SPS 167: Selling 40,000+ Books In Two Years As An “Unknown” Fiction Author…How I Did It with Barbara Hartzler

Are you ready to take your fiction career to the next level? Are you just thinking about publishing fiction? Either way, this episode is for you. Barbara Hartzler has sold over 40,000 books in two years, and she is here to share her journey with us. She’s the author of The Montrose Paranormal Academy Series and a new series called Shadowstone Academy. These books are young adult Christian paranormal books. Barbara shares her journey of how she made several mistakes in her first five years with her first two books. 

She also shares how she found Self Publishing School and how it benefited her. She shares tips on cover selection, finding the right target audience, and relaunching the right way. She’s now published 11 books and has gone from SPS student to SPS coach. She’s coached over 400 authors and has completed over 1,400 one-on-one coaching calls. She not only has a wildly successful fiction career, but she is in the trenches every day helping other fiction authors get the most out of self-publishing fiction. 

Show Highlights

  • [02:02] Barbara started out on her own, and she had two fiction books published before finding Self Publishing School. She tried everything before finding what works.
  • [03:05] When it was time to publish book three, she was looking for all of the information she could find to do it right. She wanted step-by-step strategies. SPS walked her through everything. 
  • [03:50] She ended up getting new covers, relaunching everything and focusing on her target market. 
  • [04:58] Her relaunch targeted the right market. She did market research and found the academy genre. She also studied books in her market that were selling well.
  • [06:34] Readers like consistency, so they’ll give an unknown author in a genre they love a chance. 
  • [07:54] Barbara breaks down tropes and talks about making them different and special with a unique twist. 
  • [09:30] Having a great cover and getting categories and keywords right will help sell your books. 
  • [10:59] Review strategies include incorporating readers into a launch team and keeping reviews top of mind with contests etc. 
  • [12:45] Look at your genre when creating box sets and bundling books together. A 99 cent price point creates visibility. 
  • [18:54] Cover change tips include making your cover work in your genre with the current life cycle. Trends change over time.
  • [20:25] Barbara has over 40,000 books sold and 7.8 million page reads.
  • [20:59] The number one challenge students face is trying to think of themselves as a publisher and trying to do everything at once.
  • [24:30] Having an editor will only make you and your book better. 
  • [24:56] Successful students and authors have a persistent attitude and keep going even when issues come up. 
  • [26:03] To prepare for your first coaching call, know what your story is about and what your author goals are.
  • [29:02] If starting over again Barbara would have joined SPS sooner. It’s also important to be persistent and keep learning. 
  • [30:06] Author Advantage Live has great information for authors and fiction writers. It’s an amazing, mind-blowing conference. You can also make great connections. 

Links and Resources

Author Networking Basics: 9 Top Ways to Connect with Like-Minded Writers

Author Networking Basics: 9 Top Ways to Connect with Like-Minded Writers

The term networking is a common roadblock for others of all stages. The good news is there are ways to not only get around this obstacle but use it for the benefit of your book as well as the good of those also working to make it in the publishing world. 

In 2020, the world went globally more online than ever before. However, over the last few years, both online and in-person networking are a normal trend. Neither seem to be disappearing and depending on your personal needs, it’s helpful to grasp how each can benefit you. 

Let’s break down both possibilities for author networking:

  • In-Person
  • Online

While both are viable options, there are some instances where one may be more helpful than the other. Before getting into the details, note that while in-person networking adds the power of nonverbal communication, online networking can also be a major factor contributing to your success.

In-Person Author Networking

Networking in-person brings many pros and is a powerful form of meeting like-minded individuals who may offer help you can not obtain on your own. If you are a more introverted writer and prefer staying behind the keyboard, consider starting at smaller in-person events, such as a book club or library meet-and-greet. 

There are five main in-person networking events to cover:

First, let’s start with the power of mutual interaction via a book club. 

#1 – Book Clubs

Whether you are an established author or an aspiring writer who wants to connect with other creatives, joining a book club is a great way to network in person in a lowkey environment. You can start your own book club, research book clubs in your area, or join a preexisting one another writing invites you to.

A book club is a unique way to network due to the nature of the club: Writers are focused on discussing a particular book or author, their work, and engaging with those around them. Without needing to ask any particular questions, you can discover a great deal about the writers in the group, how you can help them, and how they could potentially help you. 

#2 – Writer Groups

A writing group can be compared to a more formal book club. In a writing group, members show up in order to discuss their own work, gain insight from other writers, and offer constructive feedback. 

Engaging in this type of group helps you identify areas of growth in your writing, what you should lean into because you are already doing it well, and how you can help others. 

You may discover you have a proclivity for identifying how to better others’ writing. Joining a writer group could be the nudge you need to jump into professional editing or even coaching. Regardless, writing groups are crucial for a writer’s growth in both writing and networking.`

#3 – Faith Communities

Particularly if you write nonfiction or religious fiction, a faith community could be a potential place for effective networking. For instance, if you wrote a religious book and attend a large church, your community may be open to hosting a summer book club and using your book. 

If you write fiction, you could research how other religious authors have impacted their faith communities through their writing. Francine Rivers and her novel, Redeeming Love, is a classic example of how inspirational, romantic fiction can create a positive impact. 

If you belong to a faith community, take advantage of how you can impact those in your sphere of influence with your creative talent. 

#4 – Library Events

Attending a library event in your town can be a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone without feeling too nervous. Library events are more relaxed and much smaller than a conference or convention. 

If you feel the need to network in person, conduct research and discover what local events are scheduled in the next few weeks or months. Mark those dates on your calendar and go prepared to meet other writers, authors, and creatives. 

#5 – Conferences & Conventions

In-person conferences and conventions (and online conferences) are perhaps one of the most efficient ways to network. Whether you attend a small conference or large convention, attendees come from all over to engage, network, and share knowledge. 

Conferences offer a myriad of ways to network with those around you. Workshops, one-on-one meetings, keynote sessions, and breakout sessions are some of the ways to engage with other attendees, speakers, and faculty. 

