book’s dedication the best it can be. 

And remember: you don’t have to write a book dedication if you don’t want to. If you find yourself struggling to write anything compelling for your book’s dedication, even after reviewing these tips, or if you don’t feel that your book requires a dedication at all, you’re more than free to skip it and instead list out all of the people involved in helping you write the book in the acknowledgements section. 

However, dedications can be incredibly special to the reader, the audience, and the person or people to whom the book is dedicated. It’s an important opportunity for building an emotional connection with your reader, and that’s worth your best shot! 

All that said: here are some ways to make your book dedication pop. 

1. Pick someone or something to dedicate the book to 

This might sound obvious, but have someone or something in mind when you’re writing the book and when you start on the dedications. Some examples include: partners, spouses, children, teachers, siblings, close friends, places which inspired the book, parents or grandparents, and so on. 

Is there someone in your life who has inspired you to write, or has offered you special encouragement on your journey? Is there a particular place or period of time that’s inspired you? Dedications are often made to real, living people close to the author, but they don’t have to be. If you write historical fiction about a specific person or group of people, you might dedicate your book to them, for example. 

Some authors even take a more comedic approach to this and dedicate their books to people who might have bullied them. Spite is a powerful motivator, after all. This is something to be careful with, as you don’t really want to outright mock someone by name in your dedications, but something vague in a teasing tone can be funny. 

Having this person or thing in mind before you start writing can be a powerful motivator, too. When you’re stuck in a drafting slog or trapped in some hellish stage of revising, it’s nice to be able to reflect on the reason why you’re doing this in the first place. This will give you something pleasant to look back on during the process, and it’ll make it all the easier to write your dedication after the fact.  

2. Make it personal 

You can choose to address the dedicated subject directly or write the dedication in the third person, but either way, you want to make it personal. 

Again, this should be the subject which has inspired or motivated you to write this book. This is already a powerfully personal connection to have with something—tap into that while you’re writing the dedication. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a great place to start an emotional connection with your audience, too. 

Making a sincere dedication will give your readership a small sense of what you’re like as an author—besides the acknowledgements, this is one of your few chances to do so, especially if you’re writing fiction. Let the dedication take on your own voice and personality. 

If you’re dedicating the book to someone with whom you have a ton of inside jokes and history, don’t be afraid to keep that dedication personal, even if this means your readership might not get it. It should be, first and foremost, for you and the dedicated subject. If you’re sincere, then the audience will pick up on that, even if they don’t necessarily ‘get’ every single thing you mention. 

3. Keep your target audience in mind 

While your dedication should be written with your dedicated subject as your first priority, you should also keep your audience in mind. If you’re writing a comedy, for example, this might be a chance to either offer a heartfelt dedication to show an emotional range, or to write a funny dedication to set the tone. 

You might also be writing for a specific target audience with whom you strongly identify. If your book revolves around a single mother struggling to make things happen in her love life, you might dedicate your book to other single mothers and offer them some empathy and connection. 

You can also match your dedication to the overall theme and tone of the book. If you’re writing a particularly atmospheric gothic novel, for example, your dedication might ring with mystery and intrigue. A lighthearted romance’s dedication might be witty and clever as well as heartfelt and sincere. This isn’t necessary, but it can be a nice primer for the reader. 

Above all, remember: the dedication is for the dedicated subject, but the dedicated subject is not going to be the only person to see it. Nods to inside jokes or personal moments is fine, but sharing sworn secrets or slandering former bullies is not. If you or the dedicated subject wouldn’t want a stranger to see it, you shouldn’t put it in your dedication. 

4. Draft dedications in different styles 

If you’re stuck between a few different dedications, that’s okay! It can feel like a lot of pressure to get a dedication just right, especially with so many different options with regards to tone and style. Do you make it funny? Do you make it serious? Both? Neither? Ah! 

When you have your subject, or even if you’ve just narrowed it down to a few, draft a few different book dedications. Try funny ones, serious ones, and sappy ones. Try dedications to specific people, multiple people, places, or whatever you’re torn between. Play with different lengths—you may find that you need a paragraph to say what you need to say, but you might surprise yourself by stopping two sentences in. 

