The Print Book Self-Publishing Checklist: 20 To-Do Items from Bestselling Author J.J. Hebert

Self Publishing Checklist

  1. Continually study the craft of writing. Take advantage of all the writing resources you can get your hands on. Read books and articles on writing. Join writers groups. The idea here is to get equipped with the tools needed to successfully write a solid and publishable book.
  2. Revise and proofread your manuscript until you are pleased with the outcome. Your final draft should NOT be your first draft.
  3. Hire a professional editor and heed his/her advice. A pro editor is invaluable and should be able to take your manuscript to the next level. Depending on how you plan to self-publish, you can outsource the editing to a freelancer or publishing services company or even a self-publishing company that includes editing in a publishing package.
  4. If your book is a picture book, now’s the time to prepare your pre-existing illustrations or images or hire a children’s book illustrator.  All images should be 300 dpi (i.e. high resolution).
  5. Pick the book formats you plan to use (hardcover/paperback). If you’d rather go the ebook-only route (which I don’t recommend because you’ll limit your market and sales opportunities), you should look into ebook conversion and distribution services.
  6. No matter what the genre, now is also the time to hire a book cover designer or design it yourself only if you are a professional graphic designer. Keep in mind that most self-publishing companies include book cover design in their publishing packages; however, you should only consider designers who create “custom” designs. There’s a big difference between “customizable” and “custom.” The former usually implies that the designer is working with a template, whereas the latter suggests that the designer is creating something unique. Since the cover is the first thing readers will see (usually), it’s important to put a lot of your focus on having a professional custom cover design created.
  7. Use comparable titles on the market to determine your retail price. Whatever you do, don’t overprice your book!
  8. Obtain the ISBN and barcode directly from Bowker. You can also obtain the ISBN/barcode via a publishing package.
  9. Register your copyright. Understand that in the United States, manuscript text is copyrighted upon its creation. As per the US Copyright Office, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form,” and therefore registration is optional but recommended.
  10. Hire a professional to handle the typesetting/layout of your book once the text has been fully edited and finalized. Again, you can usually find a publishing package that includes interior layout as well.
  11. Write a blurb for the back cover. This should be around a paragraph long, written in third person (normally). Don’t give away the ending. Simply use the blurb to entice readers.
  12. Find a book printer/manufacturer.
  13. Locate a book distributor as well.
  14. Choose a book launch date.
  15. Decide who will handle order processing and fulfillment.
  16. Start marketing your book well in advance if possible. There are many free book marketing resources available, such as 75 Book Marketing Tips for Authors.
  17. Print a galley or proof copy to ensure high quality.
  18. Hire a PR firm or handle your own press releases and media outreach.
  19. Launch your book. Try to setup a local book signing to celebrate the launch. Local newspapers will usually give you a nice write-up as well.
  20. Continue marketing your book. Again, 75 Book Marketing Tips for Authors is very helpful. Market your book over and over and over again.

 

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About J.J. Hebert:

  • Author of two self-published MindStir Media/Amazon.com bestselling books, with over 100,000 copies sold worldwide.
  • President & CEO of MindStir Media, a top self-publishing company seen on Lifetime, Fox Business, History Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Biography Channel, Bravo and Ovation TV.
  • Helped produce hundreds of books for authors nationwide.
  • Provided thousands of publishing consultations. Schedule a free publishing consultation with J.J. Hebert right now.
  • Hailed as the “Self-Publishing Guru” by The Good Men Project.

 

Advanced Facebook Marketing Tips for Authors & Entrepreneurs

facebook-marketing-tips-for-authors

Most Facebook marketing articles give what I call “entry-level advice” or provide a sort of “Facebook 101” experience, and that’s great for folks who haven’t yet delved into Facebook for marketing their books and products. You’ll see articles such as ‘How to Setup a Fan Page’ or ‘How to Get More Facebook Likes’. But what about advanced Facebook marketing tips and strategies for authors and entrepreneurs? There are many authors/entrepreneurs already using Facebook for marketing – and I’m assuming that you’re one of them (or you will be). You’re probably looking for ways to improve your current Facebook marketing experience. So here are my top advanced Facebook marketing tips for authors/entrepreneurs…

