Skip to content

Category: A Writer’s Musings

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How to Work with Your Squad

Two weeks ago we looked at what beta readers do – but how does this process work when you’re the writer? What does your squad need from you, besides your draft?

Above all else, working with beta readers is a cooperation. Today I’m giving you a few pointers about what to do and what not to do so you’re prepared 😉

Give them pointers. There’s a chance that some of your betas will be new to this process, and won’t know what to look for, so a list will make it much easier for them. This is also helpful for betas who have done this before – maybe even for you – because you might have specific things you’d like them to look for. I already mentioned this two weeks ago in my post about what betas do, but personally I have a problem with repetition, fight scenes, and under-describing settings, so all of those are on my list.

Be sure to include how you’d like to receive their feedback, too. Would you like a list of bullet points, chapter by chapter? Or maybe a general summary at the end of each chapter? Perhaps you’d​ prefer they track their changes in Word? Chances are, if you have five betas and leave them to it, you’ll receive five different feedback formats. You’ll have a lot of feedback by the end of the process, so having all these different formats would only make everything more complicated. Let them know what’s easiest for you (ideally when you first ask for betas) to take at least some of the pressure off – of you as well as your betas.

Set them a deadline. Beta reading a book is a huge task and takes a lot of work. You might have deadlines you need to keep yourself, and I can tell you from personal experience that having a deadline helps. I beta read a manuscript once which had no deadline and I was told that I could take however long I needed with it. This resulted in me prioritising more urgent tasks and not putting the time in. Make sure your betas know when you need their feedback to avoid this very thing – and if you don’t have a deadline from the start but that changes, let them know as soon as you have a date.

Let them know that it’s okay to drop out. I feel this is quite important, because sometimes other things come up or get in the way, and your betas should know that it’s okay if plans change. I hate abandoning voluntary projects, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I still feel bad, but if I know that the writer understands it takes the pressure off.

This is especially important when they don’t want to continue because they don’t like your book. No one book is for everyone, and if your book doesn’t work for one of your betas (or later, readers) that’s okay. The vital thing here is to assure them that it’s fine, and that you ask them why they don’t like your book. If it just doesn’t work for them personally, you’re okay. If it’s because the world building is bad, your characters all sound the same, and most of your pages consist of run-on sentences, you’ve got work to do.

Don’t get defensive. I can’t stress enough how important this is. When I had beta readers go over Rise of the Sparrows, two of my betas asked me if I’d get mad if they pointed out mistakes. Now, my friends, writers who react like that miss the point of having beta readers. If you’re not prepared for criticism and honest feedback, you’re not ready for betas, never mind for publishing. Reviewers can and will be rough. You might feel that their dislikes are unjustified. But you never, ever, get into an argument over it. Your betas do you a favour. A massive, huge favour. Don’t get angry when they tell you that they don’t like a character, or a certain scene. That’s the feedback you want, and the reason you asked for betas in the first place. You thank them. You don’t make them regret that they volunteered.

Organise their feedback in a way that works for you. Because it’s really easy to get lost in all that feedback if you don’t. And you’ll get lots of it, trust me! With Rise of the Sparrows I had 21 A4 pages worth. I’ll go more into how I made sense of it all in two weeks time, but for now suffice it to say that you want to organise it somehow. A separate file on your memory stick, post-it notes, a notebook with handwritten notes, an app on your phone – whatever works for you. Just do yourself a favour and organise it all, and don’t leave it until the last second because you will pull your hair out if you do.

Ask if you’re not sure! Sometimes, something your betas say might not make sense to you, or one beta might point out one thing which seems kinda huge but none of the others have flagged it up. If you’re not sure, about anything, ask your betas for clarification! This doesn’t have to be about small things only, either. If your betas suggested to add a scene somewhere, you can send it back to them and ask for feedback on that, too. As I said above, working with betas is all about cooperation. It’s not a ‘they do their thing, I await results, and then we never talk to each other again’ kind of situation. I’m not suggesting you ask them to read the whole draft again, but a couple of scenes – especially when they insisted you add them – should be fine. Ask if they’d be willing to take another look, and don’t get defensive if they say no (“But they agreed to read everything!” Sure, but don’t forget that you’ve added stuff since then.). If they finished their beta read and have started other projects, you can’t hold that against them.

Beta readers work for free. I’m not telling you that you can’t reward your betas if you want to – you’re absolutely welcome to! – but I don’t want you to feel an obligation in that regard. Some writers offer amazon vouchers in return. You might offer a signed copy of the book they helped improve. Personally, I offer a discount on all my editing services to all my betas. Generally, however, betas don’t receive anything, and they certainly don’t get an hourly wage! If you want to offer yours something you definitely can, but don’t feel like you have to or else you’re not doing this right.

Make sure they know you’re grateful. Your betas do you one massive favour, friend. It takes time to read an entire book and take notes, especially if your book needs a lot of work. I recommend being a beta yourself at least once, so you can really get a sense of the amount of work that goes into this process!

Are you about to work with betas for the first time and have more questions? Ask away! 🙂 Or have you worked with betas in the past and would like to add something to this list? Share away! 🙂 Make a tea, grab a biscuit, and say hi.

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

Leave a Comment

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – What Do Beta Readers Do?

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how and when to assemble your beta squad, but that only helps you if you’re the writer. Today I’d like to consider the other side, and talk about how to be a beta reader.

I’ve been on both sides of this process now and have seen what worked when I was the author, and also what worked and what I needed when I was the beta reader. I hope the information below will help clarify questions you might have, or make sense of everything if this is your first time beta reading 🙂

If you’re the writer and need a few questions answered, hang on in there – I’ll be back for you in two weeks ^-^

Be honest. I know it can be difficult to tell someone that you didn’t like something they created – maybe you even hated it, or maybe your author’s grammar is terrible when you know for a fact that your author prides herself on her grammar skills – but it’s essential that you do. The first and only thing we need from you is honesty. I know it’s not always easy, but think of it this way: If you’ve spotted something and aren’t sure how to say that it doesn’t work for you or you think that an entire view point should be cut, it’s all the more important that we know about it. Because those things are big, and there’s a good chance that other betas feel the same way. Or maybe they don’t know how to phrase their concerns either, and therefore no one says anything? You could be the beta who saves our WIP, friend!

