SPS 154: Publishing A Faith-Based Book That Inspires Action & Spreads Your Message with Aaron Schafer

Have you ever thought about writing a faith-based book? How about a book about the two things we aren’t supposed to bring up during polite dinner conversation? Well, Aaron Schafer has done both. His book is The Politically Homeless Christian: How to Conquer Political Idolatry, Reject Polarization, and Recommit to God’s Greatest Two Commandments, and it’s about religion and politics. Aaron is also the Director of Sales here at Self Publishing School. He’s talked with over 500 people on their journey toward becoming an author. Aaron is also a blogger, podcaster, and motivational speaker. 

Aaron shares insights on choosing the right topic. He couldn’t help noticing how divisive our political and religious climate was. He wanted his book to focus on a Christian audience and be faith-based. We detail how he used research and mind-mapping to organize all his information to make the writing easier. He could get up early and write a chapter a day once he had his organization and research dialed in. 

We also go into how he came up with his creative title and his marketing efforts, including having a launch team and giving them specific opt-in choices to get reviews without overwhelming the team. We also talk about author appearances and how you can book a call with Aaron and explore your options for writing a faith-based or any book. He also shares some of the biggest challenges that aspiring authors face and why you should decide whether you’re going to write your book or not. He also shares common traits that he’s noticed in successful authors and more. 

Show Highlights

  • [01:53] Aaron wrote a book about religion and politics. He writes about how from a Christian perspective, we’ve allowed politics to become an idol in our society. 
  • [05:27] Should we include aspects of our faith in our book? Choose faith based or not faith based. Aaron wanted to write to a Christian based audience. He wanted his book to be biblically based. 
  • [08:03] If you are a minister or pastor, you probably have a book within you. 
  • [09:09] Aaron started with a robust mind map and bible verses. He also looked up more on specific topics. He then read the surrounding chapters. 
  • [11:45] He spent a week getting each chapter organized before writing. Then he woke up at 5:00 or 6:00 am and wrote a chapter a day. Because of the organization, everything went quickly.
  • [12:56] The better your outline, the faster the book.
  • [14:42] Aaron explains how he was inspired to create his book title. 
  • [17:47] Early sales and reviews really helped with initial sales and marketing. Giving people the option to do less, and you won’t have to chase them so much. His initial pop was his launch team and then social media and then the promotion helped things go viral. Then he used podcasts and interviews and ads. 
  • [21:00] Chapter 15 of Published talks about launch teams and letting people opt in for specific involvement. 
  • [21:34] Research author appearances ahead of time before your launch. Create a strategy for appearances during your launch. Have your emails ready. It’s a numbers game.
  • [23:58] Ask people who they know that have a podcast that you should be on. Who do you know? Include those names in your email. Keep it short!
  • [27:33] The biggest challenge most people face at the start of their journey is the illusion that there’s always going to be a better time to write the book. The stars aren’t going to align someday. Write the book? Is it important enough to write? Yes!
  • [29:23] Common traits of successful authors include really knowing who their audience is and being coachable.
  • [31:34] Advice for aspiring authors. Make a decision about whether you want to write the book or not. Don’t make it a someday thing.
  • [34:08] If you’re at a point where you want to take the next step in your journey, book a call with Aaron.

Links and Resources


Book Back Covers: What You Should Include [Examples Inside]

If the front cover of your book is meant to catch your reader’s attention, the back cover is meant to keep it.

Think about it—the front cover is mostly about showmanship. You’re showing your reader a visual representation of the book to come. When I see a front cover that intrigues me, I immediately turn it over to read the back cover. Why? I’m looking for a pitch. What’s the book about? What’s the reader promising me?

The back cover of your book carries more weight than you might think, and there are a ton of elements that go into making it work well. In this article, we’ll cover what the book back cover is, what it includes, and how you can make your own.

What is the back cover of a book called?

Did you know there are a few different ways to refer to the back cover of a book?

First, there’s the dust jacket. This is the shell that comes with hardcover books—it usually features the book’s cover and the back cover, and readers can remove the dust jacket to reveal the hardcover book itself.

There’s also the back cover, which is called exactly that—the back cover. The front cover is where your cover art goes, and the back cover is on the other side. Easy peasy.

There are also things called ‘blurbs.’ A blurb functions as a sales pitch intended to attract readers. These might be summaries, testimonials, or any number of short descriptors intended to draw in audiences.


What do you put on the back of a book cover? 

The back cover of your book serves a purpose, just like the front cover does. And while it might not be as important aesthetically, it’s still important to consider each element carefully. Let’s go over a few things you might include on the back cover of your book.

1. Testimonials

A testimonial is a brief statement from another author about how good the book is. You may notice, for example, that a ton of horror novels have blurbs by Stephen King on the front or back cover. They might say something like “this book shook me to my core,” or “truly an unsettling read.” My copy of Hunger by Alma Katsu has a blurb by Stephen King which reads: “Deeply, deeply disturbing.”

A testimonial from a well-known author lends the book some credibility. It also suggests that this book might be in the same vein as books by the author giving the testimonial. If you like Stephen King, maybe you’ll like this book. You’re more likely to read books recommended by a friend, and you’re similarly more likely to read books recommended by an author you already like and trust.

2. Summaries

A summary is a brief description of what happens in a book. On the back cover, this isn’t supposed to be a complete summary of the plot—after all, you don’t want to give away the story. The entire point is to make the reader want to buy the book and read about what happens.

So, what goes into a summary on the back cover of a book? You want a brief synopsis, or pitch, like one you might give to an agent. This will include the premise of your story, the setting, the main characters, and a hint of the conflict to come. You won’t mention how the conflict resolves, or bring up too many specifics—again, you want the reader to find out for themselves.

Think of it as a movie trailer. In a movie trailer, you don’t know what happens in the end. That’s the point. But you’re hooked by the atmosphere, the characters, and the promise of what’s to come. If it’s a trailer for a horror movie, it’s probably going to promise you a scary viewing experience. An action trailer will give you a taste of the car chase sequences to follow.

3. Awards and Other Books

Blurbs might also include mentions of other books the author has written or awards the author has won. This is more common for authors who are already bestsellers, but it’s possible for newbies to do this, too, if they’ve won notable literary prizes before.

This functions similarly to the testimonial. It gives the author, and by extension, the book, some credentials. Ideally, this makes the reader think to themselves: “Well, it must be good. It was a finalist for the National Book Award!” or something along those lines.

If an author is particularly well known for a specific book, this is usually mentioned, too. Someone might not know that the author wrote more than one book, or they might have heard of the more famous book without knowing who wrote it. It’s a reminder that this author has shocked and awed audiences before, and who’s to say they won’t do it again with this book?

4. Author Bio 

Author bios sometimes appear on the inside flap jacket  (especially on dust jackets for hardcover books), but they can also appear on the back cover of a book, especially paperbacks. An author bio is a brief piece of writing about the author. It’s meant to let the reader know a little bit about the person who wrote the book.

Author bios might include information about where the author grew up, where the author currently lives, what hobbies they have, what other books they’ve written, where they went to school, or which book they’re working on next. They’re meant to humanize the author and help them connect to their readers on a more personal level.

How to write an unforgettable blurb

After the front cover, the blurb on the back is arguably the next most important element of your cover. To make sure yours packs a punch, we’ve got a few tips and tricks for you:

1. Keep it short

Blurbs give you a little room to summarize the plot of your novel, but really, these are best kept short. I don’t know about you, but when I come across overlong book blurbs, I sometimes feel like I’ve already been told too much. I want to feel like I’m discovering the story, and having most of it laid out for me in a lengthy blurb disincentivizes me to read the rest. If I have to get through half the book before I find something I don’t already know about, I’m not going to have a great time.

Keeping your blurb as short as possible also forces you to include only the most critical and exciting aspects of your story. This may be difficult to identify since as the author, you’re hopefully excited by all of your story, but here’s the key: focus on the main plotline and hint at the most important subplots.

You also want to keep your language as clear and crisp as possible. This is not the place for passive voice, unnecessary adverbs, or clunky wording. Blurbs should be super streamlined.

2. Don’t give away everything

I talked about this in the previous section, but again, you don’t want to give away too much. Give your reader exactly enough that they know what they’re getting into, but make them read the book to find out anything more.

In other words, you want to hook your reader. Show them an enticing snapshot of the world you’re promising them, but don’t show them so much that they feel like they’ve already seen it.

3. Show off your characters

One common piece of writing advice is to start your story with a character. In other words, on the first page, the reader should be reading about a person—not an info-dump, not a setting description, but a human person. This is because people are drawn to people over almost everything else.

It’s the same idea with your book blurb. Introduce your character as soon as you can, and do your best to make the reader care about them and their plight. If readers are invested in your character, they’ll follow them anywhere—even to the checkout counter to buy your book!

4. Show off your premise/conflict

One surefire way to hook your reader in a blurb is to introduce conflict as soon as possible. Again, think of a movie trailer. We might have a tiny snippet of a character’s life before the conflict hits, but we probably don’t have much—the bulk of the trailer focuses on how cool and exciting the conflict is going to be.

Let your reader know what sort of book they’re about to read. What’s the premise? What are the stakes? Does the main character stand to lose everything, including their last chance at love, if they don’t complete the quest? If it sounds serious, the reader’s more likely to be interested.

Set Your Book Up to SELL

Book Cover Design Checklist

Download your FREE book cover design checklist to boost the quality of your book to its very best. Hit the button to claim yours.

How to design your back cover

The rules for designing your back cover differ from the advice you might get for designing your front cover. The front cover of your book is meant to catch the reader’s eye, give them the title (and maybe a testimonial or two), and showcase the genre and tone of the book.

The back cover is mostly meant to convey information. The purpose is different, which means you’ll need to keep different guidelines in mind.

1. Function over flair

The back cover should be readable, clear, and simple. This isn’t the place for confusing fonts or artistic, difficult-to-read drawings that make the blurb difficult to read. It’s better to have a simple back cover that’s legible over an unstructured, highly stylized back cover that readers can’t actually read.

One way to do this? Use a template for your back cover. Use the same color scheme that’s used in the front cover to make it cohesive, and keep the fonts in the same family. A template will usually do this for you, and it’ll organize the information in a way that’s readable and streamlined.

2. Get a professional opinion

You may not know where to start designing a back cover, and that’s okay! If you don’t have the time to dedicate to making a cover or learning the skills necessary to create one, hiring a professional to design one for you might be the way to go. This will guarantee a polished product, but make sure to do your research and find the right artist for your budget and genre.

3. Look at other books in the same genre

Finally, you’ll want to look at other books in the same genre to get a sense of how your back cover should look. How do they do their layouts? What are their blurbs like? Look for recent releases in your genre for inspiration and guidelines. It’s okay to stand out, but you want to stand out on purpose, not because you don’t know your stuff.

Examples of fiction and nonfiction back book covers

Now that we know how back covers work and how to create a great one, here are two great back covers to use as references.

Nonfiction Example: 

Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold by Chandler Bolt 


What works on this back cover?

  • Broken into easy to read sections
  • Opening question that hooks you as the reader
  • Bullet points of takeaways
  • Closing challenge, “Don’t wait. Read this book and unlock the Author Advantage today.”
  • Short author bio that still shows benefit to the reader

Fiction Example: 

CrystalDreams: An Urban Fantasy Thriller (Paradise Lot Novel) by R. E. Vance 


What works on this back cover?

