Here is a nifty amazon hack that’ll save you a lot on hardcover books in the future!
You can of course choose to bypass Amazon altogether and go directly to the local bookstores’ online sites, or even visit in person – I buy 99% of my books thrifted, and most of that from library booksales , but this is a neat tip I’ve used, especially to find books that have fallen out of print.
Welcome to a three-part series designed to get your story started or moving again, even (especially) if you have crippling writer’s block.
Throughout this series we’ll be looking at divers groups of problems and issues centering around creating and continuing a story from nothing, and discussing how to solve them.
Essentially, crafting a plot that gets you through from start to finish is little more than having a beginning and an ending point and placing obstacles in between that your characters must overcome. The more obstacles you throw in front of your characters, the longer or more twisty the plot can be.
This series focuses on getting you through the first draft, which doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out – it doesn’t even have to be good! – it just has to get done. Story elements such as theme, metaphor, and characterization hopefully reveal themselves as they go along – if you haven’t already plotted their inclusion – but don’t worry if such elements remain elusive in the beginning stages. Upon revising and redrafting your writing, you’ll be able to expand and add to your story as necessary.
This series mainly focuses on novel writing, but the concepts within also apply to the broader storytelling medium (film, video games, and the like), and many of the examples used throughout will pull from various different sources.
Part 1 – No Thoughts Head Empty
Part one of this series tackles common specific problems that crop up when starting a story and how to resolve them. A lot of these issues feed off each other, so there’s going to be some overlapping content, as is common when working with any type of art. If there’s an issue this article doesn’t mention or that you’d like to know more about, please drop a comment below.
Problem: I Want to Write a Story – No Idea How or Where to Start
This problem is more common with very new writers, whether they’re 12, 21, or 92. You sat down one day and decided you were going to be a writer. Maybe you have one or more of the other elements that will be mentioned below in your mind, but you haven’t the faintest clue of how to make it all come together. More than that, perhaps you don’t even know how to start!
All you know is that you have an empty page, and, somehow, you have to fill it.
First, you should ask yourself, why do I want to write? Is it because a teacher or a friend suggested I should? Is it because I have an idea that needs to be shared with the world? Is it because I want to be rich and famous? Is the person who inspires me the most an author, and I want to follow in their footsteps? Is it because I have these characters knocking around in my head that won’t go away?
Once you’ve identified your initial motivation, if you have absolutely nothing, go and find something to inspire you. Read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies and plays, go for long walks in nature. You might even just put a list of subjects on a board and throw a dart at them. However you do it, pick a theme or an idea and start brainstorming.
For example, when looking outside I see the trees, which makes me think about leaves. So I could write a story about leaves or bark or roots. Once I’ve picked my subject, I’m going to keep it simple to start. I’ll write about the leaves falling in the autumn. By basing my story in reality, it’ll be easier to construct because I have something tangible from which to draw.
But just writing about leaves falling, with no twist to it, is simply writing my observations about nature – nice, but not a story. So I’ll focus on one leaf. I’m going to anthropomorphise this leaf, giving it a name and a personality. Now I have a character – let’s call him Rustle (the sound of the leaves when the wind blows through them, conveniently also a homophone of the name Russell) – and I’m going to give him some character. He’s afraid of autumn, because he’s already seen several other leaves fall, and he doesn’t want to leave his home in the tree.
I could have Rustle reminisce about how he got to this point, remembering all the things that could conceivably happen in a leaf’s life – a bird defecating on him, a caterpillar munching away, providing shelter during a rainstorm for a lady bug, feeling the sun on his face during a warm summer day, being an artist’s study, and so on. And then Rustle could speculate about what is coming next.
Ultimately, when he does fall (and perhaps this is a bit of a sad story) he could observe how, on the ground, he provides covering for the worms, or maybe he’s essential to the building of a leaf tipi, or is gathered up and made part of a leaf pile for young children to jump into. Perhaps, at the end, he is saved and framed on somebody’s wall, or made part of a lovely autumn wreath.
We could end with Rustle realising that perhaps fall isn’t so scary after all, and he’s experienced so much more than he would have if he’d stayed forever in his tree.
It’s a simple story, but it illustrates how you can pick literally anything to write about.
To recap, if you want to write, first identify your reason – it could be as simple as that you want to try it and see what happens – then pick a subject, inject some personality, and go from there.
