Digital vs. Print Books: How a Ghostwriter Can Boost Both Digital and Print Publishing

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Cicero

Books have always been a powerful means of communicating knowledge. Humankind has used books to preserve and further develop civilization for centuries.

And in the information age, books have become more powerful than ever. However, the changing technological landscape has started to morph books into the electronic domain.

Nowadays, books do not need paper to exist. Books can thrive in a non-material world in which words pop up on a screen. This new domain has done nothing to diminish books’ importance. However, the question now becomes: Are books better suited in their traditional paper format or their new digital embodiment?

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of print versus digital books. Moreover, we’ll discuss how readers, writers, and publishers can take advantage of both formats to pursue their aims. Lastly, we will examine the role that individual ghostwriters and ghostwriting companies can play within the shifting literary realm.

Are print books still relevant?

Virtually every facet of human existence is progressively migrating to the digital world. In fact, it is hard to find an aspect of modern life that is not somehow part of the digital world.

Books are no exception.

Now, more than ever, it is quite easy to access vast arrays of literary materials in  electronic formats. It seems as though digital publishing is barreling ahead, poised to overtake traditional print publications.

Or so it seems.

In 2019, the Association of American Publishers reported an estimated $26 billion in publisher revenue. While this figure is impressive, the most stunning figure is the disproportion between print and digital book sales.

Print book sales comprised roughly $22.6 billion of the total market revenue.

Surprisingly, digital books accounted for only about $2.04 billion in sales.

This significant gap raises questions about digital books’ true popularity among readers.

Meryl Halls, managing director of the U.K.’s Booksellers Association, offers this insight into print books’ ongoing popularity: “I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects.”

Indeed, print books offer a sensory experience that digital books are yet to deliver. This phenomenon explains why devices such as e-readers have sound effects for turning pages. Moreover, these devices attempt to mimic the reading experience that comes from holding a paper book.

Unfortunately, electronic devices are unable to deliver that same degree of experience.

Halls adds, “The book lover loves to have a record of what they’ve read, and it’s about signaling to the rest of the world. It’s about decorating your home, it’s about collecting, I guess, because people are completists, they want to have that to indicate about themselves.”

Undoubtedly, a tablet or e-reader full of volumes cannot offer the same visual exposure that physical books can. After all, the visual that comes from seeing shelves full of paper books is unbeatable.

Are digital books the wave of the future?

As society transitions into a fully digital world, electronic publications will eventually overtake print ones. This phenomenon has already disrupted the newspaper industry.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, daily newspaper circulation averaged 63.2 million in 1990. Additionally, Sunday newspaper circulation averaged 62.6 million in 1990.

Fast forward to 2020, that figure had fallen to 24.3 million on weekdays and 25.8 million on Sundays.

Print newspapers’ remarkable decline is partially due to the accessibility that digital media offers consumers. With tablets and smartphones readily available, it would appear that a transition to a fully digital media world is evitable.

Furthermore, generations of digital natives continue to place greater pressure on print publications. Author Franz S. MacLaren sums up e-books’ influence by stating, “Life without a Kindle is like life without a library nearby.”

Indeed, an e-reader such as a Kindle can open the floodgates to an immense world of knowledge.

Therein lies both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, digital media allows readers to access vast quantities of materials. A quick stroll through the Amazon Kindle selection can easily blow anyone’s mind. Consequently, there is no shortage of options to choose. There will always be something to read and something new to discover.

On the other hand, the seemingly limitless array of materials can make narrowing focus virtually impossible. Choosing what to read may become extremely complex. And getting lost in an immense ocean of titles may ultimately discourage readers from making a choice.

Undeniably, digital media has entrenched itself in people’s day-to-day lives. Nonetheless, it may seem that the transition from print to digital has not been as rapid as once thought. Therefore, authors and publishers should not neglect the importance that both print and digital have on society. It would appear that authors and publishers are attempting to serve two masters at once.

Should authors and publishers focus on print, digital, or both?

The question “Should authors and publishers focus on print, digital, or both?” encapsulates the core of the print versus digital discussion. There are three main points to consider in this debate.

First, print media will remain a significant force in the years to come. While print newspapers are rapidly becoming obsolete, print books are not. Print books maintain a firm position in the publishing world.

So, why are books in and newspapers out?

Newspapers, like all news media, thrive on speed.

The faster news reaches audiences, the better. As such, print newspapers cannot hope to compete against instant information sharing through social media.

In contrast, print books offer a leisurely or learning experience that transcends speed.

Reading a book is an exercise in discovery. As a result, print books deliver a singular experience that fast-paced media outlets have come to overlook.

Second, digital media, such as e-books, offer instant access to readers.

In the past, publishers needed to wait weeks, or even months, for their publications to reach a nationwide audience.

With online marketplaces such as Amazon Kindle, access to a nationwide and worldwide audience becomes instantaneous. Authors and publishers can begin to see the returns on their investments within minutes.

Third, digital media is boundless insofar as its capacity to store information. In contrast, physical books need to compete for shelf space. Unfortunately, some books do not make the cut.

Sadly, folks discard unwanted books, relegating them to oblivion. While digital media seems to remedy this situation, it is crucial to remember that physical books are trophies. Print books constitute a status symbol that no e-book can match.

Ultimately, authors and publishers cannot neglect one type of media over another. Authors and publishers need to keep one foot in print and one in digital if they aspire to make their investment profitable.

How can hiring a ghostwriter help boost print and digital publishing?

It has become clear that authors and publishers must boost their presence in print and digital landscapes. Neglecting one over the other may lead to a counterproductive strategy. Moreover, publishing formats that discriminate may ultimately alienate readers.

Based on the need to publish materials in both formats, authors and publishers may become overwhelmed. After all, producing content for both print and digital requires different approaches.

Print books provide a recreational experience that demands more extensive materials. Books related to history, travel, art, and science, among other topics, provide readers with a pleasant reading experience.

Conversely, digital materials provide a quick burst of information. Digital materials appeal to the fast-paced lifestyle of most individuals. Therefore, authors and publishers must focus on a differentiated approach.

However, a differentiated approach to publishing across multiple platforms can become a daunting task.

A professional ghostwriter can help authors and publishers share the workload. The adage “the more, the merrier” certainly applies within this context. After all, authors’ time and attention are finite. Thus, employing the assistance of a ghostwriter or ghostwriting agency can make a huge difference.

Hiring a Ghostwriter for Digital Publishing Purposes

Hiring a ghostwriter or ghostwriting agency can help publishers and authors apply a segmented strategy that allows them to cover several bases.

For example, an established author can employ the services of an experienced ghostwriter to produce a series of blog posts.

In essence, the blog posts serve as marketing copy to draw attention to the author’s books. However, the author does not have the additional time it takes to produce a regular blog post.

As a result, hiring a professional ghostwriter enables mainstream authors to extend their reach without sacrificing quality or quantity.

Hiring a Ghostwriter for Print Publishing Purposes

Authors and publishers working predominantly in the digital domain may choose to move into print. This endeavor may require additional time and effort to produce full-length books. However, they may not have the additional time and effort to spare. As such, a professional ghostwriter can help produce content specifically aimed at print publication.

Ghostwriters are a great alternative for authors and publishers looking to pivot into print. Indeed, sharing the workload reduces unnecessary stress while allowing for a differentiated publishing strategy.

How can hiring a ghostwriting agency help boost publishing?

Publishers looking to paint with a broad brush should consider hiring a ghostwriting agency. Reputable ghostwriting agencies employ a team of professional writers specialized in various areas. As a result, authors and publishers looking to spread their wings can take advantage of what a ghostwriting agency can offer.

While hiring an individual ghostwriter is a great alternative, hiring a ghostwriting agency offers greater flexibility than individual ghostwriters.

In particular, publishers can employ ghostwriting agencies to produce large quantities of material within a relatively short timeframe.

The secret lies in employing a team of writers to work on specific projects simultaneously. As a result, publishers seeking to expand their scope can certainly benefit from a ghostwriting agency’s services.

Individual authors can also benefit greatly from hiring a ghostwriting agency. For instance, an author looking to promote their blog can employ a ghostwriting agency to produce a series of articles within a quick turnaround.