  • Interesting image that seems relevant to the genre
  • Opening paragraph that hooks you as the reader
  • A blurb that’s long enough to set up the plot, but short enough to leave you wanting more
  • A sneak-peek at some of the characters and the central conflict

Now that you’re better equipped to create your book’s back cover, it’s time to get started. If you’re ready to take the next step with your book, fill out the form below. Every day, we help authors write, design, and publish their books. We’re ready to help you too.

Set Your Book Up to SELL

Book Cover Design Checklist

Download your FREE book cover design checklist to boost the quality of your book to its very best. Hit the button to claim yours.

how to write a book

How to Write a Book: 21 Crystal-Clear Steps to Write & Publish Your Book

Writing a book is hard without the right help. Without someone who’s done it before, you can end up making crucial mistakes.

You decided to write a book. Maybe you have a perfect idea (so you think, but we’ll get to that), have always wanted to write one, and just aren’t sure where the heck to get started!

The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is so much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon.

One of the easiest ways to start, is with an outline.

(Heads up – You can grab a free outline template below. I cover more about how to use this tool in Step 9 of this post – but go ahead and grab your outline guide now. It makes everything easier, later).

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Wanna know “how to write a book?” Start with a simple outline! Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Where should we send it?

Anyone who says learning how to write a book is easy has never actually tried.

If they did, they’d know writing a book takes a lot more than a helpful piece of grammar software. It takes help from someone who’s done it before.

This is why I’m weighing in, having written and published 6 bestselling books and replicated my process across thousands of students through our Become a Bestseller program.

Let’s save you a ton of time, and many headaches, and dive into how to write a book.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…

You stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. To combat the boredom, you stand, stretch, and brew yet another pot of coffee.

And…a week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book? I haven’t even come up with a book idea yet!”

But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Here’s how to write a book step by step:

  1. Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book
  2. Stop the Excuses
  3. Schedule Writing Time
  4. Create Your Writing Space
  5. Book Writing Tools
  6. Book Ideas
  7. Figure Out Which Book To Write First
  8. Fill Out The BookMap
  9. Write a Book Outline
  10. Write One Chapter at a Time
  11. Speak Your Book
  12. Avoid Writer’s Block
  13. Don’t Edit While You Write
  14. Push Past The “Messy” Middle
  15. Hire A Good Editor
  16. Format Your Book Properly
  17. Come Up With A Title
  18. Get A Good Cover
  19. Build a Launch Team
  20. Get Ongoing Reviews
  21. Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

Ready to get started as a serious writer right now? Check out your free training below before reading the rest of this post!

How to Write a Book Despite Procrastination

There are plenty of reasons why writing a book, whether you’re writing a fiction novel or a nonfiction book, puts most writers directly into procrastination mode.

These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:

  • You’re not sure how to get started
  • It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
  • You feel insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
  • Afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
  • Worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
  • You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book

Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.

You’re in illustrious company!

Ready to learn how to write your first book and go from blank page to published author in just 90 days? Then let’s get started!

Phase 1: Think Like a Writer

Before you sit down and type a single word, it will pay off if you take some time to address a few attitude questions and adopt the right mindset. Successful writers know, before your write a single word simply writing and getting words to flow isn’t the hard part. It’s so much more about being organized with the same structure and writing voice for the particular story they need to tell.

This is one of the most frequently overlooked steps in becoming a published author, which is a big reason why so many people fail to finish their books.

Take it from me—it’s worth your time to complete these steps. They will make the rest of your book-writing experience much, much easier, and more satisfying.

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

Step 1: Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book

Before you open your laptop and start daydreaming about which photographer should take your best-selling author headshot, or about getting interviewed on Oprah, you need to answer one question:

What’s your reason for writing a book?

It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose. It might take writing a blog post to begin a journey that has you self-published in less than a year. Remember most likely you’ll want to approach this as a writing career rather than a single book you put out.

How do you begin writing a book?

I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Solidifying the purpose of fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.

Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.

However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator that will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings has long dissipated.

And this is a huge reason why so many of our Become a Bestseller students end up starting and finishing their drafts quickly—in 30 days in most cases!

  • Authority: To build credibility.
  • Money: For financial gain, business success, or to make a living writing.
  • Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
  • Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
  • To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
  • To give others an escape: when writing fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
  • Have the power to change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.

There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.

Your WHY will be unique to you.

Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.

Step 2: Stop the Excuses for Not Writing the Book

You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.

When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.

But you can overcome it.

It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.

Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.

Excuse 1 – You don’t know what to write.

You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.

In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.

The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.

Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:

  • Look at a list of writing prompts or story ideas and choose an idea
  • Write a list of all the things you’re most passionate about
  • Write down a list of everything you’re very knowledgeable about
  • List the areas you want to be seen as credible in
  • Compile all of these lists and rank your ideas in order of what you’re most passionate about
  • Imagine which idea you’d be most proud to have your name on
  • Choose the idea you know the most about and are the most passionate about

Once you have an idea narrowed down, you can go ahead and start your mind map and outline.

(Psst… If you missed your chance to grab your outline earlier in this post, here you go again. Inside the template are more detailed instructions for how to use an outline, and how to go from “no book idea” or “too many book ideas” to the “perfect first book idea” using a mind map. Don’t worry, I show you how to mind map your book also – inside the Book Outline Template instructions.)

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Wanna know “how to write a book?” Start with a simple outline! Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Where should we send it?

Excuse 2 –  You don’t have enough time.

Today, we’re all busy. I get it.

Plus, how long does writing a book take in the first place?

But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.

Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.

And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.

The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.

You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!

Excuse 3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading. 

Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.

In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.

Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.

And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).

Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:

  • Only read a chapter or two at night
  • Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
  • Be intentional about what you read
  • Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
  • Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time

Excuse 4 – You’re “not an expert.”

A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”

The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.

You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know— you’re expert enough to write a book.

So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.

Excuse 5 – Your first draft must be flawless.

A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.

Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.

editing process as part of book writing

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”

If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.

Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need:

  1. A creative writing class.
  2. A writing mentor or coach (though it does help).
  3. Read thousands of good books.

All you need is one thing: a system for finishing your book.

There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.

As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.

This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”

done is better than perfect quote

Phase 2 – Set Yourself Up For Success

Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.

Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.

Step 3: Schedule Your Book Writing Time

Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”

Develop a writing habit and plan it out

Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams.

In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.

Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.

Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.

Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.

scheduling your writing time

Look at Omer Redden, a Self-Publishing School student. He was working full-time at one job, had another part-time job, raising 3 kids, and moving across states—busier than most people—yet he found the time to write his book Give and Grow Rich: Change Your Mind, Change Your Money in 3 months. Using the Self-Publishing School process, he’s gone on to write 5 books, and his wife and kids are publishing books now too!

If Omer could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.

Choose the time of day you plan to write

You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.

If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.

Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities or waiting for a meeting to start.

Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.

writing method quote

Set a deadline for writing your book

Setting an end date forces you to stay on schedule and keeps the forward momentum going. So consider giving yourself a deadline for your book.

You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?

One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book. If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.

If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.

Valuable Asset Alert!!

You can check out our word and page count calculator here to determine the target word count for your industry in order to work backward to plan your writing schedule!

Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book are how it comes to life.

If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.

The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.

Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have an extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.

It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.

That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.

Step 4: Create Your Writing Space

The physical space where you write your book is important. A dedicated writing space allows you to “flip the switch” and get focused on writing. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted. However, some get their best work done at coffee shops and love the ambient noise.

True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…

writer's desk

…but I suspect that most of these authors would become even more focused and productive if they cleaned up their writing space to make it easier to focus on their writing. There is a common myth that a dedicated writing space can make the task robotic or take the “art” out of crafting your work. This may be true for some, but I’d say arrive at that conclusion after first mastering the basics of successfully publishing a few books.

overhead shot of a clean desk

However, that’s just my opinion. The truth is that the “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity:

How to Start Writing TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog
- remind everyone it's YOUR time
- Turn your phone off
- Close ALL web browsers
- Close your email
Get Comfortable- invest in a GOOD chair
- or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy
- fill the area with motivational quotes
- make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise- turn off all sounds if it distracts you
- turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate
- choose energizing music to help you focus

(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity.)

You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.

Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!

Step 5: Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools

Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?

Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.

Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of book writing software. If you’re wanting to become a New York Times bestselling author but don’t want to consider the best tools, you may be doing yourself a disservice.

Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with. Trust me, you want the right book writing software to make the process as frictionless as possible.

But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.

There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Scrivener
  • Google Docs

We’ll cover all of them for you below.

Microsoft Word

If you just want a time-tested program that works, Word might be the program for you. It’s the most widely used word processor in the world, which means it’s highly reliable and consistent. It also provides a lot of formatting options and even has a navigation pane you can use to easily find the chapter you’re looking for.

One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.


If you like advanced features, definitely check out Scrivener. It was created specifically for authors, and it contains all sorts of tools that are really helpful for those that write fiction or nonfiction.

For example, you can use the corkboard view to organize how you’ll write your book using virtual notecards:

The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.

If you do decide to go with Scrivener, it’s the professional writer tool I personally use and suggest.

Google Docs

You can think of Google Docs as sort of a “Word Lite” program that you can access online, for free. While it doesn’t boast as many features as Word or Scrivener, it’s the hands-down most convenient program out there for sharing and collaboration.

Because everything is stored online, you can access your work from anywhere. And it’s easy to share your work with others and collaborate by leaving comments in the margins:

The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.

Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.

Phase 3: Actually Write Your Book

OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing! Contrary to popular belief, writing books doesn’t have to be this huge task. If you’ve been following along, this is the moment you’ve adequately prepared for!

This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.

But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think—if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.

Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book.

Step 6: Come Up With Your Book Idea

Before you can start typing, you need to have a topic. That might seem obvious, but it can still be a stumbling block if you don’t know what to write about. This is an opportunity to do market research and come up with fresh ideas.

Fortunately, there are countless book ideas that could turn into bestselling books.

I recommend brainstorming a long list of book ideas. This way you’ll have a lot of options—giving you the freedom to choose the best possible book topic.

You can even utilize lists of writing prompts found here to get your mind moving in the right direction.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to come up with a book idea:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
  • What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?
  • What are people coming to you for advice on?
  • What’s a topic you know a lot about or can’t stop talking about?

These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can write a book, even if they can’t think of an idea right away. Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”

That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!

It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.

Don’t Censor Yourself

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.

Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.

Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.

Take a Reader-Centric Perspective

While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:

Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own). The reader’s experience is what you should care most about. Essentially you’re not asking them to only purchase and read your book, you want the reader’s attention. I can’t tell you how many books I read, lectures I attended, where I didn’t put my attention into it.

Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.

Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.

Ask yourself questions about the reader:

  • What would my reader be most interested in?
  • What do they like to learn about the most?
  • Their biggest problems?
  • What’s the biggest question they are asking?

When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.

how to write a book stephen king

Step 7: Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First

By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:

  • Which one can you finish the fastest? Usually, this is the topic where you have the most experience. This is a good thing to keep in mind because the faster you can finish your book, the faster you can get it out in the world where it can earn you money and help people. (And the faster you can get started on your second book!)
  • Which one are you most likely to finish? Usually, these are the topics you are more passionate about. For your first book, I highly recommend choosing a topic that you’re really passionate about to help make sure that you’ll remain interested throughout the entire process.
  • Which one is going to make you happy? This is a little harder to define, but it might be something that strikes a chord with you. Maybe there’s a certain book topic that stands out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then go for it! Remember, writing should make you

With these tips in mind, take this assessment, then choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.

Step 8: Fill Out The Book Map

The BookMap is a free downloadable book outlining template you can use to quickly gather all the important information you’ll need for your book — fiction or nonfiction.

outline with bookmap

Essentially, the way it works is you’ll create a mind map—sort of a brain dump with a line connecting related ideas together—on your book’s topic.