Problem: Awesome Idea – No Clue How to Turn it Into a Story
Sometimes, you come up with an ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT idea (this is often what is called “high concept” in fiction), something like Inception, that runs on the premise: “what if you could enter into someone’s dreamworld and influence their mind?” and more subtly: “what if you couldn’t get out?” but you have no characters, no plot, no worldbuilding, no nothing besides the idea.
I’m a character focused person, so I like to start there with my idea before adding other elements that will lead me to a coherent plot.
If you do start here, it’s often a good idea to consider whether your character will be mostly good, mostly bad, or somewhere in between. Then consider whether you want them to change or stay static over the course of the story (in which case, the world around them should change). You’re going to be asking a lot of “what if” questions during this process.
Look at The Terminator. It asks: “what if machines ruled the future? What if someone created a vibrant resistance to the machine overlords?” and then, the twist question, “what if one of those machines went back in time to preserve their own existence?” You can see how all these questions led James Cameron from his initial dream idea to the creation of an unfeeling, near-unstoppable, killing machine that we can’t help but watch in fascinated horror.
If starting with world-building, you’ll want to question how a particular idea would affect you, your friends, or the world you live in, if it were reality. You can really get into some exciting stuff with world-building as you re-imagine what society would look like if we never got away from the inventions of the industrial revolution (steampunk) or if science could give people superpowers (Marvel Comics) or if dragons lived at the same time as the vikings (Skyrim).
Once you have some answers to these questions, you can throw in a couple characters, give them a goal, and start placing obstacles in their way.
If starting with theme, try asking: what do I want my audience to come away thinking about? Often this method will lead you to start with the end of the story and build backward and is more often found in stories that tend to lend themselves to tragedy; think Romeo and Juliet or Jurassic Park. The first teaches us the dangers of never-ending feuds, the latter, the danger of playing God with science.
Once you have your world, your theme, and characters, however tightly or loosely you’ve crafted each element, you can now begin to build out your plot – if it hasn’t already started to come to you during these processes. Again, as stated at the beginning, what you want to do is pick a goal, whether internal (coming from the characters) or external (coming from what you want your readers to experience) and work toward that by creating challenges that your characters have to solve and overcome (or fail to overcome as the case may be.)
Problem: Awesome Characters . . . And Nothing Else
Sometimes, especially for the visual artist types (and often those going into writing comic books and video games and such), you come up with a great character or ten. These characters can be as simple as a face and general description, or they might spring into your mind fully formed, with a tonne of backstory. However, you might feel a little bit like a kid who’s just opened a pack full of Lego minifigures. You’ve got all these neat people inhabiting your fictional world – now what to do with them?
This is actually less of a problem than you might think. Amazing characters can make even the thinnest of plots work when written correctly. It’s why we enjoy programmes like Scooby-Doo or Brooklyn 99 or Supernatural, because while the plot can be fun and engaging (or sometimes, really, really silly), often in these types of shows, the story is less about the overarching narrative and more about how the characters relate to each other and the obstacles they face. Combining great characters with decent world-building and a solid narrative is what makes for a very memorable story. (Designing fully fleshed out characters can happen at any time during the writing process, so don’t worry too much if your characters feel somewhat flat or wooden in the first draft.)
Before we fully dive into the solution, it’s worth considering what storytelling medium you’d like to use, as playing with format and setting is going to give you a better idea of what direction to take your story in.
Would your characters be well suited to a full length epic novel? Would they work better in a novella? Should you choose a slice-of-life comic book instead of a 90 minute screenplay? There is also genre to consider, as a character thrust into a sweet romance is going to act and react quite differently than the lead detective in a thriller novel. Explore multiple different options, and see what fits best.
Once you have that, it’s time to formulate your plot. Take what you know about your characters and give them a goal.
Depending on your world building, you may have to create a Disruption Event of some kind.
For instance, say you have a humdrum character living in a boring little town. Nothing bad has ever happened to them, and they’re enjoying their life. Then a sudden summer freeze kills off the town’s crops. People fall on hard times. Your main character (or someone close to them) loses their job. Now their main ambition is to return things to the status quo – or simply to survive. That’s their goal. How they accomplish or fail to achieve that goal is your story.
If we take a more complex character – say they’re existing in a world where they’ve lost a lot already, and they’re just trying to survive – they have friends (or have lost them and are living with the memories), and are constantly dealing with pressure from all sides. They make a decision to help a lost child and find themselves drawn into a brewing civil war. How your already well fleshed-out character reacts to these events, and how they change (or don’t, but how the world around them changes as a result of their actions) is your story.
