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How to Market a Self-Published Book Like A Big Time Publisher

You may have decided to self-publish because of fewer barriers to entry, quicker turnaround time, higher royalty rates, or creative freedom. Whatever your goal and intent with self-publishing, we all have the same goal when we write a book: for people to read it.

To get your book in front of new eyes and grow your readership, putting thought and effort into marketing is imperative.

Let’s talk about:

  1. The difference between marketing a self-published book vs a traditionally published book
  2. Platforms to use for marketing a self-published book
  3. How to market your self-published book

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

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

What’s the difference between marketing self-published vs traditional?

If you’re not already a famous writer (which I’ll assume you aren’t yet, since you’re hanging with us at Self-Publishing School), the majority of marketing will be on your shoulders, even if you publish traditionally.

There are a few differences between the two publishing options, like a traditional publisher will handle the marketing aspects related to book design, such as cover and formatting. You might also get minimal guidance, but publishers don’t really have a reason to distribute their marketing budget to debut or unknown authors.

Traditional marketing will get you into retail positions with much less effort than self-publishing, so the seller will do marketing in-store with the way they position and emphasize your book’s presence.

Besides those little crumbs of marketing help, marketing your book will be mostly up to you, whether you choose self-publishing or traditional.

There are many free tools available to you for marketing, the most important of which being your author platform. Let’s look at a few different options and discuss ideas for marketing on them. I’ll use examples from my own platform.

Platforms to market a self-published book

You can convert essentially any online space to a place to market and promote your books. I’m going to cover the ones I use, like YouTube, Twitch, and my social media profiles.

Social media is one of the most accessible marketing tools for writers. Depending on your target demographic, different social media will be more effective. For example, if your target is readers over 40, you need to be on Facebook. If you write YA, you might be on something more modern, like TikTok. Let’s go over a few different social platforms and what type of content they’re good for.

YouTube

YouTube is where I have my biggest following and the most engagement, so it’s my biggest platform tool. I make writer-centric videos like live critiques, instructional pieces, and author progress vlogs–but even content not directly related to writing or my books brings views, which can translate into readers.

Just by creating content, I’m drawing in potential readers, but here are examples of specific things I do with YouTube to promote my books.

  • Book trailers. Book trailers don’t do much for drawing in new readers and viewers, but it’s a good way to let your current viewers know that you have a book out and to give them an idea of what to expect.
  • Plug your book at the beginning/end of videos. If you’re making compelling content, you’ll draw viewers, so that’s basically free ad space for you to mention anything you’d like people to pay attention to.
  • Promoting giveaways and promotions in your videos. This is just something else to mention at the beginning/end of your videos. If you’re hosting a giveaway, definitely announce it on all of your platforms!
  • Craft content that works as a hook for new viewers and as a selling point for your book. For example, I make instructional videos on short stories and flash fiction, then use my own from my published collections as examples. I also made a video about writing your own trauma (good clickbait) to talk about each of my stories in Little Birds by mentioning which ones contained real life elements. I have tons of others, and they don’t even seem like videos made to promote a book, because they are content people want to watch by itself.
  • Offering ARCs to booktubers. Even if you don’t have your own YouTube channel, it’s great to form relationships or get in contact with booktubers so you can offer them an advanced copy of your book for them to mention or review in their own video.

Twitch

Twitch and other streaming platforms are a great way to promote your books with live events! Readings, Q&As/AMAs, and other online events let you interact and engage with your audience, which leads to more sales. I held my Starlight release party on Twitch, where we played games, had a Q&A session, and did excerpt readings. That stream made a BIG difference in my release day sales.

For another example, I promoted Starlight with a campfire night on Halloween where my friends and I read stories from my collection as well as others. People who are interested in scary stories were interested in the event, and that funneled them toward my book!

Think about what events you can stream to draw in potential readers.

Facebook

Like I said, Facebook is great for a mature readership. That considered, Facebook users tend to respond well to engaging posts where they can share their opinion, and accessible content, like videos and pictures directly uploaded to your Facebook page.

Instagram

Even if you don’t have your own Instagram, you can reach out to Bookstagrammers the same way you can reach out to Booktubers to get them to post about your publications.