Draft a few, put them away for a few weeks, and come back to them. If you’re still stuck, have a trusted friend take a look to see which of them reads best. 

5. Read lots of book dedications 

As is the case with anything you write, the best possible tip is to read widely in that area. So, if you’re working on a book dedication, you’ll want to read lots of other book dedications. 

While you can read dedications specifically in your own genre, you don’t have to, strictly speaking. Dedications can be as varied as the authors who write them, so you’ll get a ton of variance in tone and style even within a genre. 

What’s most important is that you read a bunch of different book dedications, and preferably those that vary in length, style, and tone. Read snarky ones, romantic ones, dedications to people, dedications to places, and dedications to groups. This will help you get a sense of how to put your own dedication into words and it can give you ideas for how to best structure and stylize your dedication. 

If you know your dedicated subject, it might be especially helpful to look for how other authors have dedicated their books to the same subject. For example, look for how other authors dedicate their books to their spouses, children, or parents. Obviously, the exact relationships are wildly different, but it’ll give you some ideas. 

Book dedication examples 

Not sure where to start looking for book dedications? Well, great news—we’ve done the legwork of compiling a bunch for you to get started.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

book dedication from ben philppe

Skulduggery Pleasant—Mortal Coil by Derek Landry

example of a funny book dedication

Austenland by Shannon Hale 

another comedic dedication of a book

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald 

a short and simple dedication page

The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw 

an example of an empathetic book dedication

The Selection by Kiera Cass 

a short and fun book dedication example

The End Games by T Michael Martin

an ironic book dedication

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne 

a classic dedication from children's literature

No Thanks by E. E. Cummings 

stylistic example of a book dedication page using shaped text

House of Hades by Rick Riordan

rick riordan's dedication to his readers

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SPS 136: BEHIND THE SCENES: How I’m Launching My New Book – And How To Get A Copy with Chandler Bolt

Welcome back to another solo episode. Today is the official launch day for my book, Published. In case you missed last week’s episode, I did a solo episode about what I learned from rewriting and preparing for the relaunch of Published. I’m going to do an overview of how I’m launching this book. You get a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of everything that I’m doing. 

I’m going to talk about starting with why and setting goals for your lunch. I’ll talk about the differences between an MVP launch and a traditional launch. We’re also going to go over the launch triangle. I’m going to talk about what it is and how it will help you with your book launch. I’m also going to share the main book promotions that I’ve been doing as part of launch week.

I’ll also get into the difference between advertising and a book promotion. These are key concepts that I go in-depth on in the second relaunched book. Then we’re going to talk about the one-year launch and what’s next. Next week, I might do a recap of how everything went. The book is Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold. If you grab a copy of the book from the giveaway link you can enter to win a trip to Bolt Farm Treehouse. 

Show Highlights

  • [03:39] Begin with the end in mind. What is the purpose for the book? What is the purpose for the launch? There’s an ideal outcome for you as an author and an ideal outcome for the readers.
  • [06:11] My first goal is to move 5,000 copies by the end of the year. My second goal is 1,000 calls booked. I also have a goal of getting 2500 reviews on the print book and 1000 reviews on the audiobook. My bigger goal is to sell a million copies by 2022.
  • [07:53] MVP means minimum viable product. This is a great launch for first-time authors. 
  • [08:15] I’m following a traditional launch. I’m doing podcast interviews, influencer boxes, and a lot more traditional book marketing.  Your launch is a spectrum of how much you can scale.
  • [09:21] The launch triangle is essential for any launch. This means you need a launch team, reviews, and promotions. My launch team has 150 people, and I have a goal of 100 reviews from them. One-on-one Outreach is great for reviews. 
  • [10:59] My main promotions include an influencer campaign, a launch week giveaway, and a lot of podcast promotion. The virtual book tour is in chapter 24 of the book.
  • [11:58] I’m also doing a 50 free book giveaway. I have a custom link for each podcast I appear on, and I give away 50 books from that link. 
  • [13:00] I also did a pre-sales campaign for Black Friday and leading up to the launch. I’m sending a box containing the book for the influencer campaign. During launch week, I’m focusing on the giveaway.
  • [18:36] I’m looking at this as a one-year launch. Chapter 21 is all about the one-year launch. Take the one-year launch approach and use launch week to build evergreen marketing assets. 