In doing so, the author can provide consistent content to their readers while they work on their next full-length book.

Indeed, employing a ghostwriting agency offers a significant amount of flexibility: The agency can help authors and publishers leave their traditional niches and confidently move into new realms.

Moreover, a ghostwriting agency virtually eliminates the need for additional investment in terms of time and effort. Undoubtedly, a ghostwriting agency offers the opportunity to create a diversified publishing strategy without overextending current capabilities.


The shifting landscape in the publishing world has progressively morphed traditional print publications into the digital world. Traditional print publications such as newspapers now predominantly populate the digital world. However, regular print books still hold their ground amid digital media’s expansion.

The dual relationship between print and digital publishing has forced authors and publishers to maintain digital and print markets. However, maintaining such a presence can imply a significant investment in time and effort.

Hiring a professional ghostwriter is a viable alternative for authors and publishers to further their reach in one or both domains. Professional ghostwriters can produce content that allows authors and publishers to strengthen their position in either domain. This strategy enables them to continue focusing their efforts on their core business while expanding their reach.

For authors and publishers looking to truly spread their wings, employing a ghostwriting agency can help them produce significant quantities of content in a relatively short timeframe.

This approach enables authors and publishers to maintain a consistent presence in the digital and print domains without overextending their current efforts. Since ghostwriting agencies employ teams of writers, ghostwriting agencies have the capacity to produce high-quality content quickly.

Ultimately, authors and publishers can continue to focus on their core business while expanding their overall digital and print media presence.

Getting a Book to Print: Submitting to Multiple Publishers or Self-Publishing?

Publishing a book is a momentous occasion in one’s life. It is the acknowledgment of one’s skills and expertise. Whether your book was penned completely on your own, or with the help of a ghostwriter, getting a book deal is the type of validation so few people receive.

However, taking an idea to print can be a long, winding road.

Attaining that elusive book deal requires patience as aspiring authors navigate the canals of the publishing industry. Often, this journey begins with submitting a book proposal.

Most writers who contact book agents or publishers never hear back from them. This lack of response may lead would-be authors to consider self-publishing as a viable alternative.

While mainstream publishing sometimes frowns upon self-publishing, the self-publishing trend has gained momentum in recent years. Thus, writers now have various publishing options at their disposal.

In this article, we will explore submitting book proposals to multiple publishers in hopes of landing a book deal. We will also discuss self-publishing as an alternative once aspiring authors have exhausted traditional publishing options.

Submitting Book Ideas

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”

Indeed, these words resonate with practically all aspiring writers.

Traditionally, getting a message out to a mainstream audience meant publishing a book. Having a book published provides a large-scale platform for writers to showcase their message.

For novice writers, the publishing process may prove to be surprisingly intricate. Superficially, it may seem like publishing a book mainly boils down to submitting proposals. From there, it would appear that some agents will be happy to pick it up. However, the book publishing business is really a numbers game.

On the whole, book agents receive a plethora of submissions regularly. Therefore, book agents need to sift through the sea of proposals and manuscripts to find that one golden nugget.

All book agents dream of discovering the next New York Times Bestseller. After all, such a discovery would represent millions of dollars in royalties.

This approach leaves many aspiring authors on the outside looking in. Thus, authors looking to submit their works for consideration must carefully follow literary agents’ and publishers’ submission guidelines.

The Writers’ Union of Canada offers the following advice:

Please note that many agents only accept query letters and not unsolicited manuscripts. Before submitting manuscripts to literary agents, check the submission guidelines on their websites to learn about their submission requirements and areas of interests/specialization. Some agencies do not accept unsolicited manuscripts at all, but rather require an introduction from a more seasoned writer.”

From this valuable contribution, it is plain to see why most manuscripts go unnoticed.

In general, query letters are the most effective way of getting one’s foot in the door. A query letter provides the opportunity to gauge a book agent’s interest. Consequently, a compelling query letter can lead to a manuscript request.

Jane Friedman, a renowned writing expert, describes query letters this way:

The query letter has one purpose and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a sales piece that it’s quite possible to write one without having written a word of the manuscript. All it requires is a firm grasp of your story premise.

Aspiring writers must view a query letter as a marketing tool. It intends to entice agents and publishers to move forward.

Often, agents will buy an idea. To them, an idea can materialize into a solid manuscript. In contrast, a poorly written manuscript may prove to be a waste of time. Therefore, a solid, well-rounded query sells much better than a time-consuming manuscript.

Simultaneous Book Idea Submissions

For the most part, traditional publishers and literary agents frown upon simultaneous submissions. Generally speaking, publishing industry professionals feel it is inappropriate to contact multiple publishers and agents simultaneously.

Nevertheless, the publishing industry has softened its stance on this practice over the years.

A common misconception among writers is the difference between simultaneous and multiple submissions.

A simultaneous submission means that a writer has submitted the same literary piece for consideration to various agents or publishers. A multiple submission is when an author submits various literary pieces to the same agent or publisher.

On the whole, writers should submit their literary pieces to multiple agents and publishers.

After all, the likelihood of being selected by the first agent is relatively low.

Nevertheless, some agents may consider this practice inappropriate.

The main argument against simultaneous submission is that it attempts to create competition among publishers for a book’s rights. Mainly, publishers seek exclusivity to a book’s rights. Therefore, encouraging simultaneous submissions allows writers to bypass a publisher’s exclusivity rights.

However, this argument does not hold up to scrutiny, particularly if publishers only accept about 10 percent of submissions on average.

In reality, publishers expect writers to submit to various publications even though submission guidelines may forbid it.

According to Nathaniel Tower, managing editor of Bartleby Snopes, the main reason why publications are reluctant to accept simultaneous submissions boils down to wasting their time.

In essence, editors and agents do not wish to waste their time on a submission whose writer might withdraw. Exclusivity ensures agents will not have the rug pulled out from under them.

The Writers’ Union of Canada indicates that query letters must state the author has made simultaneous submissions, and should also include a deadline. This deadline intends to give the agent a reasonable timeframe to accept the request or reject it.

If the deadline passes without an answer, the writer is free to accept other proposals. The Writers’ Union of Canada suggests a three-month deadline upon submission of a query letter.

Additionally, authors must be forthcoming when receiving multiple offers.

Authors should give other agents and publishers up to the deadline to submit offers or counteroffers. This practice aims to provide transparency throughout the submission process.

Ultimately, a lack of transparency may slight agents and publishers. Consequently, agents and publishers may refuse to receive further submissions.

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offers valuable insight into the simultaneous submission process:

  • Make simultaneous submissions to agents and publishers.
  • Send multiple query letters mainly for nonfiction projects.
  • Keep an eye on single-submission policies, and set a three-month time limit before withdrawing the submission.

This insight can prove a valuable rule of thumb for authors wishing to submit their work to multiple publishers. Ultimately, a great query can get the process moving much faster and more effectively.

Self-Publishing as an Alternative for Aspiring Writers

The overall publishing process can be lengthy. From a query letter to final publication, the entire process may take months, if not years. For some writers, this process may fizzle out in the submission stage.

Nevertheless, the biggest question on aspiring writers’ minds is, “Why do literary agents take so long?”

While there may be several factors in play, it is important to consider the main ones.

First, book agents work with known winners. In other words, book agents will always pick proven earners over new and unproven writers. After all, publishing is a business like any other. Therefore, book agents will always prefer proven money-makers over newcomers.

Also, a specific book agent may already have multiple submissions on a similar topic. Moreover, they may already have an established author covering that niche. Consequently, the agent may pass on future submissions in that niche.

Additionally, agents may have a flood of submissions. Hence, they have a sizeable backlog to sift through. Unfortunately, some submissions may fall through the cracks. A considerable backlog is usually the reason why some writers never hear back from agents.

Indeed, a book deal with a mainstream publisher would be the first choice. However, when simultaneous submissions fail to bear fruit, writers may wonder what other options may be available. At this point, self-publishing may become a viable fallback option.

Self-publishing consists of authors publishing their works without the help of a book agent or publishing company. In the past, self-publishing represented a high cost to writers. Editing, printing, distribution, and marketing made self-publishing prohibitive.

However, Amazon’s Kindle platform has changed the self-publishing landscape for good.