We can take your criticism. That’s why we recruited you, after all 🙂

Be polite. While it’s vital to be honest, there’s no reason to be rude. Comments such as ‘No, no, NO!’ or ‘This is awful. The hell were you thinking?’ are unnecessary. We are aware that not every reader is going to enjoy our book, and if the majority of your feedback looks like the two examples above I think your writer has the right to suggest you stop. We don’t want you to force yourself through a book you don’t like – and if most of your feedback is ‘NO! CHANGE IT!’ I think it’s fair to assume that you’re not enjoying yourself. No one book is for everyone, and if my book isn’t for you you’re allowed to walk away (but please say something, so I don’t wonder what happened to you. I won’t take it personally.)

You don’t have to sugarcoat everything you don’t agree with or every bit of incorrect grammar, but manners go a long way!

If you’re not sure about something, ask. You know you were asked to check for character development, but your writer keeps spelling a specific word wrong each time he uses it. Should you point it out? Your writer didn’t ask for it, but it seems important enough to say something. Or maybe you feel strongly about Deran and Tyler’s relationship, but does your writer need to know about the parts you love? Is it helpful if some of your feedback isn’t about things that need changing, but things you enjoy?

Ohmygodyesplease! The best thing to do when you’re not sure is to just ask. Beta reading is a partnership between you, dear reader, and your writer. They should be available to answer questions if you need something clarified. If your writer is unavailable, include it.

You can’t go wrong by including information, only by leaving potentially important information gone unsaid.

Show us your excitement! There’s nothing more encouraging than when I receive feedback like this:

or this:

Beta reading doesn’t have to be formal. If you love what you’ve read and are excited about where the story is going, please share it with your writer! There’s nothing that builds us up quite like the examples above. It’s one thing to say ‘I liked that scene between Rose and Henry’ and quite another to go ‘YASSSSS! OMG YES!’

Some of the feedback we receive is going to be negative, sometimes disheartening. Receiving a little love note here and there is going to make our day like nothing else can.

Ask your writer what he/she needs from you. I can’t speak for all writers, but I like to include a small list of things to look for when I send my initial email with the WIP. Chances are that some of my betas will be new to this and might not know what to look for, so a list is useful! If your writer didn’t tell you what they need from you, don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a good chance that there’s something specific your writer is after – personally, I know I have a problem with repetition, my fight scenes could be stronger, and it turns out I under-describe settings (I’m worried I’ll do more telling than showing), so it’s useful for my betas to know to look for these things.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to drop out. Easier said than done, I know, but sometimes we simply can’t finish what we started. Something might have come up in your personal life, for example, and you don’t need to add more stress to yourself. You’re not the only beta we have, so don’t worry. Your leaving doesn’t force us to start over again.

Read it like you would read any other book. By the time a writer reaches out to betas, the draft has already undergone several revisions. We don’t expect you to be an editor, we just need you to point out things as you spot them. Don’t worry if you didn’t flag up anything in chapter 12. That’s not a sign that you’re not pointing out enough mistakes, but rather that you’re enjoying the book! There’s something good to be said for a beta reader getting too lost in the story to notice mistakes. It might not help us improve that scene, but it does tell us that it’s engaging – and that’s precisely the kind of feedback we need. So sit back with a cuppa tea, get your reading groove on, and do what you do best!

Of course, if you’d rather sit down with a check list and analyse every chapter in detail you’re welcome to do that, too. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember to enjoy yourself, too.

I know having an entire book to beta read is daunting. What if you don’t do well enough? What if you don’t catch mistakes? What if the writer ends up being displeased with your services and sets his dragons on you? Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as useless feedback. If it stood out to you, it’s good enough! That’s all we want from you – things that stood out. Those can be positive (“I LOVED how the relationship between Anna and Derek developed!”) or negative (“I just can’t connect with Cynthia. I feel like I should because we’re similar, but I just can’t put myself in her shoes.”) or even just “You keep confusing ‘save’ and ‘safe’ – you may want to read up on that.” but either way, it’s all useful.

The last thing we want is for you to get stressed over this!

Beta readers don’t get paid. I know some writers stray from that general rule, but don’t expect to get paid. Beta readers do what they do for free, to do the author a favour, and because they love books. Shaping a draft into something even better – knowing that you’ve played a part in making a book the best it can be – is exciting, and might even be the reason you’re considering it! I know how time-consuming beta reading is for everyone involved, so you can believe me when I say that I immensely appreciate what you do.

Having said that, some writers do offer small rewards to treat their betas. I know some writers offer Amazon vouchers, for example, or a free print copy of their book once it’s published. I offer a discount on all my editing services to my betas.

But just be aware that the common thing is no pay. It’s up to the writer whether she wants to offer a reward, but there’s no obligation. Please don’t offer to beta read expecting a voucher or any other reward. If your writer gives you something in return, it’ll be specified.

Now it’s over to you! If you’re the writer – What do you need from your betas? Do you have any more advice for someone who’s new to this, or someone who’s had a bad experience? If you’re the beta – Do you have any more questions? Get yourself a tea/coffee, maybe some cookies, and ask away! 🙂

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – When Do You Assemble Your Squad?

Now that you know how to find your squad, it’s time to look at when to assemble your loyal betas.

I know the tempting thing to do is to ask for betas the moment you finish your first draft. You’re on a high after having typed The End and trust me, I get it (The. Best. Feeling!) – but allow me to convince you that this is not the best moment to call in reinforcements.

I recommend, strongly, that you only call in betas when you yourself can’t figure out what else to change. You’ve done one or two rounds of edits, maybe a critique partner has already gone over your book baby, perhaps your editor has even done a developmental round – and now the whole thing has stopped making sense to you. You know that strange feeling when you read a word over and over again until it looks like it can’t possibly be a word? (Try it, it’s very frustrating.) That’s when you know you’re ready for betas. You’ve done what you can, and now you can’t do any more.

By the time you’ve edited your own work once or twice you’ll know every last shady corner pretty well, so you’re even more likely to gloss over obvious errors.

