Author Archives: Sarah Purdy

7 guidelines for amazing book cover design

by Michelle Stam, WP graphic designer

The cliché “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is great advice for life … not so much for authors approaching book cover design—one of the most exciting and daunting stages of publication.

As readers, when we’re scanning shelves (or scrolling online, in these days of social distancing), we absolutely judge books by their covers. The cover is almost always the first thing to capture our eye, to entice us to pick up or click on a book and learn more about it. So first and foremost, it’s key to have a well-designed cover that stands out from the crowd. At the same time, your cover must squarely position your book within its genre and accurately represent its contents. A mismatched cover can leave readers feeling confused and annoyed, like they purchased a book under false pretenses.

In short, a lot depends on your book’s cover. So how can you ensure your cover design works? Over the years, Write Place designers have created over 100 covers for books of many different genres. We’ve found there are seven basic guidelines that lead to a successful book cover.

1. Have a clear but intriguing title.

The title needs to give the reader a hint of what the book is about. Be careful not to be too vague—this will leave your reader confused, especially if it’s a nonfiction book. A good title hints at what the story might be, telling the reader just enough to draw them in.

2. Carefully choose typography.

There is more to putting the title on the cover than picking a font and typing it out. Cover designers often pay attention to each letter and the space around it in your title. The weight and size of each word matters—the larger, heavier words give necessary hierarchy and meaning to the reader. Not all the words need to be in the same font, but there should be reasons behind these choices. Letterspacing adjustments are subtle but important. They can elevate the font and feel of the cover. Playing with symbols and letter embellishments within the lettering is also a go-to professional technique fitting for some books.

3. Choose images that send the right message.

Images on book covers—whether they are photos or illustrations—should represent the content of the book. If the image focuses too narrowly on one specific part of the book, readers will feel betrayed when they realize what they thought the book was about isn’t a theme throughout. If your book is illustrated, the best route is having a specific illustration created for the cover. When a cover illustration is not available, we’ve created a unique scene using elements from multiple illustrations.

The title of a book should always be legible if it is placed on an image. That means it must be strategically placed and, if necessary, the image faded out behind it.

4. Whenever possible, use photography or artwork you have created or commissioned.

Using something unique to your book is always the path we prefer because it gives the author and designer the chance to create the perfect cover story without compromise. Be sure to share with the professionals you are working with that the images will be used for a book cover, so you have the proper agreements in place. Stock images are also an option. It’s crucial you fully read the license agreement that comes with the image and are aware your image may show up on another book cover.

5. Choose images that aren’t too busy.

It’s important readers don’t get so distracted by the cover image they completely miss the title. Sometimes the book designer will purposefully weave the image and title together, but a good designer will make sure the title is still readable.

6. Don’t use too many images.

In some instances, multiple images can work very successfully on book covers, but in general it’s best to stick to one or two. Remember that even though cover imagery needs to be applicable to the book, you don’t need to show the whole story on the front cover. If you have multiple images you’d like to use, select one or two for the front cover and explore how to tastefully use more images on the back cover.

Also, covers don’t need images to be successful, especially for nonfiction books. Well-placed typography on a solid background is a great alternative to help your book stand out.  

7. Use colors that send the right message.

People associate colors with emotions, so it’s important to know what message the color of your cover will send to your readers. Most people know red is an aggressive color that demands attention. But what about the rest of the colors? Below is a helpful diagram of the theory of color. Sometimes it’s necessary to put personal preference aside if the color you’re drawn to isn’t going to send the right message to your readers.

It’s good to note that the association and mood of a color can change, depending on how much of the color is used. You may have noticed the mood for yellow is both “aggravation” and “joy.” These things are opposites, so how does that work? In moderation, yellow evokes joy. But if overused, it can lead to feelings of aggravation.

Yes, your book will be judged by its cover. And while that may sound scary, it doesn’t have to be. The judgment may be, “That book looks cool. I’m going to buy it!”—especially if you follow these seven guidelines.

If you’re interested in working with a professional cover designer, visit our website to learn about the Write Place’s cover design packages and full range of publishing services. You can also email Book Division Coordinator Sarah Purdy at

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5 ways to market your self-published book

People browsing in bookstore

Congratulations! You’ve made it—you’ve published (or will soon publish) your book. It’s been a long journey, and now you’re about to set off on another voyage: marketing your book.