Author Advantage Live

Online Author Networking

Online networking is a fantastic way to network from the comfort of your home, save time with travel, and invest in your platform without paying to travel anywhere. While in-person networking allows the power of inflection and other types of nonverbal communication, sometimes online is the best way to go. 

#1 – Communities

There are countless online communities where you can meet other writers from around the world. Whether you choose to join an online community such as The Write Life, Realm Makers or the Freelance Writers Den, you are sure to engage in networking. 

Remember, whether you want to network to further your writing career or to help other writers further theirs, usually, online communities give the added benefit of both. 

#2 – Forums

Online forums provide a plethora of opportunities for writers in various stages to interact with like-minded creatives. In a forum, the writing craft can be a focal point of discussion, but opportunities such as writing contests or even work can also be discussed.

If you have a specific question or writing tip to contribute, consider taking it to an online forum where you can help many as well as receive advice from countless individuals. 

#3 – Social Media

Social media, with all its pros and cons, is a necessity for today’s writers. Whether you choose to:

  • Connect with other writers on Twitter via the hashtag #WritingCommunity or #amwriting
  • Create a TikTok account to build your network
  •  Spend time on Instagram posting about your writing journey

…social media is a hot spot for various forms of networking. Use it with discretion, and make use of what it offers you. 

#4 – LinkedIn 

This social platform is a more professional way to share your expertise via your personal profile, connect with others in your industry, and network with individuals you may not be able to on platforms such as Twitter. 

Using LinkedIn allows you to send personal requests to connect and include a note of introduction. Since LinkedIn is a more professional platform it can be a helpful way to more directly connect with those in the industry you couldn’t as easily on other platforms.

You can get more freelance writing jobs, connect with editors of your favorite magazines / online publications, and even spruce up your profile and use their tools to attract more clients and ultimately more income. For more information on this topic of social networking through LinkedIn, see:

Networking, The Backbone To Publishing

Networking is crucial to your success as a writer. Not only can meeting the right people open doors you never dreamed of, but it can speed up a journey that would take much longer to go alone. 

As you network in-person and online, keep in mind that the writer, marketer, designer, or editor you speak with is a real person with feelings and goals. Help them pursue their dreams as well. You will grow in your career, and your reputation will grow as well. The writing industry is a team effort after all. Happy networking!

Author Advantage Live

SPS 166: From Laid Off To Two Time Award Winning Author with Bill Miller

Bill Miller spent the past 30 years leading companies of all sizes, from early-stage startups to multi-billion-dollar companies. During this time, he learned a thing or two about CEOs from his own leadership experience to observing seasoned leaders and new leaders finding their way. He took notes on all his interesting observations that just happened to be the foundation of his bestselling book. Bill is the author of The Rookie CEO, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!: Learn How 9 Rookie CEOs Got There, Executed, Created Their Stories and Led!, a behind-the-scenes look at nine rookie CEOs and what behaviors drove excellent results.

Bill is now a speaker, mentor, and coach who is also a member of Self Publishing School. I talk to Bill about why he wrote his book, how he found us, and what helped propel his publishing experience forward. We talk about his launch, marketing, coaching experience, and whether he has a second book in the works. Bill was also an Author Advantage Live success story, so we talk about that, and Bill shares the takeaways and excitement he felt at the event. We also talk about the helpful tools he used and his promotion strategies. Bill shares what he would do sooner and shares his parting advice. This episode is full of great insights!

Show Highlights

  • [02:14] Bill worked in executive management and technology for about 30 years. He worked for many CEOs. Many of them were rookies. Bill started taking notes on what would happen in meetings. 
  • [04:23] He decided to write a book about all of this. He was looking for information about self publishing and discovered Self Publishing School. 
  • [06:35] He consults with CEOs and works with CEOs. Bill is writing his second book about mistakes that CEOs make.
  • [08:35] The coaching calls were really helpful for Bill after he joined SPS. He knew how to write, but he didn’t really know anything about writing a book.
  • [12:57] He followed the SPS roadmap with his launch. He built a launch team from friends and colleagues. He launched an ebook and paperback at the same time. He did a hard cover from Ingram Spark and now also has an audio book. 
  • [15:27] He had a series of promotions following his launch. He kept his book at 99 cents for two months. 
  • [17:54] Bill also uses his popular CEO blog to promote his book. He also writes for Medium.
  • [19:32] Being a CEO and learning and advancing is a long term play.
  • [20:03] The best part of Self Publishing School for Bill was the people and the process. The community of people were so helpful and the guided process was just what he needed. 
  • [22:29] If you want to get excited about publishing your book, attend Author Advantage Live! You learn every aspect of publishing regardless of your genre.
  • [24:23] Parting advice. We all have a book in us. Start yours sooner rather than later!

Links and Resources

How Author Photographs Help Your Book's Success (+ Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid)

How Author Photographs Help Your Book’s Success (+ Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid)

You’ve written your book and now it’s time to design it. This is when you create the cover or the dust jacket and a quality back cover that will engage readers and encourage them to open to page one. 

A large factor of a successfully designed book is your author photograph. 

While you may be an introverted writer and not prefer time in front of the camera, your author photograph is a very important part of the publication process.

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.

In this guide to author photographs we discuss:

  1. What are author photos called?
  2. Do you need an author photo?
  3. Why do authors use photographs? 
  4. How to take a good author photo

By the end of this article, you should feel equipped and not only understand why you should take an author photo, but also how to take a great author photo. You will also know how to use your photos to communicate with your readers before you ever type a word. 

Ready to dive in?

What are author photos called?

An author photo is simply a headshot. If you have a LinkedIn account, a Facebook page, an Instagram or Twitter profile, or a website, you’ve likely taken a headshot before. While your Facebook profile photo may be your favorite selfie, it’s important to put the appropriate amount of time and effort into your author headshot. We will get into why author headshots are so crucial later in this article. For now, just remember that an author photo is simply a headshot. 

Do you need an author photo?

An author headshot is a crucial part of your book’s design because it helps readers identify with you, the author. You can use the same headshot for your website, all of your social media platforms, and your media kit.

While standing in front of the camera and having your photo printed on all of your books may feel intimidating, this is a great way to literally put a face with your author name.