Not every story needs a Disruption Event if your character has a clear goal – revenge, money, love, fame, success – (although adding one – or several! – can certainly spice things up, especially if the Disruption Event is actively preventing your character from accomplishing their dreams) and characters are often more interesting in these types of stories, proactively pursing their ambitions instead of reacting to the story around them.
Once you have your character’s goal pinned down (and this can certainly change throughout the story as they grow and become a different person), it’s imperative to place obstacles in the way of them achieving this goal. These can be internal or external.
For example: a young woman who wants to find love but is stymied by her crippling shyness, a mouse who wants to become a warrior but has never even left the nest, or a young man who wants to become a starfighter pilot, but is stopped by having his home destroyed and is forced to go on the run after receiving a message that holds the key to undermining a totalitarian government. (Yes, this is the plot of Star Wars.)
As mentioned before, how your character reacts to these obstacles and eventually reaches – or fails to reach – their goals is your story. Either type of ending can be a tragedy or a happily ever after, based on what happens along the way.
Problem: Awesome World-Building – No Characters or Plot
This section is related to the high concept idea, but focuses more on everything both tangible and intangible that our heroes might come into contact with. To use Star Wars as an example again, from blasters to ewoks, to ‘freshers and spice, all the details that make a fictional universe feel lived-in and believable form the world-building aspect of your story. You might find that you are absolutely brilliant at creating the nitty gritty details that make up your fantasy world, but you have no clue how to populate your world with people or take your aesthetic and turn it into a coherent narrative.
Similarly to the Awesome Characters solution, it’s very helpful to consider what genre you want your story to inhabit. Sometimes the world-building on its own lends itself to the genre, but just because a world is, say, set in space, doesn’t mean it can’t also be a western (The Mandalorian) or a romance (Sirantha Jax series). Perhaps you’ve been playing with a high fantasy setting, but the narrative revolves around a series of murder mysteries, making it a detective story or a thriller. What kinds of characters would inhabit these subgenres? What would their stories look like?
Plumber by Punchyninja
Pick underutilised professions to highlight. What does a plumber or other type of handy man look like in this fantasy world? What problems would they encounter? What about doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals? How is information disseminated, and what types of characters are at the centre of that?
Challenge your world-building to extend beyond aesthetics to structures of religion or government. Look to real life to derive inspiration for the types of conflicts that arise from these structures, and keep drilling down until you reach the characters making the decisions that will drive the machine of your story.
Once you’ve applied your world-building to characters, ideas, or themes, sprinkle in some Disruption Events that shake up your carefully constructed world. Consider how the world-building can both solve and create problems. One good example of this is the Warriors series, which seriously examines the concept of cats having nine lives. On the one hand, our heroes have multiple chances to cheat death. On the other hand, this knowledge both makes them a target of enemy clans and gives them a false sense of confidence, leading them to act more recklessly than they might otherwise.
You can also use world-building to explore what happens when well meaning ideas are taken to an extreme, as is the case with TheGiver, which presents a beautiful utopia on its surface but hides a dark truth, or Farenheit 451, which contemplates a reality where ideas running against the norm are literally destroyed.
(As an aside, if you are struggling to come up with characters to begin with, there are all sorts of character-building exercises you can find on the web, and if that fails, it’s a tried, tested, and true method of authors to base characters on people they know in real life.)
That concludes Part 1, and hopefully you now have a grasp on how to start your storytelling journey. Next up, we move from looking at beginning the story into how to develop and finish it. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss Part 2!
An author must choose through which lens – and how many – a story will be told. Each has its benefits and its pitfalls. Some naturally lend themselves more to a certain type of story or genre, and while a story can be solely told from one character’s perspective, there are various aspects better explored through multiple lenses. (Plus, it’s really fun!)
Using dual or multi POV is an excellent way to create and build tension, as one character might reveal something to the readers that another character has no way of knowing, something that might lead to their downfall if they’re unable to read the warning signs in time.
Multi POV also allows readers (and the author, while writing) to take breaks from being stuck inside one character’s head the entire time. Some of my favourite parts of books or television episodes are the ones where we get to look at the main characters from an outside perspective, which in turn reveals even more about the characters, the world they live in, and the overall story than we knew before.
In books, in particular, authors can create cliffhangers that pull the reader along by ending a chapter with one character in peril, and then jumping to a different character for a little bit, heightening our desire to find out what has happened.