Marketing in an ongoing commitment all self-published authors must take on to 1) get their book in the hands of readers and 2) keep sales momentum going once the initial surge passes.

For self-published authors, sales are typically highest when the book is first released. (That’s when the people you know and the target audience of your book are buying.) So, the trick is continuing to find creative ways to spread the word.

To help you get started, here’s five marketing ideas geared toward building connections with new readers:

  1. Connect with local tastemakers. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, especially when those words come from tastemakers—people and organizations who have influence over what is or will become fashionable. In the book world, that includes book bloggers, local radio hosts and news outlets, book clubs, storeowners, librarians, social media influencers … anyone with a connection to your book’s content. When your book is published, research local tastemakers and pitch it to those who will likely be interested. For example, if you’ve published a book on local history, your town’s newspaper, radio station, and historical society will want to know. Find the best way to connect with tastemakers and start sending your pitch—email, call, message over social media. You never know what will lead to an interview, a review, or an event on an influencer’s platform.
  1. Seek reviews. Speaking of reviews, they are also an extremely powerful marketing tool. According to MarketWatch, 97% of online shoppers say reviews influence their buying decisions. So if your book is listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s website, Goodreads, or another online platform, always encourage readers you meet to leave a review. Also research book bloggers and literary magazines that cover your genre. Discover whether they take submissions. If they do, follow their submission guidelines and send your book in for an honest review. It can be nerve-wracking to ask someone to review your book, but the risk can really pay off. A review from an unbiased source gives you credibility and gets the word about your book in front of a wider audience.
  1. Partner with local stores and libraries. Is there a bookstore or library in your area? Set up a meeting and see if they’d be interested in partnering with you on an event, like a book signing, a reading, or a sale. They may also buy copies of your book, which is a win. And if the store or library has an active social media presence, they may promote your book on their platform, putting it in front of an even bigger crowd of book lovers. No matter what form the partnership takes, connecting with stores and libraries is a great way to reach new readers. Just remember: Always start with a call or email—don’t just show up at the location, tempting as that is in your enthusiasm to share your book. You’re more likely to be positively received if you give the storeowners or librarians a chance to prepare and set up a meeting that works with their schedule.
  1. Establish an active online presence. A blog, a website, a podcast, a YouTube channel, social media pages—whether you use one of these platforms or all of them, it’s important to keep them up to date. Sites that are frequently active are more credible to readers and more likely to be found. A good rule of thumb is to blog or post a video once a month (or more often, if your schedule allows), and post to social media a few times a week. And if you don’t have an online presence? You may miss out on connecting with a wide group of readers in our digitized world. Consider dipping your toe in with one of the platforms listed above. If you do take the plunge, be sure to pick something you’ll feel comfortable using and updating.
  1. Attend author fairs. Author fairs large and small are popping up across the country. These events are like craft shows—authors set up booths, display and sell their books, and talk to patrons and fellow authors. Not only are they a great opportunity to drum up sales, author fairs give you the chance to network with and learn from others who are also trying to market their books. You’ll make friends … and maybe swap some ideas! The best way to learn about author fairs is to research online and keep in touch with any connections you’ve built in the book world. Annual events in Iowa include the Ankeny Authors Fair and Des Moines Book Festival, which both take place in the spring.


Marketing is a long-term commitment, but it can also be fun! These five ideas are just a few of the many creative ways self-published authors have found to get their books in the hands of readers. If you’re interested in getting some help with your marketing campaign, check out the Write Place’s list of book marketing services or email me at


Photo by Pauline Loroy on Unsplash

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Write Place responds to Baker & Taylor exit from retail wholesale market

Write Place Bookshelf

On May 1, Baker & Taylor—one of the outlets through which bookstores and libraries may purchase Write Place-published books—announced that as of July 15, 2019, it will no longer distribute books to stores and other retail outlets.

What does this mean for Write Place authors? Most importantly, retailers and libraries will still have access to Write Place titles, even after Baker & Taylor discontinues retail distribution. Here’s why:

  • Write Place books continue to be available for booksellers to purchase through another major wholesaler, Ingram Book Company.
  • Despite leaving the retail market, Baker & Taylor will continue to distribute to libraries. Libraries may also obtain Write Place books through Follett.