Unless you write with a pen name and want to keep your identity secret, an author photo is an essential part of your book.

That brings up the valid question…

Why do authors use photographs?

An author headshot can help you personalize your book and heighten your sales. Readers want to know the author they are reading, and your author headshot is that introduction. 

Other headshots can also communicate the genre of your book, your personality, your brand, and your credibility. 

Keeping all of these aspects in mind will go a long way when you book your headshot session.

Author headshots communicate your genre: If you write childrens’ books, you can communicate this genre by what you wear, your facial expression, and the background in your photo. For instance, you may want to wear a bit more color and smile if you’re targeting children. On the other hand, if you write thrillers, a darker background and a more serious face will be on brand for this genre. 

Author headshots communicate your personality: Regardless of your genre, don’t forget to be yourself. Readers want to know the author they are reading, and your headshot can communicate a lot about you. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Put thought into every aspect of your headshot and make sure you get several photos so you can choose the one that is your most accurate representation. 

Author headshots communicate your brand: Branding is a contributing factor in the overall success of your writing. Pay careful attention to make sure your author headshot is on brand with your social media photos, the voice of your writing, and your overall aesthetic. If you write non-fiction in a come-alongside voice, but your headshot is stoic and reserved, you will send conflicting messages to your audience. Make sure your headshot reflects your brand, and vice versa. 

Author headshots communicate your credibility: Think of your headshot as the first look at your writing. If you write academic books, show up for your headshot in appropriate clothing so you don’t undermine the credibility you worked so hard to attain. 

As you look into getting your author headshot, ask yourself: What do I want potential readers to see that will make them think, “I want to read this author’s book!” 

How to take a good author photo.

Now that you know why you need an author headshot, it’s time to get into the details of how to take a great headshot.

What do authors wear for headshots?

What you wear to your headshot will be determined by the genre you write as well as your personal branding. This choice is very subjective and largely dependent on what you, the author, want.

One of the first aspects to look into is what other authors in your genre wear to their headshots. Take some time to browse the internet and look at different author websites, social media platforms, and headshots on their books. You can also browse your local bookstore. 

As you look through different headshots, take note of what you like as well as what does not fit into your genre. The more you learn about headshots, whether it is things that you like or things that you don’t like, the more prepared you will be when it’s time to take your own.

Do you gravitate to headshots where the authors are smiling? Do you find yourself drawn to headshots with a blank background? What about what the authors are wearing? Do the authors in your genre wear more neutrals or more colored clothing? 

Take all of this into consideration as you decide what to wear.

  • If you write more professionally, consider wearing a collared shirt or a suit. Dress like a business professional.
  • If you write for children, consider wearing clothing that reflects this. Think of fun colors or jewelry. Definitely have a big smile! 
  • If you write fantasy, consider presenting yourself in a way that reflects the characters you write about. Maybe you wear a bit more makeup or clothing that reflects the fashion choice of a specific character.

Have fun with it!

Author photo mistakes to avoid.

There are several author headshot mistakes that can be easily avoided simply by preparing in advance.

First, avoid sending conflicting messages to your readership. Your headshot allows you to connect with your audience and gives you an advantage in garnering publicity. Avoid conflicting messages about who you are as a personality, and who you are as a writer. The essence of who you are as a brand should be captured in your photos.

Second, avoid letting the camera intimidate you. As mentioned above, who you are should be captured in your photos. While you may not be used to being in front of a camera, who you are is more than a camera-shy writer. You are a creative, so let this be shown in your photos. 

A great way to avoid this mistake is by researching the photographer you want to hire and making sure you are comfortable with them as a person, as well as confident in their photography style. Look through their previous galleries before hiring them, and be clear with what you want in your headshots. 

Third, avoid distracting backgrounds. While a professional photographer will have a general idea of what will be helpful for you, you are the author and know what is best for your story. No matter what genre you write, you should be the central focus of your headshot. For instance, if you choose to take your headshots in nature, you may want to ask the photographer if he or she can blur the background to ensure you are the focal point. 

Avoid dating your headshot by wearing a seasonal trend or overplaying the creativity of your photo. Your headshot should reflect who you are as a writer, but be professional. 

(Make sure the headshot you use is current. An out-of-date headshot will downplay your credibility as a writer.)

Avoid glaring sunlight and harsh shadows. Again, the photographer you hire will help with this, but it is beneficial to be aware of locations, lighting, and the general time of day that will work best. If you choose to take your headshots inside or in a studio, make sure your face is well lit.

Avoid a negative first impression. Your author headshot very well could be your first face-to-face encounter with your readership. It will be a one-sided introduction, so you want to make a great first impression. If you have a specific image you want to portray to your audience, give yourself the time to do so before your scheduled session. 

This is not about putting on a facade and pretending to be someone you are not, but putting your best foot forward and respecting your reader. If you’re unsure what this means for you specifically, imagine preparing for your book signing. What would you wear and how would you present yourself? Take this into consideration as you prepare for your headshot session. 

Avoid comparison. Your author headshot is your author headshot. While it can be helpful to browse through other authors’ headshots to get inspiration and general ideas of what you would like to include in your headshot, avoid the comparison trap. Everyone is unique in their own way and everyone’s best looks different. Avoid comparing your headshot to another author’s. 

Remember, as you grow and change as a writer, your ideal for your headshot will change as well.  If this is your first time taking headshots, and you compare yours to a New York Times bestsellers, chances are the two will look a little bit different. 

Enjoy the stage you are in. Hire the right photographer for you, make sure you get several photos to choose from, and use the one that best portrays you and your writing. 

As you prepare…

It’s not every day you get the opportunity to take author headshots. Look back on the long road you took to get here. You had to have an idea, you had to draft the idea, you had to edit the idea, and now it’s time to design and publish your book. This is a special journey. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of getting headshots. 

As you prepare for your session, ask yourself a few final questions:

  • Did I hire a professional photographer? 
  • Did I choose a good location? 
  • Do I look my best? 
  • Am I enjoying it?

Then relax and let the photographer do his or her job. 

Enjoy the process just as you enjoy writing. All of this goes together to create a standout masterpiece that has the potential to impact readers for years to come. 