My posts on Instagram are selfies and cute pictures of my pets mixed in with promotional imagery, writing prompts, and other content that might grab new followers when paired with appropriate hashtags.

Twitter

Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and readers. Utilize hashtags to connect with people interested in your genre, or just writers in general. Some good tags to start with are #AmWriting #WritingCommunity #AmWriting[YourGenreHere]

TikTok and Snapchat

For a younger audience, use younger platforms. Snapchat allows you to produce content quicker to be consumed for only 24 hours–that might make it easier for some people or more daunting for others. That said, Snapchat is falling out of use due to other platforms utilizing its 24-hour “story” feature.

TikTok, on the other hand, is constantly growing. My friend and fellow self-published author, Rilie Kaye, makes TikToks about her books, writing, and life–she has a good-sized following and turns over decent sales from that content.

Mailing List

Mailing lists are a super strong tool for selling anything. Use your newsletters to let your audience know when you have a new release, a sale, or to ask for reviews. You can also include newsletter-exclusive content to make your readers feel special enough to check out your book! For example, I included a PDF of the first three stories from Starlight, including the illustrations, in my last newsletter.

Every platform operates in its own way, so figure out which ones are best for your target demographic and study up!

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

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More tips for marketing a self-published book

Now that we have an idea of what platforms we want to use to promote our books, let’s get into ten specific elements that are good to consider and incorporate into your marketing plans.

Establish Goals

To craft an effective marketing plan, you should set goals to know what you’re aiming for. A sales goal is the most obvious choice, but you can break those down into timelines. For example, I had a sales goal for my pre-sale launch, the pre-sale as a whole, release day, first week, first month, first three months, and first year. I also set Amazon review goals–first week, three months, and six months.

Setting specific goals, especially with time segments, makes it easier to track progress and hit milestones.

So first thing’s first: set achievable, realistic goals, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You can’t line up the shot until you know what you’re aiming for.

Street Teams

A street team is a group of volunteers to help promote your book. Street teams are important because an author saying their book is good just isn’t as effective as a group of other people saying it.

I recruit street teams from my audience. Once you have a book published, it’s much easier to find volunteers to help promote your next one. Street team tasks might include: leaving reviews, making Instagram aesthetics, calling their local bookstores to request your new publication, and finding podcast interviews for you.

Personally, I organize my street team in Discord with weekly or biweekly set tasks. For each task, I choose a random member from those who completed the task to award a prize (such as a free writing critique, a piece of merch from my shop, a video shoutout on my YouTube channel). But no matter how you organize or reward your street team, they’re helpful to have!

Advanced Readers

Advanced readers are people you send your book to (ARCs – advanced reader copies) for them to leave reviews before the book is released. This is another good reason to have a pre-sale period, because you can collect reviews from ARCs before the book is available for purchase. Most people are more likely to buy a book that already has reviews. Another important part of distributing ARCs is to strategically target certain content creators to get your book exposed to more audiences.

Pre-sale Period

Opening your book for pre-orders is very effective for marketing. It gives you time to build hype for the release, run giveaways, and collect sales for release day.

Before my books are available for pre-order, I plan my marketing–creating graphics, scheduling posts, organizing online events, preparing giveaways and giveaway items–everything. Having a plan ready ahead of time saves SO much grief, and it gives you the wiggle room to readjust if you see changes need to be made during the presale period.

The best thing to do during your pre-sale period is hosting a pre-order giveaway:

Giveaways

particularly my pre-sale giveaways, have really boosted my books’ sales. During my pre-sale period, I’ll have a form for people to attach proof of purchase, then I pick a random winner once a week. Gifts can range from writing critiques to merchandise, but the most important piece of a pre-sale giveaway is the consolation prize. Every person who preordered Starlight got an exclusive collection of three stories I cut from the book–no one else will ever see those stories. This was a great incentive and really spiked my pre-orders compared to the pre-orders for Little Birds, where I didn’t offer a consolation prize.

Guest Spots

On other people’s streams, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc., to talk about your book, writing, or something you’re an expert on. Putting yourself in front of other creators’ audiences is a super fast way to grow your own. You could also do a newsletter swap, where you mention a writer’s book in yours and they mention yours in theirs. Think about ways to collaborate with people and promote each other’s work.