Ingram Book Company is now the only major entity in wholesale retail distribution, so there is concern in the publishing industry that Baker & Taylor’s exit will lead to slower deliveries to bookstores and/or raised shipping fees. At this time, no rate changes have been announced by Ingram. Our team will notify you if there are any major changes to their services that will impact your titles.

To learn more about this news, visit the Independent Book Publisher Association website.

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5 FAQs about back cover writing


Movies are right below books on my list of favorite things. So, it’s no surprise that as I was thinking about why back cover text is so critical to a book’s success, my mind came up with this cinema simile.

A book’s front cover is like a movie poster. It catches your eye, gives an impression of the story, piques your interest. You’ll get the title, and you should be able to guess the genre. But much is left to the imagination.

A book’s back cover, on the other hand, is like a movie trailer. You’re introduced to the story, the actors, what the critics are saying. This is when the big sell takes place, where audiences are convinced to buy a ticket … or a book.

That’s why it’s absolutely essential for a book to have a great back cover. But where do you start? How long should it be? Should you include an author bio and headshot? What about praise quotes?

Good questions all. To help you get a great start, I’ve answered the five questions I get asked the most about back cover writing.

Q: Do I need to have an overview of my book on the back cover?

A: YES! A summary is an absolute must. Very few people will buy a book without at least some idea of what it’s about.

The goal is to snag potential readers’ interest by giving them a snapshot of what’s in the book. For fiction, that means setting the scene, introducing your protagonists, and unveiling the conflict … without giving away too much. (Again, think movie trailer.) For nonfiction, you need to tell the reader what the book will do for them, or what they will learn. One way to do that is to feature three to five bullet points covering your book’s main topics.

Remember to keep your description tight—a good rule of thumb is one to two paragraphs for a summary, or 100-150 words. Avoid clichés, like calling your book a “must read.” Leave those review-type comments to the reviewers.

Q: Should I feature review quotes?

A: Praise quotes and endorsements lend credibility to your book … but only if they come from someone recognizable in your genre or field.

No, you don’t need to hunt down J.K. Rowling and ask her to read your new YA fantasy. But you should always ask for praise quotes from someone who is qualified and who carries some clout. An endorsement from a writing teacher or a friend is easy to get but runs the risk of looking unprofessional.

So, how do you get in touch with these recognizable names? You network. Start by Googling local novelists or other writers in your field. Talk to other authors you know and see who they got endorsements from. Once you have a list of potential endorsers, start calling and sending emails or Facebook messages. Writers like to support other writers, so you may be surprised by how many you hear back from!

Q: Should I include an author bio?

A: Author bios look great on back covers, especially if they’re accompanied by a professional headshot. People like putting a face to a name, and if you’ve written other books, it’s a great place to mention them. If you’re a nonfiction writer, your bio is also where you establish your credibility. Don’t be shy about listing degrees earned or awards won.

Be careful not to turn it into a resume, though. Most authors keep their bios to 50 words or less.

Q: Should I feature a quote from the book?

A: An impactful quote from the book is an intriguing addition to a back cover. Be sure you pick something that’s short and powerful—something that ties into a central theme or message of the book.

Q: Do I need to put ALL of this on my back cover?

A: Nope! A summary is essential, but beyond that you need to consider how much space you have to work with. Too much content will overwhelm your reader, so most publishers recommend limiting your total back cover word count to 200.

As far as picking what to include in addition to your summary, think about your audience and what is important to them. For nonfiction books, readers will want to know your expertise and background, so an author bio is a good idea. But for fiction, a mysterious quote from the book or an endorsement from a favorite author might be more persuasive. If you’re still not sure what to include, draw inspiration from other books in your genre. Stop by a bookstore or library and spend some time reading back covers.


Maybe it’s because I love movies—and movie trailers—so much. But as a writer and an editor, back covers are one of my favorite things to work on. They’re challenging, but they’re also an opportunity to get creative and showcase why your book is special!