Chances are you’ll find a thousand things to reword, cut, slash, slaughter, and add when you do your first edit. Make sure all that is done before you ask for betas, so that, by the time they get your draft in their inbox, it’s as close to the final version as it can be!

Your betas should point out where you’ve missed a smudge after you’ve already polished your work. They shouldn’t have to do everything – that’s your job.

Think of it this way: The draft you send your betas should be a draft you are happy with – a draft you’d be happy to publish, even! (except you’re not, you wouldn’t be asking for betas otherwise *ahem*) You essentially test your book on readers, and it’s harder to do that when you know your WIP still needs a lot of work. You want to know how it reads amongst other things; if it’s still riddled with spelling errors by this stage it’ll be harder to enjoy, and you won’t get the most out of your betas.

Your beta readers aren’t your editor. You want them to point out mistakes, but you should still attempt to clear the field before you ask them to diffuse whatever bombs you’ve missed. If you can think of a few things you should change/add/cut/rephrase, please fix those first. Your betas will be grateful!

If you feel that you do need a second opinion before you reach the beta stage, you can always get a critique partner or two. But that’s a topic for another post 🙂

How do YOU know you’re ready for beta readers? If you’re a writer or a beta reader with questions regarding this step, please don’t hesitate to ask (once you’ve helped yourself to tea and biscuits, naturally).

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


How do You Market Your Book Once It’s Published? 11 Authors Share Their Secrets!

Just the word ‘marketing’ sends nervous shivers down the backs of many authors. It’s something you know you need to do – something really quite vital to your book’s success – but chances are you’re putting it off. You might be procrastinating because you have no idea where to start, because you don’t think of yourself as a marketing strategist but a creative, because it seems intimidating, or because any number of different reasons, but either way – it’s not getting done, is it?

Don’t worry, we don’t blame you. When you’re new to this writing thing you have so much to think about – How do you publish your book? Do you need an editor? What are beta readers and why does everyone say you need them? – that marketing likely takes a step back. Marketing happens after your book is out, right? Why worry about it before you approve your book on Amazon when there is everything else to do?

I know. I, and every author below (or ever), have been in the same place at one point. But the truth is that marketing happens at just about every stage of your bookish career – certainly after you’ve published your book (*high five!*), but also before you get to that stage.

So what can you do? Where do you start? The eleven authors below are here to help you with just that! Marketing is daunting, and chances are it always will be, but hopefully after reading this post you’ll feel a little more confident, and maybe even see the fun side! (I promise you, it exists if you know where to look.)

My personal recommendation is social media. Create a blog, sign up for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – whichever works best for you – before your book is out, and start mentioning here and there that you’re a writer with a book in the works. I can’t stress how wonderful the writing community is. I know signing up and declaring you’re a writer can be pretty scary, but I promise you we’ll catch you and welcome you with cookies and kittens (and tea/coffee, naturally). You’ll be glad you’ve joined, trust me. The sooner you can do this, the better. Your release day may seem like a long way off when you’ve only just finished your first draft, but that’s precisely why that’s the ideal time to start promoting. Think of it this way – if you wait until your book is out, no one will know it exists on release day. But if you create a blog, post regularly, and have at least a small but intrigued social media following by release day, then those are people who do know about your book! There may not be many if it’s your first book, but a few are better than none.

There’s only one thing you need to be on social media, and that’s yourself. Make sure your posts are genuine, avoid posting nothing but “My book is awesome! You have to read it NOW!”, and you’ll find your people (sometimes refered to as your tribe) in no time!

If you want to catch up with me on social media, glance over to the left-hand side – you’ve got all my links right there 😉

But let’s hear from the other eleven authors, shall we? (My thanks to all of you again for stopping by and sharing your insights <3 )

Nadia L. King, Author of Jenna’s Truth

A surprise that came with becoming a writer is the need for public speaking. When my debut book was published last year, I was most surprised by how much public speaking I needed to undertake. As writers, we often prefer to stay in the worlds we create in our heads. This isn’t always possible. We have to become adept at public speaking. No matter how shy you are, you will have public speaking engagements. The greater the public’s exposure to your book and to you, the more likely readers will ‘buy-in’ to your book. So get ready for radio and TV interviews, library talks, and school visits. You can have the fanciest, most sophisticated author website on the planet, but nothing beats the human touch. If we are truly to connect with our readers, we will need to speak to them and more often than not, this will require us to speak publicly.

Speaking engagements in Australia are paid and minimum rates are set by the Australian Society of Authors. Let schools and public libraries know you are available for talks by personally contacting them and providing details of what you cover in your talks and the audience you target. Remember, exposure is a powerful tool so use it when opportunities arise. So dear friends, get ready, feel the fear and do it anyway. Your book asks it of you.

 You can find Nadia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Anna B. Madrise, Author of The Hatter’s Wife

Book marketing in today’s day and age, has become a business in and of itself. There are whole websites, presentations, and companies, slated towards the “how-to’s” an author should follow to market their book. What they don’t tell you, is whether you are self-pub, tradish, or hybrid, you – the author – are going to be doing a good deal amount of your own marketing, on your own.

My first tip? Start with one social media site and get really good at using it. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (yes there are authors who are doing fabulous on Pinterest!) pick one, and learn EVERYTHING you can about how to use that social media site as a place to market your books.

My second tip? Schedule time each week that you set aside to actually “do” the marketing of your book. Don’t try to pile it on top of writing days or research days, it will only overwhelm and frustrate you. It needs to be treated with the same importance as when you sit down to work on your manuscripts. In some cases, after your book is published, it starts to become more important because finding your audience, that will read your work, is the foundation to your author business.

Finally, enjoy the process. You became a writer/author for a reason. Don’t be afraid to showcase all your hard work to the world. Go in with a positive attitude and you will be rewarded much the same, in return.