1) Use Facebook Insights to see what’s working and what is not working. Your main objective with Facebook marketing should be to drive targeted traffic to your website. Traffic that will ultimately convert into sales. In order to do that, you need to create outstanding content. Content that makes people want to share it with their friends. Once you’ve taken that Facebook 101-ish step, your focus must turn to your Facebook Insights (i.e. analytics). I’m going to include a few screenshots. In the first screenshot you’ll notice the Insights button at the top of the page. I’ve circled it for effect.

insights-in-menu

You must be logged in to your page to see that button. Click it and that will bring you to the Overview section of your Insights (see Screenshot below).  That area gives you most of the info you need – overall Post Reach, Engagement stats, Page Likes, analytics for your 5 most recent posts, etc. Admittedly, I’m not going to get into every single aspect of Insights. I’m instead going to focus on the pieces I feel are most important. Yes, this is my opinion….

insights-view

Looking at the above screenshot of the overview section, you should notice a few things right away. First, the Post Reach is really solid. I didn’t arrive at those numbers organically (more about that later) but I’m happy to see that my posts have reached just shy of 70,000 in the past week. That’s something you should be looking for! Second, the Engagement numbers are up. I have a solid number of likes and shares and post clicks. Third, my recent posts were successful despite using various post times. Many experts will tell you to post at certain times during the day or on certain days, but there’s no way to generalize in that regard.  The best time to post content is entirely dependent on your content and your audience. An ideal time and day for one brand won’t be ideal for another. That’s why your own Insights are so important. Don’t ignore them!

2) Focus on link clicks, not so much on likes. This leads me back to Insights. You can click on any of Your 5 Most Recent Posts (or See All Posts to delve deeper) within Insights and it will give you Post Details on that specific post (see Screenshot below).

post details

For this example, I’m using a link post I created recently. That means I simply linked out to a page on my website (added a URL (http://www.)) and waited for the preview (image used on the blog post) to appear on the Facebook post, and then I deleted the URL from the post and added a quick title. That way every time someone clicks the image they are automatically sent to my website. This post received 318 likes, 10 comments and 117 shares. Fairly solid results but I’m not all that interested in those stats. I’m interested in traffic generation above all else. I used the Link Post method instead of the Photo Post method because Facebook is now getting away from giving photo posts priority. What in the world is the difference between a photo post and a link post? A photo post (for driving traffic) is where you upload a photo to the Facebook post and then add a call-to-action (CTA) with a URL to that photo post, such as The resources everyone is talking about…. 50+ Writing Resources & Top 10 Self-Publishing Tips – FREE: http://www.mindstirmedia.com/50-writing-resources-and-10-self-publishing-tips/. Generally, people will click on the photo to learn more or see more but clicking on the photo in that case will not send traffic to your website. Only clicking on the actual URL in the post will result in traffic generation. Notice in the latest screenshot how it mentions Post Clicks. There are three categories– Photo Views, Link Clicks and Other Clicks. They all count toward your overall Post Clicks. Many authors and entrepreneurs look at that stat and believe that the total number of Post Clicks is the total number of visitors sent to the website. That will always be false with a Photo Post! You’ll see a large number of Other Clicks and Photo Views and Link Clicks. Photo Views is simply as it sounds. Other Clicks is defined by Facebook as “clicks not on the content of the post.” So if your Photo Post receives 500 Post Clicks but only 10 of them are Link Clicks, you have a MAJOR problem. In my example above, 100% of the Post Clicks are actual Link Clicks because I used the link post method. A Link Click equals a website visitor.

3) Use Facebook for building your email list. Facebook 101 tells us that we should focus on garnering likes, shares and comments. Those are all important aspects of Facebook marketing; however, you shouldn’t totally rely on Facebook as your traffic source! You don’t own your Facebook page. Facebook can change their algorithms any time they’d like – and they have. In fact, just recently they decided to cut back on the amount of organic reach they give pages. For those reasons, it’s crucial that you use Facebook to build your email list. You can contact the folks on your email list any time and you don’t have to worry about ever-changing algorithms. You’ll own the list! An easy way to use Facebook to build your email list is to simply direct traffic to an optin page on your website. Look at the latest screenshot… When people click that link post they are sent to an optin page on my website, where they are asked to fill in their name and email address.