If you’re interested in getting help with your back cover—or learning about the Write Place’s full range of publishing services—check out our website or email me at


Photo by Danny on Unsplash



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Just write

In 2007, the Write Place published its very first book: The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler by Jeff Rowland. Over 10 years later, this funny and light-hearted memoir remains a favorite with readers and Write Place team members.

It may come as a surprise, then, that Reel Adventures almost ended up in a landfill instead of on a bookshelf.

Like many (okay, most) authors, Jeff doubted anyone would be interested in reading his book. It got to the point where he seriously considered abandoning the project altogether.

So what stopped him? What encouraged him to keep going?

In this guest blog post, Jeff tells the story of how he overcame his doubts . . . and the incredible impact The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler has had on his life and the life of a close friend.



I still recall that moment of doubt.

What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who really cares? Those were the thoughts going through my mind as my rough draft went into the trash.

I feel safe in saying that every writer hits moments of doubt. But something inside me made me retrieve that draft and continue piecing together all I had written. I can’t explain the feeling, but I can testify it was one of purpose. I knew there was a reason for what I was doing, but I didn’t know what it was.

Writing a book was a big decision. I had been writing outdoor articles for about three years when the thought of actually publishing a book began to creep into my mind.

I had spent over 30 years angling in Marion County, Iowa, and knew I had much to share. Documenting my stories in memoir form was the path I chose to follow. Once I created an outline, it took me about three months to compile over 20 stories.

That is when I hit the What, Why, Who Syndrome.

That feeling of purpose described above is what compelled me to continue. I didn’t understand the feeling, but I knew something higher than me was driving me to complete the book. Secretly, I had visions of monetary gain. This book was to be about fishing, and I remember thinking, There are 35 million licensed anglers in the U.S. If one percent would purchase my book, I could be doing a lot more fishing.

I knew I had not completed a literary masterpiece, and I did not hit that one-percent mark. But I can now share that the book, The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler, was well received in central Iowa and kept me busy for over a year after the publication date.

For instance, about three months after completing my book I received a letter from a reader. Before I opened it, I remember holding in it my hand and thinking, A letter? Who still sends letters? The contents of that letter gave me full understanding of the true purpose of my writing.

The author of the letter, Private Chris Bates from Knoxville, Iowa, had received my book in a care package from home. He was writing from the front lines of a foreign country; he had six weeks to go on his tour and had been struggling until he received my book.

What had lifted him? A story from my memoir. In the first chapter, I shared how my 12-year-old self had snuck into the VA pond in Knoxville to catch some trout that had been stocked for the veterans who used the campus. I was caught by the VA security guard, but I took off running to elude prosecution for trespassing.

Chris and I were separated in age by over 20 years, and the two of us had never met. But in his letter, he confessed he had also snuck into that same pond in his youth and executed a similar evasive move to avoid capture.

Reading this story made Chris laugh out loud and brought back fond memories from his youth. He was writing to me to share his gratitude. The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler lifted his spirits and helped him feel that making it to the end of his tour was obtainable—a feeling he had been struggling with before the book arrived.

About a week after Chris returned home—and with permission from his wife—I pulled up to his place with my boat. The two of us shared a day out on the lake, catching a suitable number of crappies.

We didn’t discuss what he shared in his letter much, nor did we have long, drawn-out conversations about the events that put the two of us in the same boat. That’s just the way us guys are. What was present (besides the crappies), was an unspoken comradery and understanding, along with the knowledge that we had established a friendship that could only be described as fate.

While writing The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler, I felt I had some entertaining and humorous stories to tell. Not once did I think sharing my stories would generate memories strong enough to make a difference in someone’s life like it did for Chris. Not only did this experience create a friend for life, it helped me fully understand that the gift of writing is an extremely powerful tool.

I am sharing this story for any writer who is hitting a moment of doubt, whether they are just thinking of writing a book or are in the process of doing so.

I have two words of advice for you: Just write!

You never know where it may lead.


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Announcing No-Fee November Book Contest special


2018-BookContest-graphic-NoFeeNov-web.pngIf you haven’t entered the 2018 Write Place Book Contest yet, ramp up your writing and get the job done this month! For the entire month of November, we are waiving the contest entry fee.