You can find Anna on her website, InstagramTwitterFacebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Michael Chrobak, Author of Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion and Where Angels Dwell

Marketing starts before a book is released. It doesn’t matter how much you are going to spend advertising, if your potential readers aren’t attracted to it, they aren’t going to buy. Period. So, what do you need? First, a well-designed cover. Unless you’re a talented artist, don’t create your own cover. It will look self-published, and in this business, that’s bad. If your budget is limited, spend most of it on a good cover. Also – edit, edit, edit. Spelling, grammar mistakes, or timeline discrepancies give the reader the impression you don’t care. They might buy your first book, but they most likely won’t get the next.

Once it’s released, social media will be your best friend. It’s free, so use it. Try to build your follower base to at least 500 to 1000 before you release. And please, don’t make every post or tweet about your book. Let them see your personality. The more they think you’re someone they could hang out with, the more willing they are to not only read your books, but give you reviews as well. Reviews are what sell your books to the rest of the world. So treat your followers with respect, and be personal. I only post about my book when I have something to share. Updates on new releases, promotions or sales, new cover reveals, etc. I also recommend having a blog and writing about anything but your books. It gives your fans something to read while they wait for the sequel.

You can find Michael on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Becky Wright, Author of The Manningtree Account and Remember to Love Me

Cultivating self-belief is one of the most daunting tasks as an Independent Author, but, inevitably, one of the first to master. Your story, your words, your thoughts are of course personal; therefore marketing your book is also promoting you.

The obvious place to start is with your loyal friends and family, but regards to onward marketing, think local. It’s important in the early stages to establish a readership, a following, a core group of readers who will eagerly ‘read & rave’ about your work. Once your book is in the hands of a reader, it becomes theirs; it now, no longer belongs solely to you. This is your greatest connection and tool.

Create an eye-catching Press Release, you will find numerous templates online. Think punchy and to the point – ‘who, what, when and why’. This is your press tool. Check out your local newspapers & magazines for spotlight features, book reviews and entertainment features. These are invaluable, some may jump at the chance of a local interest editorial, some may ask for an advertorial – you pay for a small advert and they give you a read up, creating a win-win situation.

All forms of media whether traditional print, or online social are a truly valuable source. Once mastered, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram will be your best buddies. But be caution, your time is precious, you are a writer, so make sure you dedicate time for writing.

You can find Becky on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

RK Ride, Author of the Stella series

To be honest, the least favourite part of my publishing journey has to be marketing! But, I quickly realised that if I wanted people to enjoy the story I’d created, I had to get my head around the fact that I needed to let readers know my book was out there.  And one way I discovered to accomplish that, was not through ‘selling’ but through ‘connecting’.  Connecting with not only potential readers, but with fellow authors too. As authors, we are not in competition with each other. When you consider how many books a voracious reader can devour in a year, compared to how many books one author can write, it makes a whole lot of sense to collaborate with and support other authors.

A common medium to connect with others is through Social Media, and while it is a fabulous medium, it can also be a huge time suck. Early on in my marketing journey, I spent a lot of time on social media, but I found that my time spent was often grossly disproportionate to the amount of sales made. Now I focus my time and attention on growing my email list so that I can connect with my followers on a much more personal, one to one basis via a monthly newsletter, while still support my colleagues by having an Author Interview section in my mail out.

You can find Rhonda on her website, Facebook, and Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

K.J. Chapman, author of the EVO Nation series and Thrown to the Blue

Indie authors are self-reliant on every publishing detail no matter how big or small. One aspect, and one of the most important, is marketing. Getting your book seen and reviewed will take up just as much time as the writing did in the first place.

I was a total newbie to anything self-publishing when I released my first book. I started marketing after publication and have since learnt that I made my life hard. Networking and building up your social media presence is vital, especially before publication. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and a website/blog are just some of the key marketing platforms to build up a target audience, open avenues for beta and ARC readers, and to garner a solid group of fans who will support your work, read and review, share, repost, host you on their own blogs etc.

One part of successful marketing are visuals to use on these various social media platforms. You can hire professionals to create your promos, Facebook banners etc. Or you can create your own as and when you need them. Here are some links to websites that allow you to create free promos and/or edit images for this purpose: (this website has a fantastic array of free tools to make book covers, Instagram posts, Twitter banners, and much more.) (this website allows you to edit images, add text, change eye colour, hair colour etc. Useful for editing free-stock pictures.) (this website offers numerous images released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

I hope this has helped writers looking at going down the indie publishing route. It can be a long, tiring slog, but it gets your work out there and under your terms.

You can find Kayleigh on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Beverley Lee, Author of the Gabriel Davenport Trilogy

Marketing is an unruly beast as there isn’t an established rule book. But what does work may surprise you. It doesn’t involve spending money, just time. Support other writers. Cheer on all of their successes and be there on the bad days. The writing community is tight knit, they will do the same for you, and their readers may become your readers, which, in turn, will open up another new line of readership for you. It’s only by supporting others that we grow stronger as a whole.

If you do decide that advertising in a book promotion newsletter is for you, do your research on which are the best fit for your genre. Find out how many subscribers they have and what their newsletter actually looks like. Is it professional? (Some aren’t!) You will need to schedule well in advance though if you want to tie in your promotion with any others you are running. Some do book up months in advance so you need a marketing plan. Run a few campaigns and log your sales, rebook with the ones that give you the best return. You probably won’t even break even with the cost, but what it will do is to boost your book further up the rankings so that more people will see it. Keeping your book visible is one of the most important things that you can do.

You can find Beverley on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Ellen Read, Author of The Dragon Sleeps

After so many months writing a book, editing and publishing it, I then had to sell it. This is the most difficult of all.  I have worked in publicity/marketing in the performing arts, and although I think this was of some help, books are so very different. I researched and read everything I could find on how to go about selling my books. To start with, I had a website built. Then I started building an online presence. I started a writer’s page on Facebook and I joined Instagram and Goodreads. Instagram, in particular, was a revelation. I did not expect to find a book/writer/reader community there. Goodreads is also a great way to communicate with other authors and readers. A blog followed, although at first I wasn’t certain what I wanted to say. If you are selling your books on Amazon, as most Indie authors are, Amazon gives you an author page in US, UK, France and Germany, but not Australia and being Australian, I wish they did. However, there will always be some negatives. The thing is to work with are the positives. Author signings are a good way to get your book out there too. Sometimes I wonder how to fit in writing but it’s necessary to build followers.