But dual or multi POV can also go wrong and end up becoming jarring and off-putting to readers when done incorrectly. With that in mind, here are 9 tips I’ve picked up both as a reader and a writer to help you write multi POV with confidence to create an irresistible reading experience.
Limit POV Characters
My first tip – especially for newbie writers – is to limit the amount of characters telling the story.
Instead of giving everyone and their grandmother a chance to narrate the story, limit the perspectives to the protagonist, antagonist, and possibly a side character or two. Keeping track of a huge cast of named characters is difficult enough in single POV, but when you’re adding multiple voices into the mix, reducing the perspective to 2-5 main characters makes the story much easier for readers to follow and helps to reduce plot holes.
Keep POVs Centered Around the Main Characters/Plot
As a reader, multiple perspectives lose me entirely when the POVs veer into side-quest territory. I do enjoy side quests when undertaken by the main character, but if secondary character no. 3 is off having their own adventures with secondary character no. 4, and nothing of their plot lines effect, or even in any way relate to the main character or overarching story being told, I greatly struggle to maintain interest in the book. I didn’t sign up to read about these random characters, and so I feel a bit cheated and like I’ve wasted my time on a plot line that went nowhere.
To combat this, make sure other perspectives connect to the protagonists, antagonists, or narrative at large.
For example, my scifi novel, ⚡Thorunn⚡ , is told mostly from Laine, Kenton, and Bo’s perspectives. However, when I do dip into the minds of other characters (there are at least six other POVs we get to experience) it’s always to reveal something about the two main characters, Kenton and Laine. Yes, we get to learn about these minor characters in a way that we couldn’t have from outside their perspective, but their narratives in the story are specifically related to the main plot and characters.
Don’t Give Equal Weight to Everyone
Related to the previous idea, when using multiple that expands beyond the main characters, not everybody needs to tell the story for the same amount of time. Spending too much time with minor characters can lead to the problem mentioned above, where readers feel like their time is wasted by meaningless filler.
Now, some authors can get away with this. A notable example would be Kishimoto Masashi. Especially in the latter half the Naruto manga, whenever a new character is introduced, Kishimoto dives extensively into their backstory. But because these characters’ histories are so interesting, and are tied into the world-building so well, the fact that Kishimoto was essentially using these POVs as a way to stretch out the manga as long as possible can be forgiven, overlooked even, because they are so compelling.
This however, is the exception, not the norm. George R.R. Martin spent a lot of time on POVs that fundamentally went nowhere in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, and even though his books are critically acclaimed, many readers were left frustrated at the amount of unnecessary plot. Martin himself has admitted that he wrote himself into a corner with the almost excessive storylines that resulted from so many different perspectives. Unless you’re interested in spending years untangling story threads, it’s best to keep outside POVs simple, focused, and short.
Be careful, however, not to make your POVs too short. If pages which are spent following one character are randomly intercut with single paragraphs featuring another character’s perspective, or if you have constantly have short section after short section jumping between POVs, it’s liable to give the reader whiplash. (Long-running soap operas are particular offenders in this area.)
Build Up to and Away From Multiple Characters
If the story absolutely demands to be told through a large cast, it can be extremely helpful to ease your way into it. Start with just a few characters and slowly add more perspectives as the story or series progresses. That way, readers have time to get to know and become attached to these characters (being introduced to them through already established POVs first), making them far more invested in following their individual stories.
Conversely, when the plot is on the edge of getting too bloated, it’s helpful to begin narrowing the story down, bringing characters back together – or killing them off – and thereby reducing the amount of POVs needed to tell the story, as happens in The Lord of the Rings.
Give Your POV a Purpose
As I mentioned in the intro, dual or multi POVs are fantastic tools to offer insight beyond what the main character thinks and experiences. But additional POVs shouldn’t be there simply to reach a wordcount or extend a screenplay to the desired running time.
Rather, each perspective should offer a unique view of the story that helps to expand and enrich it. If you can skip certain POVs and not miss anything, it either shouldn’t be in the story, or it should be reworked to be more meaningful to the plot.
Don’t Just Switch the Characters’ Names
This is a particularly irritating type of POV unfortunately common among romance stories. A story that features dual POV but the only difference between the perspectives is that the names have been switched is extremely boring. It’s also rather lazy writing. I’m not interested in reading the exact same story twice. Even if there are more substantial changes to the actual text, if the dialogue is carbon copy the same, as a reader, I’ll quickly lose interest.
