This article was originally part of the Pidge’s Cafe’ page on this site, and the original content is still there. Wanting to have a direct clean link I’m creating a blog article with much of the same information.
Jeff Goins was one of the first authors whose webinars I clicked with online when he talked about finding or identifying your writing type or personality. He writes some awesome posts and articles. https://goinswriter.com
Derek Murphy’s CreativIndie (yes, there’s no “e” on Creativ) site and Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur site are two of the best free online resources of all time. These guys are passionate about writing, authoring, and self-publishing. Both are great upstanding guys with integrity. They will not try to hoodwink you into thinking they can help you accomplish something that neither they nor you are likely to accomplish. Derek and Dave, both successful authors, provide much of what they know to you for free on their websites.
Derek Murphy’s website includes much of what you need to know about writing and self-publishing. He provides book cover templates, as well as a tool for generating various styles of promotional images of your book. Derek has a free public Facebook group, and also a private Facebook group for students of his courses, providing lifetime membership and access. https://creativindie.com
Dave’s website includes tools as well as information, and a great sequential list of procedures within the writing-publishing process (do this, then this, then this). This list includes a tool to format the blurb (item description) for your book’s Amazon page. Dave Chesson has software available to purchase for a reasonable price, such as Publisher Rocket for determining your most effective categories on Amazon Kindle, and Atticus for book formatting. https://kindlepreneur.com
A word of caution: If your goal is long-term success as an author, beware of the hard-sell tactics of courses touting that you’ll be a bestselling author in 90 days.
First, you need to understand what is meant by “bestseller”. It does not mean that your book will sell thousands of copies or that you’ll receive editorial acclaim in professional book reviews. Far from it. Here’s what it does mean:
- They’re talking about Amazon.com.
- Amazon has over 10,000 book categories, according to a Reedsy blog. (I’m a Reedsy subscriber, not an affiliate.) For a thorough explanation of Amazon categories and how they work, here’s the link to the Reedsy article.
- The categories include high level categories (think “science”), subcategories (think “biology”), and the subcategories can be several levels deep (think science & math -> science -> biology -> genetics -> epigenetics). Each category and subcategory contains numerous options, until reaching the bottom level. It’s that bottom level that is intended in these courses’ definition of “bestseller”.
- Here’s an actual example: Bill Nye’s Great Big World of Science is #1 in these three categories (as I write this; it’s subject to change):
- Teen & Young Adult Chemistry eBooks
- Astronomy for Teens and Young Adults
- Teen & Young Adult Biology eBooks.
- Here’s the category nesting for Teen & Young Adult Chemistry eBooks: Kindle Store -> Kindle eBooks -> Teen & Young Adult -> Education & Reference -> Science & Technology -> Science & Nature -> Chemistry. That’s 7 levels deep. The path would be the same, but replacing “Chemistry” with “Biology” for the Teen & Young Adult Biology eBooks category. At that level where the decision is made for Chemistry versus Biology, these are two options among ten categories at that level. Moving to the Science & Nature category, which is up one level from both Biology and Chemistry, Bill Nye’s book is #3 in the bestseller’s list for that category. Up another level to Science & Technology, the book is #4. Another level up to Education & Reference, it’s #38. Moving up yet another level to Teen & Young Adult, Bill Nye’s book is no longer in the Top 100 list. This illustrates that as you drill deeper down to narrower and narrower categories, a book rises higher in rank (with a lower rank #) in the specific category because the number of books becomes spread across more and more categories, and a particular book (yours) has less competition. If you drill down to an obscure category that contains only 10 books, the worst your book can do in that category is #10. It could still be 11-millionth overall on Amazon. It could rise to #1 in its category by selling only a few – maybe 3 – copies, for example.
- If your book sells 3 copies and that places it at #1 in an obscure and irrelevant (to your book’s actual topic) category, winning it an orange “bestseller” banner for a few days, and you screenshot that accomplishment, that is what is meant by “bestseller in 90 days”. You have a screenshot to show that it really did get the bestseller status, albeit for a very narrow category. You’ve given away several copies for free during your book launch and made $6 when you flipped from free to paid a few days after your launch. Is that really your “bestseller” goal?