You can find Ellen on her blog, website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, and Amazon.

G. R. Thomas, Author of The A’vean Chronicles

Visibility. This is the key word to demonstrate best practice book marketing. This is achievable three ways.

Social media. Used regularly, it is an effective platform to promote your book whether it be the cover, reviews or quotes, release dates and special promos.

Interaction. Be available to engage with readers and other authors to build relationships and trust. This promotes interest in your work as well as a sense of feeling like there’s a connection between the author and reader. We all know how exciting it is if we get a like from our favourite authors.

Book signings. There’s nothing like face to face interaction for you to draw a reader in and become memorable to them. Face to face signings have been the single most successful means for me in terms of sales, return customers and increase in social media following.

You can find Grace on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

A. Morgan, Author of The Siblings

As an independent author, it is key to market the story right. Some pay for companies to do this for them, or like me, prefer the cheap and easy route by doing it myself.

For those looking to do it themselves, here is a few things to consider:

– Blog it. If you have a blog, get your story familiar with your followers by posting key information, excerpts, teasers, novel aesthetics or anything else you can think of by shouting loudest.

– Tweet it. Twitter along with its hashtags help many indie authors get their work out in the big bad world. Be it via #BookBoost, #indieauthors or the simple #amwriting, many people get the chance to see it. But be careful, filling up your timeline with nothing but self promotion, it can put a lot off followers off.

– I do not use it myself currently but Instagram seems to be a popular place to leave teasers.

Also, remember what type of readers you are looking to attract. If you’re trying to sell romance to a site popular with hardcore horror readers, you may not get the reaction you desire. The internet is a beautiful place and I know next time around, I will strive to do much more in advance. Leaving things to the last minute is not ideal. Scout hashtag games, bloggers willing to read advance copies and don’t be afraid to give away some for free.

Good luck with your journey and be prepared.

You can find Alan on his blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Melinda Devine, Author of Gina’s Diaries

Marketing. If I had to label this word, a sticker reading ‘A necessary evil’ would be slapped upon it.

When I began writing my debut novel Gina’s Diaries, I had no idea about marketing, let alone having to market my own book and myself as an author. I mean, really? Isn’t being an author just sitting and writing and releasing book after book? The answer: no. Especially for an Indie author.

To sell my book and myself, I needed to let everyone know we existed and to do that, I had to accept marketing was just as important as the book itself.

I have found two platforms which I’m comfortable with: Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has worked for me in letting my friends and family know about my books, where they can purchase them, giving updates on my WIP and if I’m doing any book events or anything locally.

Instagram has been fabulous in reaching a far wider audience but in also allowing me to connect with authors and readers alike. I’ve held a couple of giveaways, placed my book on sale, attempted a few teasers and learnt an abundance of marketing ideas from the ever supportive author/bookstagram community.

I may see marketing as a necessary evil at the moment but that’s only because I’m still learning how to do it. One day it will just be a necessity and then, when I’ve successfully mastered it, marketing will be a breeze!

You can find Melinda on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

How do YOU market your books? What works best for you? Grab a cookie, make a tea/coffee, and let’s chat!

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How Do You Find Your Squad?

Welcome to the new series, friends! 🙂 This one is all about beta reading. If you’ve missed anything in my series about world building, or if you’d like to remind yourself of a couple of points, you can now find all posts neatly listed here 😉

Knowing how to be a good beta reader and what to ask for if you’re the writer is useful and all, but how do you actually find beta readers? It’s a question I’ve been asked several times since I’ve started this blog, so I thought it was the perfect topic to start with!

Ask on your blog

This was the most effective way for me. I asked here, and you answered! I had far more responses than I expected to receive, so this worked very well for me. You can take a look at my post here if you’d like to get a better idea of what I did:

I recommend you ask on your blog for another reason, too: The people who follow your blog are more likely to be interested in your progress than Twitter followers, for example, where most people follow someone without really thinking about it. Therefore, if you ask on your blog or website you’re more likely to get the word to people who are genuinely interested in your books, and actually want to help. I don’t need to spell out for you why that’s a good thing. And it brings me to my next point, too:

Ask in your newsletter

Now, I understand if you’re new to this blogging and writing thing you likely haven’t gone all out right away. That’s okay. These are suggestions, after all, and you don’t have to run with all of them! So don’t worry if you don’t have a newsletter.

If you do have one, however, I recommend that you use it to build your squad. Our inboxes are sacred; we don’t subscribe to someone’s mailing list unless we’re really, really interested. So, if you ask for beta readers via your newsletter, you can be sure that the people who open it actually care.

Ask on social media

Social media can be excellent for getting the word out to as many people as possible as soon as possible. However, please be advised that a lot of people who follow you on social media won’t actually be interested in your books. Similar to giveaways, a lot of people might reply and follow you until they realise that they didn’t make it (which is okay, by the way – you can’t make everyone who volunteers a beta reader, that’d be insane, but I’ll come to that in a moment).

Therefore, if you’re going to ask on social media, I’d advise you only do it in conjunction with your blog. You could set up some simple guidelines, so you can be sure that the people who respond are definitely interested and know what you need from them.

Ask on specific websites

Now, I admit, I haven’t actually tried this. I know there are several sites which specialise in getting beta readers and writers together, but because I haven’t tried it I can’t recommend any. I do, however, know a few writers who have done this with mixed results. Some betas you get are excellent. Others read one chapter or get halfway through your manuscript and then drop out, often without a word.

So ask on beta specific websites at your own risk. They can work out great, or you might waste a couple of months without receiving any input.

Who should you take?

Having a squad of writers definitely has its advantages, but don’t forget that you’re not writing solely for other writers. You also want input from people who don’t obsess over grammar rules and theory books; you know, readers. It’s a good idea to have a mixture of the two, across all age groups, of both genders. Someone who wouldn’t normally read the genre you write can be just as valuable as a whole-life fan. Someone who loves your genre might get lost in the story and not notice smaller mistakes as a result. Someone who wouldn’t usually pick up a book like yours, on the other hand, might be more focused on spelling and grammar.

How many do you want?