When submitting your manuscript, follow the instructions on how to enter—but skip the entry fee step! Remember, we are accepting entries through December 15, 2017. The Book Contest winner will receive free publication of their manuscript as both a print book and an e-book. Up to nine finalists will be offered a choice of a $200 discount on the quoted publication cost of their manuscript or a $200 discount on the creation of an author website.

You can find the 2018 Book Contest entry form, submission guidelines, and rules here. If you have any other questions, please email

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10 tips for writing a star manuscript


As you may have heard, the Write Place Book Contest will return in 2018!

Every two years, we invite authors across the country to submit their manuscripts to us. Our team of judges reads them and awards one deserving author with free publication of his or her manuscript as a print and e-book.

This time around, we’ll be accepting manuscripts from August 1, 2017-December 15, 2017. Even though that winter deadline may seem far away, it’s always a good idea to get a head start on a writing project. So, to help all you authors out there get started on a new book project or polish an existing one, I’ve put together this list of 10 tips for writing a star manuscript.

Tip #1: Write a book you want to read

As you write, make sure to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. When you read a book, what hooks your attention and entices you to keep reading?

Also, be sure to pick a topic you feel passionately about. As Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If you love your story, it will shine through and make your writing stronger.

Tip #2: Make a game plan

Before you get started, jot down a brief summary of your book. Keep it short, but be sure you cover the central conflict and its resolution. From there, draft a rough outline of events. Along the way, make note of any particular scenes you want to include. When you’re finished, you’ll have a timeline of events to use as a roadmap for your manuscript.

Tip #3: Lock down your character list

Whether you’re reviewing a complete manuscript or drafting a new one, creating a detailed character list or family tree will help you keep track of who’s who in your story. Be sure to include details like character ages, physical descriptions, relationships, and name spellings. These details are easy to forget or accidentally change. Having a character guide handy will help you guard against those mistakes.

Tip #4: Flex your cartography skills

To keep track of the places your characters visit, sketch out a map of your setting. You’ll get a clearer picture of the world you’ve created, plus you may end up catching errors or inconsistencies.

Tip #5: Establish a writing routine

One of the best ways to stay on track while writing a book is to set a regular writing routine. What time of day do you feel most inspired? Are you a pen-and-paper author, or do you prefer your laptop? What about location? Do you like writing at home, at coffee shops, at the library?

Once you’ve nailed down those details, commit to blocking out a certain amount of time each day or week to devote to your project and stick to it!

Tip #6: Join a writing group

Feedback is a crucial part of the writing process, and local writing groups are a great way to test your book and get live reader feedback. They’re also a great source of inspiration, motivation, and accountability. There are writing groups all across the country. Do a little Google research today to find the one nearest you!

Tip #7: Don’t fear writers’ block

Every author experiences writers’ block, so don’t get discouraged if you find yourself in a slump! Try stepping away from your book for a day or two. Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re doing something other than writing. If that doesn’t work, try talking out the problem with friends, family members, or fellow writers who are familiar with your book. They might just have the key to unlocking the next chapter.

And the absolute best thing about writers’ block? It always passes!

Tip #8: Silence your inner editor

When working on a new manuscript, it can be very tempting to go back and “fix” what you’ve already written. Resist! This will stall your progress and keep you from meeting your deadline. If your inner editor had its way, you would spend hours and hours rewriting what you’ve already done rather than advancing your story.

Remember: your job is to write a finished manuscript. So don’t worry about tweaking your prose or perfecting your dialogue just yet! (That’s what second drafts are for.) Instead, focus on telling the story from beginning to end. Once you’ve done that, feel free to set that inner editor loose!

Tip #9: Read, read, read

William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read . . . Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.” Sometimes, other authors are the best source of inspiration. Get your hands on as many books as you can. Immerse yourself in the genre you’ve chosen to write. Study the conventions of the genre and think about them critically. Discover what you like and dislike. You’ll be a stronger writer for it.

Tip #10: Have fun!

Writing a book is a journey—one that is, admittedly, full of ups and downs. But in the end, there’s no feeling in the world like the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with putting down your pen or hitting “Save” for the final time. So as you write, make sure you take some time to step back and enjoy the ride!