Links and Resources


What Is a Sensitivity Reader? (And Why They Matter)

If you’re an author, or aspiring author, you probably know that producing a book often requires a team. Editors, cover artists, interior designers, and so on.

But there’s a new potential hire to make your book as perfect as possible. With a recent rise in popularity, there are a lot of questions popping up around: the sensitivity reader. Most writers have at least heard of sensitivity readers. But what are they? How do you know if your book needs one?

This exploration of the sensitivity reader concept covers:

  1. What is a sensitivity reader?
  2. Sensitivity reader controversy
  3. Do you need sensitivity readers?
  4. How to hire a sensitivity reader
  5. Do publishers hire sensitivity readers?
  6. How do you become a sensitivity reader?

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What is a sensitivity reader?

A sensitivity reader is a special book critiquer who reads manuscripts to look for insensitive, offensive, or archaic portrayals of minorities. Typically, these readers are an active member of that marginalized group. Writers might hire sensitivity readers when they write characters who are members of a marginalized group that the author is not a part of.

For example: if a heterosexual author has a character in the LGBTQ+ community, they might hire a sensitivity reader from that community to make sure they haven’t accidentally included harmful tropes, inaccurate information, or portrayed the character in a rude or ignorant way.

While including diverse representation in media is an important and intentional act, it doesn’t always go well. Even with the best intentions, it’s easy for an author to misstep in a way that could be harmful for the group they’re trying to represent.

To help avoid that kind of mistake, you should hire a sensitivity reader.

Sensitivity readers can help protect the author from catching heat for not doing their due diligence, as well as protecting readers from needless, potentially triggering content.

While a sensitivity reader can sift through your manuscript to point out internalized bias, stereotypes, and insensitive language, they are not a guarantee against mistakes. Just like hiring a copy editor is a great idea to make your manuscript as clean as possible, it’s still not a guarantee that a typo or two won’t make its way into your final publication.

Sensitivity reader controversy & how to not get caught up in it

There are many authors and others in the publishing industry who will bristle at the term “sensitivity reader.” Many argue they’re unnecessary. (These are often the same people who think that being asked to follow terms and conditions of Twitter counts as censorship.)

Some authors see it as literal censorship. I’ve seen more than one writer swear off of editors because they didn’t want anyone changing their book, and they want to write whatever they like. Both groups of people seem confused about what these services are, which is: People with more experience than you, offering advice on how to improve your book. You’re free to take or leave their advice after it’s been given. 

On my YouTube channel, I often give tips for how to handle writing characters who are in a marginalized group that the writer is not a part of, and in the comment sections, I’ll get takes like this one:

example of a reply about a sensitivity reader

As you can see, some people think you don’t even have to have spoken to a member of a group before you can competently write about them, and they’re offended at the mere suggestion.

While reading and researching is great for your “knowledged” on certain subjects, we still have internalized biases about groups we are not a part of that we might not even be aware of, just from having been raised in a certain kind of society. Even members of those groups can harbor internalized biases. It takes a trained eye to be able to spot biases in the ways they come out in our writing. That’s where sensitivity readers come in.

Do authors need sensitivity readers? Instances it’s required:

Whether an author needs a sensitivity reader can depend on a few things.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re deciding if you should hire one:

1. If you’re writing major characters that are a part of a marginalized group you’re not a part of yourself. 

Even with research and care, it’s easy to misunderstand and misconstrue different facets of how another group lives and thinks.

Having an insider’s opinion on your content can help you avoid making harmful mistakes, perpetuating stereotypes, or offending and alienating your readers.

2. If you’re dealing with certain subject matter you’re not an expert on or haven’t experienced yourself. 

Outside of marginalized groups, you might write a character experiencing something significant that you don’t have hands-on experience with. Some examples are sexual assault, limb amputation, death of a child, cancer treatement, or deportation. These might be cases where you’d hire a sensitivity reader to make sure you’re being as thoughtful and accurate as you can be when portraying this kind of delicate subject matter.

3. If you feel like you need a sensitivity reader, it probably means you do. 

If your gut is telling you that you need someone to take a specific look at your story, you’re probably right.