Start your BookMap by writing your intended topic in the center. From there, answer the questions and add as many related ideas as you can think of. (Again, connect related ideas with a line.) The BookMap gives you the benefits of writing in free form and creating structure from all the connections you make.

Click here to learn more about the Book Map and download a free PDF template.

Step 9: Turn Your BookMap Into an Outline

Once you’ve completely filled out your BookMap, the next step is to group all the related ideas into categories. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to do this; just combine your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you.

One way to do this is to rewrite each idea on a fresh piece of paper, this time grouped together in related topics. Or, you could simply use different-colored highlighters to categorize your ideas with different colors.

Either way, the result is the same: when you’re done grouping your ideas, those categories will form the outline for your book—each category is a new chapter. So now you know exactly which topics to write about, and you know which points to cover in every chapter of your book.

If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!

Enjoy a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Wanna know “how to write a book?” Start with a simple outline! Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Where should we send it?

Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method

You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.

For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.

When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate on areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.

This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.

Step 10: Write One Chapter at a Time

You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.

And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:

  • Complete a mini-BookMap for that chapter, brainstorming everything you know about this topic. (10 minutes.)
  • Organize your ideas and turn that BookMap into an outline. (10 minutes.)
  • Write or speak the chapter by following the outline you just created. (45-60 minutes.)
  • Repeat this process, chapter by chapter, until your book is completed.

Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline. You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.

Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.

If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.

mark manson quote on output

Step 11: Speak Your Book

This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?

Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:

  • Speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device such as Voice Memos or Audacity.
  • Get that audio file transcribed using a transcription service like Rev.
  • Read through the transcription and revise/polish it up.

As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.

Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.

Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.

Speed Up Your Writing

Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.

Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:

  • Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it.
  • If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section instead.
  • Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t stop you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
  • An accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.

Phase 4: Avoid Potholes Along The Way

If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.

So nothing could possibly go wrong… Right?

Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book-writing roadblocks.

Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems.

Step 12: Avoid Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.

Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.

The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.

Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:

  1. Circle back to your BookMap or outline and see if there’s useful info that sparks fresh inspiration. Sometimes it just takes looking back at the bigger picture to remind you where you’re going with your draft.
  2. Change up the physical way you’re writing; sometimes a simple shift can boost creativity. If you use a laptop, put pen to pad. Try some new music, a new location, or new beverage to sip at your desk.
  3. If you find you start writing slowly and warm up as time goes on, allow adequate time during your writing sessions to get the creative juices flowing.
  4. Review what you wrote yesterday to refresh your memory.
  5. Talk it out. Sometimes a quick conversation with yourself is enough to work through writer’s block. Or call a friend and bounce some ideas off them if you’re truly stuck.
  6. Remember that what you’re writing doesn’t need to be perfect—you’re writing a first draft. If you have a case of perfectionist syndrome, tell yourself it’s okay to write something you’ll think is terrible. Making something good is what second drafts and the editing process is for. Always remember: Done is better than perfect.
  7. Go for a walk. You might be surprised at how a walk outside, or a brief bit of exercise, helps refresh and recharge your creative juices.
  8. Read another author who has a style you like. Read their book for 10 minutes and then start typing, holding their voice in your head.

Step 13: Don’t Edit While You Write

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing. 

In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.

But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.

Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.

That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.

Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.

When you are ready to edit your book, check out this advice from writing coach and editor Tiffany Hawk.

Step 14: Push Past The “Messy” Middle

Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!

Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them. Staying motivated is the key here, becoming a successful writer means not getting stuck on first drafts.

It sounds obvious, but writing habits lead to good writing. Don’t lose interest, you’re on your way to becoming a great writer, don’t let self-doubt creep in. Get your entire manuscript done, remember to finish writing. A daily word count goal can help get your draft completed.

With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.

Phase 5: Launch Your Book Successfully

By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.

You’ve written a book.

But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.

Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.

It’s true that self-publishing your book on Amazon is a great way to go. But you can’t simply publish your book and expect people to find it. Instead, you need to dedicate some time to mastering the publishing and marketing processes on Amazon to sell more books. This is the only way to make sure that your book makes its way into the hands of the people who will benefit from reading your words.

If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.

Step 15: Hire A Good Editor to Edit Your Book

Finding an editor is important work. Having someone on your side that understands your writing style and the purpose of your book is essential. Additionally, the best editors remove unnecessary sentences in order to leave the reader feeling they understand what they should and get a clear line into the writer’s mind.

Several people, including myself, create tests in order to hire the right editor. There definitely is an art to it, consider the post linked above to find the process we recommend you use.

Step 16: Format Your Book Properly

Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.

If you missed our free outline template earlier in this post, here it is again.

Because fixing your formatting really is that much of a pain in the butt.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Wanna know “how to write a book?” Start with a simple outline! Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Where should we send it?

The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?

Nonfiction writers tend to format their paragraphs, like this:

how to write a look nonfiction format

Whereas fiction books, like The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci below, use indentation instead:

fiction format indents

Here are a few more book formatting tips:

  • Avoid using hard indents. (Don’t hit “tab” at the beginning of a new paragraph; instead, change the paragraph settings to automatically give each paragraph the indentation you want.)
  • Only use one space after a period. (Using 2 spaces was necessary with typewriters, but not with computers.)
  • If you want to create a page break, do not hit “Enter” repeatedly until you reach the next page. Instead, use the “Page break” function. This is the only way to ensure that your page break will work even after people resize your book on their Kindle.

Step 17: Come Up With A Title

The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:

Your book title.

You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.

Here are a few tips on creating standout, marketable titles.

For a nonfiction book, your title should…

  • Include the solution to the reader’s problem
  • Use a subtitle for clarity
  • Be unforgettable

And for a fiction book, your title should…

  • Be appropriate to your genre
  • Pique the reader’s interest
  • Take its inspiration from your characters

It always helps to do a little research on Amazon. To do that, just head here and select your book genre on the left-hand side of the page:

how to write a book title

Then you can take a look at some of the best-selling titles in your genre. You can even sub-niche down several times:

“History > Ancient Civilizations > Mesopotamia.”

Now pay attention to the titles and look for common themes or trends to use for your own book.

Remember that you’re just starting, so you can always change the title later. But for the time being it can help to have a “working title” (a temporary title that you may change before publication).

Step 18: Get A Good Cover

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.

Really, really important.

And a good book cover does 2 things:

  • It grabs people’s attention.
  • It instantly tells people what the book is about.

Here are a few examples from some of my own books:

cover design tips

Notice a couple of things. First of all, it’s orange—which helps it to stand out and grab attention. Second, it’s super clear what the book is about. The title is in the upper third of the book in large print, so you can read it even in a thumbnail.

Both covers were designed using the same basic principles. They’re simple, bold covers that stand out. They also have subtitles that clarify exactly what the book is about.

Now, this style of cover works great for my niche, but it won’t necessarily work for every type of book.

For example, it would make a terrible cover for a romance novel!

Why? Well, in short, it doesn’t look like a romance novel. Remember that part of a cover’s job is to tell people what the book is about. And in many genres of fiction and nonfiction, readers have come to expect a certain type of book cover.

In order to clearly communicate what your book is about to your ideal readers, you need it to fit in with their expectations—while also standing out enough to grab their attention. This is another reason why it pays to head over to the Amazon bestselling books list and study some of the most successful books in your genre.

What do those covers look like? Do they share a similar layout? Color scheme? Font style?

For example, if you were writing a romance novel, you would want to study these covers:

screenshot showing book categories and titles

Find out what the most successful books in your genre look like, then imitate that look—but change it up just enough so that it stands out and grabs your readers’ attention. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers. Or, book a call with our team and learn how we can get some of these things done for you, including book covers, formatting, keywords and categories, and more.

Step 19: Build a Launch Team

Once you’ve chosen whether to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing, the real key to a successful book launch is building and leveraging a launch team.

So what is a launch team?

In a nutshell, your launch team is a small team of people who are supporting your book. They could be friends, family, associates, online affiliates—anyone.

At first, your launch team might be limited to your immediate friends & family. That’s OK! Launch your book with their help, and work on continually building your launch team every chance you get.

When you build a launch team, you need to make 2 things clear for everyone:

  • What are they agreeing to do for you?
  • What are they getting in return?

Part 1 is pretty simple:

You want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family. This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.

Part 2 can vary from person to person:

What do your friends & family get in return for helping you?

In many cases, they get things like:

  • A free copy of your book
  • Their name mentioned in the “Acknowledgements” part of your book
  • The chance to be part of something inspiring
  • The personal satisfaction of helping to create something meaningful

As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.

(This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you.)

But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.

Step 20: Get Ongoing Reviews

If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:

It loves reviews.

One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.

If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.

When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:

image showing book review scores

Reviews are a fantastic form of social proof. They’re a credibility sign that lots of people have read your book and loved it—and that makes other people more likely to want to read it, too.

But you have to be careful about how you go about trying to get Amazon reviews. For example, you can get in big trouble if you try to pay for reviews, swap reviews with other authors, or offer free gifts in exchange for reviews.

You can solicit reviews, but they cannot be “incentivized” reviews.

So how can you generate more reviews without offering people something in return? Well, I’ve discovered a few tips that work incredibly well. Click here to learn my 8-step process for generating more Amazon reviews.

Step 21: Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

I’d like to leave you with one final message:

The best way to learn how to write a bestselling book is to get help from somebody who’s been there before.

People often ask me how I was able to make so much money and sell so many copies of my very first book. And I always tell them the same thing:

Because I sought out a mentor. Someone to teach me a proven book-writing process that had been tried and tested. A book-writing system that was almost guaranteed to work, as long as I followed it properly.

Well, that’s the real secret to my success as an author. I sought out the help I needed to give my very first book a major head-start.

a quote image about writing and the creative purpose

My Final Tip on How to Write a Book

And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.

If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE in this training→.

Want to learn more about Self-Publishing School?

Every day, we help would-be authors go from “idea” to “published book” and authors go from “one book published” to “many books published”.

You can learn more about us and our programs here, as well as read some Self-Publishing School reviews from our students.

But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Wanna know “how to write a book?” Start with a simple outline! Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Where should we send it?

online course platforms

Best Online Course Platforms: Top 5 Deep Comparison

If the Coronavirus pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that online course platforms and e-learning definitely has a bigger place in our future.

Panicked with what to do without school or work, a staggering amount of people have taken to the internet to educate themselves, their kids, as well as simply pass the time.

With that comes the need for online course platforms that perform reliably.

Since Self-Publishing School is an online education company featuring several programs all hosted with an online course platform, we’ve got some tips for you!

And if you’re new to online course creation and are looking to get your foot in the door of this online learning growth, you’ll need a reliable course platform.

While we cover this process of choosing a course platform and even creating a course in its entirety in our Author Advantage Accelerator Program, we also wanted to provide you with a list of the best online course platforms for you to decide for yourself.


The Strategies To Launching A 10K+ Course

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Here are the best online course platforms:

Best Course Platform Criteria

• Price

• Special Features

• Tech level needed

• User rating

• Customer support

• Ease of starting

• Integrations

What are online course platforms?

Online course platforms are softwares and other technical programs used to host an online course you’ve created, including videos, photos, quizzes, and more.

Instead of learning how to code or hiring someone to code on your website in order to encompass everything you want for your online course, you can use one of these course platforms.

They usually have features of hosting, brand customization, email integrations, and more convenient features you can easily hit a button and use.

Online course platforms take a lot of the technical work out of creating and launching your course.

Questions to Ask to Choose the Best Online Course Platform for You

Knowing your goals, your own technical capabilities, as well as what you need in terms of features will go a long way in helping you decide which online course platforms will work for you.