Currently, Amazon’s Kindle has enabled aspiring authors to publish their works at a fraction of the cost. While Kindle is predominantly a digital platform, Amazon offers print-to-order service, as well. This approach allows writers to have the best of both worlds.

Generally speaking, self-publishing on Kindle removes much of the legwork traditional self-publishing requires. Self-published authors no longer need to bear the cost of printing, distribution, and marketing. Kindle’s vast size makes these tasks more accessible to writers.

Self-publishing is a suitable alternative for writers who have grown weary of rejection from traditional book agents.

Going the self-publishing route enables aspiring authors to bypass the barriers of traditional publishing. Additionally, self-publishing allows writers to have full creative control over their pieces. Therefore, self-publishing is an enticing option for those who no longer wish to wait.

The self-publishing phenomenon has boomed thanks to its accessibility. Virtually anyone with a written piece can publish it within minutes. This ease of use makes self-publishing exceptionally enticing for would-be authors.

Renowned marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki offers this insight into the world of self-publishing:

A successful self-publisher must fill three roles: author, publisher, and entrepreneur or APE.

Indeed, Kawasaki’s world places self-published writers in a different dimension. A self-published author must be willing to spend a considerable amount of time marketing their works.

While platforms like Kindle simplify logistics, they do not necessarily facilitate marketing. Ultimately, marketing falls squarely on the writer’s shoulders.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

At first glance, self-publishing appears to be a lifeline for struggling authors. Certainly, self-publishing is a viable alternative for aspiring writers. However, up-and-coming authors must consider both sides of the argument before dipping their toes into the waters of self-publishing.

To begin with, the publishing industry is gradually shifting to a predominantly digital means. Current industry trends point to a growth in eBook sales.

In 2020, eBook sales grew by 12.6 percent compared to 2019. After flattening sales in 2018 and 2019, eBook sales saw a renaissance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, it seems that eBooks have more room to grow.

Also, brands use books predominantly as marketing tools. Thus, the aim of writing a book is not to sell the book itself. Instead, the aim is to use the book as a marketing tool to generate more sales.

Consequently, self-publishing provides an avenue for brands to get their books out to the public.

Digital marketing expert Neil Patel indicates that digital books are the second-best means of increasing lead generation, according to data-driven research.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for self-publishing is a greater royalty share for authors. Traditional publishers offer deals between 5 to 10 percent royalties for writers. This cut pales in comparison to the 40 to 70 percent writers can earn through self-publishing.

According to the Kindle Direct Publishing website, writers can expect to earn a 60 percent royalty on paperbacks (printed using Amazon’s services) and 70 percent on eBook royalties.

For all the positive aspects of self-publishing, there is also a downside that aspiring authors must consider.

Firstly, self-publishing is marketing-intensive. This situation implies that writers must actively market their books all the time.

According to Forbes columnist Nick Morgan, “All books, fiction or non-, need to be marketed heavily in order to stand out in a field of something like a million books published every year in the United States alone.” Indeed, making a brand-new title emerge amid a sea of publications can be a daunting task.

Secondly, building a successful writing career through self-publishing takes time and commitment. Rarely do authors hit a home run with their first self-published work. It’s only after marketing high-quality publications that self-publishing may yield profitable results.

Derek Murphy of CreativIndie offers this insight: “Self-publishing demands long-term commitment and a focus on building your own platform.” Certainly, building a brand from scratch is a long-term endeavor.

Lastly, self-publishing fails to deliver one thing that traditional publishing can: prestige. Authors published by traditional, mainstream publishers can boost the credibility of their work. Dominique Raccach, publisher and CEO at Sourcebooks, offers this thought on the explosion of digital content:

An excessive amount of digital literary content perhaps devalues books in terms of integrity and pricing. While offering consumers value for money is great, this model is driving down the value of eBooks.

The boom in self-publishing has led to a flood of low-quality publications. Consequently, self-published authors have gotten a negative reputation. While there certainly are high-quality publications in the digital self-publishing domain, serious writers need to reconsider going the self-publishing route.


Whether your book is written with the help of a ghostwriter, or penned completely on your own, having a book published is the pinnacle for burgeoning writers.

Indeed, getting a book deal from an established book agent or publisher represents the ultimate validation of a writer’s talents. However, getting to that point may exceed an author’s patience.

While self-publishing may seem like a viable alternative, writers should be wary of the downside to self-publishing at first sight. Mainly, the knock on writers’ reputations may be enough to discourage authors from going the self-publishing route. Nevertheless, self-publishing may prove to be an effective channel when a book serves as a marketing tool.

Ultimately, choosing the right path hinges on the writer’s vision for their publications.

Reading What’s Real: 11 Types of Nonfiction

If you had to guess, which book category would you suppose is the largest in the United States, by both volume and sales revenue? Would you guess Romance? Mystery?

It’s actually neither! In fact, it’s not any genre of novel. Believe it or not, according to NPD Booskscan, it’s actually nonfiction.

Nonfiction, by definition, is prose writing that is about real facts, people, and events. Does that sound boring? It shouldn’t. We live in a fascinating world and nonfiction books can teach us about any wonderous part of it that piques our interest.

It is true that once upon a time nonfiction books tended to be very dry and straightforward. While the information was great, the reading could be a trudge. Thankfully, though, nonfiction has come a long way in recent years and has really embraced storytelling and diversity.

Take a look at these 11 cool types of nonfiction that you’ll want to add to your library–and possibly even your writing repertoire!.

11 Types of Nonfiction

1. Traditional 

Traditional nonfiction takes on a topic and seeks to educate us on it. It doesn’t necessarily get fancy but gives us the lowdown on a moment in history, an animal, a style of architecture, or any other topic. 


2. Autobiography

An autobiography is the story of a person’s life, written by that very person (sometimes with the help of a ghostwriter). It is typically written in the first person and covers the author’s life chronologically. In most cases, autobiographies cover the life of someone famous.


3. Biography

A biography is much like an autobiography, but with one major difference: It’s written by someone other than the subject. So, instead of someone telling you their own life story, you have a writer telling you the life story of someone famous or significant. These books will typically be written in the third person and also tell their story chronologically. 


4. Memoir

A memoir is a story of a person's life told by that same person. Wait, isn't that an autobiography? Yes and no. There are some distinct differences. A memoir is more likely to be focused on one event, time period, or aspect of the author's life. Memoirs also tend to be emotionally driven rather than simply reporting the events. A great memoir can read much like a good novel.


5. Expository

Expository nonfiction does just what the name implies: It exposes something or brings something to light. Some possible topics would include political, cultural, or environmental issues. The key to great expository nonfiction is for the author to have a deep knowledge of the subject matter and bring to light things that most people would not already know. 


6. Prescriptive Nonfiction (Self-Help)

Need help figuring out a problem in your life? Prescriptive nonfiction may have the answers. Better known as self-help books, prescriptive nonfiction offers aid, coaching, and advice for people looking to improve their lives in one way or another. It could be about weight loss, self-confidence, leadership, or any other popular subject. This vein of nonfiction has a massive market, and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. 


7. Narrative 

This is a category than can actually include almost any of the other categories as well. Narrative nonfiction is any nonfiction writing that uses a storytelling style to convey the information. Rather than simply reporting the facts, narrative nonfiction frames the information dramatically, but still truthfully.


8. Browsable 

Browsable nonfiction is informational nonfiction broken down into small, easy-to-read chapters, with things like lists and fun facts. The topics can be anything from how to play a sport to farm machines or former U.S. presidents. A reader can open up the book at any point and glean fun and interesting information without having to read the book from cover to cover. 


9. Active

Want to learn how to do something? Get a book that teaches you with a step-by-step process. That’s active nonfiction. Active nonfiction is meant to educate the reader on how to do something new. It could be building a treehouse, cooking scrumptious desserts, or creating entertaining party games for kids. The “active” in active fiction comes from the idea that the reader doesn’t just read, but needs to follow the instructions and do what the book is telling them to do. 


10. Academic Texts

Most of us are familiar with academic texts. These books are used in educational settings and teach students about any one particular subject, usually including quizzes or other assignments in them. They should be authoritative and comprehensive. 


