The Odds of Getting Published [And Why Getting Published Isn’t Like Winning the Lottery]

Why Getting Published Isn't Like Winning the Lottery

The Odds of Getting Published [And Why Getting Published Isn’t Like Winning the Lottery]

A while back, I was talking to my favorite grocery clerk about my goal of being traditionally published. She said, hey, why not? Sure I could do it. After all, people win the lottery every day.

I smiled and laughed, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. The sentiment was fine and the comment well-meant, but the implication was wrong.

Getting published isn’t like winning the lottery, because the lottery is something you can’t control. It’s supposed to be random. Publishers don’t take all the finished manuscripts in the world, throw them all in some giant tumbler, and go with whichever one happens to pop out.

(Although I’m sure that would produce some, uh, interesting results…)

You can’t plan for random.

There’d be no more The Novel Plan, because you can’t plan for random.

What you can do is make your manuscript the best it will be. You can plot your story and polish that query.

Literary agent, Sara Megibow, recommends four steps to increase your odds of querying success.

Four Tips to get a Literary Agent: 1. Manuscript must be 100% complete. 2. Know your story's genre/bookshelf. 3. Only query agents who rep your genre. 4. Follow all submission guidelines.
Four Tips to Get a Literary Agent

Four Steps to Increase Your Odds of Successfully Querying:

  1. Your manuscript must be 100% complete.
  2. Know what genre your book is. The genre corresponds with the aisle of the bookstore where you imagine it would be shelved.
  3. Query only agents that represent your book’s genre.
  4. Before sending each query letter out, make sure to go to the agent’s website and read the submission guidelines. (And follow them!)

There’s always going to be an element of right-place-right-time to everything in life, but in most cases, the cream will eventually rise to the top. Following these steps will help ensure your query has the best chance it can get.

But what if publishing was random? What if we imagined for a moment that every manuscript and query letter carried the same chance of being published?

Let’s look at some stats shared by the awesome literary agent, Sara Megibow.

First, a wee bit of a disclaimer: Keep in mind these stats are from a very narrow slice of the market—i.e., from an agent’s perspective, and only one agent out of many. Different agents in different genres and with different styles will have vastly different numbers. These numbers are only meant for fun, illustrative purposes.

Cool? Cool. Let’s jump in.

Sara Megibow is an agent at KT Literary, where she represents New York Times bestsellers authors including Margaret Rogerson, Roni Loren, Jason M. Hough and Jaleigh Johnson.

She’s been in the publishing industry for nearly 15 years. During that time, Sara has agented over 300 book deals and read over 300,000 queries.

That’s one book deal to every 1,000 queries.

But hold those horses. Before you (or I) go jumping to the conclusion that this gives an aspiring author a one-in-a-thousand-shot at making it in this sample situation, consider that this number includes multiple deals from the same author.

Meaning, a querying writer’s odds of signing with Sara or another theoretical agent with the same stats would actually be lower.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Sara’s average client had three book deals (just making this up), that would put the odds of a successful query at 1 in 3,000.

This is why it’s common for writers to query dozens or hundreds of agents before getting that ever-so-coveted offer of representation.

Don’t lose hope. A friend and writing group partner queried hundreds of agents before getting an offer, but now their book is due out at a major publisher next year.

It’s also wise to consider what may not be working about your story or query if you’re getting continuous rejections, but that’s a topic for another day. The purpose of this post is to put the numbers in perspective, and really, just to have a little fun.

On that note, what are your odds of getting represented? Our example agent, Sara, reads around 25,000 queries per year, and out of those, signs roughly five.

5 out of 25,000 is 0.0002 or 0.02% yearly odds of a successful query—assuming you’re submitting to Sara or another theoretically similar agent.

Then if you’ve made that hurdle, Sara sells roughly 75% of the work she signs.

(I’ve got nothing to compare that to, but it sounds good. It would be great if more agents shared this data.)

That means your odds of being signed and sold to a publisher go down to 0.75 x 0.0002 = 0.00015 x 100 (for percent) = 0.015% yearly.