4) Understand that organic “reach” has changed and you’ll now have to pay to reach a high percentage of your fans. Sure, you can still see some decent organic reach numbers, but those numbers have drastically declined across the board. You may have noticed that the non-promoted posts you send out are now receiving less engagement than ever before. Facebook is now encouraging Page users (notice I didn’t say “Owners” because you don’t own your page) to advertise, advertise, advertise. Now, I understand this is a touchy subject for many authors and entrepreneurs. You attracted all these fans – they opted in to receive your updates and now they can’t see all your updates? It doesn’t  seem entirely fair. However, simply grumbling about it and refusing to pay Facebook a dime will not help you in the long-run. Remember those Post Reach stats I shared earlier? I had mentioned that I didn’t reach those numbers organically. That’s right; I used Facebook ads. I have a monthly Facebook budget that I keep. But I only pay Facebook for traffic that I drive to my website! In other words, I’m not “promoting” cute photos or inspirational quotes. I only promote link posts and I end up spending somewhere between 20 cents to 50 cents per link click (i.e. website visitor), which is dirt cheap for targeted traffic. I advise you to set aside a small Facebook advertising budget for each month and only promote link posts.

 

5 Rarely Discussed Self-Publishing Mistakes: What NOT To Do

self publishing mistakes

  1. Don’t self-publish your first draft: If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a self-published author banging his head on his desk. It happens every few seconds. Listen very, very carefully. There’s another bang. He thought the book was genius when he clicked publish and he had even “spell-checked” the manuscript beforehand, but now the Amazon reviewers are saying some really nasty things about his book. Things like, “I couldn’t get past the first chapter because of all the errors” and “This was obviously self-published…” Don’t be that guy. Fine-tune your manuscript by going through at least one round of revisions and self-editing and then hire a professional editor to bring a different perspective to the project. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway: The first draft of anything is crap. Don’t publish crap.
  2. Don’t overprice your book: I’m really surprised that more authors aren’t discussing this. I’ve seen multitudes of authors trying to sell their books at exorbitant prices. You need to think as the consumer. Why would a customer pay $30 for your paperback book instead of $12.99 for a NY Times bestseller? Or $9.99 for your ebook instead of $6.99 for Stephen King? They probably won’t! Try enticing the customer with a competitive (or discounted) price and watch what happens.
  3. Don’t count on sales at brick-and-mortar bookstores: It’s true that many indie bookstores will happily stock your self-published print book. Some of them will work out consignment deals with you. From my experience, they’ll want around 40%. Major chains will want at least 50% and you’ll generally need to go through layers of bureaucracy in order to get your book stocked. You’ll also need to take the risk of making your book “returnable.” As you can imagine, this could get ugly very quickly. For those reasons and many others, I advise self-publishing authors to focus primarily on online sales. Your profit margins will increase and you’ll be able to cover a ton of ground much more quickly.
  4. Don’t think that just having an online presence is enough: “I’m on Facebook,” says almost every self-published author. “I’m on Twitter. I’m on Pinterest. I have a blog. I have a website…” This is all very nice, but it’s not enough to simply have an online presence. You need to be active on all of your platforms. In other words, you can’t just “set it and forget it.” Treat your online presence as you would your own home. Care for it, live in it, and love it.
  5. Don’t expect that strangers will automatically care about your book: I have to admit that when I first started self-publishing, I thought everyone needed my book. Everyone. My inspirational book could motivate and change lives. I knew it. But no one cared at first (aside from friends and family, of course). I had to make them care. I accomplished this by – wait for it – networking! I created Facebook groups (and even Myspace groups; remember Myspace?). I befriended book lovers on Facebook. I reached out to fellow writers by email and met them in person at signings and other events. Most importantly, I made good impressions on those people and most of them supported me by helping spread the word. I know this isn’t fun or sexy advice. Many self-publishing authors looking for advice don’t want to hear that this ride could be a long one. Throw away the idea of “quick and easy” and focus on building relationships!