11. Travel Guides and Travelogues 

Travel guides are just what they sound like, guides for traveling to a specific location. They can provide a traveler with information on the coolest landmarks, best restaurants, places to stay, and other tips to make the most of a trip. Travelogues do the same thing, but in a more creative way. A travelogue is told from the perspective of a person who takes the trip and provides a first-person account of the destination.


Nonfiction is Always Evolving

One thing remains constant: Nonfiction is about facts and the truth. How we choose to tell it is an ever-evolving thing. Fifty years ago, if you put a memoir to film, you’d probably end up with a documentary–and that’s okay.

However, more recently, memoirs like “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Under the Tuscan Sun” have all the storytelling, plot, and voice to make wonderful feature films.

If you’ve shelved the idea of reading—or even writing—nonfiction because it’s just too dull for your tastes, it may be time to look again. It’s a new world in nonfiction and chances are there’s something out there that will keep you turning the pages. Enjoy!

Publishing Trends: 2021 and Beyond

After a 2020 that was unusual, to say the least, publishers of all sorts are now looking ahead to see what the future holds for the publishing industry.

In this article, we’re going to break out our crystal ball and focus on leading industry trends while analyzing some of the biggest news in the publishing industry.

So, stay tuned. We have a lot coming your way.

Current State of the Publishing Market

Image by jadc01 from Pixabay 

No matter how you look at it, the publishing industry is clearly in a state of transition as it shifts from traditional print publishing to the digital domain. This is both good and bad for consumers and publishers.

In a broad sense, this transition is a consequence of the digitalization of modern society. Therefore, it is healthy for the publishing industry to adopt a digital approach.

After all, digital channels like Amazon Kindle have fostered greater competition by enabling amateur authors and publishers to make their materials accessible to the public. And, in doing so, the doors to the publishing world have essentially been thrown wide open.

On the other hand, too much of a good thing is rarely the right answer, and the glut of available digital content, much of it downright awful, has hurt the credibility of the self-publishing movement.

Nevertheless, traditional publishers are quickly becoming an endangered species. The digital publishing model is simply too much for them to hold back.

Yet, traditional publishers have not sat by idly while their hold over the written word crumbles. On the contrary, they have responded to emerging trends with decisive action.

A prime example of this is the proposed merger between Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Both of these names were industry behemoths prior to the rise of digital publishing. Alas, their power has been dramatically diminished by the digital market movement over the last 10 years. As such, the merger of these two companies is a clear attempt at monopolizing the publishing market.

On the surface, mergers are about capitalizing on market share. Corporations paint mergers as a type of social Darwinism, that is, “survival of the fittest.”

In this case, the merger between Random House and Simon & Schuster is more about the bottom line than anything else. Consequently, cornering the publishing market would provide the new corporation with a singular opportunity to maximize their profitability while slashing overhead.

Dennis Johnson, co-founder and publisher of Melville House, had this to say in a recent piece published in The Atlantic, “as the big houses have become bigger and bigger, their business has become more about making money than art or protest…”

Indeed, the current traditional publishing market is about making money as opposed to seeking diversity in the authors and works presented to the public.

To further elaborate on Johnson’s point, a 2019 survey conducted by Lee & Low Books looked into diversity within the publishing Industry.

The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey found that among literary agents, executives, and book reviewers, 76% were white, 81% heterosexual, and 89% non-disabled. Additionally, the survey indicated that 74% of industry executives were females.

As such, the publishing industry is comprised predominantly of straight, white, non-disabled females. This trend represents an apparent lack of diversity within the people who run publishing companies. Naturally, this implies a bias in the type of authors and content published.

While publishing companies have publicly manifested their desire for more diversity among authors and materials, these statistics paint an entirely different story.

In 2015, World Book Night announced its 15 titles, among which none were written by authors of color.

Also, a 2017 study by CCBC found that a mere 3.68% of books in the teen and children’s fiction category contained LGBTQ+ characters. Moreover, only 7.7% of romance novels were intended for ethnically diverse audiences, according to the 2018 State of Diversity in Romance Publishing report.

It is clear that more needs to be done to shift the publishing industry from the bottom line to the minds of readers.

The Role of Independent Publishers

Photo by Mehmet Ali Turan from Pexels

In response to the apparent monopoly in traditional publishing, excluded individuals have turned to independent publishing houses not associated with the large houses.

While traditional publishing companies seek to corner the market, independent publishers provide an opportunity for diversity and inclusion among authors and niches.

On the whole, indie publishers can focus on niches that traditional corporations won’t touch.

How so?

The main reason here is scale. Indie publishers are smaller and, in some cases, completely digital.

This makes their overhead far less than large corporations and, in turn, makes them more willing and able to take risks. This is especially relevant as indie publishers tend to be more socially conscious as well.

For example, Adam Z. Levy, the founder of Transit Books, states that his publishing house is “mission-driven and not market-driven.”

This is a huge distinction.

The core ethos of most independent publishers has led them to grow in size and turnover. Mango Publishing out of Miami, Florida, has shown the largest increase within the indie publishing domain. From 2017 to 2019, Mango reported an increase of 162% in sales. This led them to swell from 68 titles to 130 during that span.

Other publishers showing triple-digit growth over the 2017-2019 time span are Medial Lab books out of New York City; Familius from Sanger, California; and Blue Star Press hailing from Bend, Oregon.

The secret to Mango’s success has been in publishing titles in various niches. For instance, Kate Allan’s You Can Do All Things and Becca Anderson’s The Book of Awesome Black Americans both highlight the diversity that independent publishers bring to the table.

Indeed, indie authors are expected to gain more momentum in the next few years.

There is no question that catering to a diverse audience provides a significant opportunity for growth.

And while the average indie publisher’s turnover may be significantly smaller than that of large-scale publishers, the fact is that smaller publishers can, slowly but surely, gnaw away at the dominant market position held by large incumbents. In doing so, independent publishers can fill a need that large players seem to disregard willingly.

A great example of indie publishers filling a void in the industry can be seen in the writing community, Big Black Chapters, which features authors of color.

Given the fact that traditional publishers are predominantly white, Big Black Chapters seeks to reclaim precious publishing space denied to writers of African heritage. This endeavor began with two friends putting pen to paper. Since then, it has grown to a community of over 3,000 authors around the globe.

While Big Black Chapter may not be a commercial powerhouse at this point, it serves to illustrate how the indie publishing movement has gained traction around the world.

Therefore, we can assume that it will only be a matter of time before independent publishers take a significant chunk out of the overall publishing market.

But will independent publishers eventually overtake traditional publishers? Only time will tell.

The Rise of Digital Publishing

Image by janeb13 from Pixabay 

With traditional publishers working hard to keep a stranglehold on the traditional publishing market, it seems they have lost sight of the most important thing in publishing: the reader.

By focusing only on the bottom line, traditional publishers fail to cater to the array of tastes out there. Sure, self-help books and romance novels are great money-makers, but then again, there should be options available for everyone.

This is where digital publishing has provided a viable alternative to traditional publishing.

Amazon’s Kindle brand has spearheaded the rise of digital publishing. Along with Kindle, Amazon also owns the highly successfully Audible brand.

Audible is the leading provider of audiobooks. In tandem, Amazon controls roughly 80% of the digital publishing market.

This is a concerning fact as Amazon is quickly becoming a monopoly in its own right. As a result, leading publishing industry organizations recently told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Antitrust Committee that “a few tech platforms in the digital marketplace wield extraordinary leverage over their competitors, suppliers, customers, the government, and the public.”

To gain further perspective into the rise of digital publishing, here are the key trends that have contributed to its exponential growth over the last half-decade.

  • Roughly 44% of the population in the United States subscribes to at least one podcast. That number is estimated to surpass the 50% mark by the end of 2021.
  • Digital subscriptions are now the primary revenue source for news publishers. Over 40% of their revenue sources come from digital subscribers.
  • 64.2% of publishers have indicated reading blogs as a source for up-to-date industry news. Also, 11.7% of publishers reported obtaining market information from other online forums.
  • The traditional book industry is worth over $100 billion annually. However, it has not seen any growth over the last two years.[i]

These statistics are a telling sign pointing to the rise of digital publishing.

There is no question that digital media has taken over more and more of the market share that once belonged to the traditional publishing houses.