Here are some questions to help you understand what you need in a course platform:

  1. What’s your budget for a course platform?
  2. What’s your current tech use level?
  3. What special features do you want your course platform to have (email integration, quizzes, etc.)?
  4. How much do you want to be automated?
  5. Do you need video, images, text, and other formatting features?
  6. What email provider will you be using (needed for special integrations)?
  7. Do you need an all-in-one payment and course platform?
  8. What type of customer support do you need (quantity, do you employ someone already, etc.)?
  9. Do you need your course platform to save user data and results?

For this blog post, you’ll see some boxes at the bottom of each course platform indicating the price, overall rating by users, as well as a “tech level” needed to use, on a scale of 1 – 5: five being “a lot of tech knowledge needed,” meaning coding, and extensive web development knowledge and one being so easy a chimp could do it.

So if you struggle with tech a little bit, look for a software with a lower score in that department.

How to Create an Online Course Platform

We have all of these steps covered, along with how to actually sell your course in our Course Building for Authors program, but we’ll give you the main steps here.

This is how to create an online course platform:

  • Decide on your course topic
  • Outline the content in full
  • Decide on what “success” looks like for your course
  • Choose a course platform that best fits your needs
  • Create the course content (quality is key!)
  • Upload materials to the course platform of your choosing
  • Make sure all integrations are set up and working flawlessly
  • Price your course to sell (& generate revenue)
  • Sell your course!

There are obviously many steps involved with creating a course, it’s why we have an entire program about it. However, the above steps can get you there if you know what you’re doing and what you want.

The Best Online Course Platforms

Let’s get to the good stuff!

Below you’ll find 11 of the best course platforms in 2020. These will have several categories covered along with a summary box at the end in order to help you choose with course software is best for you.

#1 – Teachable

This is the course platform we use here at Self-Publishing School, and have for years. We rate Teachable higher than others because it’s been really easy to use, is highly customizable, and you can even host it on your own website with certain plans.

We also have a 50% off a yearly subscription deal for our Author Advantage Accelerator students.

— Price

Teachable, like other course platforms, has a few different plan options you can choose from based on your own needs, business size, and more.

Below you’ll find a screenshot of their pricing tiers.

Teachable Pricing Tiers

Their tiers are based on different needs and sizes. If your business is just you, the Basic plan will likely fulfill the needs you have. But if you’re looking to grow your business or expect a large launch, the Professional plan is usually the way to go.

The Business plan is going to be best for larger businesses looking to switch to Teachable or those who have a very large platform launching a course.

Also note: there is a FREE plan with Teachable, but it’s very, very limited. For example, you can only have 10 students with a free plan and an unlimited amount with all other plans.

So if you do want to try Teachable before paying, you can start with the free plan!

— Special Features

There are almost too many features to count with Teachable. You can check out a full list of features here, but we’ll touch on some of what we believe are the best ones.

Here are some of Teachable’s best features:

  • Quizzes
  • Certificates
  • Course Compliance
  • Highly customizable, from landing pages to in-course branding
  • Student feedback
  • Coupons / promotions
  • Payment enabled
  • Great integrations (we’ll cover below)
  • Analytics
  • Data reports
  • Web hosting capabilities for your own domain
  • Mobile app

— Tech level needed

You don’t have to know a whole lot about tech or we development to create and launch a course with Teachable. They make it super easy to upload and edit content.

We’ll say you’d need about a 2/5 tech level in order to use this course platform.

— User Rating / Reviews

We love Teachable here at Self-Publishing School, which we’ve already mentioned.

So instead of rehashing that, I wanted to give you a few reviews and ratings from actual users from this site right here.

Overall, Teachable has a high rating with 4.6 out of 5 stars with 89 ratings from one site.

However, another review site has a lower rating of 3/5 stars.

Overall, teachable has a relatively high rating with a couple issues regarding cancellation, but they do seem receptive to this feedback and even replied in one case above.

— Customer Support

We’ve personally found it really easy to work with Teachable’s customer support team. Tickets are usually handled with a couple of days, which is saying something for a company of their size.

However, others in some reviews state having difficulty with support, so this may be an area that’s not as consistent as some would like.

In addition to tickets and support from an actual person, they do have a large knowledge base with really easy-to-follow articles.

Our suggestion would be to first search Teachable’s knowledge base before sending a customized help ticket. This can cut down on your own time, as well as theirs, which only increases ticket response for more urgent matters.

— Ease of Starting

We love Teachable for how easy they make it to start. It’s why we recommend this platform to our students.

Here are the steps from sign-up to creation:

  • Visit their site and click “create a course”
  • Make your account with name, email, and password
  • Confirm. your course’s name
  • Answer a few questions about you and your business
  • Access your dashboard and start!

It’s really that simple, and that few steps. So long as you can create your course content, you’re good to upload in minutes.

Teachable Dashboard – Course Creation

— Integrations

Teachable has really great integrations! We’ve found the better the course platform, the more integrations they likely have due to their size, which makes it easier for them to create partnerships between companies.

Here are some of their featured integrations:

  • Zapier
  • MailChimp
  • AWeber
  • Infusionsoft
  • Mixpanel

Teachable Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: Free – $249 per month



#2 – Kajabi

If you’re familiar with Jenna Kutcher or other big name business owners, you’ve probably heard of Kajabi promoted by them. It’s one of the most popular course platforms, rivaling Teachable and even ThinkiFic.

— Price

In terms of overall pricing comparison, Kajabi does run more expensive than Teachable for their Basic, Growth, and Pro plans.

However, Kajabi also markets themselves as an “all in one business platform” and not just a platform for courses.

Below you can see the pricing breakdown with what’s included, with the Growth plan being the most popular at $159 per month (billed annually), which breaks down to $199 per month if you choose to submit monthly payments.

They do offer a free trial period so you can test it out!

best online course platforms kajabi pricing
Kajabi Pricing Tiers

— Special Features

While there isn’t a specific page dedicated to all Kajabi’s features, their home page does a good job of breaking some of them down. Remember, this has far more capabilities than just course building.

Here are the best features:

  • Course creation and hosting
  • Many integrations, including your website hosting (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.), Infusionsoft, WooCommerce, and more we’ll cover below
  • Email creation and customization
  • Fully integrated sales pages (Leadpages, Clickfunnels, etc.)
  • Lead tracking
  • Mobile app
  • 24/7 support
  • Hours of detailed training

— Tech level needed

Because Kajabi is far more than just a course platform, the learning curve can be a bit steeper.

And that means you may benefit from being proficient in using tech and automations if you want to go with Kajabi. Remember, it does have its “Kajabi University,” which includes a ton of training for those of you who can learn quickly.

However, if you are rather tech challenged, this might not be the best option for you just yet.

Overall, we’d give this a 3.75 / 5 (rounded up to 4 in the overall score below) for tech knowledge needed to use and create.

— User Rating / Reviews

You can find a ton of great things said about Kajabi’s interface. However, we don’t just want the success stories posted on their homepage, so we did some digging for real user ratings and reviews, ranging from very happy to less than ecstatic.

Overall, ratings for Kajabi’s course platform do steer in the 4/5 star rating area, with a smaller number of users rating it less than 3-stars.

It seems that you really need to make sure you can handle the large interface and capabilities before going with Kajabi, like we said in the tech rating above.

— Customer Support

Some distaste for Kajabi comes from a lack of support, while others rave about how great their 24/7 support is.

One great thing to remember is the help center and articles and videos they already have that could answer your questions for you.

— Ease of Starting

The ease of starting for this course platform isn’t as seamless as it is for say, Teachable. But they do have more capabilities that you might want to set up before actually creating your course.

Getting signed up for an account is actually easy–all you need to enter is your name and email and you’ll have access to your account.

From there, you’ll have to choose integrations, get familiar with your portal, and watch some training videos to learn how it all works. It’s less straightforward than other course platforms.

— Integrations

This is really where Kajabi shines in terms of its integrations. It seems they can connect with most softwares your business may already be using.

Here are some of their integrations (listed here):

  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook
  • Aweber
  • Mailchimp
  • Drip
  • ConvertKit
  • Paypal
  • Stripe
  • ClickFunnels
  • Leadpages
  • Segment
  • ActiveCampaign

Kajabi Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $119 – $319 per month



#3 – LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is a software specific to building online courses and monetizing them, specifically on your own website.

— Price

LearnWorlds offers very competitive pricing for what you get, plus an additional customized plan if your needs exceed their highest offering.

This is very convenient for those of you hoping to grow extensively and don’t want to have to switch to a larger platform (which can be a huge pain). You can see their overall pricing plans below.

They also have a free trial that’s 30-days long, which is double the time Kajabi gives you free, so you can really get a feel for the software before committing.

LearnWorlds Pricing

— Special Features

What I appreciated a ton about LearnWorld’s website is that they have a really thorough breakdown of each plan on their “Features” page, so you really understand what you get and which will work best for you.

Here’s a screenshot of what this looks like as well as another that’s what you get when you click “+ Expand All” button.

LearnWorlds Features
LearnWorlds Features Expanded

Overall, the pricing is very comparable with Teachable’s when it comes to what you get for the price. Having unlimited courses and students with their Starter tier is very convenient, with the loss of unlimited landing pages and you can’t use their hosting for a blog.

The Starter tier also only allows for 3 customizable pages (home, course catalog, and after login), which means if you want highly customizable options, you’ll want to go for their Pro Trainer or higher.

Another note: if you go with the Starter plan, you will have to pay a $5 fee per course sale. So doing some math to see if going with the Pro Trainer tier would end up saving you money is a good thing to consider.

— Tech level needed

Once you sign up, you’ll go to your dashboard, the typical view with the menu on the left of pages you can navigate to, as seen in the image below.

LearnWorlds Dashboard

In full honestly, this looks more intimidating than it is. However, because it does look complicated and has a lot of moving parts, the tech level needed to create and navigate would be a bit higher.

If you can log in to something and figure out where stuff is, you’ll be just fine with LearnWorlds. Just know that is can be a little overwhelming at first.

— User Rating / Reviews

On this review site, LearnWorlds has an overall 4.9/5 star rating, which is really good for any software, especially one for course building.

You can find more detailed user reviews as well, covering the most helpful features along with some pros and cons as well.

One thing of importance to note: I’m trying to find some lower-rated reviews to share some of the other end of experiences, but am having a hard time finding them. This is good!

Most people rate LearnWorlds 4-5 stars.

— Customer Support

All but the Starter plan come with 24/7 support, the starter plan with 24 hour support 5 days a week.

However, the only tier that has phone support is the Corporate High Volume, which is their customized plan for larger entities.

All the tiers do have a Help Center you can access, but the Starter plan does not have any onboarding help, whereas the other plans do, along with increased time as you move up the tiers.

— Ease of Starting

It’s pretty simple to create your course and get started on your free trial. All you really have to do is hit a button and you’ll enter your email, school name, as well as answer a few questions to help set a few things up.

LearnWorlds Setup

From there, you can hit “finish” or “OK, take me to my school now” and be greeted with your dashboard, which you can hit “Courses” and “Create Course” to begin.

When you do the above, it’ll lead you to a pop-up questionnaire to set your course up, which is really easy to navigate and it “plugs in” your answers where needed.

LearnWorlds Course Creation

— Integrations

LearnWorlds is another larger course platform, meaning it has more integrations than the average, which you can see a full list of details for here.