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About J.J. Hebert:

  • Author of two self-published MindStir Media/Amazon.com bestselling books, with over 100,000 copies sold worldwide.
  • President & CEO of MindStir Media, a top self-publishing company seen on Lifetime, Fox Business, History Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Biography Channel, Bravo and Ovation TV.
  • Helped produce hundreds of books for authors nationwide.
  • Provided thousands of publishing consultations. Schedule a free publishing consultation with J.J. Hebert right now.
  • Hailed as the “Self-Publishing Guru” by The Good Men Project.

 

SEO Basics for Your Author Website

seo basics

Image by Global Panorama at Flickr

If you want your author website to be a book-selling machine, you have some options. You can pay for website traffic via pay-per-click methods (expensive) such as Adwords, BingAds, Facebook Ads, etc. or you can optimize your website so that it attracts organic traffic (less expensive). Or you can utilize both paid and organic traffic options. Here’s what you don’t want to do, though: sit back and wait for people to find your website. That just doesn’t happen. You need to be proactive. Here are five very basic search engine optimization tips for your author website, brought to you by Page SEO Company, a top NH SEO company:

  1. Perform keyword research. Find keywords that relate to your book(s). For instance, maybe your book is Christian Fiction. You would want to add the term “Christian Fiction” in your website’s homepage title tag. It would read “Your Name – Christian Fiction Author”. The title of your website is probably the single most important onsite SEO factor. Search engines see the title of your website and use that info to help determine the topic of your website.
  2. Once you’ve decided on your keywords and sprinkled them in the website’s title, it’s time to update the meta description. This too should include your keywords. Also update your meta keywords.
  3. Next, you should include content — text and images — on your website that contain your keywords. It’s important that you use your keywords in the text sparingly (blogging on your author website using your keywords will also help attract traffic). However, don’t go overboard and “stuff” as many keywords in your text as possible. “Keyword stuffing” isn’t appreciated by Google and your site could get penalized…. And how in the world does one add keywords to an image? Easy. You add image alt attributes.
  4. Each page on your website will have its own URL. A URL is basically the address of a page. So you might create a URL for your about page as follows: www.yourauthorwebsite.com/about. That isn’t a very search engine friendly URL. Instead, consider creating URLs that contain the keywords and possibly match the title. For example, www.yourauthorwebsite.com/about-christian-fiction-author.
  5. You should also focus on quality link building, also known as offsite SEO. Google counts backlinks as votes of popularity, so quantity matters but quality is much more important these days. You should only pursue high-quality backlinks. With enough high-quality backlinks your website should start appearing in Google search engine results pages for your keywords.

Obviously, this is an incredibly basic primer on SEO. There are actually around 200 Google ranking factors to keep in mind for your author website. Search engine optimization is an extremely effective method of promoting your website, but it can also be annoyingly complicated and time-consuming. If you’d rather spend more time on writing than doing SEO, it’s highly recommended that you hire a professional SEO services company.  As a leading NH SEO agency, Page SEO Company can handle all of the onsite and offsite SEO for you, so you can get back to writing. Of course, if you don’t have a marketing budget feel free to try your own hand at SEO. Hopefully the SEO basics above will at least put you on the right track!

5 Reasons To Hire Pro Children’s Book Illustrators

Children's Book Illustrators

Photo by Stephanie Watson

I speak with children’s picture book authors almost daily here at MindStir Media. The question that arises most often is probably some variation of: “Should I create my own children’s book illustrations or should I hire a professional children’s book illustrator?” My initial answer is usually incredibly simple and to the point. Here it is: If you aren’t a pro children’s book illustrator, you should definitely hire one! I usually go on to explain the reasons why hiring children’s book illustrators is so important….