Hey, at least it looks a lot nicer when you put it into percent form. Because, let’s face it, those are some low odds.

When Sara was nice enough to explore this topic with me on Twitter, she also pointed out it’s important to keep in mind that she only represents middle grade, young adult, romance, and science fiction/fantasy. This number might be vastly different in other genres.

Another factor to keep in mind: Sara is currently listed on Query Tracker as the fourth most queried agent. The odds of successfully querying an agent who gets less submissions would presumably go way up.

Besides, it’s important to know what you’re up against. Not to call the odds your enemy, but—you can’t fight an enemy you can’t see.

It’s easier to win the game when you know the playing field.

Enough metaphors?

Write the book you want to read but can’t find on shelves. Chances are, someone else is looking for it, too, even if they don’t know it, yet.

At the end of the day, the important thing is to write a story that you want to read. Write the book you want to read but can’t find on shelves. Chances are, someone else is looking for it, too, even if they don’t know it, yet.

Selling your story isn’t like winning the lottery. Your story itself matters. The right words can beat any odds.

Write for yourself. Write well. Write on.

You got this.

Until next time,


What did you think of this post? Tell me!

@CDGMcGee on Twitter and on Instagram

The Book that Changed my Entire Writing Process (How I Finished my First Novel)


Save the Cat!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I used to wonder why I couldn’t finish a single novel. I wrote nearly every day, sometimes for hours, sometimes thousands of words at once, but I never got anywhere. My folders were filled with tens or even hundreds of stories left unfinished, waiting for the day that I might return to them.

So what does that have to do with saving cats? Save the Cat! (Yes, with the exclamation point.) by the late Blake Snyder is all about how to structure a compelling story with characters you want to root for—put simply, characters who “save the cat”. It bills itself as “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.” That’s right. It’s all about screenwriting, not even a novel-writing how-to, but it’s the best book I’ve ever read about story structure. And trust me, I needed it.

The Problem with My Writing

Here’s the thing. When I started writing, I had no clue what I was doing other than that I enjoyed it. I hated outlines and didn’t understand plot. And when I did outline, we’re talking ten page documents that became mini-stories in themselves. It was bad.

Inspiration alone is not enough to make a book.

When I started a new novel project, it would be for some spark of inspiration—character, setting, even a line of dialogue—but inspiration alone is not enough to make a book. I would get going great for the first page or forty, then realize I had no clue where the story was headed.

I had no plot. Nor did I have the faintest clue how to construct one.

What STC! Taught Me (And the Problem with Old-School Outlines)

Like I said, I used to write outlines so long they could have passed for books in themselves. I could point out a lot of problems with that method, but the biggest was that after expending all my passion writing the outline, often I found I had no more energy left to write the book itself.

After expending all my passion writing the outline, often I found I had no more energy left to write the book itself.

So I quit outlining.

I then found simpler methods—you’ll even find templates for the eight-beat method if you scroll back in time here on The Novel Plan—but things didn’t really hit home until the day I picked-up Save the Cat! at my local library.

Save the Cat! taught me how to structure a story in a way that made me want to actually write the thing—by breaking every story into the same fifteen beats.

Blake Snyder’s 15-Beat Sheet, the “BS2”:

  1. Opening Image: The Opening Image shows the character in their “before” moment, setting-up the thing that the main character is lacking or needs. You get a hint of the “stasis-death” that will consume them if they can’t remove their own “glass shard”*.
  2. Theme Stated: Blake says this is where the theme is stated, usually to the main character, but the main character doesn’t yet understand it or can’t accept it. However, I personally think the theme should be stated throughout the story in less obvious ways. I don’t think it needs to be called-out specifically at this point—though it can be.
  3. Set-Up: This is where exposition and detail as well as smaller, precursor catalysts may occur to help move our hero from the world of Act One to the world of Act Two. Like the later beat, Fun and Games, the Set-Up beat explores the before world of Act One.
  4. Catalyst: The first external force that sets the character in motion. There may be many catalysts within a larger one or leading to it, but this is the big moment that sparks the character’s debate.
  5. Debate (Stasis = death): The reluctant hero faces their own doubts. Internal conflict. They explore all the reasons for not taking on this quest, not moving forward in the direction the catalyst has pushed them. Usually there is something at stake for them, for someone they care about, or for the world. If they refuse the call to adventure, there is a price to be paid. If nothing else, their own “glass shard”* will fester. This is why stasis = death. If the character stays where they are, in stasis, then they will physically or metaphorically die.
    Another note: Exploring the stakes is why Lord of the Rings works so well. The reader and audience fall in love with The Shire through Frodo’s eyes and see how very much there is to protect against evil, how much is at stake.
  6. Break into Two: The moment the character has completed their debate and now the story moves forward into the upside-down world of Act Two, the antithesis of Act One.
    Crucial note: It must be the main character’s choice to move into the world of Act Two. They must debate and choose this quest, this story on their own.
  7. B-Story: This is where the love story blossoms. Theme is debated with B-story character, usually the love interest.
  8. Fun and Games (Promise of the Premise): Although Blake lists this as a concise beat, Fun and Games can and should happen throughout the story. This is where Neo learns Kung Fu in The Matrix but also the “car chase” of high fantasy where Frodo is trying to outrun the Nazgûl in Lord of the Rings. Fun and Games more overtly delivers the promise of the premise than Set-Up does in Act One.
  9. Midpoint: All story lines intersect here. Stakes are raised. This moment will either be a false defeat or a false victory, depending on what kind of story it is. This is the beat that is mirrored in the finale but inverted in the “All is Lost”.
  10. Bad Guys Close In: Internal and external forces mount against the hero. The team and relationships are strained as they are weakened from the inside. The bad guys show their strength. Things start to slip downhill.
  11. All is Lost: The opposite of the Midpoint, this is the moment where in a standard storyline, the hero loses everything they ever had. Blake also says there needs to be either a physical or symbolic death—the “Whiff of Death”, which clears the way for the fusion of Act One and Two into Act Three, the world of synthesis.
  12. Dark Night of the Soul: This is the character’s reaction to All is Lost. During Dark Night of the Soul, the main character is hopeless and considers giving up. As Blake says, “We must be beaten and know it to get the lesson.”
  13. Break into Three: After digging deep down into the extent of their predicament and thanks to help from the other characters found in B-Story (love story/love interest), the main character finally knows how to defeat the bad guys.
  14. Finale: This is where hero must gather the team and storm the castle. In the face of an unexpected twist, the “High Tower Surprise”, they must use the knowledge they’ve learned to overcome the problem that has defeated them before. And as Blake says, “It’s not enough for the hero to triumph, he must change the world.” This is where it happens.
  15. Final Image: The Final Image should mirror or evoke the Opening Image, but show how the character has grown and their situation has changed since the story began. This beat is the synthesis of the thesis and antithesis worlds of act one and two.

“It’s not enough for the hero to triumph, he must change the world.” —Blake Snyder

*Glass Shard:

Let’s talk about the Glass Shard: There’s something wrong in the hero’s internal world that manifests in the physical world. They must fix their situation in the world around them in order to dig out their glass shard.

Example: In The Matrix, Neo works a dead-end desk job but senses there’s something greater wrong with the world. He’s dissatisfied being a slave to his corporate masters. He becomes an illegal hacker by choice, but it’s still not enough.

His glass shard is his dissatisfaction with the world as it is. This manifests in the plot as his desire to escape the big machine world—The Matrix—that everyone is stuck in.

Where to Go From Here

In the future, I plan to talk about how I structured my ongoing work in progress using Blake’s BS2. I calculated the percentage of story where each beat should fall and then set a target wordcount for my story. From there, I was able to translate beat locations from screenplay to novel page counts.

In the meantime, if you’re like I was and having trouble finishing a story, or perhaps you’ve finished stories but they seem to be lacking a structure, I’d highly recommend reading the original Save the Cat! book by Blake Snyder.


Until next time,


PS—Follow me on Twitter @CDGMcGee

How to Write Likable Characters

How to Write Likable Characters

How to Write Likable Characters

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about likable characters. You know, the ones I can root for. But writing a likable character isn’t as simple as saying, “And then he was nice,” and being done with the matter.