Here are some of the listed integrations for LearnWorlds:

  • Zapier
  • Mailchimp
  • ActiveCampaign
  • AWeber
  • Convertkit
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Mixpanel
  • Facebook-pixel
  • Sumome
  • Hubspot
  • ReferralCandy
  • FreshChat
  • Zendesk
  • Olark
  • Tawk To
  • Fomo
  • Intercom

They also have an area for businesses to connect with them to set up integrations, which may be why they have so many.

There’s also an option for getting an API for further integrations, which would require a bit more tech knowledge to get going.

LearnWorlds Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $24 – $249+ per month



#4 – ThinkiFic

ThinkiFic is another top runner when it comes to the original course building platforms out there. You’ll find this one on most lists you end up researching due to its long-time reputation.

— Price

Not only does ThinkiFic have a money-back guarantee, they also have a free version that allows up to 3 courses with quizzes and surveys, content hosting, as well as unlimited students.

Of the course platforms we’ve covered so far, this is the best unpaid offer for small creators.

They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee if you do decide a paid version isn’t quite right for you.

ThinkiFic Pricing

The paid versions of ThinkiFic are a tad bit higher than other course platforms, but overall very good for what they offer, particularly getting Drip content and emails included in their Basic tier for $39 per month.

— Special Features

A feature many tech-challenged will love about ThinkiFic is their drag-and-drop building feature. It’s easier to design and edit than other types of course platforms.

What’s less great is that you can’t really view all of their features in a list format or comparatively very easily. Their “Features” page leads you to a landing-page style that goes through all the features without indicating which pricing tier it would be in.

However, if you navigate beneath the pricing table, you’ll see an option to view more comparisons, which is where they give you a thorough breakdown of what’s in each plan.

Overall, here are some of ThinkiFics key features:

  • Immediate payouts
  • Security
  • Website builder (Basic plan and up only)
  • Unlimited students
  • Quizzes
  • Drag-and-drop course creation
  • Video, PDF, and other content storage
  • Student progress tracking
  • Daily backups
  • Course packaging and payment options
  • Ability to host course on your own domain

— Tech level needed

ThinkiFic is a relatively user-friendly course platforms, offering the ease of a drag-and-drop builder.

That said, we’d rate the tech level needed as a 2 out of 5. It’s easy to navigate, it’s clean and uncluttered, and most people with a working knowledge of the internet can likely maneuver it.

— User Rating / Reviews

This review site here has an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars with 80 total submissions.

Below you can find a couple reviews from this site, one good and one with a couple issues highlighted you might want to think about.

— Customer Support

It’s a bit difficult to find how to gain support through ThinkiFic. If you go to the footer, you’ll find a “Support” column with a Help Center and other links, but nothing to contact them directly.

I had to search through their Help Center for “support ticket” in order to find this page that teaches you how to get help and how to contact the support team.

Overall, this could be improved with a button on your account dashboard to bring you directly to this page or others, as I can see this being difficult for some people who aren’t as tech knowledgable when it comes to searching for help and information.

— Ease of Starting

Getting started is just as easy as other course platforms, including a great questionnaire to help tailor it a bit more.

ThinkiFic Starting Questionnaire

Thankfully, the dashboard for ThinkiFic is far less overwhelming than that of LearnWorlds. It’s clean, clearly labeled, and also gives you a checklist for “onboarding” to learn the material better.

ThinkiFic Dashboard

— Integrations

Thinkific Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $0 – $499 per month



#5 – LearnDash

LearnDash is probably the most unique of the 5 best course platforms we’ll cover. Instead of logging into an account on their site, it’s a paid plugin you can use to add to your WordPress website and manage in the backend.

This gives you high customization and complete ownership of the hosting, meaning if another course platform’s servers go down, it will be down for your students whereas with LearnDash, the plugin is more likely to avoid server problems, so long as your own domain and hosting provider are in good shape.

However, this also comes with a steeper learning curve, meaning the more tech and web development knowledge you have, the better for this program.

— Price

Since LeardDash isn’t a subscription model, you pay full price for the plugin to use this software. This also means you pay for this yearly, it’s a recurring annual purchase, not just a one-time purchase.


If you want to break down these packages to monthly rates, they’d be:

  • Basic – $13.25 / month
  • Plus – $15.75 / month
  • Pro – $27.41 / month

Comparing these prices with the monthly rates of other course platforms, LearnDash is actually very affordable for what it offers.

Plus, they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ll be able to purchase, download, upload to your site, and try it out within 30 days before choosing to keep it for good.

NOTE: Because this is a plugin, all course content will need to be hosted on your own domain, meaning you will likely pay more for storage through your hosting provider than you would with a course software that allows for free content hosting, like Thinkific. So while these price breakdowns are really affordable, there may be other expenses elsewhere to think about.

— Special Features

Because LearnDash is a WordPress plugin, it does have certain features that are unique to it.

This includes the fact that you can host it directly on your website or multisite (yes, it has multisite capabilities!).

There are so many great features with LearnDash, especially the forums, where students can congregate, discuss, and learn even more.

Here’s a breakdown of the features listed on their Features page:

LearnDash Course Features
LearnDash Monetization Features

What’s really convenient about LearnDash’s monetization features is that you can set up subscriptions easily, you have a shopping cart, and you can also bundle and sell your courses.

LearnDash Admin Features

Another great feature is the “Expire Access” admin capability, which can help increase on-time payments in order to keep revenue coming in, without having to manually manage this.

— Tech level needed

Because LearnDash is a plugin and not an actual online platform, having a bit more tech knowledge, specifically that of using WordPress, is really handy.

I would not recommend this course platform for people who aren’t proficient in WordPress.

That being said, we rate this a 4 / 5 for technical capabilities.

However, if you know WordPress like the back of your hand (like me!), this platform offers so many customizable features you’d be crazy not to love it!

— User Rating / Reviews

Out of 85 submitted reviews on this site, LearnDash has an overall score of 4.6 / 5.

Most of the reviews listed boast about it’s customization and customer service. Others with lower ratings usually feel that way due to their tech challenges, which is just confirming that you should have more tech knowledge if you want to use this course platform seamlessly.

— Customer Support

LearnDash’s support isn’t quite up to the level of other online course platforms. However, it does have standard support, with their support conditions stating:

“Support is available from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays of the United States.”

Many reviews, however, praise the support and thoroughness of replies and feedback, which is good news! So while they don’t have 24/7 support, it sounds like their support thoroughly solves your problem quickly.

— Ease of Starting

This is where LearnDash does have some drawbacks, simply because it’s a WordPress plugin and requires a few steps to install and begin.

For a seasoned WordPress-er, they’re really simple steps:

  1. Purchase the plugin
  2. Download the plugin
  3. Log in to your WordPress site (or create one if you don’t have one)
  4. Go to your dashboard
  5. Go to “Plugins” on the left sidebar
  6. Click the “Add New” button at the top left
  7. Click the “Upload Button” at the top left
  8. Click “Choose File” and select the zip file of LearnDash OR just draft the zip file over the “Choose File” button
  9. Click “Install Now”
  10. Wait until it’s done and then click “Activate”
  11. Your LearnDash section will be at the top left of your dashboard in those menu items
  12. Navigate to “Overview”
  13. Open the email you got when signing up, it should have your LearnDash license number
  14. Copy and paste that where indicated on the “Overview” section of LearnDash
  15. Your course platform should be good to use now!

If you’re using a multisite through WordPress, make sure to first navigate to the site you want to use’s dashboard before uploading the plugin.

From there, it’s as easy as navigating to your specific area and adding course content. They also have helpful videos on how to use each section and how to proceed.

— Integrations

Because this is a WordPress plugin, that integration is the most important. However, there are other integrations for payments, emails, and more.

Here are some of LearnDash’s integrations:

  • Zapier
  • WooCommerce
  • SamCart
  • Slack
  • Stripe
  • MemberPress
  • Gravity Forms
  • GamiPress
  • MailChimp
  • Visual Composer (WordPress plugin for display/theme layout)
  • ConvertKit

You can see more integrations and extensions for LearnDash here.

LearnDash Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $13.25 – $27.41 per month (annual payment options only)



Which online course platform do you think you’re going with? If you want to save up to 50% off of a Teachable annual subscription, you can do so by becoming a student of our Author Advantage Accelerator program.


The Strategies To Launching A 10K+ Course

Learn the strategies we’re teaching our students RIGHT NOW to use to take their knowledge and expertise, build an online course, and launch it to $10,000 and beyond…without massive lists, affiliate connections, or sales experience

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What is Line Editing

What Is Line Editing and Is It Better than Copy Editing?

Good storytelling isn’t just about your characters, settings, and themes; the clarity, style, and readability of your writing are equally important. That’s why editing is so important. During the editing phase, you’ll polish your ideas and how you present them so your audience can more easily understand your meaning.

Whether you choose to self-edit using an automated grammar checker or engage a professional for this important part of the writing process, it’s important to be familiar with the stages of editing and what each entails. Most writing needs to go through every stage of editing before being published.

While there isn’t one set editing process that every writer follows, most professionals agree that there are four main stages of editing: story editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Sometimes line editing and copy editing are confused or conflated but they are two distinct stages. Line editing focuses on the style of your writing, whereas copy editing focuses on the mechanics of your writing. 

What is Line Editing

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between line editing and copy editing so you can have a better understanding of both.

What is Line Editing?

Line editing comes after the story/substantive edit. During the story edit (also known as the developmental edit), you’ll examine the key ideas and themes in your work. Once you finish your story edit, it’s time to focus your attention on how you communicate your ideas. That’s where line editing comes in.

During this stage, your goal is to be as clear as possible by going line by line to look at the content, style, tone, and consistency of your writing. Line editing is also called stylistic editing as it focuses specifically on your content and the flow of your sentences versus the mechanics. 

During line editing, you will comb through your manuscript to identify opportunities to elevate your writing and explain your ideas more clearly. 

Line Editing vs Copy Editing

Many people confuse line editing and copy editing; however, the two stages are distinct and important. Neither stage is better than the other—both are key parts of finalizing the language in your manuscript.

Line editing comes before copy editing and is more focused on the stylistic construction of your story. Copy editing is more focused on the mechanics of your writing. Let’s look at an example to better understand the difference.

Miranda gazed out over the bustling; hustling city. She felt so excited by the constant movement of the people below her.

A line editor would look at these two sentences and ask questions like “Is bustling, hustling redundant?” and “Should we switch the second sentence to active voice?” A copy editor‌ would look at those sentences and correct the misused semicolon. 

Both line editors and copy editors approach work line by line. However, they are looking for two different ‌edits.

What Happens During a Copy Edit

During the copy-edit phase, keep an eye out for the following errors:

Line editing and copy editing are critical to the writing process. Both stages work together to polish your manuscript and ensure that you’re using language effectively.

How To Line Edit

Now that we know the difference between line editing and copy editing, let’s get into what happens during the line editing stage.

As a reminder, you don’t have to be a professional to carry out a line edit. You can perform your own line edit and then contact a professional editor who will offer their personal recommendations on how to improve the readability of your manuscript. If you struggle to catch these types of errors yourselves, an editing tool can help.

The purpose of line editing is to make your ideas more concise and clear by re-examining and rewriting your sentences. Before we get into the actual how-to of line editing, let’s look at a few questions you should ask during your line edit:

  • What is the tone of this passage? Do the words I’ve chosen convey that tone?
  • Are there any extra words, redundancies, or needless information I can remove?
  • Do the words I’ve chosen help my reader understand my meaning or get in the way of their understanding?
  • Do I use language in a precise and clear way?

If you’re line editing on your own, the process may be awkward in the beginning. We’ve identified some common mistakes found in line editing and how to fix them.