Promotional materials like excerpts and graphics

Unless you want to fork money to a graphic designer, creating promotional images and social media posts is also your responsibility. A super easy and affordable option is Canva. Canva has the templates, tools, and support to help even a completely inexperienced designer make some killer promotional imagery.

Release Day Event

Even if you can’t host one in person, a release day event can boost your sales a ton! My pre-sale launch and my release day stream were both a major sales boost, especially the hype leading up to them. TIP: When you’ve got an event coming up, mention it at least a month in advance, then remind your audience with increasing frequency as it approaches. Get people stoked! Streams where I promote an event for a week have 5x the turnout of streams where I only promote the day before.

Conclusion

Get Reviews

Reviews are HUGE for continued sales and getting your book in front of new readers. Encourage your readers to leave reviews on Amazon, goodreads, or their blogs. Having ARC reviews up before release will help (mob mentality), but you should also routinely remind your audience and readership that reviews are helpful! Utilize your social media and newsletter to give ‘em a lil boop on the snoot every now and then to guide them toward writing reviews.

Don’t stop marketing after your book is out

After the pre-sale period, your marketing job’s not done. Little Birds dropped in 2018, and it’s still selling, because I’m still promoting it. When the audiobook released, we had trivia night and other events to promote it, I gave out free versions for review, and I pushed the sample on my website. When my second collection was available for preorder, I dropped the price on Little Birds and advertised it to draw in new readers to get hype for the second book’s release. The longer you market and the more ideas you generate to keep the hype up, the longer your book’s life will be, and the more money you’ll make!

Marketing a book doesn’t have to be a daunting, overwhelming task. If you plan ahead, strategize, and prepare your posts, content, and events ahead of time, all you have to do is implement and problem-solve along the way!

Book Promotion

Using Book Promotion Sites Effectively

As writers, we often spend weeks or months out of the year promoting our books, taking away from precious writing time. This is a necessary evil if you want to make it as an author, so that’s what we do. We build our websites, craft newsletters, post regularly to social media, host giveaways, attend events, and network–but what do you do when that isn’t enough?

Do you need an extra tool in your book selling kit? Maybe try a book promotion website!

What are Book Promotion Sites?

Book promotion sites do exactly what they say–promote books. Strategically using these sites can produce short bursts of higher sales, some for free and others for a fee. Book promotions can have an impactful place in your marketing strategy, if you take the time to do the research to find the right promotions for your books.

Most book promotion sites require that your ebook is free or cheap, and many have a screening process to ensure quality in their book recommendations. A screening process might sound inconvenient, but it’s better to have your book amongst carefully selected publications than to toss it into a pile of garbage. The more selective websites have better reputations with their readers–and often a much larger readership–making them more valuable for you to pursue.

Some promotion sites are site-based only, meaning they’ll list your book amongst others on their actual websites. Some send out daily or weekly newsletters to their mailing list with book deals. Some post to their social media accounts. And some do a mix of these and more. I’ve seen several websites that even write full reviews for selected books.

Book promotion sites want to recommend quality books to keep their readers’ trust, and they want bargain or free books to provide their readers value.

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

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How to Pitch to Book Promotion Sites

How you apply to have your book featured on a book promotion site will depend on the site, but there are some trends to expect when pitching.

  • Most sites will require your book to be listed as free or at a significant discount. Like I said, the value they provide for their readers is book deals–showing their audience books at full price isn’t adding anything that they couldn’t get at a bookstore.
  • Many sites–particularly the sites that charge a fee–will require your book to meet certain quality standards. This is again something to keep their readership’s trust, and it is to your benefit. If you pay to have your book listed amongst books that lack quality, that suggests your book also lacks quality.
  • Most sites have a no-tolerance policy for erotica, hateful content, or anything that might be controversial. Because of this, you will likely have to find erotica-specific book promotion sites if that is your genre.
  • Niche sites will require your book to fall into their specific categories or genres. While this might cut you off from using EVERY site, that isn’t something you’d want to do anyway. Finding your niche makes it much easier to rack up sales than if you were pitching your book to a general audience. Finding specific promotional sites for your genre can turn over more sales than a less specific site.