A likable character shows you what they’re made of. They let you decide for yourself if they’re the kind of person you’d want to throw your hat in for.

And sometimes they let you know right off the bat.

One of my favorite character introductions of all time is from the renowned Western writer Louis L’Amour’s Comstock Lode. About midway through the novel, a new character is introduced. This being the kind of book and setting it is, one of our main characters asks if he’s had anything to eat.

His reply?

“Yes, ma’am. I et the day before yestiddy.”

Sure he ate. Just not for two days. But instead of complaining about it—I know I’d be in no mood for smiles at right about that moment—he’s making light of the situation.

We already know several things about his character from just those two lines.

1. He must be used to living pretty rough.

2. He’s determined to be upbeat.

3. This guy’s not about to go asking for any handouts.

I dunno about you, but L’Amour got my heartstrings wrapped around his fingers pretty good on that one.

So there we have it. I was hooked.

Now, there’s a lot of ways you can do this—make a character likable—and I’m not about to go pretend to be the all-authority on matters, but I do have some thoughts I’d like to share.

One is that just because a character may be likable doesn’t mean they’re good. Likable and good are in two totally different ballparks. You can have a pretty bad guy or gal who’s still likable in some ways.

This is where the “save the cat” principle comes in. That’s right. Save the cat. The term was coined by Blake Snyder, and if you’re not familiar with his work, I suggest you check it out (not an affiliate link—I’m not making money on this). His original book by the same name totally changed my writing game.

So what does Save the Cat mean? No, your characters don’t always have to go around rescuing kitties in order to be likable—although they’d probably earn some pretty big points from me with moves like that.

Essentially, when a character “saves the cat”, they’re doing something that gets the reader on their side. Maybe this person has played quite the questionable hero in the into, but now the audience finally gets to see them sacrifice something, risk themselves, or otherwise just help somebody else at no personal gain, just because it’s right.

That’s when we know we’re on their side—even if maybe they’re still not the most angelic of characters.

They’ve got that glimmer of gold. Somewhere inside them is a spark of goodness we can root for.

And that’s the heart and soul of a likable character.

The Three Rules of Book Cover Design & Marketing

The Three Rules of Book Cover Design & Marketing

Let’s talk about covers. No matter what the saying says, books are judged by them. It’s instinctual and immediate, a snap judgement on first impression that decides whether the jacket copy is even read. This is why graphic design is crucially important. If you want your book to stand out on the shelf in a store, library, or online marketplace, you have to know who you are designing for and what to do to attract their attention. Your book jacket and cover are marketing pieces. Mess them up, and your book won’t sell.

Every marketplace has its own variations to keep in mind. Think about where your work will primarily be sold. For example, when you design for Amazon, your book cover will be judged as a small thumbnail. Few readers will bother to open and zoom in on the image. However, when your book is on display at Barnes and Noble, it will be viewed primarily from the spine unless you’re lucky enough to get a display stand. Then the cover will be visible, but it still has to call to readers from across the room. It must demand attention.

Here, we’ll list the three basic rules of book jacket design and marketing, then we’ll expand on each in detail:

1. Know your target audience.

2. Design for scalability.

3. Make your cover stand out.

Let’s start with rule number one: Know your target audience.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, you need to know who it is that’s going to read your book in order to market to that persona. If you’re writing in genre, check out the established cover and jacket design trends for similar books. What does the art of the most popular books look like? It’s up to you if you want to design with or against them. You can make your book jacket so different from everything else in the genre that it will pop out immediately as something new, or you could let it blend in a little more and share the popularity of an already successful style.

For example, paperback romance novels all tend to have similar design elements: large, embossed author names and titles, photos of shirtless male models… If that’s the kind of book you’re trying to sell, you might want to do something similar. But I’ll warn you that each genre has its own clichés and connotations. If you make your book look like a pulp paperback, it will sell like one. People will see the cover and expect that’s all it is—even if what’s inside is new and different.