1.      Unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs 

Extra words can disrupt the flow of your sentences and the overall reading experience. The goal is to ensure your writing is clear, concise, and easy to read. 

Read your sentences out loud to see if they read smoothly. If they read awkwardly, try removing some words to see if that improves the flow.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. 

William Strunk, author of The Elements of Style

2.      Misconstrued sentences and paragraphs 

Writers are sometimes the victims of their own ideas. Their sentences can go on and on, but misconstrued sentences only alienate the reader because the writing is hard to follow. 

Construct your sentences and paragraphs in a way that’s easy to follow. You can make your work clearer by varying your sentence lengths. Cut down long sentences specifically to separate your thoughts and offer your readers one concept to take in. When you give readers too much to assimilate per sentence, you risk losing them.

3.      Weak verbs 

Verbs are the most powerful elements of language–use them to say exactly what you mean. Don’t use a weak verb and then try to give it power with an adjective. For example:

  • Weak verb – James ran to school.
  • Weak verb + adverb – James ran quickly to school.
  • Strong verb – James sprinted to school.

Strong verbs add movements to your sentences and bring them to life. Don’t be afraid to play around with your sentences to see what works. You can always grab your thesaurus to replace any weak verbs you come across.

4.      Redundancies 

It’s easier to hold your readers’ interest if they feel engaged. Many writers have echoes or repeats in their work that they’re not even aware of. You risk boring your reader if they keep experiencing déjà vu while reading, and they may lose interest altogether. Remove any repetitive sentences or paragraphs so there’s no duplication.

5.      Use of clichés 

Writers often use clichés when they are working on their first draft because thinking up original wording takes time and can interrupt creative flow. That’s fine. But when you go back to edit, be creative and brainstorm for fresh ideas. Instead of using clichés, create fresh metaphors.

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

George Orwell


Tools to Help You Edit More Efficiently

Line and copy editing can be iterative processes that take several rounds. Using software like ProWritingAid can help you make needed edits to your work in a timely and cost-effective way. Editing software can find errors and improvements you might have missed by yourself. 

ProWritingAid searches out elements such as repetitiveness, vague wording, sentence-length variation, over-dependence on adverbs, passive voice, over-complicated sentence constructions, and so much more. 

Conclusion: How Important is Line Editing?

Both line and copy editing are important in refining your manuscript. During the line-editing stage, you will examine each line of your writing to make sure you’ve used language in a way that clearly and concisely conveys your ideas. 

The process of line editing can also help you ‌improve your writing. Whether you self-edit or get professional help, you’ll become more aware of the errors you make, which will make your next story even better than the last.

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Download your FREE guided checklist to help you self-edit, or to guide you and give you a baseline for setting expectations for copy editing and content editing services. Get it now!

SPS 153: Writing A Children’s Book For Your Kids- How To Do It & Why You Should with Josiah Fogle

Josiah Fogle is a father and resource specialist at Self-Publishing School. He is passionate about his faith and his boys, and publishing. He talked with over 4000 potential authors, realized that children’s books were selling, and saw an opportunity to combine his passions. His father passed away from cancer before his sons were born. Josiah realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to share his father’s wisdom with his sons while creating a legacy for his father. 

He published Small, But Wise: Stories With Grandpa, David’s Mighty Men: Stories With Grandpa, and A Prayer Guide For Kids: Prayers With Grandpa (Stories with Grandpa) in three years. This episode is perfect because we learn about Josiah’s book publishing journey and his frontline stories of talking with over 4000 aspiring authors. He shares that his series came together after the first book. We also learn about vulnerability and the scariest part of publishing. 

Josiah shares tips on working with and finding an illustrator for children’s books. We also contrast some of the differences between writing a book for adults and managing the production of a children’s book. We talk about marketing techniques and how publishing makes you an author. Josiah shares some fond stories about the emotional KPI created from his books. We also dive into what he’s learned from over 4000 aspiring authors, such as challenges, desirable traits like being coachable, and his best advice!

Show Highlights

  • [04:03] Josiah’s first book came from sharing his Dad’s legacy and some of his stories. He then had the system for his other two books. 
  • [05:45] Writing a book as a legacy is so cool. Writing a book can be scary. The hardest part is giving your rough draft to your editor and being vulnerable. Don’t let fear of vulnerability hold you back.
  • [08:50] The books are targeted towards the preschool elementary school age. They are around 32 pages. 
  • [10:33] Josiah created three children’s books in less than a year. He created a mind map and idea dump. Then he started writing a draft and finding an illustrator. He had a professional formatter. 
  • [12:23] Find your illustrator before you create your piece or as soon as the story is written down. This relationship is so important.
  • [13:58] There are Facebook groups with illustrators. You can also look at Colleges and books you like.
  • [16:05] Being a children’s author requires the production to be managed. You write less, but you need illustrations. 
  • [18:39] Talking at schools, giving books away, and building for the long term has been part of the marketing strategy. Once you write your books, you are an author.
  • [19:52] Emotional KPI. It was emotional to see Josiah’s Mom, reading this book to the kids. 
  • [23:24] Josiah has had over 4000 calls with aspiring authors. Sometimes, he’s the first person they have ever talked about their book with. 
  • [24:19] The number one challenge these authors face is not knowing what the process is. He helps people take the best next step with genuine recommendations. Imposter syndrome is also an issue. Procrastination is also an issue. 
  • [28:02] Being coachable is a desirable trait with aspiring authors. Have the desire to learn and do the work.
  • [30:32] The best advice Josiah can give is to take action and get it done!
  • [31:33] Don’t be afraid to take the leap and make that call. Josiah wants to help. Move from inspiration to implementation.
  • [34:18] Start with Book 1, David’s Mighty Men.

Links and Resources

What is Historical Fiction

What is Historical Fiction? An Author’s Guide with Examples and Tips

If you checked out and read every Royal Diaries and Dear America book you could get your little-kid hands on, I have a prediction: you grew up to love historical fiction. How do I know? I was that kid.

There’s something magical about historical fiction. It combines the intrigue of exploring a fantasy world with groundedness—reading good historical fiction teaches you about how different people lived in different time periods.

That said, it might seem intimidating to write historical fiction. You might be a passionate fan of Downton Abbey, but that doesn’t make you an expert in Edwardian or Interwar England.

Does this mean you’re not suited to write the Edwardian romance of your dreams? Of course not! 

Consider this article a crash course in historical fiction. We’re going to cover what historical fiction is, what different types there are, give you some reading recommendations, and cover some tips and tricks for writing your own.

What is historical fiction? 

Historical fiction is fiction that takes place in some specific era of the past. The events and characters might not have literally happened, but they’re rooted in the time period. In other words, while they didn’t actually happen, they could have happened.

Is historical fiction real, fake, or in between? 

This is where it can get a little confusing: is historical fiction real or fake? Is it considered nonfiction because of its roots in the real world, or is it fiction because of the made-up characters and events?

Let’s consider a hypothetical contemporary novel set in New York City. The book references specific streets and locations in New York City and portrays the setting accurately—if you were to go there, you’d see what the author described. However, the book is fiction. The characters aren’t real people. The events in the book didn’t actually happen. You could go to New York City and ride the trains, but you wouldn’t run into the novel’s protagonist.

This is how historical fiction works. The setting is grounded in historical accuracy, but it isn’t literally real. Downton Abbey, for example, is based on a family that existed, but Mary Crawley never did.

So, is historical fiction real? Sort of, and not really. Reading well-researched historical fiction will teach you a lot about a given time period. It is still, however, fiction, because the characters and their interactions aren’t real. The Titanic really did sink, but Patrick Crawley, heir to Downton Abbey, was not on it.

A quick note on creative historical nonfiction: some readers confuse historical fiction and historical nonfiction, and it’s easy to see why. The difference is that creative historical nonfiction is depicting real events which actually happened to real people, and it strives to depict these events accurately. Creative nonfiction just leans on more creative and descriptive prose, so it reads more like a novel than your typical nonfiction read.

What are some examples of historical fiction? (5)

If you’re going to write historical fiction, you’ll have to read historical fiction—a lot of it. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few reading recommendations.

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

2. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

4. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah 

5. Half Life by Jillian Cantor 

Types of historical fiction

Like any genre, historical fiction is an umbrella term which covers a huge variety of stories. Before you sit down to write a historical fiction novel, you’ll want to have an idea of what type of historical fiction you’re working with. This will help you know what sorts of genre expectations and tropes your audience expects, and it will help you search for historical fiction to read.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it does cover most of the historical fiction you’ll come across. Also, take note that some historical fiction will fall under several types. Outlander by Diana Galbadon is a historical romance, since its primary plot revolves around the love story between Claire and Jaime. It’s also a time travel story, since Claire meets Jaime by time traveling back to eighteenth-century Scotland.

1. Historical romance

As the name implies, these are romances that take place in the past. An Edwardian romance, for example, would follow a love story between two people in Edwardian England. Historical romances often have tropes specific to certain time periods, so make sure to read widely within the time period you’re writing to get a sense of what audiences expect.

2. Biographical historical fiction

Biographical historical fiction throws some people off. I’ve been saying that historical fiction is a real-world setting with made-up characters, and that’s mostly true. Sometimes, though, historical fiction includes people who did actually exist. Biographical historical fiction is one such example of this type of historical fiction.

Biographical historical fiction tells us a fictional account of a real person’s life. The subject of the novel did exist, but the events in the novel didn’t necessarily happen. This can be ethically complicated, since authors (ideally) strive to respect the memory of whoever they’re writing about as they fill in the blanks.

3. Historical adventures or mysteries

Historical adventures, mysteries, and thrillers are the same as their contemporary counterparts in terms of plot structure. They just take place in the past, and the conflict will obviously be steered by the specifics of the historical setting. Again, historical mysteries and adventures have tropes specific to certain time periods, so read extensively!

4. Alternate history

In an alternate history story, the author takes a point in history and considers what would happen if things were different. What if the Titanic hadn’t sunk? What if Rome never fell? What if Christopher Columbus landed on a different shore?

This fiction is obviously more speculative in nature, but it’s still rooted in an accurate understanding of events. If an author wanted to write an alternate history where Rome never fell, for example, their story would be informed by what Rome was like, what caused it to fall, and how the empire would have interacted with the rest of the world. In other words, the changes are motivated by an accurate understanding of the time period.

5. Historical epics or sagas

A historical epic will extend over a long period of time and cover the story of an entire era. It’s common for historical epics to follow a specific family or group of people over the course of a period of historical change. Downton Abbey is a great example.

Tips for writing your historical fiction novel

You’re ready to write a historical fiction novel! Before you get started, here are a few tricks to help you along the way.

1. Research your setting

It’s vital to do your research when writing historical fiction. You’re not expected to have a PhD in history or anything, and history involves a lot of guesswork. However, this guesswork is educated, and it should be rooted in the real information you’ve read. Little, fact-checkable details should be verified, and all errors should be corrected before the book is published.

Here’s a famous example: you know how in Pirates of the Caribbean (and countless, countless other works), Keira Knightley faints because her corset is too tight? That’s historically inaccurate! It would be almost impossible to lace a corset in such a manner that it would make someone faint, and in fact, most corsets were very comfortable and supportive for the wearer.

Fans of the era you’re writing in will notice things like this, and if you clearly didn’t do your research, it will turn them off. It’ll also create problems for you when it comes time to plot—if you don’t know what could happen, it’s hard to make a story that’s really rooted in the setting.

2. Work in exposition naturally

Historical fiction involves some worldbuilding, much like fantasy does. Fantasy authors are always hearing that they should avoid info-dumps and clunky exposition, and guess what? It’s the same for historical fiction authors.