  1. Your self-published children’s picture book will be competing with traditionally published books. Nearly every traditionally published picture book I’ve seen has been illustrated by a pro. If you want your book to have a fighting chance in the market, it needs to be of the highest quality! This means biting the bullet and hiring a pro. I know sometimes it’s tough to part with the money, but investing in a pro illustrator could pay off over time. This leads to my next reason…
  2. I’ve examined the MindStir Media book sales numbers for professionally illustrated books vs. books illustrated by amateurs. Guess which books sold more copies… Professionally illustrated, by over 200%.  So if you want your book to have a better chance at selling more copies, make sure it’s illustrated by a pro.
  3. It’s been my experience that most reviewers are selective and will only give focus to books that catch their attention — books that look professional! Don’t be that picture book author who sends a reviewer a lackluster book. It’ll probably get tossed or donated, not reviewed.
  4. The previous reason segues nicely into your credibility. An amazingly illustrated book will only add credibility to your writing career. It will show readers, reviewers and booksellers that you’re serious enough about your career to team up with a professional. This builds trust and opens doors for you that might otherwise have been closed.
  5. Finally, hiring a pro children’s book illustrator, one with extensive experience, will help you feel more confident about your book. Confidence means a lot for an author. It means that you don’t need to hide. You can get out there and promote, promote, promote and know that many people are going to perceive your book as a high-quality product.

A final note: There are many different definitions out there for “professional children’s book illustrators.” Mine is rather straightforward and it is the definition I generally use when hiring illustrators to work on MindStir Media books: A pro children’s book illustrator has an extensive portfolio, including at least 10 published books under his/her belt, and he/she makes a living creating children’s book illustrations. I realize that definition is rather strict, but I only want to see authors work with the best!

J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and self-publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a top self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, childrens book illustrations, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.

Is Caffeine A Writer’s Friend…Or Enemy?

Photo by "trophygeek" @ Flickr

Photo by “trophygeek” @ Flickr

Consuming caffeine (e.g. drinking coffee) seems to go hand in hand with writing, but have you ever stopped to think why? I mean, other than temporarily relieving sleepiness and increasing alertness, do writers actually notice any improvements in writing ability while consuming caffeine? I personally haven’t found that caffeine enhances my writing skills in any way. I sometimes write a bit faster if I’ve consumed large amounts of caffeine, but there’s never any noticeable difference in writing quality.

Obviously I’m not a scientist. I haven’t tested caffeine on numerous writers to track their responses. I’m not sure anyone has, really–but there have been many broad, less targeted studies performed throughout the world. Some studies suggest that:

In conclusion, a cup of Joe each day shouldn’t negatively impact your writing, but it probably won’t enhance your writing, either. So is caffeine a writer’s friend or enemy? Probably a little bit of both. Maybe you should try getting some extra sleep before grabbing for that extra cup (or two) tomorrow!

J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a leading self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, illustration, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.

 

Authors Need to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

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Photo by Silicon Prairie News, Flickr

Whether you want to believe it or not, writing is a business. It’s a lot of fun but you should always remember that you need to make a profit in order to stay in the writing business. What do all successful businesses have in common? Exceptional customer service. Great customer service creates happy and loyal customers. Make them happy and they’ll keep coming back for more of your books. These sales generate profits. Treat your customers badly and you’ll ultimately go out of business.

Here are some ways to provide exceptional customer service as an author:

  • Use social media, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with current and potential customers. Be polite, always. Don’t talk to them; talk with them. Engage in a conversation. That means replying to comments and tweets. Don’t post and disappear.
  • I know I’ve said before that replying to negative reviews isn’t a good idea, but there are always exceptions. Take Gary Vaynerchuk’s approach, for instance: Respond to negative reviews (on Amazon.com, for example) with an apology and offer to refund. I know this may sound radical, but you’d be surprised how much respect you will earn. Read this. WARNING: Never respond negatively to a negative review. 
  • Throw in a bookmark or some complimentary item with every book sold at your website. Sign the book and also the bookmark. Include a short note with your email address. Sign the note as well. Ask the customer to get in touch with you after they’re done reading. Let them know you’d love to hear from them. This is all about going above and beyond and winning customers for life.
  • Respond to your fan mail! When your readers email you, make sure to respond. This type of personal customer service will gain you many repeat “customers!” I’ve never understood authors who decide to use autoresponders or ignore fan mail. If someone took the time to send you a personal email, you should take the time to provide a personal response.
  • Book signings are perfect opportunities to display your exceptional customer service. You should always show up on time (early, actually, to help with setup). Authors who show up late to their signings are disrespecting their customers. You should make solid eye contact with each person who approaches your table. Also offer a hand shake. Finally, thank every single person for stopping by and supporting you!