You’re prepared. You did your research. Now it’s time to have fun with it. Be yourself. Focus on what you want to communicate, and enjoy! 

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.

SPS 165: How To Write A Great Biography / Memoir with Phil Rosenkrantz

Dr. Phil Rosenkranz is an educator, author, outdoor enthusiast, and a member of Self Publishing School. He holds degrees from Kettering University (BSME), Purdue University (MSIA), University of California Riverside (MS), and Pepperdine University (Ed.D). His book is a beautiful tribute to his uncle and a gift of closure for his family. His Uncle Dave was a paratrooper that went missing during World War II. We get to learn all about Phil’s journey to learning Uncle Dave’s story and how he uncovered what had been hidden for decades, clue by clue. It even led to finally uncovering the mystery of his disappearance and creating closure for their family. 

Phil gives us a glimpse into the clues and connections that helped uncover his uncle’s story. He also shares his unique non-linear book writing process. He shares how input from a developing editor was so valuable and how he was able to utilize coaching and systems from Self Publishing School. We also learn a unique marketing tactic that Phil has been using and what he would do differently if starting over again. He says that while focusing on the writing, he should have had a broader approach and put early emphasis on marketing and promotion. This is a fascinating conversation, and it’s full of helpful advice for memoir writers, fiction writers, and everyone who wants to create a fantastic piece of work. 

P.S. Join Phil and grab a ticket and join us at Author Advantage Live before ticket prices go up: AuthorAdvantageLive.com

Show Highlights

  • [01:56] Phil’s uncle was a paratrooper in World War II. He went missing, and no one knew what happened to him. Phil’s grandmother was convinced that he would come home. She died in 1960. 
  • [03:10] Phil saw Saving Private Ryan, and there were parallels with his uncle. Phil started doing online searches and found out his uncle was missing in the Netherlands. Phil made a website about his uncle and sent the link to family. He ended up getting letters and all kinds of other stuff from relatives about his uncle. 
  • [05:52] Turns out that the son of one of his uncle’s best friends contacted him. He then found eyewitness veterans who knew his uncle. 
  • [06:49] Phil has now been to the Netherlands four times and has met researchers who are also looking for his uncle. A big part of Phil’s book is about the lack of closure for his family on what happened to his uncle. 
  • [07:39] Getting closure in the book was a true joy for Phil.
  • [08:57] Phil wrote a first draft and followed the first edition of Published
  • [10:19] His editor told him he needed back matter, a reference, a timeline, an index, and more.
  • [10:58] He also needed to add the letters to the book. 
  • [11:45] It’s important to get your audience interested in the main character early on.
  • [14:29] When time to publish rolled around, Phil joined the Self Publishing School. Having coaching sessions, step-by-steps, and all of the other information was really helpful.
  • [15:27] The toughest part of the writing process was making sure the book read well with the beta readers. They had good suggestions. His concept map was really helpful. He would use his phone and send thoughts about ideas in his map.
  • [18:37] A company called 100 Covers did an awesome job for Phil’s book.
  • [19:31] He did a stealth launch, giving free to his launch team and other interested people. 750 people downloaded it. After getting 100 reviews, it was easier to sell the book.
  • [20:56] He’s going to have a relaunch with promotions. 
  • [21:36] Phil asked for reviews whenever he could. 
  • [22:54] He’s also done a lot of podcasts and Zoom presentations.
  • [24:59] The group coaching calls were the most helpful part about working with Self Publishing School for Phil. 
  • [26:57] Phil shares how he loved the presentations and meeting everyone at Author Advantage Live.
  • [28:54] Phil’s advice is to learn marketing a lot earlier. The technology of publishing was also a lot of stuff to learn. Get a head start. 

Links and Resources

Why A Book is the Best Business Card

Why A Book is the Best Business Card

Why A Book is the Best Business Card

When it comes to standing out online, few things beat the authority-building of a published book. We’ll explain why a book is the best business card and why you should consider writing one.

Simply put, when you write a book about a topic, you immediately stand out.

Imagine you just met someone at a party. They are passionate about growing indoor plants and talk your ear off about them.

Then, they subtly mention that they wrote a book on growing indoor plants.

Wouldn’t you immediately assume they’re an expert on this since they wrote a book on it? And even though you’re not a botanist yourself, the fact they wrote a book makes you suddenly more interested in what they have to say.

That’s the power of a book. That’s why there is the old saying of, “They wrote the book on it!

Not only will a book establish your authority, but it’s a great way to carve out your expertise in an industry. It’s also a great way to create a memorable impression.

We’ll go over the best reasons you should write a book and how it can improve your reputation as an expert.

Objection 1: Won’t writing a book take a long time?

When it comes to writing books, most people imagine months or years of typing away at a computer.

Although it’s possible for a book to take a long time, you don’t always have to stretch it out for that long.

If you want to write a book in a short amount of time, consider writing a book under 100 pages. That way, you can knock it out in a shorter amount of time than a book that is over 300+ pages.

If you have the personal self-discipline to sit down regularly and write, you will get it done.

For those that need the extra accountability, there are a ton of writing retreats, groups, and courses that can help guide you on your journey to writing a book.

  • You might be able to find a local writing group where you simply meet with fellow writers to all keep yourself accountable.
  • There are courses in everything from helping you create an outline, to writing, to getting your manuscript in front of publishers with a book proposal.
  • There are writing conferences where you can meet and network with other writers and publishers.
  • Here at Self-Publishing School, we offer courses, community, and coaching to help you self publish on your own. We now offer done-for-you book production services as well. To find out more and talk to a publishing strategist on our team, click here.

One other option for getting your book written is hiring a ghostwriter. You can talk with them, go through all of your thoughts, and help guide them to write your book. Although you’ll need to pay the writer, it can save you hours of time from having to write it all out yourself.*

*In these arrangements, the biggest challenge is usually trying to maintain the voice of the writer and the integrity of the thoughts, aka the ghostwriter doesn’t take you, the expert, out of the manuscript. For this reason, we would only recommend a ghostwriter in specific cases, for specific people.

