Top Level Guides
Top Level Guides

Children’s Guide

Children’s books are delightful, endearing, important, and very hard to make any money at. Due to the natural format of picture books (as wide or wider than they are high, filled with color illustrations), they don’t look good in ebooks making the market for them thin, and the paperback/hardcover books are expensive to print and hard to format. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can self-publish picture books and there are even a few independent authors making money doing so. Let’s dive into what makes a picture book. Pictures, Obviously Without pictures, it’s just a book,...

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Fantasy Guide

Fantasy is one of the “What if…?” genres that characterize speculative fiction. But in fantasy, the answer to that question is always going to be magic, eldritch, otherworldly—but to varying degrees, depending on the subgenre. The subgenres of fantasy are wildly divergent. Pay close attention to the differences, because some are so far from each other, it seems strange to put them in the same overarching genre. A modern urban fantasy book bears almost no resemblance to an epic fantasy. And this is in all particulars, not just the text of the book itself. Cover, blurb, tropes, tense, point of...

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Horror Guide

No matter the subgenre, all horror shares an overarching theme: fear. Whether it’s splatterpunk, serial killer, supernatural, or anything else, every book in this genre is a spine-tingler. You can never go wrong in ramping up the fear factor, and the good guys don’t always have to win. And where there’s not fear, there’s tension. Every horror reader wants tension. They want to be concerned for the safety — and often sanity — of the characters. You need to make those characters relatable and then put them on a path to destruction. Like every thriller has a ticking clock, every...

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Nonfiction Guide

For those who don’t want to make stuff up, nonfiction beckons. It’s obviously a research-heavy genre, so only the studious need apply. However, most people who write nonfiction choose a subject they already know well, which cuts down on the time needed for study. It’s one of the few genres where you can make money on stand-alone books. This is because one of the most common types of non-fiction book is the problem-solving book. You identify a problem readers have and you tell them how to solve it. If you hit on a problem a lot of readers have and...

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Romance Guide

If you think romance novels are just about people falling in love, you’re wrong. This would be like describing thrillers as “books about people who are in a hurry.” It’s true, but misses most of the important stuff and all of the real tension.  The key to modern fiction is making the reader worry that the thing that happens in every book in the genre might not happen this time. Romance novels are no different. But instead of a ticking clock (a thriller), surviving a horrible monster (horror), or a quest to save the world from an evil warlock (fantasy)...

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Science Fiction Guide

Science fiction is one of the “What if…?” genres that characterize speculative fiction.  The answer to that question is going to vary widely by subgenre. While a genre like fantasy is distinguished by magic, the thing that might identify science fiction is technology. Always a little (or a LOT) ahead of the timeline in question, so you can have steampunk where mad scientists invent fantastical—TECHNOLOGICAL—devices. Magic can mean anything, and sometimes the hand-waving can get far enough out there. Arthur C. Clarke posited three laws for writing about science fiction. The laws are: But it is technology. Reproducible by machine....

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Thriller Guide

Thrillers are about tension and movement, long odds and fighting to overcome them, and a hero so brilliant and determined that they win despite everything being stacked against them. They may have to make a big sacrifice, but in the end the hero saves the world.  Thrillers are usually written in third person, specifically, in third person limited. It’s a visceral genre, so first person is good, too, but thrillers often feature complex and/or convoluted plots that need several viewpoint characters to work. For first person, make sure your plot is on the simpler side, the twist demands the reader...

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Young Adult Guide

Young adult (YA), new adult, middle-grade, and early reader are all what we call addon genres, in that they mostly only exist when added on to another genre: YA thriller, middle-grade fantasy, etc. They are also defined entirely by the age group of their readers, though there are style, plot, and theme considerations for each group. The age ranges are: Books obviously get longer as the readership gets older. The guidelines for book length in trad publishing are: This is also adjusted by genre, most notably fantasy books that are allowed to go a bit longer. In self-publishing, we are...

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Erotica Guide

Let's start with what erotica is. Erotica is fiction where the primary focus is on graphic sex and the lead up to it. Where a thriller is about a ticking clock and action, a western is about gunfights, and a romance is about overcoming barriers to forming relationships, the primary goal of characters in erotic writing is to have sex and the climax (lol) is actual sex described in no uncertain terms.

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