Each site will have a sign-up form with basic contact, author, and book information for you to fill in. Most promotion sites will at least want your basic author and book information, but every site is different. You should find a guideline on or near the submission page for each site.

Now let’s look at some options for book promotion sites. We’ve broken them into free and paid, but many of these sites offer both for different packages.

Free Book Promotion Sites

While many book promotion sites will charge a fee to promote your books, there are some free options. There aren’t monetary barriers to entry for these sites, but many of them have quality barriers. This is good! You’re better off submitting to websites that have some kind of screening process, because that means readers will take their including your book as a sign of endorsement.

Here are a few free book promotion sites to check out:

Frugal Freebies, like a lot of other book promotion sites, requires that your ebook is free before you post it. There are no restrictions other than that for Frugal Freebies. They will post your free ebook to their blog and other influencer pages.

Indie Book of the Day requires your ebook to be free, but they also screen for poorly done book covers, bad reviews (or no reviews), and other signs of a bad quality book. That makes Indie Book of the Day a little more reliable.

It’s Write Now has free and premium options (from $10 to $20). They require your book to be $3 or under, available on Kindle or Audible, with family friendly cover content.

Indies Unlimited has free and paid options for book promotion. You can list your free or 99 cent ebooks by submitting your book information and a download link. Erotica is not allowed on this site. 

Bookangel requires books to be under one euro for all readers, but it is free to submit.

Freebooksy requires your books to be free, but their affiliate Bargain Booksy accepts book submissions between 99 cents and $5. Both sites offer free submission, but you can also pay to guarantee a spot.

Patty’s eBookaroo stands out from a few other book promotion sites because they don’t require free books or huge discounts. As long as your book is 99 cents, whether that’s a special promotion or its regular price Patty wants to hear about it.

Paid Book Promotion Sites

As with anything, free alternatives to paid services are going to have drawbacks. If you’re looking for a more prestigious company, larger audiences, longer features, or other services, you might be ready to invest in book promotion. Here are a few sites that charge for their services–though many offer a free version as well.

BookBub is probably one of the most popular book promotion sites, and they have some of the stricter guidelines you’ll see. They want the best deals, error-free content, and for your book to be free or listed at a 50% discount. This chart can give you an idea of pricing, but it varies depending on genre and price of your book–the higher your book’s price, the higher BookBub’s promotional fees.

Bookdealio is a newsletter for ebook deals. They look for free books or big discounts, so if your book is always a low price, this one probably isn’t the best option for you. To run a 1-day promotion can cost between $70 and $100, depending on the category, with extra charges for social media posts. They also offer the option of a full-price book promotion at $250 for two weeks.

ManyBooks requires your book to be free or at a 50% discount, they have quality control, and they offer three tiers of promotion. For a spot in their daily newsletter, you’ll pay around $29. To publish your book to the site is $39, and to get a professional review and inclusion in their blog and monthly newsletter is $79. 

Armadillo eBooks has options for free and bargain priced ebooks. $25 will get your book promoted to 15 sites.

Goodkindles has options from $25 to $45 with promotional services like blog posts, social media content, newsletter spots, and more.

eReader News Today requires your books be free or on sale, available on amazon, and full-length (meaning no children’s, nonfiction, cookbooks, or other books under 125 pages). They look at reviews, cover design, and content to ensure quality and lack of controversial matter.

eBookBetty requires books to be priced at $2.99 or lower. They offer website feature and a newsletter spot at prices starting around $12.50.

ExciteSteam is a newsletter for romance novels with at least a 4-star review average. Their prices range from $15 to $75 for different newsletter packages.

For another romance newsletter option, check out Red Roses Romance. They obviously only accept books in the romance genre, and they only accept books that are free or listed for at least a 50% discount.

Robin Reads requires your books to be free or 99 cents, error-free, and a full-length book. Robin Reads stands out from the others by the information they give concerning their readership. You’ll find download rates broken down by genre and lots of other illuminating data on their website. Here’s their pricing breakdown:

eBook Deals Today charges between 5 and 10 dollars depending on which service you choose. They will post your book on their website and several social media accounts. Again, your book has to be free to be eligible.