The best stories I’ve read that retread the same ground in dual POV vary enough from each other that while it’s obviously an identical set of events from the other character’s perspective, the differences have me going back over the previous bits over and over again, comparing where they line up, and digging into the internal thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the characters. Done well, this can be some of the most fascinating storytelling. My favourite example of this in television is the Rashamon trope, where multiple characters, all starting from the same point, recount their version of a shared experience, with each character’s version wildly diverging from the others’.
Avoid 1st Person
Tip no. 6 is to avoid first person when writing dual or multi POV. Some writers can make multi POV work fantastically in first person, but unless the characters have extremely distinct or strong inner voices, reading first person multi POV can often feel as if you’re experiencing the story through the same character, which completely defeats the purpose of including more than one perspective.
It’s not good if readers can’t tell the characters apart and have to constantly flip back to the chapter headings to remember who is speaking – especially if it’s a romance novel. Men and women think differently, so their POVs should read differently as well.
By writing in third person instead, the constant use of the characters’ names will easily remind the reader from whose perspective each section or chapter is being told.
Give Each POV a Unique Voice
Related to number six, if your story demands to be written in first person, while labeling the chapters or sections does help, your characters must be distinct enough that readers can tell who is speaking regardless. Perhaps one character stutters a lot or is very snarky. One character could be extremely steam-of-consciousness, while another is guarded and spare with their thoughts.
This applies when writing third-person deep or limited as well. Again, this is something I utilised in ⚡Thorunn⚡ . Laine, Kenton, and Bo are all different people, with different life experiences. The prose I employed for Kenton is not the same as the words and sentence structures I used for Laine. During revisions I was constantly having to change sentences to better express how each character would articulate their thoughts.
Experiment with Format
Last but not least, play around with how you incorporate dual or multi POV. There’s the tried and true method of devoting chapters to differing perspectives (which is nice for labeling purposes), but POV can certainly switch within chapters as well.
Try using different mediums to communicate an outside perspective. Diary entries, newspaper clippings and broadcasts, emails and letters, and historical writings are all great ways to include information that the main character might not have access to. Some novels (such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula) are written entirely in this epistolary manner – similar to the “found footage” horror films that have become popular in recent years.
Stylistically, many novels include this information in the form of an epigraph at the beginning or ending of each chapter.
There you have it, my 9 tips on nailing dual or multi POV from a reading writer. Feel free to share your favourite POV tips in the comments!
Today we’re talking about the top five things you as an indie author absolutely MUST invest in if you want your book to have the best shot at success during and after publication.
Of course, you can do everything yourself and not spend any money, but chances are your final product will be rather poor quality both inside and out and therefore off-putting to potential readers. Not to mention, you might wind up giving away the rights to your book if you’re not careful.
So without further ado, here are the top five Must-Buys I recommend serious indie authors put money towards.
1. Book Cover
Unless you’re insanely talented, it’s a really good idea to outsource this part of the publishing process to someone else. Your cover is the first thing a reader sees, whether on a bookshelf or online (especially given that our world is very visual these days, a move that is increasingly more driven by social media) and getting it right is KEY if you want your book to sell.
You’ll want your cover to fit within your book’s chosen genre – for example, many scifi books have planets or tech on them, letting you know instantly what kind of book it is – and also fit current trends without being too locked into whatever is popular, given that tastes change very quickly in the publishing world.
You can work closely with an artist/cover designer to execute your vision or you can purchase pre-made covers. Either way, expect to spend anywhere from $100-$500 (possibly more) depending on what on level of quality and customization you are looking for, and on how many revisions are needed.
Don’t forget to credit your cover artist on your copyright page!
There are lots of different types of editing – developmental, line, copy, and proofreading, for example – and each stage is critically important for your manuscript to be the best version of itself. A traditional publishing company will have all these editors in-house, sometimes in multiple departments, often in just one or two people. However, as an indie, you’ll have to pay for each stage of editing yourself, which can end up being quite costly. The most consistent advice I’ve seen is to stick to beta readers and critique partners for the first few stages, and hire out to professionals once you are closer to the end.
I personally like to invest my money in a really good copy edit, but you may choose to put your money toward a different stage, or several, or all of them.
Quick side note here – I see quite a few people in writing groups mention that they paid someone to edit and then threw their books on Amazon without looking at their manuscript, and readers ruthlessly criticized the books for being riddled with errors. When you pay to get your book edited, your editor should mark changes, and upon receipt of your edited copy, you should be the one to accept or reject them.