Rule number two: Design for scalability.

Here’s the deal. Book covers, much like album art for music, have had to adjust and grow into the digital age. Where before books were primarily sold in physical stores, now many are sold in online marketplaces such as on Amazon or through e-book platforms. Your cover may only ever be seen as a small thumbnail image. But it will also be seen full-size if you’re selling a physical book. This is why it’s crucial to design for scalability. The imagery must be eye-catching and the text readable at any viewing level.

Think of your book title graphic as a logo. Logos, like book covers, must be scalable and memorable. Usually, they are designed in thicker lettering than standard text so that they can be easily read at all sizes and from far away. Your title doesn’t have to be as original as the Harry Potter logo, where the typeface was altered to look like a lightning bolt, but needs to be able to represent the story on its own. If you make your title text versatile and scalable, you’ll be able to use it across multiple books in a series, or brand your stand-alone novel from ads to posters to social media accounts and more. This will allow you to develop a cohesive brand system as the need arises.

Rule three: Make your cover stand out.

If you want your cover to catch the readers’ eye, use contrast to your advantage. Strong negative space gives the eye a place to rest and provides separation between elements of text, images, and the margins of the page. Use fonts that contrast or provide harmony, and only two different typefaces, tops. Different type sizes should be used intentionally and carefully to create visual hierarchy. This will help keep your cover simple, uncluttered, and easy to look at.

For examples of book covers that work well and others that don’t, check out our Pinterest boards for inspiration. @TheNovelPlan

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]

Why Magic Must Have Rules

Why Magic Must Have Rules If you’re writing a fantasy, chances are there’s some sort of magic or magical force present in your story. Not having a defined system for that magic is like playing a game and making up the rules as you go along. Everyone else will know you’re cheating.

I’m not suggesting you write out a list of rules and affix them to the endpapers of your novel like formulas in an algebra textbook. What matters is that your magic follows a logical system. You can allow readers to infer the rules over time through demonstration.

But why must there be a system? Doesn’t that defeat the awesomeness of magic?

No. Actually, it’s the other way around. Anything is possible when there are no rules, so even awesome abilities become arbitrary. Tension only exists in a story when there are foreseeable consequences to actions. These are the stakes. When you use magic as a dues ex machina to solve your problems on a whim, it feels like a cheat. It implies that none of the consequences were ever of concern, or perhaps worse, that the author is bending the rules of the world whenever it’s convenient for a certain character or the plot.

The eagles that repeatedly save Gandalf and the others in Lord of the Rings are a bit of a dues ex machina. They save the day when it’s convenient for the story, but aren’t available otherwise. Is there a reason Gandalf can’t just call the eagles to fly Frodo and the ring up to Mount Doom in the first place? That sure would have saved a lot of trouble. Because there’s no defined system for when and where the eagles can save the day, it feels like Tolkien could just write them in anywhere.

If Harry Potter had suddenly realized he could solve all the world’s problems by clapping his hands and clicking his heels, all his prior struggles would have been pointless. Part of the series’ success can be attributed to its clearly defined magic system. Rowling designed limits to what magic could do, and special procedures and even consequences for using it. Without this structure and rules, anything would have been possible, and the wizarding world would have lacked tension.

It is not what the hero can do that’s important, it’s what they can’t.

By limiting the magic in your world and defining a system, you enable the building of stakes through potential consequences. Readers can trust that the author is not going to ruin the tension by making up arbitrary conveniences as they go along.

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]


How to Edit Your Own Writing

How to Edit Your Own WritingThere’s a reason even the best authors have editors. That’s because it’s nearly impossible to edit your own writing with the fresh perspective an outside reader provides. We often read our writing in the way it was intended to be written—instead of as it actually sits on the page.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make editing your own work easier and more productive. This is especially helpful if you don’t have anyone available to edit for you.

Walk away.

The first and best thing you should do is put your writing down and leave it alone. Wait as long as you can. If you only have overnight, give it that, but really you need to leave your writing be for a couple days or weeks, minimum. The trick here is to forget the state of mind you were in when you wrote it. Forget what you intended to say. You can think about your story or continue onward if you’re still writing it, but don’t turn back and try to edit it. Not just yet.