How to hire a sensitivity reader in 5 steps

If you’ve decided to move forward with hiring a sensitivity reader for your book, here are some things you might want to do to make sure you’ve hired the right one.

1. Consider what you need in a sensitivity reader. 

Do you just need one group represented, or do you have several? It might not be practical to hire a different reader for every group, so you may need to decide which is most important for the story, or find a reader who has multiple specialties.

2. Grow your own understanding. 

While there’s no substitute for lived experiences, authors can make a lot of headway into growing their own empathy and understanding for a group they’re not a part of, while ridding their manuscript of the bigger representation issues. 

Read books by authors of that marginalized group, make an effort to make connections with diverse groups of people, and listen with your ears more than your mouth. If you hire a sensitivity reader, you might be shocked–even offended–by their feedback. 

Keep an open mind and understand that you’re hiring them to learn. Paying someone for a service only to become defensive and shut down their advice doesn’t sound very efficient or beneficial for anyone.

3. Do your research before hiring. 

Just like with editors, cover designers, and other book service providers, make sure you’re doing enough research to vet your hires. 

Check reviews and testimonials (preferably ones outside of their website, or ones you can verify), ask for referrals, look at their example work, and have a conversation with them to see if you’ll work well together. 

I remember a little book scandal about a white woman who was pretending to be a Black sensitivity reader. That is a great example of why research into anyone you hire is necessary.

4. Remember that all people are fallible. 

Even if you hire a sensitivity reader, you still can’t guarantee that your story will be fully without fault.

There are two main reasons for this: 

  1. Standards and expectations constantly evolve. Words and terminology fall in and out of use. Terms that used to be acceptable become bastardized, misused, or irrelevant. For example, some terms start as medical technicalities, then the way they’re used over time against the group they apply to, turn them into slurs.
  2. Everyone is different, and every reader will have unique experiences as to what it means to be in that marginalized group. For example, if you have a character who is a member of the Chitimacha tribe, and you hire an Apache sensitivity reader, there might be some mistakes there.

You can’t toss a blanket over every American Indian experience. Even within the same tribe of people, individuals have different outlooks and opinions.

To avoid this kind of issue: try to have an interview with the sensitivity reader where you let them know about your character, the book’s conflict, and anything else that might help them gauge if they’re the right reader for your manuscript.

I don’t mention these things to dissuade you from hiring a sensitivity reader, only to keep in mind that even with your and their best efforts, there will be no representation that’s “perfect” for everyone.

5. Realize that this is not volunteer work. 

Sensitivity readers put in a lot of hours of research and work, and they deserve fair compensation. Be ready to pay your sensitivity readers a fair wage, just like you pay editors and designers.

Do publishers hire sensitivity readers?

Most publishers don’t require sensitivity readers. The ones that do typically leave it up to the author to hire them. Most writers who hire sensitivity readers will do so before they query the novel.

According to The Editorial Freelancers Association, you can expect to pay between 1 and 19 cents per word for a sensitivity reader.

If you’re looking to hire your own sensitivity readers, here’s a brief list of readers and their areas of speciality that you might consider:

And here are a few resources to discover more sensitivity readers in your desired areas of expertise:

How do you become a sensitivity reader?

If you think you’d make a good sensitivity reader, here are a few things you can do to become a successful one.

1. Be qualified.

Like I mentioned earlier, simply being a member of a specific marginalized group might not necessarily qualify you for being a sensitivity reader. People who make the best sensitivity readers are people who, in some way, have been trained to pick up on things like microaggressions.

If a person has never confronted discrimination associated with their group, they may not know how to recognize it as well as someone who has been trained to.

Here are a few things you might expect to have as a sensitivity reader:

  • A love of reading. Just like editors, you’re going to be knee-deep in words for hours. If you hate reading, this is probably not the job for you.
  • Experience as a marginalized person. For example, if a person who is a member of a regional racial minority was raised in an all-white neighborhood, they might not have the relevant experience necessary to be a sufficient sensitivity reader for certain stories. That doesn’t make their experience irrelevant for the job, but they might specify their manner of upbringing so people with stories relevant to that experience can find them.
  • A desire for justice and fairness. A sensitivity reader also requires the desire for things to be respectful and fair, not only for their own marginalized group, but for everyone.
  • An awareness of current and past social events. Having experience but no context might not make the most effective sensitivity reader.