LitRing offers much more involved services, like ad training and other marketing assistance. 

Their prices range from $25 to over $250.

Book Basset provides two promotional services for authors: Featured Authors Posts and Guaranteed Freebie Posts. A book for the Featured Authors Post must be priced below $2.99, and it runs for $21.99 per day. The Guaranteed Freebie Posts is for free ebooks, and the slots go for $8.99 per day.

BookDoggy offers a lot of bang for your buck with a newsletter spot, indefinite feature on their website, personalized Facebook posts, book trailer promo on their YouTube channel, and full book buy links for around $20.

BookAdrenaline is for my mystery and thriller writer pals. They want books in those genres only, free or at a 50% discount, and they require it to be professionally done and highly rated. An extra requirement for BookAdrenaline is that your book is a standalone or the first in a series–they will not promote sequels. If your book is accepted, the fee for feature will be between $15 and $30, depending on your book’s listing price. As with other services, the cheaper your book, the lower the fee.

IndieBookLounge has much fewer barriers to entry than some of the others we’ve looked at, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good because maybe your book has a higher chance of being featured, but not so great because that means the reputation of the site will naturally be lower than the more selective ones. Prices here are between $4 and $20.

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How To Effectively Market A Book in 2021

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What do you think? Are book promotion sites for you? Do any of these stand out as a good fit for you and your books? Check them out! See their guidelines, restrictions, and success rates, then give it a shot! It might be just what your book sales have been waiting for.

how to edit a book

How to Edit a Book: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Learning how to edit a book is hard.

It just is, and editing your own stuff is even harder. It’s your baby, and it’s hard to cut and change the thing you’ve spent so long laboring over.

The fact that writing and publishing a book successfully is so important to you can make this even more difficult.

But your baby has to grow up.

That means growing pains, the terrible twos where nothing makes sense, and an angsty teenage phase where the words themselves rebel against you and you regret that drunken night so long ago when you thought you had the next great novel idea…

Thankfully, we have a step-by-step guide to make it a lot less painful.

Learn How to Self-Edit & What You Need to Hire a Pro Editor

Book Editing Checklist

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!

Here are the steps for how to edit a book:

  1. Finetune your book editing goals
  2. Break it up to edit
  3. Redefine the point of the book
  4. Dig into your characters
  5. How to edit chapters
  6. Editing for pacing
  7. Line editing your book
  8. Common book editing mistakes to avoid
  9. Next steps for editing your book

How to Edit a Book in Full

It’s not fun, but in the end, learning how to edit a book is necessary for your writing to grow into an adult capable of standing on its own.

You might want to just hand off your book to an editor and be done with it, and that still may be a good idea as a final step, but there are decisions that no editor can make for you. 

Self-editing isn’t about just fixing some typos, it’s about turning a mess of ideas into a publishable book, and unless your editor can read your mind, it won’t be the same unless you self-edit first.

[Pssst! If you want to see some of our Students’ books, check out the SPS Library!]

#1 – Define Your Book Editing Goal

Your goal should always be for your writing to be clean, concise, and easily understood. 

Just because you can write a grammatically correct sentence that goes on for 3 pages won’t make people want to read your book.

In fact, it will probably send them looking for anything else to do. 

If your goal is to impress people with your technical skill and ability to write long beautiful sentences that barely make sense, then you’re not writing a book, you’re creating an art piece using a book as a medium. That’s fine if that’s your goal, but that’s not what we’re doing here.

If you want the story to be the art, not the words themselves, then clarity should be your number one priority.

Where do you begin? At the beginning of course.

It doesn’t really matter where you start, but the beginning is never a bad choice. You generally want to start with the big picture and work your way down to the small stuff. 

Your focus should be on story, character and flow first, then grammar and exact words later.

Think of editing like woodworking. The craftsman goes over their piece hundreds of times. First, they cut out the basic shape, then they shape it, add in the fine details, and finally come through with finer and finer sandpaper until they’re polishing up a beautifully finished work.

It’s the same thing with a book. 

#2 – Break Your Book Up in Sections to Edit

If you’re starting at the beginning of a long book it can be helpful to break it up into manageable chunks. Split it into four or five pieces that you can edit one at a time.