The longer you let your words settle, the better you’ll be able to edit them.

This same principle applies to other fields as well. When I’m working on a design project, I often find myself becoming “screen blind” after too long spent on one project. But if I step away and take a break, I’m able to refresh both my mind and my perspective.

The second method of self-editing can be accomplished without wait.

Look at your writing in a different medium.

If you wrote on a computer, print it out. If you penned it out, type it in. Even switching from a tablet screen to a computer monitor can help. The idea with this method is to separate your words from the context you wrote them in.

The way that works best for me is to see a typed, hard-copy version. I’ll then go through with a highlighter and color any sentences, words, or phrases that stick-out to me. Is something uncomfortable to read? Did I trip over that word? Think I meant to say something else there? Highlight it.

The reason I always start by highlighting is this: Your first impression is the best tool, but also the most fleeting.

If you allow yourself to get lost in detail, you risk losing perspective. It’s crucial to work fast when you begin editing. Speed allows you to continue seeing your writing with fresh eyes. Only after the initial read-through and highlighting is complete, then it’s time to pull out the fine-tooth comb. Then you no longer have to worry about getting lost in details. That’s the beauty of highlighting everything that needs work—you will always know exactly where to focus.

Have a great day, and good luck with all your writing endeavors!

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]


The Basis of Every Scene: Conflict and Emotional Change

Conflict and emotional changeYou’ve probably heard before that something needs to happen in every scene of your story. But “something” is a pretty vague word. What exactly is this “something” that needs to happen in order for your plot to advance? Each scene must provide important development that pushes your narrative along: conflict and emotional change.

Let’s envision a scene.

It’s a glorious Tuesday morning, as glorious a Tuesday can be. The sun is shining bright overhead and little birds are singing in all the branches of all the trees. Yes, just glorious. Little Suzie is swinging for the blue sky when her headband flies off and lands in the tanbark ten feet below. By the time the swing slows down enough that she can jump off, her classmate Joey has already grabbed the headband and started running. She has to chase him all over the playground. By the time she gives up and calls the Yard Duty, she’s in tears.

What’s going on here?

We have a clear example of conflict: Joey steals Suzie’s headband and she wants it back.

Suzie started out feeling happy and peaceful, but ended up frustrated. She was angry at Joey for stealing her headband, and worried that she wasn’t going to get it back. That’s why she had to resort to tattling.

Overall, the scene went from an emotional positive (+) to a negative (-). As you can see, conflict initiates emotional change.

I also find it an interesting and often enlightening exercise to imagine the scene from the antagonist’s perspective. Why did Joey steal Suzie’s headband? The awesome thing about being a creative fiction writer is that you don’t have to settle for theorizing—you get to make it up. I know why Joey stole Suzie’s headband: It’s because he likes her and doesn’t know how to express this or get her attention. That’s why he stole her headband—so she’d have to chase him all around. And boy, was it exhilarating. Joey started out at an emotional high (+), but ends up at an emotional low (-) because the Yard Duty sent him to see the principal, and that means he won’t be getting dessert at dinner again. Plus, now he thinks Suzie probably hates him.

That scene is a pretty straightforward example of conflict. But not everything has to be so dramatic. In life, conflict is all around us. Even when everything is going pretty well. It’s there in the morning when someone cuts you off in traffic; it’s there at that unearthly hour when the smoke alarm starts chirping for new batteries and all you want to do is sleep. Same thing in fiction. Conflict arises in your story when something or someone stands between the character and what they are attempting to achieve, no matter how big or how small that obstacle might be. That conflict doesn’t even have to come from a human source. And it can be subtle.

The same goes for emotional change. It doesn’t have to be super dramatic, unless maybe you’re working on a new soap opera. Just remember: Every action has a reaction.

These sequences of conflict and emotional change are the kernels around which your story is built.