According to Business Wire, the digital publishing industry accounts for about $64 billion worldwide. This market cap is expected to be achieved during the 2020-2024 time period.

Indeed, it is clear that digital marketing is nipping at the heels of traditional publishers’ market share.

This fact illustrates the growing trend toward digital media as the primary source of publishing content. Additionally, it is essential to include the increased popularity of audiobooks in the discussion.

In 2019, the audiobook industry closed with an approximate $1.2 billion market cap. This amounts to an estimated increase of 24.5% from 2017 to 2019.

Undoubtedly, the growing trend toward audiobooks points toward an emerging market force.

Given the rise of digital publishing, self-publishers account for an increasingly valuable market presence. According to Steven Spatz, President of BookBaby, a self-publishing corporation, self-publishers are no strangers to change and will continue to adapt and prosper. In his words:

“Change is a constant for self-publishing businesses, but 2020 presented challenges like no other. I’m thrilled to report that BookBaby met all those challenges – including transforming our sister company’s warehouse space into a Covid19 Face Shield production company! 
We also found that writers put all those days and weeks in quarantine to good use. Thousands have come forward this fall with completed manuscripts and we’ve added new people and processes – including having our entire office staff working remotely – and bringing in printing/bindery equipment to take good care of this huge wave of great books. We’ve experienced record sales month after month to end the year and our growth shows no sign of slowing down as we go into 2021.”

Indeed, self-publishing will continue to increase in relevance moving forward. Naturally, this is a clear indication that traditional publishers must adapt to the changes the publishing market is undergoing.

2021 Publishing Trends and Beyond

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Considering that 2020 is beginning to fade in the rearview mirror, the question then becomes, “what can we expect in 2021?” To answer that question, we must look at the trends that will define the publishing industry in 2021 and beyond.

Ella Ritchie, founder of Stella Communications Houston, a renowned independent publisher, has a number of ideas based on the trends she’s seen emerge in 2020. In her own words:

“Goodness, 2020 has been quite a ride for everyone, including the book publishing industry. In many ways, the industry has reflected how well we’re all faring together. At the start of the pandemic, paper supplies — like toilet paper — suddenly became a problem. Printing runs were delayed, sometimes a month or longer. Meanwhile, eBook sales soared as everyone was eager for easy, at-home entertainment.
The talk of scarcity soon gave way to conversations about minorities in America, and books by black authors topped the best-seller lists. And as the world settled into its new, techno-savvy norms, two technologies jostled for attention: There’s been a lot of buzz about ePub3, a new file format that enables accessibility for audiences with disabilities, and the growing role of AI in publishing, including copyright infringement detection and market analysis.”

Here are some other predictions for 2021 and beyond.

1. Focus on market niches will become increasingly important.

When it comes to small, predominantly online publishers, their focus on a specific niche or group of niches will become more critical than ever.

According to Mark Hodson, co-founder of 191 Holidays, the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, will become more relevant than ever. This means that the 80/20 rule will become the norm for most publishers.

In other words, 80% of revenue comes from 20% of the overall customer base. Consequently, publishers will need to become acquainted with the niches that provide them the highest level of engagement with their followers.

2. Sales should continue to increase.

Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall economy, book sales increased across the board. This bodes well for the industry going into 2021.

Preliminary data on 2020 shows an increase of 3.6% in print sales as compared to 2019. Juvenile nonfiction shot up 26.2%, while young adult nonfiction spiked by 33.4%. In contrast, adult nonfiction dropped by 2.1%.

Also, eBook sales have climbed by 4% in 2020 versus 2019. Indeed, lockdowns have encouraged folks to do a lot more reading, given the extra time they have on their hands.

3. Brick-and-mortar shops will continue to decline.

Even though print sales are up, physical bookstores are reporting a sharp decline in sales. The U.S. Census Bureau reported preliminary 2020 data on bookstore sales showing a 33% drop in March, 65% in April, and 59% in May.

Furthermore, last fall, Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt reportedly admitted that his company’s sales are down 20% on the year.

Naturally, this trend is a consequence of the pandemic forcing sales to shift toward digital channels. As more customers get accustomed to online shopping, this trend will only get stronger.

4. IT expertise is more important than ever.

With publishing migrating to the digital realm at an increasing rate, publishers must be prepared to sharpen their IT acumen even if their business is predominantly print.

Even if publishers produce paper books, most of the marketing, sales, and distribution happens digitally. This includes the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in tasks such as editing and translation.

According to a recent article published by Forbes, AI is “disrupting the publishing industry.” Moving forward, AI is something that all publishers, large and small, need to become acquainted with.

5. The future of the industry will depend on the supply chain.

Given the disruptions seen in supply chains in 2020, the publishing industry’s future will hinge on its ability to ensure fresh content can be delivered consistently.

This puts the onus on the traditional print industry, as digital publishers should have an easier time managing their supply chain. In particular, fully digital publishers should have a competitive edge.

According to Kristen McLean of NPD Books, “demand will not be the driving force behind the publishing industry’s success. Instead, it will boil down to supply chain and financial health.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Unprecedented Times

2020 has truly been an unprecedented year for the publishing industry, and it looks like things are only looking up for the independent and self-publishing spaces. Ritchie sums it up best:

“Through it all, I’ve seen a growing sense of empowerment in self-publishing. Even in such uncertain times, the interest in self-publishing has spiked. Perhaps it’s the increasing comfort with social media, which has made it possible for authors to build online followings without relying on traditional publishers for audiences. Maybe it’s the extra time; many authors said that the quiet months at home have allowed them to finally finish the manuscripts that have been on the backburners for years.
Or perhaps it’s the anxiousness that swept the world this year; authors seem ready to share their messages with a new sense of boldness and urgency. Regardless of their reasons, self-published authors are claiming their space. Seventeen of the top 100 selling books are self-published! And as self-published authors become savvier with their options and more confident in their products, I believe self-publishing will continue to grow in 2021. I look forward to a new year and a new adventure in book publishing!”

Your Book: 5 Things to Think About Before You Write a Word

If you are like most people, you’d like to write a book someday.

But, as anyone who has actually followed through and written a book will tell you, it can be a long and arduous process.

If you want to have any chance of succeeding, it is important to plan and prepare first. The more effort you put in up front, the better your chances are of actually getting a draft of your book completed.

Here are five important steps you should take before you write a single word.

1. Plan the Topic of Your Book

You might think the starting place for writing a book is answering the question: What do you want to write about?

But that’s probably the second most important question.

Instead, the critical question you need to ask before you do anything else is: Why do you want to write your book?

Why Knowing Your Goals for Your Book Is Important

Writing a book is hard work. Like many long-term projects, maintaining enough momentum to actually finish the job will require some serious motivation.

But most aspiring authors never follow through.

This is why focusing on your purpose for writing your book is so important. Be clear about how you define your goal. What is your definition of success?

When your purpose is clear and meaningful to you, it helps you to stay motivated and focused.

What Are Some Good Reasons for Writing a Book?

There’s no right answer to the question of why you are writing a book. To find out your “why,” try asking yourself these questions:

  • Are you trying to solve a problem for your readers?
  • Are you trying to motivate your readers to achieve something?
  • Are you trying to entertain readers?
  • Are you trying to boost your career or business?
  • Are you trying to become rich and famous?

Author-entrepreneur Joanna Penn explains how knowing your purpose will guide you. “The answers to these questions will shape what you write, how you publish, and whether you’re happy with the result.”

Define Your Audience

Knowing your reason for your book also helps you be clear about your audience.

Who is your ideal reader? The answer to this question will also help you find the right content, approach, and tone of your book.

The writing center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explains this concept with the following example:

To illustrate the impact of knowing your audience, imagine you’re writing a letter to your grandmother to tell her about your first month of college. What details and stories might you include? What might you leave out?

Now imagine that you’re writing about the same topic, but your audience is your best friend. Unless you have an extremely cool grandma to whom you’re very close, it’s likely that your two letters would look quite different in terms of content, structure, and even tone.

The more clearly you can define your audience, the better your chances of attracting your ideal reader. Again, this knowledge will help you stay focused and on point during your writing process.

2. Define the Topic of Your Book

You may already be clear about what you will be writing about. Or you may have several ideas in your head and just need to narrow them down to one.