But as you can tell from the bulleted lists above, there are plenty of options at your disposal to help you get your book written and done, quickly.

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Objection 2: But I have hundreds of business cards I hand out everywhere I go. Isn’t that enough?

These days, no, it’s not enough.

If you hand someone a small business card with all of your information on it, they’re likely to put it away and forget about it immediately.

However, if you hand someone a book, they might take it home with them and actually read it.

On top of that, they might even love your book and recommend it to people in their immediate circle or share it on social media.

It’s memorable and will stand out far above just a regular business card.

With a card, they just know your name and contact info. With a book, they can get to know your values, how you think, what you’re passionate about, and ultimately, find ways in which they relate to you.

A book can become your new business card.

Why A Book is the Best Business Card, AKA The Benefits

#1- A Book Demonstrates Credibility

When you write a book, it shows your authority on a subject and is the best way to demonstrate your knowledge.

Books take quite a bit of effort, focus, and commitment. Doing so shows the world that you took the time to put all of your thoughts in one place, took the time to edit that work, and publish it for the world to read.

When you put in that effort, it’s one of the best things you can do for your reputation and career.

For example, if you were debating hiring two different acting coaches, but you learn that one of them wrote a book on acting techniques, wouldn’t they seem more credible?

Yes, they would. Which is exactly why you should write one.

#2- A Book Attracts Attention

Not only can a book demonstrate your credibility, it can also be an incredible way to attract people to your work.

Depending on where you choose to share and publish your book, people might stumble upon it and become interested in your work.

That might mean you can be invited on podcasts, speak at conferences, land more clients, or anything else you might want to do with your career.

If you have your book on Google, Amazon, and other publishing sites, you also have the chance of showing up in search results.

When people search for books in your industry, they can stumble across your book which can lead them to more of your work online. It automatically establishes your authority and demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about.

It can also become a great resource for people in your industry to reference in their own work.

#3- A Book Puts Your Expertise in One Spot

There’s a reason almost every celebrity and successful person has a book published: it’s a summary of their expertise and experiences.

Writing a book is no small task and being able to put all of your thoughts, memories, failures, memories, or other ideas, into one central home is a great place to summarize your knowledge.

Having a book is even better than handing someone a resume because it’s a much better summary of your expertise.

Whether you are trying to get a job, get more press, or summarize your knowledge in one central place, a book is a great way to make that happen.

#4- A Book Can Turn Into Its Own Business

While this article has mostly been focused on using a book as a business card, you should also know the possibilities of having that book grow your own business.

Private practice dentists, chiropractors, and other health care professionals have been able to grow their practices through their book. They’ve landed more press, more speaking engagements, and book sales as a result. More importantly, they’ve helped improve the health and well-being of more people.

A book leads to book sales, which leads to more clients, which leads to more health and well-being of more people. You can see why it makes sense to have a book with your name on it.

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Perhaps, by now, you’re convinced that writing a book would be better than handing out an old fashioned business card.

So what’s next?

Should you self publish or get a traditional publisher?

There are a lot of pros and cons on both sides of the equation, publishing on your own or going with a traditional publisher.

While we have articles on how to self publish and more in-depth publishing guides, there are a few things you’ll need to know.

Self-publishing: The pros and cons

  • Pros: In 100% control of your book (updates, revisions, adding reader magnets, etc)
  • Pros: You’re in control of where your book is available to buy, the price, and promos
  • Pros: You can dictate the marketing plan and allocate budgets as you see fit
  • Pros: With our programs, you keep 100% of the royalties
  • Cons: You don’t often have the marketing reach a traditional publisher has
  • Cons: It’s harder to get your book in stores

Traditional publishing: The pros and cons

  • Pros: Demonstrates authority by having a publishing company back your book
  • Pros: The publisher takes care of your editing, marketing, etc
  • Pros: Better distribution channels
  • Cons: You have less control over the final published version
  • Cons: You make less in royalties, as other entities get a piece of the pie
  • Cons: You might need a lawyer or professional to look over your contract since they can be complicated

Next Steps

If you’re ready to start writing your book, check out this free resource below and get started today. The best time to self-publish a book was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.

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Plot-Driven vs Character-Driven Stories [7 Examples Included]

Plot-Driven vs Character-Driven Stories [7 Examples Included]

All stories have a driving force—something that moves it along and makes the story actually “happen.” While every story will have a unique drive, most stories can be broken into two categories: Plot-driven vs Character-driven.

But what’s the difference, and which one should we use to write our own stories?

What is a character-driven book?

When we describe a book as “character-driven,” we mean the book centers on the characters, their internal world, their relationships, and the ultimate transformation they experience by the end of the story.

In a plot-driven story, the focus is more on the things a character deals with, while a character-driven story focuses on why the character deals with those things in the way they do.

In a plot-driven story, a character is used to view the plot. In a character-driven story, the plot is used to develop the character.

A character-driven book almost always follows a dynamic character. In order to make a lighter plot interesting, we really need to dive into creating a compelling and driven main character. Their arc is what makes the story.

How do I write a character-driven story?

The goal of a character driven story should be to create a deep and rich internal world for your main character.

  • One thing they need is a backstory. Your reader needs context to understand your character, where they’re coming from, and where they’re trying to go. A strong backstory provides important building blocks for your character driven story.
  • In every story, we have conflict, but in a character-driven story, the internal conflict becomes more important. Outside of the external forces working against the character, how are they struggling with themselves? The point of a character-driven story is the transformation, or arc, of that character. See our article on Rising Action.
  • Along with internal conflict, your character needs a strong voice and perspective. Why are they our main character? What makes them and their struggle unique? See this article on Voice in Writing.
  • Make your character complex. We need to see the good, the bad, and the ugly about the characters who drive the story. They should have contradicting traits, big and small flaws, and circumstances they just can’t overcome on their first try. A perfect character is a boring character. S our article on Character Development.
  • Perhaps the most important piece of advice for a character-driven story is: Make them active. A strong leading character will respond to their environment. How do they react to circumstances, and how do those choices change them?

Overall, focus on the current state of your characters, their thoughts and emotions, how they internalize their world and the things that happen to them, and how they react to the events of the story.