2. Create a website.

Freelancers in any industry benefit from websites and portfolios. Having a landing page with a contact form for clients to get in touch with you, a list of your specialties, sample pieces, and testimonials can help writers find you. 

3. Get on rolodexes and lists.

For example, we at SPS have a rolodex of approved editors, formatters, designers, and sensitivity readers. You can apply for inclusion.

4. Request testimonials.

When you get clients, make sure they’re pleased with your work, then ask for a short statement about their experience with your services. If they’re particularly happy with the job you’ve done, you might encourage them to post their review on their socials or in a blog post as well. This will make you seem like a more reliable hire, leading to more jobs.

While some people may see sensitivity reading as irrelevant or censorship, there is a growing demand in the publishing industry for these services.

As a writer, consider carefully if your manuscript could benefit from a sensitivity read. As an aspiring freelancer, use the tips above to get started.

If you’re in the editing phase, or coming up to it, make sure to grab a copy of our self publishing editing checklist to help you cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s to successfully editing your book!

get published book

SPS 135: What I Learned Writing The Second Edition & Preparing To Relaunch My Book “Published.” with Chandler Bolt

This week we’re doing something different. Welcome to the very first self-publishing school podcast where I haven’t interviewed anyone. As most of you know, I’m in the home stretch of preparing the second edition of my best book of all time. A lot of you may have read my book Published.: The Proven Path from Blank Page to Published Author. ​Today, I’m going to go behind the scenes and tell you why I’m republishing this book, and why you might want to relaunch one of your books. 

I’m going to share five lessons I’ve learned on the writing side of things. I’m also sharing five lessons I’ve learned on the launch side of things. Come back next week, and I’ll give you a behind-the-scenes of how the launch went and lessons from that. The book officially launches on December 14th. If you’d like to support the launch and get a free copy of the book and be entered in a drawing to win a MacBook Air, enter here. The new book has a new subtitle, Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold and a new cover. 

Show Highlights

  • [03:05] The first edition launched in 2016. We have evolved a lot since then. As a company, we’ve published about 6,000 books. Our curriculum has evolved and improved. The book was still the same.
  • [04:05] The book was good, but I knew it could be better. I wanted an updated and revised edition and a relaunch. This is the definitive book for people thinking about writing a book. 
  • [06:18] I started writing on September 1st and the book is being published December 14th. 
  • [07:15] I want to get to 2500 reviews by the end of January and 1000 reviews on the audiobook. I would like this book to be downloaded or sold over a million times next year, so I have big goals. 
  • [08:40] In chapter 21 on page 168, I talk about the five types of relaunches. Check out this chapter if you’re relaunching your book.
  • [09:25] Writing lessons learned: 1. Plan out everything ahead of time. Block the time off on your calendar. 
  • [10:16] 2. The power of daily consistent progress. Block out 60 minutes to two hours a day and really make progress. Make daily consistent progress.
  • [11:00] 3. Use the MORE writing method framework. This stands for mind map, outline, rough draft, and editing. 
  • [11:47] 4. The crisis of meaning is real even for seasoned authors. Chapter 8 is all about this. Don’t get discouraged while editing. 
  • [13:08] 5. When in doubt do more mind mapping and outlining. When in doubt, go back to the outline. I turn my mind map into an outline. 
  • [14:30] Launch lessons learned: 6. Build buzz before you launch. Follow the building buzz checklist. Share your author journey and build buzz throughout the process.
  • [15:43] 7. The shotgun versus the rifle approach. The shotgun approach is where you try everything and hope something works. The lesson is that you need to stick to 3-5 launch or marketing strategies. 
  • [16:38] 8. Hand-to-hand combat or one-on-one launch strategies. Reach out to people early and often. 
  • [17:59] 9. Build evergreen assets. One off promotions are great, but you need promotions that turn into evergreen assets. Build these assets, and they will work for you year round. 
  • [19:13] 10. The power of a launch team. Launch teams work. They are the single best thing you can do to launch your book.

Links and Resources