A great way to do this is to break it up by Act, if you’re using a three-act story structure.

If you do this you need to be careful that you pay attention to the flow, and that all the pieces that you edited separately still fit together in the end.  

One of your final edits should always be a top to bottom read through for flow, and when editing in chunks, this step is even more important.

#3 – Step Back and Define the Point of Your Book

I said we start at the beginning, but that’s not entirely true. Not yet. First, we need to step back from the manuscript entirely.

Before you put red pen to virgin paper, you need to know what your book is about. 

I know what my book is about, I wrote the fool thing,” I hear you shout at your screen. 

Too often though, I find that it is remarkably easy to finish a piece and not really know what the main point is. We can become so bogged down with all the side plots and tangents that we forget what’s vital to the story. 

What is the story really about if you trim all the fat? What is necessary to tell the story, and what isn’t?

You want a sleek, streamlined story. Not a bloated one, that’s so full of side plots that it’s impossible to tell what the main one is.

How do we know what the point of our book really is?

Write a short synopsis. Anywhere from 500-2000 words. Don’t just write one though. Write several synopses explaining it in different ways, from different points of view and perspectives. This will give you an extremely clear idea of what’s important and what’s not to tell your story.

This will help you focus on what’s important, and it tells you where you need to do more work.

Learn How to Self-Edit & What You Need to Hire a Pro Editor

Book Editing Checklist

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!

#4 – Focus on the Characters

This brings us to characters. Every major character should appear in your synopsis.

If they don’t then likely they aren’t really a major character. Ask yourself what purpose they serve and why they’re there.

If they don’t have a purpose you need to give them one, remove them, or trim their part down so they’re not distracting from the overall focus. 

Your characters should all have a purpose, from major to minor.

Make sure every character serves their purpose, and none of their arcs are left incomplete. If you leave them with open ends, it can make your character development weak and therefore, uninteresting.

#5 – Editing Chapters

Now you know what your story is saying, you’ve synopsized it several different times from different angles, and your characters work. Now let’s go on a level.

Let’s look at all your chapters. 

Just like your characters, every chapter needs a purpose that moves the main plot forward.

Ask these questions about each chapter:

  • Does this chapter have a purpose? 
  • Does it move the plot forward?
  • Does it develop an important character?
  • Can I continue the story without it?

If the chapter doesn’t do one of these things, either cut it or find a way to condense anything important into another chapter, it may not need to stand on its own.

#6 – Editing a Book for Pacing

While you’re going through the chapters, consider the pacing of the book as a whole. 

This can be a hard thing to explain, as it is very much a feeling, but until the climax of your book, you shouldn’t have any big breaks in the action. Little breathers can be good to set up the next scene, but you shouldn’t have long stretches where the tension drops.

Above all, the story should never grind to a halt.

Don’t give your reader whiplash by slamming on the breaks and then speeding off a second later.

Let your story breathe slowly. Slowly increasing and decreasing the pace like your book is taking a breath. All the while you are slowly ramping up the pace and tension until the climax.

Here are a few ways to pace your novel effectively…

Book’s Overall Pacing

Will it be faster (think horror/thriller novels), or will it be slower (think contemporary or romance). This will determine how you write and finish chapters.

You likely have a preference as an author for a fast or a slow-paced book. This is often the same as what we prefer to read.

Do you like your books to be the type you can’t put down and read in a couple of sittings, or the type of book readers can pick up every night and read a chapter or two?

Certain book genres also predetermine your pacing, so keep this in mind.

Book genres with typically fast pacing:

  • Horror
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
  • Action / Adventure
  • Comedies
  • Paranormal

Book genres with slower pacing:

  • Epic fantasy
  • Dramas
  • Contemporary
  • Romances
  • Historical Fiction

Book genres where pacing varies greatly:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Dystopian

Pacing Within Chapters

The pacing within a chapter is also very important, and there’s a great way to manage this with your writing.

A really great way to manage pacing within chapters is to use paragraphs wisely.

Now, there are grammatical rules to follow for paragraphs, but you can also use paragraph breaks and writing chapters intentionally to slow down or increase the pacing.