If you’ve been following the steps in this article, then you have already identified what you hope to accomplish with your book.

Let’s say you want to help people accomplish something, such as being a better parent.

Your next step is to get specific.

How can you help your readers be better parents? Do you want to help them raise compassionate children? Or maybe you want to help them stop clashing with their teenager. Or perhaps you want to help them survive the potty-training process with their toddler.

Whatever you decide to write about, the topic needs to be important to you.

You are going to be spending a lot of time with your book, so if you are not really interested in your topic, it’s going to be hard to keep hanging out together when you are only halfway through.

3. Evaluate Your Book Idea: Do a Competitive Analysis

The next step in the process is to figure out if your idea is a viable one. Unless you are writing your book for purely personal reasons, you need to know whether your book is worth writing in the first place.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Is there a market for it?
  • Has it already been written?
  • How can you make your book stand out?

The simple actions discussed below will help you determine how feasible your book idea is likely to be.

Research Books Similar to Yours

A good place to start is to simply search on Amazon to see what books already exist that are somewhat similar to yours.

If you are writing nonfiction, simply search for your topic and see what comes up. Focus on books that were recently (in the last one to three years) published. Do not spend time on the classics, because these will not help provide you with insights into the current market.

Are there many books on your topic? If there are a lot, it doesn’t mean there’s no more room for another. But it does mean you should think about what specific angle your book can cover to make it unique.

If you are writing fiction, look for other books in your genre. In other words, what category does it fall into? Some popular genres include fantasy, historical, science fiction, romance, and humor.

Study Amazon Best Seller Listings

To find out what is selling the best, use Amazon’s Best Sellers page and select the category that best fits your book idea.

The idea here is not to copy what is already out there. Your goal is to understand the market. Read the descriptions and reviews of the top-selling books and any that are similar to yours.

You can also glean some idea of how well a book is selling by its Amazon ranking. Simply scroll down to the product ranking of a specific book. The last bullet point shows “Amazon Best Seller Rank.”

Rankings are given compared to all books, as well as in different categories the book falls into. For example, Stephen King’s book, On Writing, is ranked No. 39 in the Words, Language & Grammar Reference category and No. 755 in Memoirs.

A lower number means more books have been sold.

Translating rankings into estimates of actual book sales is tricky, however. Amazon does not reveal how sales ranking is determined. But it is possible to make ballpark estimates based on this information.

Marketing consultant Rob Eagar crunched some numbers and developed a chart estimating the correlation between Amazon book rankings and sales. According to Eagar’s estimates, a book ranked at No. 100,000 was selling about once a day.

Read Other Books in Your Topic or Genre

You should also try to read other published books that are similar to yours. Unless a book was published in the last few months, you can often find copies of them at the library.

Study how long they are, how they handle the topic, how they are structured. Look for commonalities among several books to determine if there is a way to present the information or story that seems to work best.

Most importantly, you need to make sure you are not just rehashing a topic or story that has already been done.

Mark Twain was spot on when he said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible.” The key is to take an “old” idea and add a new angle to it. Reading what has already been written will help you avoid repeating someone else’s work and hone your unique approach to the topic.

4. Prepare for the Writing Process

Before you start writing, it helps to have some idea of the structure of your book. Creating a broad outline of the beginning, middle, and end will help you plan how to move forward with the writing.

Sketch Out the Structure

Regardless of whether you are a plotter (someone who plans their book in great detail) or a “pantser” (someone who “flies by the seat of their pants,” and goes with the flow with their writing), you need to establish some structure to your book before you begin writing.

It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it should offer you guideposts to follow as you travel on your writing journey.

If you are writing a nonfiction book, having some structure will help you determine if there are any holes in your research. If you are writing fiction, it will help you see if you have a proper arc to your story.

A detailed outline is not necessary if that’s not your style. But the broad structure of beginning, middle, and end will help keep your book on track.

Inject Yourself into Your Work

One of the important ways your book will distinguish itself from all the others out there is that it will be written by you.

You have a unique voice, personality, and perspective that no one else has. As entrepreneur and thought leader, Marie Forleo always says, “No person has or ever will have the unique blend of talents, and strengths, perspectives, and gifts that you have.”

The style, tone, and voice of your writing are all elements you can use to showcase your unique qualities.

For example, if you are writing about a complex subject, such as finance, but with a friendly and conversational tone, your book will probably appeal to someone just starting to learn about the topic as opposed to an expert in the field.

Your voice is how you convey your personality through your words. It helps you connect with your ideal readers. Just as you are drawn to be friends with certain personality types, your writing voice will do the same for attracting your readers.

5. Develop a Writing Strategy

Here’s where you get into the nitty gritty of the writing process. To set yourself up for success (and by that we mean actually starting and finishing writing your book), it helps to have a writing plan.

Put Together a Timeline

Unless you are fulfilling a contract, you are your own boss when it comes to getting your book written. If you want to reach the finish line, it helps to put yourself on a schedule.

For some, it’s too easy to keep adjusting their deadline if they fail to actually meet it. They need some external motivation to keep them on track.

Author Jeff Goins shares a technique a writer friend used to create a serious consequence for missing his deadline.

Goins writes, “Fearing he might never reach the last page, he wrote a check to a political candidate he hated and post-dated it for X months in the future. Then he gave the check to a friend with strict instructions to mail it if he had not completed his book by that date.”

You may not want to use such drastic measures, but, apparently, the strategy worked!

Gather Your Information

If your book requires any research or interviews, you will need to get these done before you start writing. If you are writing nonfiction, this is an obvious step.

But most fiction writing also requires research, if only to get your setting right or to write accurately about your characters’ experiences.

Create a Writing Routine

Writing a book is marathon project. While there are authors who report being able to write an entire book in a matter of days, most people will need months, and even years, to finish.

Many writers swear by a regular routine that ensures they get in some writing time every day. For some, that means getting up an hour early and using that time to write. For others, it means staying up an hour later.

Because most people have jobs or families that demand their attention, setting up a regular writing schedule is one of the biggest challenges.

Few aspiring authors have the luxury of sitting down in their quiet writing nook with a restorative cup of tea and hours of uninterrupted writing time.

If this is you, your writing routine might not look like a routine at all.

It could mean committing to writing during your child’s nap time or scribbling down thoughts whenever you find yourself waiting for more than five minutes. It could be while sitting in the carpool pickup line, at the doctor’s office, or on the metro to and from work. 

It boils down to making a commitment to setting aside time to write. It may not even be every day, but it should be on a regular basis.

Congratulations, You Are Finally Ready to Write!

If you take these steps to prepare yourself for the writing process, you will increase your chances of successfully starting and finishing your book. Keep your end goal in mind as a source of motivation.

And then start writing!

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your plans for writing your book fall short. Or you discover, in the process of writing, that you are not cut out for the writer’s life. But you still think you have a great idea for a book.

In such cases, there are still ways to get your book written. You could hire a ghostwriter, or even a co-author, to help you with the writing process. You will still be the author of the book, and you can usually complete it faster than if you do it yourself.

Whatever path you end up taking, stay committed to finishing your book. Because while not everyone enjoys the entire process of writing a book, almost everyone enjoys having written one.

ISBNs: The Alphabet Soup of the Literary World

Your grocery store cashier picks up your can of chicken noodle and waves it over a little sensor before delivering it to the conveyor for bagging. You know what’s happening: The can is stamped with a barcode that indicates the item and price. Once scanned, this information tells the cashier how much you owe and updates the store on its inventory.

But have you ever noticed a similar little barcode surreptitiously stamped on the cover of a book? That barcode is called an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

What’s an ISBN?

An ISBN is a commercial book identifier. Each numeric code is a specific identifier that is recognized internationally. A unique number is assigned to each separate variation (except reprintings) of a publication to make it possible for readers to find the exact version they’re looking for. This means that the same book will have different ISBNs for its paperback edition, its hardcover printing, its e-book format, and even its audiobook version.

You even need to get a new ISBN if you publish an updated edition of the same book, as well as upon changing its title, switching to a different publisher, or having it translated.

In short, an ISBN designates a specific version of a specific book by a specific author. Even if your book goes out of print, the ISBN can’t be reused — because your book with that number still exists in some form.