Feeling inspired? I hope so! Remember, the Write Place will begin accepting entries for the 2018 Book Contest on August 1. If you have any questions about the contest, please visit our website or email


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Megalobibliophobia, Part II (Writers’ Edition)


In January, we tackled the topic of “megalobibliophobia” (the fear of large books). Specifically, we covered some helpful tips and strategies for reading a long, intimidating book. But as I wrote, I had an epiphany: many of the same fears that come with reading a long book also apply to writing a long book. So, as promised, here it is: “Megalobibliophobia, Part II (Writers’ Edition).”

Most authors ask two questions at the start of every new project: How do I go about writing this book? and Will anyone read it?

These questions become even more daunting when you have a gut feeling your book is going to be . . . long. Suddenly, you have to worry about organizing tens if not hundreds of thousands of words into a coherent whole without getting overwhelmed. You need to keep your characters, settings, and timeline of events straight. And, somehow, you need to stay steady and motivated through it all.

It’s not easy, but it can be done! If you’ve got an idea for a long book, I’ve put together a few tips on getting started, staying motivated, and seeing your project through from page one to the end.

Make a game plan

One of the trickiest things about writing a long book is making a clear game plan. Before diving in to Chapter One, you need to prepare by making sure you have a thorough understanding of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the story you’re telling.

Start by writing a brief summary of your book’s premise. Keep it short, maybe four or five sentences, but be sure you cover the inciting incident of the story, its central conflict, and its resolution. From there, draft a rough outline of events that will carry you from that inciting incident (Point A) all the way to the conclusion (Point B). Along the way, make note of any particular scenes you want to include. When you’re finished, you’ll have a timeline of events to use as a roadmap for your manuscript.

If your story includes a large cast of characters, you may also want to create a detailed character list or family tree to help keep track of them. Sketching out a map of your setting can also be helpful, especially if your story is geographically complex.

Once these tools are in place, you’re ready to start drafting!

Establish a writing routine

One of the best ways to stay on track during any writing project is to set a regular writing routine that complements you and works with your schedule. Are your creative vibes strongest in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Do you like writing at home, or are you more of a wanderer? Do you prefer a laptop or pen and paper? How much time can you commit to writing each day?

Once you find the writing niche that enlivens your creative spirit, commit to blocking out a certain amount of time each day or week to your project. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you make, no matter the length of the book.

Set manageable goals

At the start of a writing project, it can be very tempting to think, Oh sure, I bet I can write three, four, maybe even five chapters a day! When you’re excited, your project is new, and your motivation is at its peak, it’s easy to imagine sitting down and whipping out your manuscript in record time.

Yet, the painful reality is that at some point, especially if you’re tackling a long and complicated subject, you will experience writer’s block. There will be days when you sit down at your desk and stare at a blank screen or page without a clue of where to go next. The important thing to remember is that all writers experience slumps like this, and they do pass eventually.

There will also be days when, no matter how hard you try to sit down and follow your writing schedule, life gets in the way. Don’t let frustration set in—life happens! If you aren’t able to return to your regular schedule after things settle down, work to find a new writing schedule that fits..

The moral of the story is that while goals are great for keeping you motivated and productive, they must be realistic and achievable. There’s nothing more discouraging than consistently missing your goal.

So don’t beat yourself up if you do happen to fall short; instead, concentrate on the progress that you did make. And, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the days when you exceed your goal!

Join a writing group

When it comes to writing, two, three, four, or five heads are almost always better than one. One thoughtful comment can break through writer’s block or spark the key idea you’ve been searching for to complete your book.

Sometimes, we can get this feedback from close friends or family members, but local writing groups are another great resource for testing your book and getting authentic feedback. Writing groups are also a great source of inspiration and motivation. Your fellow members will help keep you accountable to your writing goals and provide moral support when you find yourself in a writing rut. There are writing groups all across the country; do a little research today to find the one nearest you!

Partner with a professional editor

When your manuscript has made it through this gauntlet, partnering with an editor is often the next step toward publication. A good editor will offer a fresh perspective and can catch the little details that you, as the creative engine behind the project, may not have been in the right frame of mind to catch. At the Write Place, we offer several levels of editing to fit each author’s budget and preferences.