- Is it ethical to place a new book about ‘how to use social media on your cell phone’ into the “finite math” category? Not in my book.
It can happen that your book may get an orange “bestseller” banner for a short while on Amazon, but it likely will not last the week, may not happen at all, and methods can be questionable.
Most Amazon authors don’t make more than $1 per month, and don’t sell more than 100 copies of their book, ever. As of this writing, there are about 14 million titles for sale on Amazon, with thousands added daily. This is nearly double the number that existed when I first began self-publishing several years ago. The 90-days-to-a-bestseller formula has led to long-term success for a few authors. A handful of these students really do make sufficient income as authors, editors, formatters, course employees, or publishing entrepreneurs that they can quit their day job. These are determined, persistent individuals whose hard work earns them success in their field. It requires putting themselves out into the world and learning self-promotion in ways uncomfortable to many of us who love writing but hate marketing. To make it long-term, you can promote yourself and your work, or you can pay an expert a minimum of $10,000 to do it for you. That’s the reality.
My suggestion is to learn what you can for free from Derek and Dave rather than start by spending thousands of dollars on a “quick-bestseller” course. If at that point you’re looking for something more, I suggest Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula courses. Mark, based in the UK, is a very successful author in his own right. His courses are geared more for long-term success for authors. He’s not a quick-orange-banner-then-fall-to-obscurity type of guy, and he does not bilk his students.
Here’s an anecdote about Mark: When a student from one of the very expensive 90-day-to-bestseller courses was unable, after repeated attempts over a week or two, to receive any response from the leaders (or perpetrators) of her course, she accidentally (due to a similarity in acronyms for segments of both courses) wound up in Mark Dawson’s Facebook group asking for help. She wrote her post on a weekend, and I think Mark was out of town. Several of us responded to the post, saying that this didn’t sound like Mark, and we thought she had found her way to Mark’s group, rather than her intended one, by mistake. On his return a day or two later, Mark not only helped her, but also, if I remember correctly, let her into his basic course for free.
If you need help finishing your book, take Joe Bunting’s 100 Day Book Course at The Write Practice. I normally write nonfiction, and this course helped me to finish my first book of fiction. Once your book is ready to publish, a good next step for the novice is Joe’s Foundations of Publishing course, which helps you set up your online author platform. Joe’s courses don’t just tell you what to do – they help you with how to do it. For example, in one video, he walks through the process of creating an author website on Bluehost, and shows which plugins to install, while explaining the purpose of each. The “how” is missing from some online courses, even some of the most expensive. Joe’s course format requires interaction with other authors/participants and critiques of their work, along with other student critiques of your work. This interaction facilitates meeting other students, and provides opportunities to create friendships and build mutually supportive relationships beneficial to all involved. Joe’s The Write Practice set of courses provides a great built-in support system.
In general, Joe’s courses provide detail, including videos or screen-captures of the process, to help you accomplish the “hows”, while other courses may list the “whats” that you need to accomplish, but lack the “how” to actually do it. I’ve found that I can finish a task following Joe’s instructions, when in a previous course the detail of how to accomplish it was lacking – and there I had stopped, thinking, “I’ll come back and figure that out later.” The problem is that self-publishing is rife with new, unfamiliar tasks, and there may never seem to be a “right” time to “come back and figure it out” later.