Don’t give your readers paragraphs explaining, in detail, how the table is set at a particular dinner. Your job isn’t to lecture—it’s to entertain. Readers will learn about the time period by observing the characters and setting. They’ll put a lot together on their own.

If you absolutely must explain something to the reader, you’ve got a few options. Keep it brief, and try to work it in organically. Maybe you explain who’s in line for the throne by having two characters argue about it. This keeps the reader entertained and prevents the story from coming to a halt in the name of a history lecture.

3. Root the conflict in the setting

The setting and time period should drive the conflict. Readers seek out historical fiction because they want to escape into that era for a little while—the story should be steeped in its setting.

Consider The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley. Much of the conflict comes from the fact that the love interest (and the antagonist, because Erica Ridley is a genius) is a duke, while Chloe is not. The real social hierarchy from that time period creates conflict—the characters have to navigate the intricacies of their world in order to be together.

How do you know if your plot is heavily tied to your story? Ask yourself if the plot would be exactly the same if you set it in the modern day. If so, you may need to rework it.

4. Keep dialogue accessible

Ah, the Wuthering Heights problem. For those not in the know: in Wuthering Heights, there’s a character named Joseph who speaks with a heavy Yorkshire dialect. Emily Bronte spells this dialect out phonetically, or the way it sounds, and this makes it almost impossible to understand. Scholars still debate over some sections of Joseph’s dialogue and speculate about what he might be saying.

Here’s the lesson we take away from this: while you do want to include historical details in dialogue to keep it grounded, you don’t want to make it confusing for the reader. Someone who doesn’t know anything about the time period should be able to read the dialogue and understand what’s being said. Slang, regional dialects, and accents should be used sparingly, and never in a way that confuses the meaning.

A quick note: in my humble opinion, exclamations and expletives are the best place to put period-specific slang.

5. Write from an interesting perspective

As I mentioned before, Outlander is a time-travel historical romance. Because Claire is going back in time, she’s learning about eighteenth century Scotland alongside the reader. This makes exposition much easier, and the unique vantage point creates interesting conflict throughout the story. Claire is also a woman, which means she’s not in a position of power, and that heavily influences the way she’s treated.

When you write your historical romance, consider the perspective from which you’re writing. What’s your in? How are we getting to the historical period in question, and how does the main character’s identity inform their experience in this period?

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin isn’t historical fiction, but it is a good example to look at here. He writes heavily from the perspectives of marginalized people in a very patriarchal and ableist power structure. This means his characters are constantly fighting, and this means much of the conflict arises very naturally from the world he’s built.

Next Steps

Now that you know a thing or two about historical fiction, it’s time to write! We have free training that will help you get a jumpstart on your fiction book(s). Click the banner below to learn more.

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SPS 152: Let It Be Easy: Using Publicity & Instagram To Sell Books & Grow Your Business with Susie Moore

Susie Moore is a speaker, confidence coach, author, and course creator. She is a former Silicon Valley Sales Director, and she’s now a PR expert; her goal is to help people love their lives. She has been in over 300 media publications, including Oprah.com, Marie Claire, Business Insider, Forbes, Refinery29, the Today show, and Inc. She has over 330,000 email subscribers who receive her weekly confidence injection newsletter. She’s the host of the Let It Be Easy with Susie Moore podcast, where she breaks down barriers to success and personal happiness. 

Thought leaders like Arianna Huffington, Paulo Coelho, Kris Jenner, and Sara Blakely have shared her work. She is the author of Stop Checking Your Likes: Shake Off the Need for Approval and Live an Incredible Life and What If It Does Work Out?: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life. Her latest book is Let It Be Easy: Simple Ways to Stop Stressing & Start Living, a book about simple changes that help us recast failures into success and have an easier life. 

We dive into why she wrote and launched Let It Be Easy and its effect on her and her audience. She shares her passion for helping women have strong and successful lives while relaxed and not constantly stressed. She shares her launch methods, including back-to-back Instagram Lives, speaking gigs, book purchases, and purchase bonuses. Then we do a case study focusing on Self Publishing School. Susie talks about how you either need to hire a very high-end publicist with the proper connection or implement a DIY method. There is so much great information in this fun interview. 

Show Highlights

  • [02:57] She wrote and launched Let It Be Easy, because she’s obsessed with letting us love ourselves enough to let our lives be easier. High achieving women often overcomplicate things and expect them to be hard. 
  • [03:38] We can be strong and relaxed and enjoy our lives. Let’s enjoy the process and not bring stress to it.
  • [04:54] Susie wrote her book to share how she doesn’t get overwhelmed. She wants to be known as the guide to an easier way in the world. Her book is part of her brand. 
  • [07:03] Her first book was self-published. She’s also leaning towards self publishing her fourth book. You find your stride with your second book, and your third book is the one that you really wanted to write. You are more confident and speaking from a place of self-assuredness.
  • [08:47] You have to ask for help when launching books and reaching out to influential friends is a great way. On the first day of her launch, Susie did 20 Instagram Lives.
  • [11:01] Being in the speaker world and making yourself accessible is also a great way to promote your books. With the help of Zoom, you can have a conversation in any market. Having book buys included with your speaking engagement is a great idea.
  • [12:49] She had 20 back to back interviews. Then she asked people two things they did to make their lives easier. 
  • [14:45] At the end of each interview, she offered a book bonus that ended at midnight.
  • [17:19] Chapter 17 in Published talks about the review sweeper method. Also, use a short link to make getting reviews and promotion easier. I also share methods for audiobook promotion. 
  • [20:02] Case Study: This is an active problem I’m trying to solve at Self Publishing School. I would like to get more PR, publicity, and speaking gigs. 
  • [21:18] When hiring a publicist, you need to speak to their existing clients first. With a publicist, you are paying for their connections and shortcuts. Ask questions and share your expectations.
  • [23:15] A new publicist won’t have the connections you want, so you could also do everything yourself with scripts. Go high-end or DIY.
  • [24:23] Have a competent bright person who can write sweet emails. Brainstorm ideas with them. See how you can contribute to the conversation and then have this person use emails to pitch for you using your email address.
  • [26:55] Send out 10 pitches a week, and you will get media.
  • [29:17] Have an existing person on the team do this or hire someone and also give them additional responsibilities.
  • [31:08] Susie would look for this person from no longer employed and talented magazine producers and editors.

Links and Resources

Writing a Book for the First Time

Writing a Book For The First Time: 3 Easy Tips to Get Started

Maybe your dream is to become a full-time fiction author. Perhaps you plan to use a nonfiction book as a launching pad for a business or build an online course. Maybe you have a story inside you and want to share it to leave a legacy.

Whatever your writing dream is, it starts with writing a book. While writing a book is an exciting first step, it can be an overwhelming prospect. That’s why in this article we will break down:

Whatever you need guidance on, we’re here to help.

Let’s start with the basic question of why? Why write a book? 

Why Write A Book For The First Time?

If you want to be a full-time writer or use a book for business purposes, it’s imperative to write a book to start this journey. Writing a book is a powerful tool and can be leveraged for direct impact with readers, potential clients, and individuals you would not be able to reach any other way. A book can span the continents and impact areas you may never physically be able to go. 

(Resource: If you’re considering writing a book for your niche business, check out this podcast interview on how AJ Osborne used his book to grow his self-storage business.)

Words are powerful. There’s something about connecting a writer and a reader through black and white words on a page. It seems so simple, but words impact in ways that cannot be described. Words encourage, stories inspire, and the difficult life lessons you’ve learned could impact the trajectory of your reader’s life for years to come. Never underestimate the power of the written word. 

Books can also act as a business card, boost your credibility, and inspire others to listen to what you specifically have to say. It takes time, persistence, and grit to take your idea to the final page. Many people talk about wanting to write a book but few actually finish their first draft. When you write a book for the first time, you become one of the few who takes their dream to a reality. That said, how do you actually go about the writing? Great question. 

Tips For Writing A Book For The First Time

While there are seemingly endless writing rules, there are several tips that will help you get through, and even enjoy, writing your first book.

Identify What Type of Writer You Are, So You Know Your Tendencies

It’s crucial to first identify what kind of writer you are. Do you prefer to plot everything out prior to drafting (a plotter)? Or do you prefer to write to find out what happens? This is often called write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (commonly referred to as a pantser). Maybe you are a hybrid of both. You outline the major scenes, your inciting incident, climax, and falling action, and write to figure out the rest. Whichever it is for you, identify the way you write most naturally. 

This will allow you to utilize your writing time more effectively each day. More on writing routines in a minute.

Find Community

After identifying if you are a plotter or a pantser, it’s important to surround yourself with a writing community to not only teach you the basics of writing but also encourage you on your journey. It’s easy to start writing a book, it’s another thing entirely to finish. Reach out to writers in your area, join an online writing community (like Self-Publishing School), or form your own writing group, but make sure to surround yourself with writers who will encourage and inspire you. Don’t forget to stay open to their feedback too.

These people will encourage you when you lose steam, don’t want to write, or are struggling with that pesky blank page and blinking cursor.

Hone Your Craft 

And of course, the best tip and most obvious—keep writing! Practice daily.

Learn how to write better, too. Writing is one craft in which no one becomes a master. That’s part of the joy of writing. There are always more creative outlets to explore and ways of communicating to test out. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, mastering the craft is a goal to reach for but we’re all unlikely to attain. Learning the writing rules well can help you become a talented writer who impacts readers and changes lives.

Learn the basic writing rules such as:

The more aware you become of writing rules the more they will subconsciously come alive in your writing. The more seamlessly you incorporate writing rules, the more editing time you’ll save and the faster you will be able to write future books.

How To Start Writing A Book For The First Time

You want to write a book. It’s a short sentence but packed with hours of dedication, late nights, early mornings, and highs and lows. The dedication is worth it, so let’s walk through a step-by-step process to help you get started.

Set A Routine

When writing a book for the first time it’s vital to set a writing routine you can succeed at. Second, it’s imperative to stick with it. If you’re a morning person, consider getting up an hour earlier than usual. If you’re a night owl, consider getting home an hour earlier than you usually do. Devote that extra time to writing your book. Set a deadline and determine how many words or pages you need to write every day to hit your deadline. Stay with the task and don’t let everyday distractions keep you from pursuing your writing dream.

Set A Timer 

An important part of writing is actually typing words on the page. If you have dedicated an hour in the morning to writing, it’s important to honor that full hour. It may be helpful to set an actual timer to ensure you write for a full 60 minutes.

It’s easy to sit down to write and then get up to make a cup of coffee or tea, sharpen a pencil, or grab your computer charger. All of these little distractions take away from your writing time. Before you know it, you’ve lost a full 10 or 15 minutes.

Instead, set a timer for the amount of time you plan to write. If you need to get up and get something, stop the timer. When you sit back down and start writing, begin the timer again. This will ensure you set the precedent early on that when it’s time to write, you write. 

Write, Then Edit

21-time New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins says, “I start every writing day by first conducting a heavy edit and rewrite of what I wrote the day before. Don’t try to edit as you write. That’s likely to slow you to a crawl.” 

When writing your first book it’s important to simply get the words down. Anyone can start writing a book but it takes a certain person to write all the way to the end. 

Day one, when you sit down to write, simply write. 

Day two, when you sit down to write, start by editing the work you wrote the day before.

Follow this process until you’ve finished your book.

This will ensure you get the words down. When you follow this method, you’ll finish your first book and it will technically be your second draft. That’s a win!