The system was originally introduced to help retailers find and identify books way back in the pre-internet market. But it’s just as relevant today, thanks to the use of metadata in online searches. Your ISBN number carries important metadata about your book: title, author, price, and keywords that help readers find it.

Current ISBNs are displayed as a five-section barcode, and each section contains a very specific piece of identification:

  1. Prefix element: turns the number into a universal product identification code known as an EAN.
  2. Registration group element: refers to the country or geographical/language area of the book.
  3. Registrant element: identifies the publisher or imprint.
  4. Publication element: refers to the specific publication (title, format, edition).
  5. Check digit: acts as a redundancy for error detection.

Should I Get an ISBN?

The purpose of an ISBN is for sales.

If you plan to market your book to brick-and-mortar bookstores, online retailers, distributors, and libraries, you’ll need a number. Your book’s ISBN helps readers identify the correct publication; buyers order your book in the exact format they want; and suppliers track purchases and sales.

As the U.S. ISBN Agency explains, “An ISBN uniquely identifies your book and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (physical and digital) and libraries. Using ISBNs allows you to better manage your book’s metadata and ensure maximum discoverability of your book.”

Keep in mind, though, that this hard-and-fast rule only applies to hardcopy sales.

Many retailers — including giants like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble — do not require ISBNs for ebooks. And if your book will be more of a personal journey that you plan to print and distribute to a small group, there’s no reason to get an ISBN.

On the other hand, skipping the ISBN means your book will not appear in Bowker’s Books in Print, a comprehensive bibliographic database of book titles. And you might encounter some online retailers that won’t stock or sell your ebook.

The good news is that you can apply later if you change your distribution plans.

How Do I Get an ISBN?

The International ISBN Agency supervises the ISBN system worldwide, but each country has its own national agency. In the US, Bowker is the official agency that issues all ISBNs.

If your hardcopy book will be for sale in a traditional publishing scenario, your publisher will apply for a number for your book (in all its forms).

If you are self-publishing, you have two options. Your publishing service company can usually assign your book an ISBN at a negligible (or no) cost, in which case the publishing service is listed as the publisher of record. Or if you can apply on your own if you want to be considered the publisher of record.

Even though you’ll need to foot the bill if you apply for your own ISBN, rather than getting a publisher-assigned number, acquiring your own numbers grants you 100% control of the information in your book’s metadata. This includes the descriptions and categories that readers, libraries, and booksellers around the world search for to discover books and decide what to purchase.

Metadata has the potential to significantly boost the opportunity for your target readers to find your work — a must for self-published authors who do not have the marketing and distribution channels of the big guys.

Being recognized as the publisher of record also helps you establish a reputation and make a name for yourself in literary circles. If you intend to write multiple books, you’ll have a consistent publishing imprint on all your works. You’ll also be the contact for all orders and inquiries about your books.

Prices vary around the world (some countries even issue the numbers for free!) and depend on quantity. The more ISBNs you buy, the lower the per-number cost: In the United States, the current single-unit price is $125, while a 10-pack will set you back $575. If you have multiple versions of your book — or think you might, in the future, come out with different versions or revise and republish updated editions over the years – you will save some time and money by buying a block of numbers up-front.

Five Tips for Hiring the Right Ghostwriter

You don’t have to be famous to hire a ghostwriter: Lots of everyday people use ghostwriters to help with all sorts of writing projects – from non-fiction memoirs to family histories to business books. Most people hire ghostwriters because they have an idea for a book, but they just don’t have the time or the writing expertise to get those ideas on paper.

And, if you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, you’ve probably got a few questions: Where do you find a ghostwriter? How do you make the decision to hire one? How does the ghostwriting process work? How do you know you’ve found the right ghostwriter for your project?

Not sure how to get started? Check out these tips for finding the right ghostwriter:

1. Ask for Samples

Any ghostwriter who’s been in the industry for a while should have a few samples to share with prospective clients (of course, given the secretive nature of the business, she may ask you to sign a non-disclosure form). Once you get her samples, look them over – do they read well? Is the prose interesting? Reviewing a few recent writing samples is really the best way to get a feel for what a ghostwriter can do. If you like what you see, chances are, you’ll be happy with her work.

Now, what happens if, say, most of her samples are biographies, and you want to write a corporate tell-all or a steamy romance novel? That brings us to the next tip . . .

2. Discuss Style

Some ghostwriters are specialists – for example, they may be especially good at family history or business books. Other ghostwriters are more flexible, and are capable of writing in a variety of styles and voices about a wide range of topics. So, if you don’t see the style you’re looking for in her samples, just ask. If you’ve got a style in mind, talk to her about it. Even better, prepare a list of books and authors whose style you’d like to emulate in your own book. It’s an easy way to give your prospective ghostwriter a frame of reference.

3. Talk About Your Timeline and the Process

Depending on your ghostwriter’s workload and the amount of research and preparation required for your book, the ghostwriting process can take anywhere from six months to a year – especially if your ghostwriter handles multiple projects or clients. Before you hire a ghostwriter, you should make sure that her work schedule is a good fit for your book. And, it’s a good idea to find out exactly how your prospective ghostwriter works. Most ghostwriters will work with you to create an outline of the book, and then email you each chapter for review and edits.

4. Meet Face-to-Face

Seriously. It’s not necessary to hire a ghostwriter who lives in the same city – or even the same state as you do, but it is important to meet with her at least once before you get started on the project. As your project progresses, you’ll be spending a lot of time working with your ghostwriter – discussing edits, trading ideas, and so forth, and it’s a lot easier to do this with someone you feel comfortable with. And, your ghostwriter will appreciate the opportunity for some face time – after all, she’s writing your story, so she needs to get a sense of who you are and what makes you tick.

5. Ask About Publishing

Ghostwriters’ roles in publishing your work can vary a lot – some ghostwriters (especially ghostwriters who work for larger firms or agencies), have connections to people in the typesetting and publishing arenas. Other ghostwriters only handle the writing end of your book – once the finished manuscript is in your hands, it’s up to you to find a publisher. And, still other ghostwriters offer assistance with self-publishing or e-publishing.

Hiring a ghostwriter is an important decision – after all, you’ll be working closely with her every step of the way to bring your story to life – from the early outlining and research stages to the final editing and publishing. It will be a long relationship, so it’s important that you find a skilled ghostwriter that you’ll feel comfortable working with over the long haul.

Amazon Author Rank: The What, the How, and the Why of This Pursuit

Amazon Author Rank is a listing of the top 100 titles overall or the top 100 titles in a browsing category.  A book’s “Product Details” section is where it lists its Amazon Bestsellers Rank. A #1 means that the title is selling more copies than any other in that category, on that storefront.

You see, this internet giant has localized storefronts around the globe, all with their own URLs, selection, and prices:

And this is an important distinction: A book’s ranking can differ on different localized storefronts because each store represents a different market. As an example, even within North America, these ranks can vary: At the time of this writing, Oprah Winfrey’s “Path Made Clear” topped both the US and Canadian stores, but #2 through #4 were completely different.

By the 1 p.m. calculation, people were more interested in the future than either cleanliness or death:

How Does Amazon Rank Authors?

To calculate a book’s rank, Amazon looks at paid sales of all formats recently sold, including print, Kindle, and audio. And we’re talking uber-recent: Amazon updates this ranking hourly, at the top of the hour, and adjusts as things change.

Ultimately, though, landing on the bestseller list might not mean a whole lot in terms of your book’s actual popularity – or its actual sales.

Let’s first point out that Amazon doesn’t openly explain exactly how the Bestsellers Rank is calculated. It’s allegedly recalculated hourly to reflect the number of recent sales, but its algorithm also takes into account some unknown historical sales data relative to similar titles. Because Amazon doesn’t publicize its formula, how those two factors are weighted remains an enigma.

Additionally, has noticed that Amazon’s metrics are not real-time: “There is a lag time of approximately 1-3 hours (depending on the popularity of the product) from when a sale is made and when it is reflected” in the ranking.

Also, the ranking metrics don’t really account for cumulative sales or overall sales volume, mainly just how well a title is currently selling (or has been selling for the past hour) compared to similar books. A recent sales spike typically pushes that title’s rank higher… at least for the current hour or day until another surpasses it.