J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a leading self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, illustration, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.

 

10 Ways to Get Your Book Reviewed

hp-book-reviews

From Amazon.com

As the president and owner of self-publishing company MindStir Media, book reviews is a topic that comes up often when speaking with my authors. To get MindStir Media books reviewed I usually recommend the following options to my clients (this is a partial yet powerful list):

  1. NetGalley: This site puts a digital version of your book in front of 145,000+ reviewers, who can download the PDF. Whenever a reviewer downloads your book, he/she MUST review the book before downloading any other books from the website. MindStir Media authors have the option to get reviewed via this service.
  2. GoodReads: Use this website to give away copies of your book in exchange for honest reviews. MindStir authors are encouraged to signup for a Goodreads account and then use the Author Program to participate in the giveaway program. Here’s a link that I usually give out to MindStir Media authors: http://www.slideshare.net/GoodreadsPresentations/your-guide-to-giveaways-on-goodreads-15194819
  3. LibraryThing: This site is a lot like Goodreads in that you can give away print copies of your book. On LibraryThing, though, you can give away copies of your ebook in exchange for reviews as well. MindStir Media authors have found this very beneficial.
  4. Contact reviewers directly: Sites like The Indie View show lists of book reviewers. Look through the list of reviewers and follow their submission guidelines, etc. Also perform a search on any of the major search engines for something along the lines of “book blog reviewer list” or “book blog directory” and you’ll find a wide array of book reviewers for you to contact.
  5. Turn fan mail into reviews: You might receive fan mail from time to time. Instead of sending back a dull response, why not send a genuine “thank you” and then ask them if they’d kindly post a book review on Amazon.com? Tell the fan that you appreciate their kind note and would really appreciate their continued support by posting an honest review. You’ll be surprised by the response!
  6. Run a “Free Book Promo” for your Kindle book: As part of their Select program, Amazon allows authors and publishers to offer their Kindle books for free for up to 5 days during each 90-day period. Readers worldwide will download your ebook for free during that period and many of them will review the book on Amazon. MindStir Media authors have seen great success with this book review tactic.
  7. Create bookmarks/business cards with a call-to-action: Make your bookmarks/business cards unique and add a call-to-action, a line that states: “Support my writing career by posting a review at Amazon.com” or something like that.
  8. Include a page in your book to ask for reviews: There’s almost always room on a final page in the book to add a few lines requesting reviews. You could add: “If you’ve enjoyed my book, please consider writing and posting a customer review at Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, and/or LibraryThing.com. I would really appreciate the support!”
  9. Take advantage of special review programs: I highly recommend sending your book to Kirkus Reviews,  Foreword ReviewsMidwest Book Review, and/or BlueInk Review. They provide professional honest book reviews.
  10. Develop an email newsletter and contact your list to ask for honest reviews: If you have a website, you should sign up with an email marketing company such as Constant Contact, Aweber or MailChimp. Use one of those companies to add a sign up form to your website. Visitors to your website will complete your form and over time you’ll have a healthy, loyal list of newsletter subscribers. You can feel free to contact your subscribers to ask for honest reviews. Maybe offer something of value in exchange for the review. Some authors give out signed bookmarks. Get creative!
J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a leading self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, illustration, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.