The one caution I would offer regarding The Write Practice is that access to each course expires at the end of the course, based on the date you signed up. You still have access to the site, and possibly some of its workshops, especially if you sign up for Pro, but access to a particular paid course will disappear at a particular time. Note, also, that a year-long course likely disappears a year (Eastern time zone) from the date you signed up, not a year from the first online event for the course, even if the first event is a kickoff. If a year-long course holds an online kickoff event on September 14 and you signed up on August 8, the course will disappear from your course Dashboard by August 8, possibly August 7. This does not detract from the course – it’s just something you need to be aware of. Most online courses I’ve signed up for provide lifetime access, as well as lifetime access to their Facebook group – all included in the initial cost of the course. I still recommend The Write Practice for the level of detail that Joe provides to enable course participants to actually accomplish what they set out to do. He also builds interactions with other participants into the courses, which is helpful for establishing what he terms a “cartel” – similar to what others may call a “tribe” – to help his students gain traction in selling their books.
Online writing / author / self-publishing courses often don’t follow the adage, “You get what you pay for.” Some course creators genuinely care about helping writers become authors, and it shows in what they provide. Others seem to care more about making money, as evidenced by their lack of response when students ask for help with a particular course issue. The course for which the lady above signed up costs several times the price of Mark’s Self Publishing 101 course. I had taken that same course the lady had paid for, as had other student’s of Mark’s who responded to the errant lady’s calls for help. Our experiences with the other course all had been similar: hard sell, promises of pie-in-the-sky, several hours of one-on-one mentoring, a formula to follow; but there had been no hand-holding, no mentoring through the “hows” to perform the items in the list, and no response when attempting to resolve a problem. In that most expensive course, I wrote to the leader/administrators suggesting that they include some “how” – and received no response whatsoever. I had also contacted them to say that my promised 8 hours of one-on-one mentoring stopped after the first half-hour, and my subsequent attempts to contact said mentor had met with no response – that message, too, met with no response. It seems to be a theme with them.
It’s not the cost that reflects the quality of an indie-author course – it’s the integrity of the leader of the course. Often times the indie authors possessing the greatest integrity coupled with the greatest desire to help newcomers – they’re the ones providing free websites with tons of valuable information, Facebook groups that don’t charge monthly access or membership fees, and courses that are among the more affordable.
By the way, none of the online courses that I have come across over the past several years will include a read of your manuscript or mentoring to get it sales-worthy. The sales lady for first course I took told me they would; they did not. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can try a professional content editor, though they may be shockingly expensive. For a less extensive review of your work and lower financial outlay, you can try beta readers after your first or second draft is complete.
If you post examples of your writing, a book blurb, or tentative cover work in the groups associated with any of the courses, or in any of the independent writer groups, keep in mind that some of your fellow students or group members who respond may have no more experience than you do, and their opinions may not represent what is most likely to sell or result in the most professional work. Weigh the opinions offered, and consider the sources. The Foundations of Publishing course at The Write Practice includes a great article on this exact topic.
One of the best benefits to any of the online courses is to meet new good friends with whom you can support one another’s efforts as an author.
Another word of caution: When looking for an editor, get recommendations from authors whose books are of good quality and appear to be professionally written and edited. Time after time, I have read advanced-reader-copies of fellow students’ books – even professionally published books – and sent to the author (after receiving their permission) several pages of issues I found after the book had been published or was presumed to be ready to publish – this, after the author had paid one or more editors for editorial services. Not all people who sell editing services are high-quality editors.
Handsel Publishers, Ltd. is the website for my publisher. The blog page includes an article that may be helpful to most writers, at one time or another, for overcoming writer’s block. Has Your Writing Hit a Brick Wall? 3 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.
Handsel has additional articles at their Handsel Publications press site. Topics range from writing to ivermectin to solving the mystery of cattle mutilations (with photos of the culprit). If there’s not an article pointing out that methane from cows is emitted from the front end rather than the back end, there should be.
Handsel’s main publishing website: https://www.handselpublishers.ltd
You can read about my productive experience with Joe Bunting’s The Write Practice courses and books on my Fiction page of this website. His 100 Day Book course was one of the most useful I’ve taken, and I’ve enjoyed my time with The Write Practice. https://thewritepractice.com
For some English usage tips and gotchas, try English Usage Hints and Tips articles to help get your writing right. This is a young website and still growing (gradually). https://englishusagehintsandtips.com
Good luck, and happy writing!