If you want a fast-paced chapter: The key to faster pacing is shorter, more frequent paragraphs. Dialogue is also very useful for increasing pacing because it pulls readers farther down the page, quicker.

If you want a slow-paced chapter: Fewer paragraphs, written longer, will slow down the pacing significantly. This means more internal thoughts and more in-depth descriptions. Essentially, you’re creating more text on the page, which takes longer to read, which slows the pacing.

Putting these methods together: You can use these techniques to create a rhythm within your work. If you feel like an area is too slow, see where you can break up paragraphs or add bits of dialogue. And if a section is too fast, see where you can add more internal musings or setting/character descriptions.

Remember, if you end a chapter on a cliff-hanger, this will make the pacing for this section seem faster.

Overall Book Pacing as a Whole

It’s important to step back and look at your book in terms of pacing as a whole. It can be easy to pace a few chapters in a row slowly, only to have that section of your book feel boring to readers.

While you may have reasons for keeping those chapters slower-paced, too many in a row can create that “rut” readers often complain about in the middle of a book.

Step back and look at your chapters next to each other. A great way to do this is with sticky notes.

Use one color for a slow pace, and another for faster-paced chapters.

Line them up along your wall and step back.

If you have too may slow-paced chapters next to each other, do some digging and figure out how you can add tension there—and realize that if you have several fast-paced chapters next to each other, your book will speed by, which can often cause information overload or confusion.

You control pacing on the large scale with plot and structure, and on the small scale with sentence and paragraph structure. Short punchy sentences speed the reader along, and long, complex sentences and paragraphs slow the reader down.

#7 – Line Editing a Book

Now we begin my least favorite part… the line by line edit.

There’s no shortcut here. You have to go through your book, line-by-line, word-by-word, and consider each paragraph sentence and word.

You’re looking for typos, grammatical mistakes, passive voice, but largely just, how can you make this more readable?

Ask yourself this when line editing a book:

  • Would this sentence be more clear if I rearranged it? 
  • Is this sentence necessary? 
  • Does it add anything? 
  • Is this paragraph clear? 
  • If not, how can it be more clear? 
  • Is it obvious who’s speaking here? How do I fix that?

These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking about each and every sentence and paragraph in your book.

There’s no shortcut. You just have to force yourself to sit down and do it or hire a professional book editor.

That being said, there are some common things to look for that I’ll show you in the next section, and it never hurts to have a copy of the Chicago Manual nearby as well.

Common Book Editing Mistakes to Avoid

Not everyone is perfect and can edit a book perfectly the first time. That’s what book editors are for, after all.

However, handing over a manuscript littered with these mistakes can not only make the editing more expensive, but it can also hinder your book’s final product because, well, the better version you send to the editor, the better final product.

Here are a few things to avoid when editing your book.

#1 – “Keep it simple stupid”

KISS, the old Navy saying is a good one to live by when you’re editing. Shorter and simpler is almost always better. 

If you can say it in fewer words, do it.     

If a shorter word will work, use it.

If you can say that whole beautiful monologue in a sentence, guess what? Shorten it.

There are always exceptions to the rule. If you have a good reason, breaking this rule can make a section stand out. Exceptions can be for characterization, mostly. If you have a character who is long-winded and this serves a purpose, their ramble of dialogue can likely stay.

If you’re ever unsure, though, stick to simple.

#2 – Avoid redundancies

It’s very easy to do because it’s often how we talk. In writing though, it’s unnecessary, and it can actually make your point less clear as the audience tries to figure out why you just repeated yourself.  

Don’t just say the same thing you did another way to make sure the point got across.

Don’t drone on and on because your words are too bountiful a crop to cull, and the audience should marvel at your use of words…. 

You see what I did there?

Don’t do it.

Your audience is smart, and will usually pick up what you mean the first time, Even if they don’t, guess what? It’s a book, not a Snapchat, they can go back and reread if they need to.

Give your audience credit, they’re often smarter than you think.

This brings me to my next point.

#3 – Don’t preach

It’s one of the things I struggle with the most. I’m just itching to have a character, the narrator, or some pretty prose spell out the fascinating philosophical implication of this character’s actions or thoughts. 

Don’t do it. It’s cheap, and it comes across as flat and boring. 