Always proofread whatever you get back from the editor! As an indie author, it’s ultimately your job to write your book, not the editor’s.
Keep in mind that this is where you will likely spend the majority of your budget on self-publishing. There are very good editors out there who offer incredible discounts for indie authors, and you can have your novel-length book edited for as little $400-500, but for the most part, expect to spend anywhere from $1000-$4000 or so (depending on word count) on a good clean edit of your book.
The third thing I highly, highly, encourage you to spend money on are ISBN’s. I can already hear so many of you asking, “But don’t companies like IngramSpark and Amazon allow you to publish with a free ISBN?”
The answer is yes, but also no.
Yes, there are free ISBNs you can obtain from these companies, but they will ONLY work with those companies, and you cannot publish your book – that version of it anyway – on any other platform. That means that the free ISBN you have lacks the full functionality of an ISBN purchased through Bowker’s website.
Additionally, by using a free ISBN, you voluntarily hand over your publishing rights to your book.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not the copyright, but the publishing rights. But only for whatever particular version of the book you are publishing. So if you publish a paperback at a certain trim size with a free ISBN, you CAN publish an audiobook, ebook, or hardcover copy (at a different trim size to be on the safe side) with an ISBN you previously purchased and still retain your rights to that version of your book, which can then be printed/plublished with any platform you desire.
Of course, many people (especially in the ebook space) have published their books with a free ISBN and been fine, but since indie publishing is all about you being the one in control at the end of the day, it’s nice to be able to say you own the publishing rights to your own book. For this reason, I highly recommend purchasing your own ISBNs.
You can buy a single ISBN for $125, but since each given format of a book requires a different ISBN, I recommend you go for a bulk purchase and buy a pack of 10 at $295, which is a 75% discount.
Now onto number four; bookmarks! There are so many websites out there that will let you upload custom designs and print and order sets of 500 to 1000 bookmarks that it’s WELL worth your money to invest in this. Bookmarks are probably the best in-person marketing tool for an indie author, as they are small, light, unobtrusive, useful and very easy to give away.
You can expect to spend anywhere from $60-$200 depending on how many bookmarks you order, what quality you choose, and which service you go with. I recommend ordering a few first to see if you like them before making a larger purchase.
Lastly, we have advertising! Most indie authors are on a shoestring budget to begin with (and if you paid for a good edit, you might broken the bank already), so you can definitely invest time and effort into social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platform of your choice for free. However, it’s generally worth it to spend a little money on ads to get people outside of those platforms looking at your book.
I recommend AMS ads first and foremost. This is an ad option offered by Amazon if you are publishing through their KDP service. You can advertise both kindle and paperback versions with them, and the results can be highly effective, given that people using Amazon are already browsing the site with the intention of making a purchase and so are much more likely to be favourable to ads.
Additionally, many indie authors find success with facebook ads, and to varying degrees of success, things like Bookbub deals. The 20Booksto50K Facebook group has a tonne more info on this.
I personally recommend doing a BIG push with ads right around your book launch, maybe a day or two ahead, definitely on the release date, and then for a couple months after – some people keep ads running indefinitely, and if this fits your budget, you can experiment with that as well, through perhaps at a much lower spend point.
If you do your research before jumping into buying ads, it can really help to minimize the amount of money you spend on them. I think it’s best if you keep it comparable to whatever you spend on your book’s cover, and you can probably expect to spend anywhere from $200-10,000 on ads depending on how much revenue they bring in. (I know that second number sounds scary, but there are indie authors making $10K or more a month on their books, and so can afford to turn around and reinvest that money into making sure new readers find them.)
So there you go! The top five things you should spend money on as an indie author.
Book Covers, Editing, ISBNs, Bookmarks, and Ads. I can’t give you a concrete number on all these things combined, because there is so much variance that goes into each element, but it’s worth noting that what you put into your work is what you will get out of it.
And that includes confidence! If you think you can put the best version of your book out there without spending any money, go for it! But readers expect quality – especially in such an oversaturated market – and it’s difficult to achieve that without spending at least a little money.
(There are other publishing/marketing things you can choose to invest in such as fanart, merch, book conventions, etc. They aren’t as necessary to sell your book in my opinion, but can be very fun and rewarding, and I do enjoy a good bookfair myself.)
Drop any questions you have in the comment section, and I wish you all the best on your publishing journeys.