Rather than the focus being on the story’s events, we should focus on how the character reacts to those events, then ultimately how they drive the character to change by the end of it.

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

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

Where should we send it?

What is a plot-driven book?

A plot-driven book centers on events. These are usually genre novels with exciting scenes and a quickly moving story. These are the “page turners.” Horror, zombies, action-adventure, westerns, sci-fi, fantasies, and similar genres are typically driven by plot.

These stories should still have well-developed, intriguing characters, but you’ll see a lot less depth to their personalities, arcs, and motivations. The choices your characters make and the results of those choices are reflective more of plot progression than they are of character development. It’s less of a question of why something is happening and more of what is happening?

Character development can, and should, be an important part of a plot-driven book, but it’s usually a subplot and not the main focus.

A plot-driven book typically has the end in sight. It’s a story of how these characters get from point A to the clear point B. A character-driven story beats won’t be so clearly cut.

How do I write a plot-driven story?

When a story is driven by plot, you need stuff happening. Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Focus on events. Your character arcs are secondary to the actual plot beats of your story. See our article on How to Write a Novel.
  • Plan your plot. It’s harder to wing, or “pants”, a plot-driven story, because the event beats are the whole point of the story. Plotting out your book ahead of time allows you to plan the arc of the narrative, pace it properly, and work in twists. See our article on Pantsers vs. Plotters.
  • While planning your story, make sure there are real, active stakes. The characters should stand to lose it all if they don’t succeed.
  • That said, there should be a clear causality. Plot-driven books need to have a real cause-and-effect structure, not just a series of unrelated events.

The story should progress to the point of climax, where all of the tension building pays off in a significant way.

Focus on the intricacies of the plot and events of the story, as well as the ultimate goal they’re building up to.

Do readers prefer plot-driven vs character-driven stories?

Both!

Readers who prefer character-driven stories typically enjoy the enhanced view of the character’s inner world. Characters in these types of stories are much more fleshed out, and thus more relatable for real people. It’s usually easier to connect with characters who are fully developed.

Some readers prefer plot-driven stories, which you’ll see more in genre fiction. Your average zombie novel is going to be about, you guessed it, zombies. Sci-fi, fantasy, and other genres with high concept stories and settings will often favor plot-driven stories over character-driven stories. Of course, that doesn’t always have to be the case, but it’s often true.

A plot-driven story has a certain reliability and certain expectations.

That’s also why books like zombie novels often have many POV characters, rather than just one or two. It’s more about seeing the world and subplots rather than focusing on one person.

Think of Game of Thrones. It’s a wonderful series that tells many stories, but how relatable do you find those characters? They’re certainly interesting, but they’re used more as vessels for the story to be told through rather than characters with rich inner workings that the reader can become intimately familiar with.

Very few books can balance being equally character-driven and plot-driven in the same story. The only book that comes to mind that might be equally driven by the character and by the plot is I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. We’re in a close-perspective with only one character, who we grow to know very intimately, and whose inner workings and character arc are a big focus of the book.

But the only reason there’s a story is because of the very strange thing happening to the character. Without the plot, there would be no story, and without the character, that particular plot wouldn’t matter. I Am The Messenger is a strong example of a book that is balanced and driven by both plot and character.

Now let’s look at examples of books that lean one way or the other.

Examples of character driven books

Character-driven books are typically considered the “literary” genre. Most of the classics are driven by their characters, and most have little plot otherwise.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening closely follows the protagonist, Edna, as she struggles with her own identity and the social expectations foisted on her as a woman living in the late 19th century. This novel is almost entirely learning about Edna’s inner workings and watching her character struggle and change. The story is driven by Edna’s life and perspective.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is much the same as The Awakening, following Lizzie through her daily life with the typical struggles a clever woman of her time would go through. If the same story happened from her sister, Kitty’s, perspective, the story wouldn’t exist. It’s specifically Lizzie’s experience and personal changes that makes the story.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Animal is a fictional memoir from the perspective of a woman who has faced nothing but hardships in her life. It’s essentially a letter to her child, recounting her life in excruciating detail. There’s nearly no plot—just a series of events from this person’s life, her reaction to the events in the moment, and her reflection on it afterward. It’s a dark and gripping tale that completely hinges on the narrator and how she changes by the end of the story.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s follows an exterior view of the complex and iconic Holly Golightly. The story is about her complexities and contradictions, by way of her neighbor’s (the narrator’s) understanding of her. This book is a strong example of a story that’s completely character-driven.

Examples of plot driven books

Plot-driven stories are usually considered “genre” fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, mysteries, horror, and other higher concept genres are often plot-driven. That doesn’t mean the stories don’t have strong and interesting characters—the story simply isn’t propelled by the characters.

The Poppy War by RF Kuang

This story follows a strong and wonderfully unique character, but it is still driven by the plot of the story. Without the plot, the character would not exist as she does. If there were no Poppy War, there’d be no The Poppy War.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park is plot-driven. The actions and disasters of the plot are what drive the story forward. While our characters do undergo changes, the changes are responses to the plot, not the thing driving the story forward. A fun, dynamic cast of characters doesn’t mean a story isn’t plot-driven.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This series has some of my favorite characters ever written. They’re complex and interesting, realistic and exciting, and their arcs are well-developed. However—without the Hunger Games, there would be no The Hunger Games. The circumstances of the plot undoubtedly drive this story, even with Katniss and the supporting cast being compelling and active characters.

Should my book be character-driven or plot-driven?

Your goals will dictate if your book is driven by its characters or driven by the plot. Knowing which force should drive individual stories becomes easier with intentional reading. Think of your favorite books.

Are they driven by plot or character? Can you express how and why the story is driven by that force? Understanding the types of stories better served by which method will help you understand which one should drive your own.

Whichever driving force you choose, there should still be a balance. Writing a plot-driven story doesn’t mean you can neglect your characters, and vice versa.

While some readers have preferences for character or plot-driven stories, a well-written story should appeal to both groups.

As always, there are no right or wrong ways to write a book! Experiment with different forms of writing until you find what suits the story itself, as well as your personal style.

Happy writing!