Top 5 Writing Lessons from Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling

I’ve been meaning to blog about J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, for a long time now… The other day I replayed my Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Blu-ray. Definitely the best of all the Potter movies, in my opinion. But I’m not here to blog about the movie itself. No, I’m here to discuss A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe, a special feature that revealed the answers to some big Harry Potter questions and also indirectly offered fantastic writing lessons for writers. Here are the top 5 writing lessons that I discovered while watching that special feature:

  1. Persist: Here’s where some aspiring authors fail. They get caught up in a get-rich-quick mindset and expect overnight success. They hear stories about how the idea of a spectacled wizard boy popped up into J.K.’s mind…and then they hear jk rowling (2)about the billion dollars she’s made and see her name all over the media. According to her own words, writing the complete story of Harry Potter was a 20-year process! 20 years! Maybe you’re struggling with writer’s block at the moment or you’ve developed some doubts. Please, don’t give up. Persist. Don’t give up after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, a decade, two decades, three … If you love writing, write and persist. Don’t expect overnight success. It’s a marathon, not a race, right?
  2. Treat your characters as real people: J.K. Rowling said this of her characters: “They’re in your life the way real people are … I love writing dialogue … I miss Dumbledore the most … He was telling me things I needed to hear sometimes …” Notice the connection J.K. Rowling has with Dumbledore. She apparently misses hearing from him like she would a far-away friend. As a writer, you need to form a special connection with your characters. Let yourself go and allow each character to speak without interruption. Don’t get in the way of your characters.
  3. Know where the story’s headed [SPOILER ALERT]: “Within the first year of writing, I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be… I knew we were always working towards the final battle at Hogwarts. I knew that Harry would walk to his death…”
  4. Stay true to the story and yourself: “I went where my pen took me, and bad though it may seem to some people, I never really considered my readership in that way… I wrote what I wanted to write…” Rowling didn’t allow critics or readers to influence her writing. She wrote the story that was meant to be told.
  5. Focus only on relevant backstories: Many writers, especially newbies, get lost in backstory. They write as though the reader needs to know everyone’s backstory in excruciating detail … Now, many of us heard through the media that Dumbledore is gay. Rowling never mentioned his sexual preference in the Potter books, but did confirm that he’s gay. She said, “The relationship he [Dumbledore] has with Grindlewald – he fell really hard for this boy… His [Dumbledore's] one great experience of love was utterly tragic. It was with someone who was dangerous and demonic [Grindlewald]…so that was my idea of Dumbledore’s tragic backstory…” But why didn’t she add this backstory to the books? Because it wasn’t relevant to the story, she implied. I also gathered from Rowling’s conversation with Radcliffe that Professor McGonagall had a somewhat tragic backstory as well, but Rowling ultimately felt that that backstory wasn’t relevant to the story either…
J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a leading self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, illustration, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.
J.K. Rowling image via Daniel Ogren
*Disclaimer: MindStir Media is in no way affiliated with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros.

MindStir Christian Book Publishers Releases New FAITHWRITERS book

Trials and Triumphs published by MINDSTIR Christian Book PublishersFaithWriters.com is the #1 website for Christian writers, with over 64,000 members worldwide and growing. It’s been helping Christian writers and spreading the Gospel for around a decade. It’s known as an “encouraging community of Christian writers … A great place to learn and grow in a safe, caring environment…”

Christian book publisher MindStir Media recently partnered with Faithwriters.com to create an inspirational book, Trials and Triumphs: Hope Beyond Circumstances: 40 Life-Changing Testimonies, through which Faithwriters intends to share the hope of Jesus. The stories included in the book come from the winners of a recent contest hosted at Faithwriters.com. The top 40 stories were chosen for inclusion in the book. Christian book publishing is MindStir’s specialty, so this publishing partnership is a perfect fit …

In early March 2014, the paperback became Amazon’s #17 Christian Evangelism Bestseller. The Kindle edition spent time as the #1 Christian Evangelism Bestseller and #2 Christian Inspiration Bestseller!

Buy TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS by Faithwriters (2014, MindStir Media Christian Publishers)

Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million
Published by MindStir Media, top Christian book publishers, USA
$14.99 (softcover), $6.99 (ebook)

Read the MindStir Media press release (3/25/14)

Interested in publishing with one of the best Christian publishers in USA?

Give us a call at 800-767-0531 or email us at authors@mindstirmedia.com