The more betas you have, the more opinions you’re going to get. In small numbers that’s a great thing – if one beta hates chapter four or Billy’s character development but the other five betas love it, you’ve likely got nothing to worry about. But do you know what happens when you have twelve betas? You get twelve opinions, some of them very different, and you’ll end up not knowing what to do. Does it really help you to know that three people hated Jianna, one person sort of disliked her, five people were indifferent but didn’t want her to die exactly, and the other three adored the ground she sways on? What do you do with that information? All it tells you is that some people love her and others don’t, but you probably already guessed that before you sent your book out to betas. After all, the same is true for everything we create.

But you don’t want too few betas, either. Imagine having two betas. One hates Charlie, the other doesn’t comment. Does that mean that Charlie is unlikable? Does it mean you have to cut her?

So how many betas should you have? Personally I recommend four to seven, but seven might already be pushing it. The best thing to do is to experiment, and see what works best for you. Too many opinions will quickly become overwhelming, but too few and you won’t learn anything. I’d say start with five, and if you then feel that you’re not receiving enough input you can always recruit a few more.

To summarise:

Having strangers read your book is the way to go, but knowing that you can trust people is a good thing, too. I know plenty of people on social media, for example, who I’m not that close to that I’d call us best friends exactly, but who I know would stick to their word and do a good job. Don’t just recruit your best friends who read all the time and your parents. They don’t make good beta readers unless they can be absolutely, brutally, honest with you, and most of your friends won’t want to do that. If you do recruit one or two friends, make sure you still recruit enough other betas to ensure complete honesty.

Asking here on CookieBreak worked best for me and I will ask in my newsletter, too, when the times comes (in a few weeks… stay sharp, friends). I will ask on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well, but I will lead people back here so I can explain my conditions properly and in detail.

In two weeks we’ll look at when the right time to ask for betas is, but before that 11 authors share their best marketing tips here next week! An Easter gift from us, to you 😉

How do you ask for betas? Have you gone over a website, and what’s your experience? (Recommendations welcome!) More importantly, do you have any more questions? 🙂 Make a tea, grab a cookie, and let’s chat!

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


World Building in Fantasy Fiction – How Google Maps Can Help You

Writing a book comes with many challenges. You might struggle with character development, with consistency, or with repetitions which seem to sneak into your draft every time you turn around. For me, the greatest pitfall is distance. (You can’t see it but I shuddered just now.)

I’m terrible at knowing how long it takes my characters to get from A to B. Or anywhere. If they leave their house briefly, to visit a friend who lives just down the road, I cope just fine, but longer distances? They are a nightmare. How long would it take someone to cross Country A on horseback? I don’t know. And on foot? *whimpers* But how long would it take to cross that massive ocean you’ve got in the middle? How long do your characters need to get anywhere? A. Bloody. Nightmare!

Fortunately, I’ve got a trick for you! 😉 Credit where credit is due – this is something my wonderful cartographer, Glynn from MonkeyBlood Design, told me about when I was whining about not having any idea how far any of the points on my map were from each other. All you need is Google, and a general idea of how large your world is.

First up, you’ll want Google Maps. Find a place that more or less resembles your own map. I’ll use the UK as an example.

One of the many directions I needed to figure out for Rise of the Sparrows was how long it might take Rachael, my MC, to get from her little spiteful village of Blackrock to Aeron’s hut, and then from there to Arlo’s hut. I knew they were pretty close together but lay in opposite directions, so I wanted my real world reference to be similar. Here’s how you do it:

I didn’t make a note of the towns I used, so for the sake of this exercise we’ll pretend your hero is travelling from Oxford to Southampton *ahem*

But how do you get a sense of distance from that? Easy!

First, you select a town or city. Google maps will highlight it – see the red circle around Southampton outlining its borders? – and will show you a brief summary on the left. The only option we’re interested in right now is the Directions button.

Click it, and you will get this screen:

Google Maps has already set whatever town you first selected as your destination. You can now select the town you’ll be travelling from. I chose Oxford. This is what you’ll get:

Google Maps will tell you the quickest route, as well as two alternatives (in case your Fantasy World Hero doesn’t fancy the busy motorway). But, more importantly, you can change how you get there! See the selection at the top left? You can choose whether you’re travelling by car, train, bike, or on foot. We want the latter, so select that and Google Maps will do the rest for you 🙂

How handy is that?

My only complaint is that there isn’t a horseback option. Some heroes have horses, you know? It’d be ever so useful.

And this is how you do it, friends! 🙂

One thing to remember is that, if Google Maps suggests it’ll take your character 36 hours to walk from A to B, it won’t take him exactly 36 hours to walk from A to B. It’s not realistic to walk for this long without needing to sleep or eat! Unless, of course, your character is made of magic and doesn’t need either. And then there’s the occasional bandit skirmish to consider… So please let your hero take breaks, and plan his journey responsibly.

How do you figure out distances for your WIPs? Do you have a technique that works well for you? Is it your nemesis, too? Get yourself a tea and some biscuits, and let’s chat!

Before we all go our separate ways – This was the last post on world building! Here’s a quick recap in case you missed anything:

The Basics

Your World’s History

How to Name Countries, Cities, etc.

Why You Need a Map

If you’ve got any more questions on world building, ask below! 🙂

The next series is all about beta readers. It’ll cover various aspects of being one as well as working with them, so no matter which side you’re standing on, you’ll take something away from it 🙂 The first post will explain how you actually find beta readers. It’s a question I’m asked often, so I figured it’s the perfect topic to start with! 😉 Keep an eye out for it on the 11th of April!

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


World Building in Fantasy Fiction – Why You Need a Map

I instantly fall in love when I pick up a new fantasy book and there’s a map at the front. Chances are I’ll buy it, too! Why? Because it tells me that the author has put a lot of effort into their world, and that I won’t get lost when the characters move between towns and countries.

Investing in a map is something every author needs to consider. A map adds so much value to your book, and it will reflect well in reviews. New authors, especially indie authors who don’t have the wisdom of agents and publishers at their disposal, often either don’t consider it or they choose not to include one. While it costs money to have it designed professionally it’s money very well spent, and – compared to other costs of self-publishing – it doesn’t empty your bank account, either.