Find a way to show it with action instead.

Your audience is smart; if your writing is done well, they should come to the conclusion you wanted them to on their own. It will be far more powerful than if you simply told them because it’s an active experience for the reader.

They may also come to a different conclusion than you expected, and that can be even more fun.

#4 – Show, don’t tell.

This is very similar to the last point. If you have some piece of information you need the audience to know, show it with action instead of telling them, or have it come up in natural conversation between the characters.

This is the classic rule of “show don’t tell.

https://youtu.be/0SqtDgCLh1g

Don’t tell the audience about the terrible PTSD your character is suffering from. Don’t fill the page with beautiful prose about how the character feels.

Show them how the character is affected. Let your audience experience the emotions through the character. 

Showing is always more powerful than telling, and powerful is what you want.

#5 – Don’t Overdo Styling

Don’t be cutesy or flowery with your word choice or styling. 

For instance, 

“He wheezed an answer,” 

or 

“Don’t… goooo. DON’T!!!”

It’s distracting and silly. It’s like the literary equivalent of the over the top drama in a soap opera.

It’s comical, and not in a good way.

#6 – Watch for writing tics

Just like you have verbal tics that you fall back on when you’re speaking, like “umm,” we have writing tics as well.

They’re often unconscious and entirely unnecessary. They clutter up the page, and you need to excise them from your piece like little tumors.

book editing

These are words like:

  • Just
  • So
  • Which
  • Basically (Many adverbs really)
  • Great (most Adjectives)
  • Like 
  • About

For instance, I have a bad habit of using, “So,” and “which,” far too often. 

I may say, 

“So, because of that….” 

Or,

“Which is why we need to…”

Be on the lookout for your common tic words. They’re almost always unnecessary and can rob your writing of power by making your sentences wordy and confusing.

Keep in mind that you likely have a word or phrase you use often as well. For example, you may use “pulled” or “snatched” or even “reluctantly” repeatedly and not even notice.

Keep an eye out and learn to recognize these words or phrases.

#7 – Don’t over-edit

Generally, the more you edit the better your book, but there is such a thing as too much editing.

You don’t want your book to be stuck in perpetual editing hell. 

It’s easy to get trapped by the feeling that your book has to be perfect, but perfection is often unattainable. Eventually, you need to publish it. 

Get it as good as you can, but don’t obsess over it. Share it. You’re writing isn’t complete until you share it.

What’s next? Editors, beta readers, and more!

After you’ve done everything I’ve said so far it may still be a good idea to hire an editor.

Beta readers are a great choice if you can’t afford an editor, and even if you can, I still recommend it.

All a beta reader is, is someone, usually a family member or friend who you ask to read your book and give you feedback before you publish. The value you get from seeing what normal people think of your book is massive.

And this should be done before you send to an editor, for obvious reasons (you wouldn’t want to pay for another editor after betas have pointed out major flaws you need to rewrite, would you?).

But you have to take their criticisms to heart. You don’t have to change everything they bring up, but seriously consider what your readers and editor say. 

Try to avoid defending your piece too strongly. It’s easy to simply write off criticism as someone just not understanding what you were doing. Especially if it’s a phrase or section you like. 

And a major tip for when you have beta readers: never explain or correct their assumptions. It can be tempting for you to dive in and tell a beta why they didn’t understand a section, but doing this risks their feedback being unbiased and fresh, and therefore, unusable.

The bottom line is that if someone misunderstands something you said then others may too. You may not be wrong, your friend may have been an idiot, but chances are there is a clearer way for you to say whatever it was they didn’t understand.

Remember, there’s no “right” way & this is YOUR process

In the end, there is no perfect way to edit a book.

If your finished project is clean, clear, and easily understandable, then you edited perfectly. Whether you follow this guide, talked to a monk on top of a mountain, or you laid all the pages on your floor and changed every sentence your cat stepped on, it doesn’t matter if the final product is good. 

And ultimately, every writer has a different editing process. If you want to print your book to edit it, perfect! If you prefer to use Google docs, great!

It’s all about whatever works best for you and allows you to create real progress and change in your manuscript.

What I’ve given you is a guide to get started. Take it, tweak it, make it your own, and go finish your book!