Writing a book is hard; at times it can seem almost impossible task, especially when you find yourself writing a particularly long book. However, in spite of the challenges, it can also be a rich and rewarding experience. So don’t be afraid to become the author of a 500+- page book! With planning, determination, and support from friends, family, and fellow writers, you can make it happen.


“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” – Ray Bradbury


Photo credit:

“The Chipped Table of Dakar,” – noodlepie,, via,



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Megalobibliophobia (the fear of large books)


Tolstoy’s War & Peace is 1,296 pages long, weighs over 3 pounds, and contains 587,287 words.

Okay, maybe I made up the term “megalobibliophobia.” But the fear of reading large books is very real!

Take for example those “big books” sitting on your shelves at home. You know the ones I’m talking about: 500-plus pages, impressive-looking covers, never-been-cracked spines. In my library, that book is War & Peace. I have every intention of reading it . . . someday. This will be the year, I always promise. And yet there it sits—all 1,296 pages of it—unread.

There’s just something very intimidating about a hefty book. You worry that it’ll take you weeks, months, maybe even a full year to get through it. What if you get bored? What if you don’t understand what’s going on? What if you reach page 700 and forget what happened 300 pages ago? What if your eye begins to wander to the other, shorter books on your shelves? Is all this work even worth your time?

Well, despite my reluctance to take on Tolstoy’s masterpiece, there’s a reason that David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (768 pages) and The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (respectively weighing in at 736 and 1,321 pages) hold places of honor on my bookshelf. Daunting as they looked at first glance, these books drew me into their worlds as I read page after page after page. I spent so much time with them that they feel more like dear friends than massive piles of paper, ink, and glue.

So, if there’s a big book in your life you feel intimidated by but you have a sneaking suspicion might be worth the effort, here are a few tips for getting started and staying motivated to read!


My favorite scene from David Copperfield: David “makes himself known” to his Aunt, Betsey Trotwood

Make a schedule

Blocking out 20-30 minutes of reading time a day or setting manageable goals like reading a certain number of pages a week is a great way to tackle a hefty book. I first tried this technique with David Copperfield by setting a goal of reading 100 pages per week. By following that schedule, I knew I could make it to the finish line in less than two months, which was a great motivator. Sticking to it felt a little bit like a chore at first, but by the second or third week I was so engrossed in the story that I exceeded my weekly goal on a few occasions.

Hide the page numbers

If the visual part of reading a long book is putting you off, try using an e-reader. It’s portable, and it takes away the temptation to count exactly how many pages you have to go. Some e-readers even give you the option of turning off the page counter.

Take notes

If the plot of your book is complex and you worry about losing track of characters or important plot points, try making a character list, family tree, or timeline as you read. These tools can help you keep the who, what, when, where, and why of your book straight.

If that sounds too much like homework, try searching online. Sites like SparkNotes can be a great resource for character lists and chapter summaries. If it’s a long book, I guarantee that somebody, somewhere has published a reader’s guide online.

Find a book buddy

Is there someone you know who’s interested in reading the same book? Or perhaps several someones? Creating your own book club is a great way to stay motivated and engaged in reading a long book. You can set goals together and discuss the plot, characters, and what you think is going to happen next. Plus, book club meetings are a great excuse to grab a coffee with your friends!

Take a break

This tip can be dangerous, but if you’re really struggling with a book, try taking a break to read something else. A short break can refresh your brain and renew your motivation. Just be sure to make a commitment to come back to your big book by a certain date if you are truly committed to finishing it.


Reading a long book can certainly be an adventure. There may be times when you can’t put it down, and there may be times when you feel tempted to give it up altogether. But no matter what happens on the journey, there is no denying the sense of accomplishment that you’ll feel when you finally reach THE END.

Do you have a big book we should make sure we add to our reading lists? Want to know our team’s favorite big books? Head to our Facebook page!


“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis


P.S. As I was writing this blog post, I realized that a lot of the fears that go along with reading a big book also apply to writing a big book. So, stay tuned for “Megalobibliophobia, Part II (the fear of writing big books)”!

Photo credits:

“War and Peace” – Sarah Elizabeth Altendorf, July 7, 2011,, via,, accessed January 9, 2017.

“I make myself known to my Aunt” – Hablot Knight Browne, 1849,, accessed January 9, 2017.

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