But what makes it so worthwhile?

A map allows your readers to find their way around in a fictional place. If your story takes place in London, for example, your readers will either already be familiar with the city or they can easily google it. But a place you invented? Even the internet can’t help with that! It’s all well and good telling your readers that Joe just walked the length of the Bloodlake river to get from White River Camp to Starwatch, but really that tells your readers nothing. If they could look it up on a map, however… Problem solved!

If you’ve done any research on writing at all you’ve likely come across the Show, Don’t Tell rule by now. A map does exactly that. Why tell your readers where Joe is off to if you could show them?

A map makes it more real – for yourself as well as your readers. You’ve put a lot of effort into making your world as realistic and as believable as possible. You know every corner of it – hell, you know it better than your characters do! But believe me, holding a map of the world you created in your hands makes it even more real. Real places have maps. Real cities and countries have maps. Your world should have one, too.

A map tells your readers that you’ve really thought your world through, that you know what you’re doing. It makes them confident that they’ve done the right thing buying your book instead of someone else’s. World building is such a vital part of writing fantasy and sci-fi, and adding a map to your book shows your readers that you’ve done more than the bare minimum. It’s proof that you’ve invested a lot of time not just into your characters, but your world, too. This is important because, while your characters need to be the highlight of your plot, the world they travel still needs to be interesting and exciting. When your readers see a map at the front of your book they know that your characters won’t just go from A to B, but that they’ll move through an intriguing world with secrets to discover and shadows to hide in.

Reviewers will love it. While they may not mention the lack of a map in their review, they will almost definitely mention the existence of one. I’ve seen so many reviews where a professionally finished map was a highlight, and helped the reader find their way in a fictional place. Also, while they may not bring up that there wasn’t a map, it may still influence their overall rating. It’s frustrating to read a book of a world someone else dreamed up, leaf back to the front to see where your characters are off to, only to be reminded that there’s nothing there to help you visualise it.

An example: Last year I finished a long series. Over the course of the many books, the MC has gone to various different places and the first book included a map to show his world. When he travelled to a new region several books in, a new map was included to show that, too. However, in the last four books he went to yet another new region, but no map came with it. It was disappointing for me that I wasn’t able to see where this region was in relation to the other two, and that I couldn’t get a good sense of scale.

A map looks so, so goodI love maps in my books – most bookworms do! (There are hashtags on Instagram dedicated to #mappedbooks for a reason) They are insanely pretty to look at, and I’ll always spend some time studying the map before I start reading. It lets you gain a small sense of familiarity before you begin reading, and it’s so much fun to explore the valleys and mountain ranges, and wonder where a character you haven’t even met yet might go and why!

Do you like maps in books, or don’t you pay any attention to them? Which fictional map is your favourite? Grab a cookie and a tea, and let’s chat!

Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


World Building in Fantasy Fiction – How to Name Countries, Cities, etc.

Naming places in my WIP is hard. I don’t mean whole countries, I usually struggle alright through those (more detail in a bit), but towns and rivers and little hamlets are the worst! The good news is you don’t need to name everything. The bad news is, when you do name something, it needs to fit and it might just need a little bit more work than you thought.

Before we look at how you name absolutely everything, let’s think about what actually needs a name. You also want to consider your map for this, because you don’t want to have so much information drawn into it that it overwhelms your reader.

The only places you need to name are the ones important to your story.

Let’s use one of my maps as an example:

The only bits I named are those important to the story itself, either because my MC Rachael went there or because their importance was mentioned. Over the course of Rise of the Sparrows, Rachael goes to Blackrock, Arlo’s hut, Aeron’s hut, and eventually makes her way to the White City. It may not look like much on the map, but would you really want to try to make sense of where she is if I had named fifty towns, ten rivers, and three smaller settlements just to make the place appear more lived in? Your map is an excellent way of giving your readers a chance to get to know your country, and of following your characters as they go about their business. That won’t be easy if it’s crowded with all of the names. Your readers don’t need every corner named to know that other places exist.

The other places on the map aren’t being visited in Rise of the Sparrows but they are mentioned, and are important to one or more of the characters; therefore, they needed a name.

So you can breathe easy! Your world needs to be believable, but you don’t need to name everything to achieve it.

Once you know what needs a name, how do you go about finding it? Well, there’s no one guaranteed way to naming your countries, but here are a couple of things you can consider:

What is your country known for?

Rifarne was the first country I named, ever, and I named it early on in my writing process, so what the country is known for has changed a little since then. In this specific example, I eventually went with River, Farming, and Bone (I can’t explain the latter; it no longer makes sense to me)

What’s the primary language of your country?

To ensure credibility, not every one of your countries should be from the same background. Therefore, not every country should sound like a Britain equivalent, for example. So how do you make sure that your countries sound polish, danish, french, or russian?

Well, remember those words you noted down in the step above? You translate them. To use a different example – for my country Hjeva I used the words home and beautiful and then I translated them to Norwegian, Hjem and Vakker. I then played around a little by combining different parts of each word with each other until I had something that sort of resembled a country name. The result was this mess:

Excuse my handwriting… I never thought anyone would ever see this mess!

But what about cities, rivers, mountains, and so forth?

If the steps above worked well for you, you can do exactly the same thing again! I name everything this way, and I’d like to think that it’s served me well so far.

It can get a little messy (see picture for indisputable proof), so I recommend you leave plenty of room in your notebook!

When should I name all the things? 

That’s up to you. Everyone’s process is different, so if you prefer to name your countries first/last, that’s fine. My worlds always feel much more complete to me once I’ve got the names figured out. I am completely hopeless at naming things, however, and tend to leave it quite late. By the time I finished the first draft for Darkened Light I had placeholders all over the draft! That’s totally fine. You can always fix it later, in the edit, so don’t worry too much. Chances are your characters will take you to places you didn’t predict, so you can’t name everything before you start writing anyway. (Unless you’re just that organised. In which case – how?? Don’t the Gods of Procrastination get to you??(Also, don’t forget to leave your draft room to develop and breathe.))