 “The Amazon Best Sellers Rank is more of a vanity metric than anything else,” says Dave Cooley, Marketplace Channel Analyst at CPC Strategy.

Why Do I Care About Amazon’s Rank?

There’s a definite status symbol associated with earning bestseller distinction: You are as a credible thought leader whose work is superior to others. And that must be the case because the market doesn’t lie.

Or does it?

Brent Underwood, a partner at a marketing company, compiled a list of some of the “services” he discovered in early 2017… if you’re willing and able to shell out a pretty penny. A couple seem to have since ceased operations (and you’ll probably find a plethora of others willing to “help you”), but this gives you a feel for what professional book promoters are pushing.

  • Jesse Krieger could map out your “Bestseller Campaign Blueprint” to grant your book a slot on the Amazon Best-Seller Lists “next to your author heroes” for just $997.
  •  “Guaranteed Best-Seller Status” on Amazon could be yours from Heart Centered Media for three easy installments of $1,333” (accompanied by the caveat that “Book Sales are NOT Guaranteed”).
  • Learn the secrets of launching your Amazon bestseller, worth $2,497, from self-proclaimed “Best-Seller Maker / Millionaire Author Mentor Peggy McColl.
  • “Open doors otherwise closed to you” by paying Denise Cassino a cool $3,250 for services that will ensure your Amazon bestseller status in perpetuity.

Sound expensive? Sketchy? Too good to be true? Remember, these “services” only exist because there’s a market for them. But Underwood implores writers to avoid the lure of these “services” and the allure of bestseller lists.

“The best marketing tactic you can use for a book is to write a great book that actually sells over the long term. It’s easy to be seduced by bestseller lists, sales numbers, speaking fees, and all the ephemera in this industry. Don’t let all of that make you lose sight of the importance of quality and authority in your work,” Underwood says.

And remember, Amazon Author Rank is based solely on sales through the Amazon stores. It says nothing about how much your readers love your work. Even if they share glowing reviews about how your book changed their lives, Amazon doesn’t factor that into the rank equation. Sure, while a ton of gushing reviews might help boost your sales – which might result in pushing you up the ranking – these kind words do more to boost your spirit.

But maybe that should be more important. To the writer in you, at least.

Tim Hawkins is the author of the bestselling If Kisses Cured Cancer. After looking into the mythos of the bestseller list, he reasoned, “Perhaps it’s a better measure to ignore the lists altogether, focus more on what actual fans are saying about the book and work to create something that people love instead. It’s nice to (be) featured on the lists, but it no longer means a lot to me knowing it’s only a tiny snapshot of an overall picture.”

Copywriter Q&A: Suzanne Kearns Talks the Ins and Outs of E-Book Publishing

The Writers For Hire (TWFH) team member Suzanne Kearns is our very own e-publishing guru. She’s written and ghostwritten more than a dozen e-books and her extensive list of published works includes a variety of genres, from how-to and business books to Christian fiction.

In this installment of Copywriter Q&A, Suzanne answers all of our burning e-book questions and clears up some common misconceptions about self-publishing (spoiler alert: writing and publishing your own e-book is way less complicated than you may think).

TWFH: How long have you been writing and publishing e-books?

SK: I’ve been writing e-books since 2016. I’ve published about 13 since 2016. I released two traditionally published books before that, but you don’t make any money that way.

TWFH: Why did you make the switch to e-books? Was it about the money?

SK: It was the whole experience. I published a non-fiction and a fiction book using a traditional publisher, and I had no creative control. Everything was very regimented, and I was operating on their schedule. Finally, I said, “Okay, there’s got to be a better way.” That’s about when the e-book thing started coming about. I said, “I can do this on my own.” I’m glad I did.  

TWFH: What do you like best about self-publishing e-books vs. traditional publishing?

SK: Control. When I published my first fiction book, the publisher changed the cover and title without my input. But probably the biggest eye-opener for me happened when I wrote my second fiction book and sent it to the publisher. That book didn’t have a happy ending. But I loved it! The ending was the best part of the book! My publisher said, “We have to change the ending. Readers want a happy ending.” I felt like I was a commodity and they were going to wrap me up and package me how they wanted, rather than just letting me be creative.

TWFH: One of your non-fiction e-books was a guide to publishing e-books. How did that come about?  

SK: When I decided I wanted to publish my own e-books, I started researching and I went to every webinar and read everything I could get my hands on. Everything that was published was a half-book that ended with a sales pitch: “Buy my $1,000 course to learn more about publishing an e-book!” It’s really predatory.

TWFH: What about marketing? There are a lot of companies that say they’ll do all of the marketing for your e-book.

SK: All they do is write press releases — and they usually charge you thousands of dollars to do it. There are two problems with that. A: Press releases don’t work for books, and B: You can market a book yourself if you learn how Amazon’s algorithm works.

TWFH: So, a press release isn’t the best way to market an e-book?

SK: People don’t buy books that way. I tried doing press releases in the beginning. They don’t work. They just don’t. Really, the thing that works with selling e-book is getting your book seen on Amazon. That’s the only thing you want to do. Amazon has algorithms, and there are very specific ways to get your book up in their algorithm.

TWFH: What’s the key to getting a place on Amazon’s algorithm? Can you explain the basics?

SK: It’s changed over the years. In the past, what authors would do is start out with a promo so the book would shoot up in rankings. So, let’s say you released an e-book and you sold it for 99 cents for one day. You might get 100 sales on that one day. And that used to be a way to move up quickly in Amazon’s rankings. But they’ve changed their algorithm now. The one-day promo doesn’t work anymore. They want to see a long, steady dribble of sales. Best way is to pre-release your book, and get the word out if you have audience or email list. Have sales dribble in. Run a promo and leave your book at 99 cents for a week. Then you’ll have sales every day. Amazon’s algorithm likes that. Then after two or three weeks, you can move it to regular price.

TWFH: What are some other things you can do to make your e-book stand out?

SK: It has to be visible and have a good description on the product page. You have to have a really good cover. If people see it and review it and like it, it will sell.

TWFH: What makes a cover “good”? Are there any rules?

SK: Yes! Your cover should be in line with genre that you’re selling. So, for example, if you’re writing fiction, you want a cover with bold colors and block print. That’s what readers expect to see. Whatever genre you’re writing, go to the best seller list and look at the covers. You’ll see that they’re all kind of similar. They all have the same kind of font; the same theme.

Readers know what their genre’s covers should look like. When they’re scrolling through Amazon, they’re not reading words, they’re looking at covers. And they just see a thumbnail. You have to catch their attention. They’re not going to stop and read what your book is about unless you can grab them with your cover.

TWFH: So, in addition to choosing an appropriate cover, what else can you do to market your e-book and make sure readers see it?

SK: Email lists are extremely important. There are several good mailing lists out there that showcase what’s on sale on Amazon. You buy a spot on a mailing list. There are three I use that work – and they always make their money back. You can buy a spot on Buck Books for and $29 and on Robin Reads for around $60. They always make their money back. There’s another one called BookBub They’ve got an incredible mailing list, but they’re also more expensive. It costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to get on their list. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I’ve heard it’s very good.

TWFH: Do you have any advice for a first-time e-book author?

SK: First, don’t buy into the idea that it’s complicated. It’s not. If you break it down really simply, it breaks down like this: You write your book, format it, get a cover, upload it, do a promo. It’s five steps. It’s just not that complicated.

I’d also recommend that if it’s your first e-book, consider hiring an editor. For my first book, I hired an editor and it was well worth it. 

And finally, a lot of new authors think they can put out one book and make a bunch of money. That’s not the case. You’ll need at least three books before you really start seeing some sales. Most first-time book most authors only make $100. Sure, some people publish one book and are runaway bestsellers. But for most authors, you need to be constantly publishing. Once you publish a book, you need to get another one published within 90 days or your books start falling in the Amazon rankings. There’s a lot of back end stuff involved. Amanda Hocking was the first person to make a million dollars self-publishing on Amazon. She wrote a vampire story. Everyone thinks that’s going to be them. It’s not. Well, it could be — but it’s a long shot!

You’ve got to put work in it if you want to get anything out of it.

Paul Alleyne’s Book