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

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

Where should we send it?
What are Romance Tropes, and Should I Use Them? [15+ Examples]

What are Romance Tropes, and Should I Use Them? [15+ Examples]

You might hear “literary trope” and flinch, because tropes are bad, right?

Nope!

Or at least not in every case.

A literary trope is just a common thread that you’ll see in certain genres and subgenres of fiction. So tropes are usually good, actually.

In fact, if you write for a certain literary niche and neglect to include the expected tropes, you’ll likely get some nasty reviews about it.

Let’s talk about the genre where tropes are the most important for readers: Romance.

What is a romance trope?

A “trope” refers to a theme, image, character, or plot element that has been used many times in literature.

A romance trope can be a plot, character, or situational trope that you commonly find in romance novels. We’ll look at lots of examples in a minute, but let’s talk about about how and when to use them first.

Should you write with romance tropes?

You should absolutely write with romance tropes! Particularly in romance genres, tropes are what sell. There’s only one bed, enemies to lovers, fake dating, forbidden romance, and other tropes are highly sought after by romance readers. Many people simply search these terms to find their next read.

Tropes can go in and out of style. Some writers will try to ride the waves of trends by writing to market, which means they keep a finger on the pulse and write whatever popular thing to quickly publish and get in on the action.

If the thought of writing and publishing that quickly freaks you out, no worries! Plenty of authors find success writing whatever interests them. After all, someone has to start the trends, right? 😉

And if you know you want to write romance, but aren’t quite sure where to start, check out this article for some romance writing prompts.

How to write with romance tropes

While tropes aren’t necessarily bad, there are a few things to keep in mind while writing with romance tropes. Here are questions you might ask yourself before choosing your tropes.

1. Is the trope problematic?

Since a “trope” is simply a popular format of something in literature, that means many of them are influenced by internalized bias and harmful stereotypes. Make sure the tropes you write with aren’t based in stereotypes or marginalizing a group of people.

Some examples of problematic tropes in romance could be romanticizing abusive behavior, putting a marginalized character in a stereotypical role, and the “bury your gays” trope.

If you’re worried that your story might be offensive, a sensitivity reader could help you out.

2. Is the trope too tired?

While tropes are popular by nature, sometimes one has been done to death. If readers are becoming tired of a particular trope, you might shelf that project until it loops back into popularity in a few years, as they typically will.

3. Is the trope currently popular?

While not every author strives to “write to market,” you should still do a little research on tropes to see what readers are interested in right now.

4. How can you give it a twist?

Can you bring a fresh perspective to a beloved trope? Even a small tweak can bring new life to a traditional trope.

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

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

Where should we send it?

Examples of romance tropes

Here are fifteen examples of popular tropes you’ll often see in romance novels. Have you written any of these yourself?

1. Fake Dating

The “secret dating” trope was widely popularized in fanfiction, where writers put their favorite characters in a situation where they pretend to be together (for example, someone needs a date to a wedding so their family will get off their back about being single), then it typically becomes less of an act as the story progresses.

2. Small Town Romance

This is a popular trope in Lifetime and Hallmark films, where one character usually comes to town from a big city and, quite reluctantly, grows to love the town and a particular citizen of it.

3. Secret Royalty

A good example of the secret royalty trope is The Prince and Me, where a college girl falls in love with a classmate before realizing he’s royalty.

4. Forbidden Love

Romeo and Juliet.

5. Second Chance

When a couple are thrown into each other’s paths sometime after their failed attempt at a relationship. This is popular with mature readers, as it’s an opportunity to bring a new and exciting romance to older characters.

6. Fish Out of Water

When a romantic lead finds themselves in an unfamiliar, daunting situation that they don’t feel prepared for. Think of a kid swapping high schools for their senior year.

7. Forced Proximity

When our couple has no choice but to be close to each other. Usually we see this trope with a pairing who aren’t fond of one another, but sometimes it’s the meet-cute scene! Set It Up (2018) has two characters trapped in an elevator, and that’s the first time they interact with one another.

8. Surprise Parenthood

When there’s an unplanned pregnancy, a child reveal, or by some other venue. For example, Life as We Know It (2010) is the story of two people being forced to co-parent a child after the sudden death of their best friends. By the end, they’re in love.

9. Rags To Riches

A popular example of this trope is the hit-or-miss Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. Anastasia Steele is minding her business as a grad student in a shared apartment when she meets billionaire Christian Grey, who pulls her into a life of wealth.

This trope is a good example of the “wish fulfillment” genre, where a moderately bland character has unbelievable luck. The unremarkable main character is important for this genre, allowing readers to “insert” themselves into the story. If the main character is too unique or strange, the self-insertion reading experience is less achievable.

10. There’s Only One Bed

This is another trope popularized in fanfiction. It’s exactly how it sounds—the romantic pairing has to share a bed. Whether it’s from a hotel reservation mixup on a business trip with a colleague, or perhaps an unfortunate rooming situation in a parent’s house (this happens often in Fake Dating stories), the result has to be the pair sharing a bed outside of their own volition.

11. Amnesia

When one part of a couple suffers amnesia. It could be a character who forgets their spouse, forcing the couple to reaffirm their love for one another. Or it could have more hijinx, like in the romcom While You Were Sleeping (1995), where a nurse misunderstands Sandra Bullock’s profession of love to an unconscious stranger and assumes they’re engaged. The character gets swept up in a lie while the man is in a coma, because his family enthusiastically welcomes her and she doesn’t have a family of her own.

This romcom diverts expectations by (SPOILERS) having her fall in love with the man’s brother instead.

12. Coming Home

Again, think of Hallmark movies for this one. This trope is typically when a character returns to their small hometown after a few years of living in a big city, only to fall in love with a folksy local.

13. Rescue

The rescue trope is a great way to jump right into a romance. After all, if someone hot saves your life, you’re gonna pay attention.

In Titanic (1997), Jack saves Rose from attempted suicide. After that event, they fall in love, and at the end of the film (SPOILERS, for anyone who has somehow never watched Titanic), an elderly Rose says that Jack saved her in every way a person could be saved, then we all sobbed.