In these trying times, escaping to a different world via a great book is what many of us are craving right now. Unfortunately, it’s also leading some people to start pirating books, which hurts struggling authors (which is the vast majority of them) and is generally just not kind.
Therefore, I would like to take this time to remind readers that there are some wonderful ways to get free books that still support the authors (taken from a post I wrote on tumblr some time ago):
The Library– if the library doesn’t have the book you want, ask them to buy it. I’ve never actually had to do this because the interlibrary loan system works so extraordinarily well, but if by chance the book is not on file, they can buy it for you. This benefits both the author and the library! (Side note: for indie books this works best when there’s a paperback in addition to an ebook available, and the book can be purchased outside of amazon.)
Digital Libraries– slightly different in that these only stock ebooks, but services like HOOPLA, OVERDRIVE, & LIBBY are free reading apps that work in partnership with local libraries to give and maintain free access to thousands of books. The more you use any library services, the better the chances of those services sticking around.
Free Amazon Books – Go to the kindle store on amazon, type in “free kindle books,” and thousands of results pop up. All you need are an amazon account and a kindle app (free to download for iOs, Android, PC, & Mac), and you’re good to go. Yes, a lot of the free books will be romances, but many other genre authors who are part of KDP select will put their books on freebie deals for a few days every now and then. Twitter is also a great way to find these freebies, just browse the #freeEbook hashtag.
Become a Book Reviewer– All of us have thoughts and opinions about literature, and reviews are coveted by both the traditional and indie published book industry alike. Popular book bloggers and booktube channels are often contacted by authors and publishing houses and are sent free books (usually ARCs) in exchange for honest reviews.
Smaller book reviewers can participate in blog tours (search twitter/instagram to find these) for new releases, both indie and trad, and/or sign up for a NETGALLEY (or similar website) account. Netgalley, BookSprout & BookFunnel are all sites that send readers free ARCs in exchange for reviews.
These are the best ways I personally know of to get free books and still directly support authors, whether it be by review or having a library purchase their books, and they help everybody in the book world.
(Let’s be honest, most of us have a mile long TBR, and so while some of the above methods require waiting, we have lots of books to read in the meantime. And if you do run out, there’s always AO3.)
That being said, happy reading, my friends! Let’s stick to imaginary piracy only, inside the pages of a good book, and practice kindness in our real daily lives.
You may recall that in my “Top 5 Books I Read in 2019” I mentioned that I struggled to read traditionally published books during college and for a few years afterward. Part of that, for me, was the work of having to commit to a new world, new characters, and plots. Once I’ve gotten into a series, I’m fine, it’s the getting started that’s the issue. (As opposed, to say, fanfiction, where I’m already attached to the worlds and characters I’m reading about.)
But early last year I was bound and determined to read more than one original work a year, so I set my Goodreads reading goal to 50 books, hopped on Twitter, and downloaded a varied selection of books to the Kindle app on my phone.
At first I was reluctant to try audiobooks. I’ve always been able to read much faster than I can listen, and I always felt I would be wasting time by listening to books instead of sitting down for a dedicated hour or three. But during college and after, I found that that dedicated hour or three was constantly being filled up by other things – writing, music, work, so I thought “What could it hurt? I might as well listen to a book and get two things done at once, even if it’s slower than reading it would be. I’m not reading anything at all, otherwise.”
As it happened, in late 2018, I’d stumbled across the Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler, whose books in the KindleUnlimited program all have the whispersync audiobook feature (meaning that one can listen to the audio recording without having to have audible).
The Kingfountain series was for me the perfect introduction into the world of audiobooks. I was forced to slow down and really absorb every word, as I couldn’t go back and re-listen to a certain phrase or paragraph if my hands were busy and I’d missed it. I started to deeply, in a way I hadn’t before, appreciate the care that other authors put into crafting every word, every emotional phrase. And I couldn’t get enough. I was suddenly reading 2-5-10! books. I would listen in the car, while doing dishes or laundry, or working out, or mundane work on the computer, gardening (practicing scales sometimes even!) – you name it, if I could listen and keep my hands occupied at the same time, I had a book on.
But I ran into a problem. That problem was that not every novel has an audiobook accompaniment. There were all these books on my Kindle that were piling up and I wasn’t listening to them. I knew that Kindles have a text-to-speech option, but I didn’t have a Kindle, only the Kindle app, which doesn’t have that feature (if amazon ever adds it, I’ll be thrilled, and update this article). I tried several different third-party apps, but nothing worked well.