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]


Your Potential Audience is Greater than You Think

Your Potential Audience is Greater than You Think

There are a lot of people on this planet. At the time of writing, there are over 322 million people in the United States alone, with another American baby born every eight seconds. In the world, there are over 7.3 billion people and climbing. And out of all those people, there is only one person who can write what you will.

That’s all great, you say, but more people means more competition. Even if I write something good, is anyone going to read it?

Well, let’s look at some facts.

According to a January 2014 Pew Internet research study, the typical American read five books during the previous twelve month period. So if each American reads five books in a year, and there are 322 million Americans, how many books are read in a year in America? We’ll multiply the number of books read by the number of Americans and get 5 x 322,000,000 = 1,610,000,000. Over 1.6 trillion books read in America each year. That gives your book a lot of chances. And remember—some people will read way more than five books a year.

Okay, so how many new books are published in America each year? According to Worldometers, there were 328,259 published books in 2010.

Let’s have some more probably-unscientific estimating fun. If only new books were read, what’s the average number of copies of each that would be read in a year? We’ll rough-guess it: 1,610,000,000 books read divided by 328,259 new works = 4,904.7 copies of each are read on average. Of course, this estimate is just for fun, because we’re assuming here that no one is reading old books. Which is obviously not the case. The point is just to give you an idea of the scale of numbers that we’re working with. You might be able to extrapolate and say that number of copies read could be a lifetime average, considering that many of the books read each year are not recent works. And hey, nearly five-thousand copies isn’t so bad, especially considering some books will sell much higher.

But how do you keep your work from being on the other end of the spectrum, selling maybe only a handful of copies? Well. There’s no easy answer there, except this: Make it worthwhile. Write the best thing you can, and then make it better. Okay, that’s some hipster inspirational talk or whatever, but seriously. Make something meaningful. Take your time. Look at the classics. Why is it that Les Miserables, for example, has been so loved and celebrated through the years, adapted across mediums from stage to screen and beyond?

Meaningful stories speak truth about the human condition and allow readers to grow by experiencing life through the characters’ perspective. These tales resonate with generation after generation because they are not bound by culture or time. The reader can relate. And through the journey of the story, learns something more about themselves.

Because in the end, it’s not about the numbers read. It’s what you say that matters.

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]


Story Pocket Cards: Free Templates for Plotting!

Free Story Card Templates

Free Printable Templates

I spend a lot of time staring at a screen. I mean, a lot. Most of us do these days. But there’s something so natural, so tactile about sitting down and working things out on a pad of paper. I swear the brain thinks differently when we’re holding a sheet of paper vs looking at a screen. That’s why when I’m plotting, I love to work everything out analog-style.

Where am I going with this? To another free template for you, my dears.

It started with a problem. When working on paper, I missed the freedom of drag-and-drop that we’re so used to with computers. How could I recreate that in analog? With pieces of paper, of course. I created an outline template with cut-out slots to put paper story cards in. Each section of the story can be labeled to organize it, and the cards stay in place until you want to change them. It’s so simple yet so effective. The cards can be moved around, stacked, removed, and rearranged at will. Plus, I’m including a version that matches up with the eight-beat plotting method. All you’ll need to do is print, cut on the lines, and play. You can use the cards however you like, but my preferred method is sort of like flashcards—write the plot event heading on the font of the card so it sticks out of the slot, and go into more detail on the back.

It’s all free, so download and enjoy!

Enjoyed your free templates?

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]


Free Motivational Printables

Three Free Inspirational Printables!

It’s the holidays. For many of us, that means our schedules are suddenly overflowing with things to get done, leaving little room to sit down and write. But even when it isn’t the holiday season, writing a novel is a daunting endeavor. There will always be something to keep you from your art. These motivational prints are here to help! May they give you that extra spark, that little push of inspiration to keep going. Best of luck, my friends. You can do it!

Click to download these three, free motivational printables!


Enjoyed your free printables?

Get printables, writing tips, and more in your inbox!

Subscribe to The Novel Plan’s future blog posts on writing, creativity, design, and marketing. You’ll hear from us with original, educational content and updates. Thank you, and be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter @TheNovelPlan for writing news, tips, motivation, and more.


[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]