14. Workplace Romance

I won’t waste your time with an example when we’re all already thinking of Pam and Jim.

15. Out Of Your League

The standard format for this trope is a dweeby, but loveable, guy falling in love with an impossibly beautiful, accomplished, and kickass lady. This trope is usually accompanied by unbridled pining and Rocky-style montage sequences where the man wins her affection.

This is a great opportunity to turn a trope on its head, since it’s a pretty tired one. Simply swapping roles (dweeby woman falls for accomplished, attractive man) or diversifying the cast (make it gay!) can bring a fresh take to this classic trope.

Examples of relationship tropes

Here are nine more trope examples, specifically about romantic relationships between characters.

1. Love Triangle

When he likes her, she likes him, and he likes the other him. Or they both like her! The love triangle trope is when there are three love interests, but they’re not all interested in each other. A popular example of the love triangle is the Twilight trio of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Jacob and Edward both want Bella, but Bella only wants Edward.

2. Soul Mates

When the lead couple are connected by fate or another mystical source of assertion.

3. Enemies-to-Lovers

The arc of a pairing going from enemies to eventual lovers. A strong example of this trope is one of my favorite books, This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Red and Blue are soldiers on opposite sides of a war, but they bond through some of the wildest and weirdest pining you’ve ever read.

4. Friends-to-Lovers

A pair of best friends end up together. In 13 Going on 30 (2004), the main character travels to the future and realizes she hates the way her life turned out, especially because she lost touch with her childhood best friend. When she goes back to the present, she connects with him in a way she never had before, and they end up married.

5. Sunshine and Grumpy

When one part of the pair is optimistic and sweet, and the other is a cloudy grumpy pants. Mermista and Seahawk vibes.

6. Childhood Friends

Mary’s Song (Oh My My My) by Taylor Swift is a shining example of this trope. A pair of kids who played together as children grow up to fall in love. The story is told from the perspective of an elderly woman, as many of the best Taylor Swift songs are.

7. Power Couple

The power couple trope is when all parties in a romantic relationship are killing it. The parents from the Spy Kids franchise immediately come to mind.

8. In Disguise

When one or all members of a romantic entanglement are in disguise from the others. For example, Mary-Jane and Peter Parker in Spider-Man (2002). Mary-Jane has feelings for both Peter as himself, as well as for Spider-man, not realizing they’re the same person.

9. Opposites Attract

This trope has the possibility of being very cute or very cringe. Balancing the concept of “opposites” in a relationship, while also making their dynamic relatable, likable, and affectionate is something not every writer can pull off.

One of my favorite examples of an “opposites attract” couple is Elphaba and Fiyero in the musical, Wicked. Elphaba is a studious, serious girl who is weighed heavily by responsibilities. Fiyero is the party boy, “dancing through life” on his good looks, charm, and generational wealth. He helps Elphaba cut loose and have a little fun, and Elphaba saves his life.

What’s your favorite romance trope?

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

Fast track your character development in HALF the time.

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

Where should we send it?

SPS 164: Turning Your Chronic Illness Into A Book That Impacts Millions Of Readers with Tori Geiger

Tori Joy Geiger is the survivor of a congenital heart defect (CHD). She’s also a business owner and the author of From Vulnerable to Victorious: Turning Your Chronic Illness Into Your Victory Story, a book about turning adversity like a chronic illness into something empowering and impactful. Tori is also a college athlete, course creator, and SPS member. It is inspiring to have Tori on the show to talk about her book and SPS experience. She also attended Author Advantage Live and joined our accelerator program. She launched her course before her book to build a super helpful platform for building her launch team.

We talk about everything from the stress of writing and launching a book to how telling a personal story can be therapeutic, but you also relive the trauma. Tori even ended up in the ER while writing her book. Tori also shares her method for getting ten podcast interviews in three weeks and how she used BombBomb videos to connect with people she reached out to and email subscribers. We learn about the writing process, what was the most difficult, and what Tori learned along the way. We also know how she overcame self-doubt and was able to ace those interviews and speaking engagements. She is super impressive, and you’re going to love this interview!

P.S. Join Tori and grab your ticket to Author Advantage Live before prices go up! AuthorAdvantageLive.com”

Show Highlights

  • [02:35] Tori heard about SPS through the Jon Gordon podcast. An author actually asked Tori who would want to read her story. She decided to build credibility before launching. She decided to go through SPS when she published. That was about a year ago.
  • [04:02] She had most of her book written, but SPS helped finalize everything. She also had a call with Aaron and went to Author Advantage Live.
  • [05:34] SPS really helped with mile markers, structure, and accountability. Batching and aiming for consistency were also very important. 
  • [06:56] Plan for your strengths and have grace and practice consistency. 
  • [07:53] If you’re writing about something painful, have a therapist and journal through the process. It’s okay to ask for help with difficult things. 
  • [09:30] Tips for writing a great book include engaging your avatar all the time. Ask questions and find what they are asking.
  • [11:03] It’s okay to be more concise and just consolidate to the core principles of your book.
  • [12:12] Having an editor that uses your voice is really important. 
  • [13:54] Tori had 200 people on her launch team and did a three tiered launch. She used BombBomb to send video email messages. 
  • She also took screenshots when she hit the bestseller’s list and sent those out for podcast interviews. Video messages helped land the podcasts. 
  • [16:03] She got ten podcast interviews in three weeks.
  • [17:06] The Nifty Fifty is in chapter 24 of Published. The three levels of engagement are on page 115.
  • [17:58] She also did some local speaking at heart foundation groups. She also did some Zoom meetups.
  • [21:19] Podcast interviews were one of the biggest things that helped sell books.
  • [22:17] The book also helped her launch her courses. She was able to market to the same audience, and it helped with her credibility.
  • [23:49] Tori also has a bookkeeping business, and she’s launching a course for that soon.
  • [24:17] One of the most useful things about the accelerator program was being around people who have the same goals.
  • [25:46] She is so proud of herself for putting herself out there in those podcast interviews. She overcame the voice of doubt in her head. The accountability of the team has also helped her grow. 
  • [28:38] Come to Author Advantage Live fully prepared to engage with others.

Links and Resources