Still determined, I experimented with the VoiceOver option from the Accessibility settings on my phone. That was a bit disastrous. But I was on the right path. And that right path led me to the solution, also located in the Accessibility section of Settings. I tried it on the book I was struggling to find time to read about the middle of 2019, and I never looked back.
And, dear readers, here is the “hack” I discovered.
(This solution is for iPhone, but I imagine Android and other smart phones have similar capabilities.)
I enabled Speak Screen. This setting allows you to use a simple finger gesture to activate the iPhone’s internal text-to-speech feature to read webpages and other detected text content. (Unfortunately it doesn’t work on PDFs, at least not yet.) It does take a little fiddling to get it to work correctly on the Kindle app, but once it gets going, it works like a charm.
Part 1 – Setup
(These steps only have to be done once, but can be adjusted as needed.)
Step 1. Locate Speak Screen from Settings>Accessibility>Spoken Content. (This might vary slightly depending on which version of IOS your phone is running.)
Step 2. Toggle it on. (I would avoid turning on the other settings, as they can be a bit frustrating, but feel free to experiment with what works best for you.)
Step 3. Set the speaking rate. (I find the middle works best for me. Too fast is difficult to comprehend, too slow strands us firmly in the uncanny valley.)
Step 4. Select a voice. (There are a lot of voices, but I prefer to go with a female British voice. It’s very soothing, the inflection is usually correct, and it reminds me of listening to audiobooks as a child.)
Step 5. (Optional) As you have Speak Screen read aloud, you might notice it butchering some simple words, or struggling with fantasy novels’ pronunciations.
One that I’ve noticed is that it thinks “No.” (with a period at the end) is the substitute for “number” and so reads it that way. Consider adding in some alternate pronunciations if this bugs you – just make sure you tap on “Languages” and set it to your preferred reading voice.
Step 6. Open up your Kindle app.
Step 7. Make sure to tap on the page, and select the “Aa” from the top of the page to bring up the Kindle app options menu.
Step 8. Make sure that “Continuous Scrolling” (if the book you are reading supports it) is turned off.
This is because Speak Screen refuses to work in the Kindle app if this option is enabled.
Part 2 – Execution
(Just four more steps and your Kindle ebook will be an audiobook!)
Step 9. Set your volume to high and your brightness (if not plugged in) to as low as you can stand. This can be done from inside the app and with the volume control buttons on your phone, or by rapidly tapping home twice and swiping up to accessing your iPhone’s Control Centre.
Step 10. (This is where it gets a bit tricky!) Swipe down firmly with two fingers from the top of your iPhone. If not done correctly, this might swipe down the Notification Centre. Just slide it back up, and try again.
Step 11. (Vital!) Once the screen reader playback box appears, swipe to the page before and then back to the page you started out on. This will prompt the screen reader to keep reading once it reaches the end of the page. Otherwise, it will stop at the end of the page.
Step 12. Tap the arrow to hide the screen reader playback box. This will also help prompt the screen reader to keep reading.
Sometimes there is an issue where initially the screen reader will read from the previous or subsequent page. In this case, close the Kindle app, reopen it and repeat steps 10-12. This might have to be done one or two times to reset it correctly.
Step 13. DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR SCREEN. If you do, the screen reader will read to the end of the page, then stop, and you will have to repeat steps 10-12 again. In fact you will have to repeat those steps if the Speak Screen is disturbed in anyway (a phone call, going to another app, etc.) This is the purpose of setting the brightness and volume level before starting.
The brightness level is especially important here, because if your phone is at half/full brightness, unplugged, the phone will die rather quickly. On low brightness, it will last for a long time if not plugged in. I suggest having a car charger if listening on long car trips.
Speak screen also works for the Wattpad app (but you have to back in and out of the app for every chapter to avoid it reading the ads by mistake, so it can be a bit of a hassle), and for A03. On websites, you usually can turn the screen off or use other apps at the same time, because of the vertical non-stop scrolling. It’s just the page turning aspect of the Kindle app that forces the issue.
Yes, the Speak Screen output does take a bit of getting used to. There are no variances between voices for different characters, or for dialogue versus prose, but for a synthetic voice, it does a decent job. Good stories shine through, and badly written stories are immediately apparent.
And there you have it! How to get your iPhone to turn any Kindle book into an audiobook. I trust this will open far more reading possibilities for you all. It definitely has for me!