Engage With Beta Readers

Beta readers are readers who read a book prior to its publication. When choosing beta readers try to find individuals who will not be biased toward your book. Resist the urge to ask your friends and family to read your book and offer feedback. They will likely tell you they enjoy it. If they don’t, they may feel uncomfortable telling you so. Instead, ask for several writers from your writing group if they would be open to reading your book and providing you with honest feedback.

You are the writer so you will make the final call, but having fresh eyes can help open your own eyes to issues that you may have missed. While beta readers are not absolutely necessary, they can provide timely feedback while it’s still possible to make changes.

Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Your First Book 

Just as there are rules to follow when writing your first book, there are mistakes to avoid as well. Being aware of mistakes before you make them can help you avoid spending time and effort redoing your work. The clearer picture you have of the do’s and don’ts of writing, the less frustration you will experience on your journey. 

Avoid Comparison 

While it’s important to read all the books you can in the genre you write, avoid comparing your first effort to someone else’s bestseller. We are all learning and growing in a craft that is impossible to master, and comparison will stall your creative capacity. Learn from the best, but let giving your best be enough.

Avoid Imposter Syndrome

On the topic of comparison, refuse the Imposter Syndrome mindset. Your first book may not be a bestseller (or it may!) but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Writer’s write. By default, if you write, you are a writer. Refuse the mindset that unless you’re the best of the best you don’t deserve the title of writer. You are not an imposter. You are a student learning the craft. 

Avoid Following All Advice 

We should be open to constructive criticism and embrace feedback, but don’t change your book every time someone suggests you do so. You are the writer and it’s your vision that should prevail. When you publish your book you want it to be with integrity to the story you set out to tell, whether that is a fiction or nonfiction story. Listen to feedback, but follow your writer’s instincts. 

As You Begin…

You are about to start an incredible journey. Writing an entire manuscript cover to cover is no small task and it is inspiring that you chose to undertake it. your journey will likely have twists and turns you don’t expect, lows that catch you off guard, but highs you never dreamed could happen. Writing your first book is a monumental stepping stone to becoming an author.

Remember, after you get this first one under your belt you will never need to say you’re writing your first book again. You will already know what to expect and understand the rules better than you do today. You have found your own pitfalls and determined a way to get out of them. You will have pushed through writer’s block and days you don’t feel inspired, and come out winning.

This is a journey, so embrace every aspect. Set your writing deadline and commit to your goals. Don’t let distractions keep you from your dream. You’ve come this far. You’ve got this!

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Writing Thrillers

Writing Thrillers: A Deep-Dive on Subgenres, Plus 4 Must-Have Elements

Writing thrillers takes work. It takes practice and know-how to balance high stakes and high stress over a long period of time. Too much, and the novel starts to feel predictable or melodramatic. Too little, and it’s not a thriller.

How can we, as writers, keep our readers hooked all the way through our thriller? What makes a good thriller, anyway, and what’s the difference between thriller and suspense or horror?

In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and give you some tips for outlining and drafting your thriller novel. By the end, you’ll be ready to stress out any reader who picks up your book (in the best way imaginable)!

What defines a thriller novel?

First things first: what makes a thriller novel a thriller novel?

Thriller novels use heightened emotion to keep their readers hooked. They often feel cinematic and involve high stakes and dramatic plot points. Thriller often overlaps with other genres, namely mystery and crime novels.

Thrillers are defined by how they make the reader feel, and thrillers make their readers feel anxious. They aim to make readers unsettled, nervous, and eager to read what happens next. All fiction should elicit some amount of stress in the reader in the form of conflict, but in a thriller novel, the stress is the main feature.

Writing Thrillers

What are some examples of thriller novels?

If you’re going to be writing thrillers, you’ll need to read lots of them. Here are five thriller novels to start you on your way—think of these as a starter kit for reading thrillers.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

3. A Time to Kill by John Grisham

4. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What are the key elements of a thriller?

These elements are commonly found in all types of thriller novels.

1. Suspense

Suspense is how an author builds tension throughout the story. It’s necessary in any genre, but it’s absolutely vital in thriller novels. Ultimately, your goal for the reader is that they never want to put the book down.

How do you make sure that happens? End each chapter (or most chapters) with a cliffhanger. Throw in a twist. Change up the pacing. More on this in the coming points.

2. High stakes

If you want to stress a reader out, you need to give them something to be stressed about. This means you need a plot with high stakes. The characters must have a lot on the line—it needs to really matter whether or not they succeed. This is why thrillers are so often crime or mystery novels, especially murder mysteries, and it’s why you don’t see a lot of thrillers about, say, bake sales or fantasy football teams.

3. The big question

In a thriller, the plot should be driven by one big, important question. Think Gone Girl—from the start, the reader is asking themselves what happened to Amy, and whether Nick had anything to do with it. This question drives much of the suspense throughout the novel. It fizzles in the back of a reader’s mind and laces everything that happens in a layer of nail-biting anxiety.

4. Realistic pacing

Readers will get worn out with nonstop action. Real-life doesn’t actually include bombs going off every five pages and shootouts around every corner. The suspense and intrigue need to be constant, but the action doesn’t have to be. Oftentimes interesting and punchy dialogue, dream sequences, or the character reviewing the disparate facts and puzzle pieces is enough to keep you turning the page.

Types of thriller novels

On Masterclass, their site outlines eight types of thriller novels—this list isn’t all-inclusive, but it covers most of the thrillers you’ll come across.

Also, note that there’s often overlap between these sub-types. Gone Girl, for example, is a psychological thriller for its use of an unreliable narrator and its exploration of its characters’ psyches and relationships. It’s also a crime thriller because it centers around a missing person investigation.

We’ll follow the Masterclass list, but explain each subgenre in more detail.

1. Psychological thriller

Psychological thrillers concern themselves with the inner workings of people’s minds. They’ll often be about subjects like mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, morality, and crime. Psychological thrillers are likely to use unreliable narrators, since unreliable narrators are great for bending reality and being generally creepy.

2. Action thriller

Action thrillers are distinguished by their focus on physical danger. In an action thriller, most of the excitement comes from watching characters navigate action sequences. An action-thriller will have things like car chases, shoot-outs, or fist fights. Action scenes will probably come up in other types of thriller novels, but again, in an action thriller, the action scenes are the main attraction.

3. Crime novel/crime fiction

As you might have guessed, these types of thrillers revolve around solving a crime. Sherlock Holmes is the epitome of this genre. The mystery might be a murder, a series of robberies or assaults, a drug cartel, or any other criminal activity. The drama comes from the nature of the activity and the solving of the crime by our protagonists.

4. Political thriller

Political thrillers take place within the government. The tension comes from the high stakes—if the problem isn’t solved, there are probably some huge ramifications for the nation or government. Usually, a political thriller explores the nature of politics and forces the audience to consider their stance on political issues.

5. Mystery thriller/mystery novels

In a mystery thriller, the characters are working to solve a mystery. This is usually a crime, but doesn’t necessarily have to be—the justice system isn’t always involved. The tension comes from seeing the perpetrator captured in time to avoid further crises.

6. Spy thriller

Think James Bond or Jason Bourne. These thrillers follow a spy, usually working for a real or fictional government agency, and the excitement comes from watching the spy navigate their mission. Often, this genre combines action, politics, and crime, and there’s some focus on the spy’s psychological state as well for added tension.

7. Legal thriller

Think John Grisham. Legal thrillers focus on a specific legal investigation. Characters will be in a court case navigating the justice system. These usually showcase the impacts of the legal process on the characters involved, and they also ask readers to explore their understanding of justice.

8. Science fiction thriller

Think Jurassic Park! Or the Marvel series. Science fiction thriller authors take a look at science and ask themselves: how could this be used in the weirdest, most stressful way possible? Sci-fi thrillers often explore the ramifications of scientific experimentation, and they’re often rooted in some believably scientific premise (though your suspension of disbelief may vary).

Tips for writing thrillers

How do you make sure that your thriller keeps your readers hooked from page one to the end? Follow these tips to create a fast-paced, interesting thriller that not only hooks your audience, but sticks with them after they’ve finished reading.

1. Focus on crafting great characters

Writers often lose themselves in the technical aspects of crime or mystery novels. They’ll write pages explaining the layout of a museum or dedicate an entire chapter to the ins and outs of a given chase sequence. In doing this, writers detach from characters, and this is the fastest way to lose a reader.

People care about people. Readers are interested in characters above anything else. In any story, the conflict and intrigue come from wondering what’s going to happen to the characters. If the readers don’t care about the characters, especially the main character, they’re not going to be glued to the page to find out what happens to them.

Create a compelling protagonist with a vested interest in the plot. Make them emotionally involved in the story so that your readers get emotionally invested, too. A reader will forgive any number of plot contrivances in the name of a character they love, but they’ll be less likely to care about a technically perfect plot if they have to see it through the eyes of an uninteresting character.

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2. Create an interesting problem with high stakes

Readers might forgive plot contrivances for characters they love, but that doesn’t mean the plot shouldn’t be interesting!

The central conflict of your thriller should revolve around an interesting problem with high stakes. If you’re writing about a serial killer, what’s interesting about this particular serial killer? If it’s a murder mystery, what about this particular murder is different and unique?

The problem should also have high stakes. It should matter deeply to the main character that the problem is solved—maybe the killer is coming for the protagonist or the protagonist’s loved ones next, or maybe the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. Again, you want the character emotionally connected so that the audience will be emotionally connected, too. Make it personal.

3. Don’t make it easy

At the risk of sounding too obvious, a thriller should, first and foremost, be thrilling. If a reader can tell who the killer is on page three, they’re not going to be interested in reading the rest. If they do keep reading, they’re probably going to be frustrated that the characters can’t seem to see the obvious solution dangling in front of them.

To make your thriller satisfying and exciting, you’ll want to put your characters through some serious difficulties. Throw obstacles in their paths. The bigger the obstacle, the more satisfying it’ll be to watch the character overcome it. Don’t be afraid to really change up the status quo for your characters.

Have your characters lose their jobs, their spouse, or their friends. Have them get lost, have them get caught by the villain and have to fight their way out, and take away all their weapons. Making it as difficult as possible for the characters to achieve their goals will not only make the reader more interested to see what happens next, but it’ll also make the reader respect and like the characters more for gritting their teeth and persevering.

One easy way to nail this is to create a great villain. The villain should be powerful, unpredictable, and have some personal connection to our main characters.

4. Nail the pacing

This is an entire subject to study on its own, so this is a very, very quick rundown of how to nail the pacing in your thriller novel.

First, keep your action scenes quick. Any fight sequence should be vital to the plot, contain high stakes for everyone involved, and change the status quo when it’s done. These scenes should also be fast-paced. It should happen as quickly as possible (without losing important details). Instead of focusing on the technical movements of the fight, focus on the character’s reactions, feelings, and problem-solving skills.

Next, keep the pace varied. Not every single scene in your thriller should be fast—you need slower scenes to build suspense. Maybe the cop just finished a day of high-stakes interviews with suspects, comes home and debriefs with his wife, and settles into bed. But then, he has a wild dream that in some way seems connected to solving the mystery.

Balancing high-drama scenes with slower scenes will make your book more balanced, and it gives you more room to build momentum as you work toward the climax.

Finally, don’t neglect your climax! All the momentum in your story should point toward it, and when it happens, it should be all-hands-on-deck. This is why it’s often hard to put a good book down once you’ve gotten about three-quarters in. Everything builds to the climax, and if you’ve done your job, the reader will be eager to see the story through.

What’s Next?

If you saw this article through to completion, we must have kept the suspense at just the right level for you. At Self-Publishing School, we have a ton of resources to help you write and publish your novel. If you’re serious about getting started and writing a thriller, check out this free training:

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