How do you name your countries, towns, and mountain ranges? Do you go with whatever feels right, or do you have a system? Grab a cookie and talk to me! 🙂

Did you enjoy this post? Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


World Building in Fantasy Fiction – Your World’s History


I don’t know about you, but the word ‘history’ always reminds me of high school where the same stuff was repeated every year, and where one sentence spanned most of one page in text books.


Don’t worry, your world’s history doesn’t need to be a nightmare and conjure memories of boredom and sleep overtaking you! In fact, your world’s history is the reason your world is what it is when your story starts. It’s kinda important.

It’s an intricate, detailed, and sometimes complicated thing. I don’t want to overwhelm you with information; rather I’d like to give you the starting points to help you make your world as believable as possible without losing its magic. And to make the whole thing a little less daunting, I bet you that I can break it down in as few as six hundred words! (Not including this intro, of course)

Your World’s History

Your world’s history encompasses everything, and it’s the reason plotting this specific aspect is so daunting. Just take a look at our own history – the many wars, the natural disasters, the countless civilisations which preceded ours! Where the hell are you supposed to start? How much do you need? When do you stop?

You’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t necessarily need all that, unless your story calls for it. How far back you want to go is entirely up to you. You can plot your world’s history all the way back when dinosaur-equivalents roamed your lands, or you can start at a time that’s relevant to your plot. The latter is what matters, but I won’t stop you if you want to go all out!

Because this step is a wee bit overwhelming, it can help to draw a timeline or make a list of important events throughout, well, history. Start at the beginning of your story, and work backwards. For example, imagine your main character is the last of her race. Why is that? Why has an entire people all but gone extinct? Was there a war? Did natural causes kill everyone? In many stories, dwarves have long since become an extinct race, or elves were driven out of their homeland. What happened to cause this?

Think about the landscape, too. Perhaps a city has disappeared, a great rift has torn a country in two, or a once fertile country has turned barren. Wars and widespread natural calamities tend to leave scars!


There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to break this down into small, doable chunks.

What are the large events (such as war/famine/genocide/natural disasters) that affect your world and characters?

What caused these events?

How long ago did they happen?

How do they affect your world and characters today? Why?

Local History

The environment we grow up in shapes us a great deal. Where did your main characters grow up? Focus on past events that have made the town/city/small collection of huts what it is. Has war ravaged the country for years? Has your main character grown up with stories of a local hero? Is the town, or the whole country, known for any large scale events like an invasion, or a natural catastrophe like a volcano erupting? Perhaps your main character’s people are peaceful and live secluded in a forest, but were driven out by deforestation. What have past events done to the people living there? What have they done to your main character?

The same list of questions I’ve suggested above can help you sort through this one, too!

But we’re getting more into character development and personal history now, so let’s move on.

Give It Time

Your world and its history will develop as you write and build your story, same as your characters do. Having some of it, maybe even most of it, figured out before you write that first word is brilliant, but don’t panic or feel like you haven’t prepared enough if you have less than that. Sometimes we start a new story and we know everything long before Chapter One is typed, and sometimes we know the bare bones of our newest book baby. It’s a long process, and takes time. Your world’s history is no exception.


So relax, and enjoy yourself! Your history will come to you eventually if it doesn’t before you name your MCs, and it will likely do so because you’re writing. You don’t need to have everything figured out before you start – knowing that something huge happened at some point in the past is an excellent start!


All gifs from

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.


World Building in Fantasy Fiction – The Basics


Creating a whole world from scratch is easily one of my favourite parts of being an author – but it’s also one of the trickiest ones. There are so many things to consider and get right that it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What does your world actually need?

This first chapter of my “master classes” *ahem* is focused on world building. In today’s post I’ll go over the very basics of your world with you, so that by the end of it the task won’t be quite as daunting! 🙂

Your world needs to be realistic enough that people will believe it and enjoy it, but how do you do that when magic is the norm and whole mountain ranges only exist because some ancient dragon says so?


I won’t go into too much detail now because I’ve got a post planned about this very topic in two weeks. The only thing you need to know for now is that your world doesn’t just suddenly begin when your book does. Your world has existed before Chapter One, before the prologue. Chances are it has also existed long before your main character was born, and showing your readers some of that rich history will make your world far more believable! I love intricate lore and discovering it slowly as the plot progresses – just be careful not to dump too much information on your readers at once!



I’m agnostic myself, but a lot of my characters are religious and for some of them their beliefs play a huge part in their lives. You may not be religious, either – you may even be strictly against religion – but a world without any religion whatsoever is unrealistic. You don’t have to make it similar to our world’s religion if you don’t want to – you don’t have to use God, Satan, or the Afterlife if you don’t want those in your book. In fact, your religion doesn’t have to resemble ours at all! But it needs to be there, and it needs to make sense.

For example, a lone wanderer might have walked your world searching for meaning. He came to a forest, and got lost. Days later – thirsty and ravenous – he spotted a deer. The deer seemed to want this lone wanderer to follow him, and so he followed the animal until they reached clean water, and bushes full of berries! From there it’s not a long stretch to assume that the lone wanderer might have believed the deer to be a higher being looking out for him. Perhaps he settled down by the stream, invited some friends he met through his travels who also sought peace, and began to worship the deer that led him there. Or maybe they simply pay their respects to the wildlife by offering it berries and a bowl of fresh water at a shrine to the deer. Or by not hunting all the deer to extinction. Or perhaps they consume the deer and drinks its blood to be closer to their chosen diety? Either way, you’ve got a lot of wiggle room!


It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to explain your world’s greatest mysteries – not all religions do.


Not every country in your world is going to work in the same way. Some countries will be poorer than others, some will have stricter trading laws than others, and so on. For example, say Country 1 places a high value on money and respects those who know how to do well for themselves. What impact does this have on this country’s beggars? On poorer families who can’t afford to go into business with some rich merchant?


Cultural Differences

When you first start to think about your world, you might accidentally make every country similar. Your own background might reflect heavily in your world; for example, if you’re from northern Europe than your world might feature countries very similar to yours, simply because that’s what you’re used to. Don’t worry about it – it’s an easy mistake to make! Be sure to include different cultures in your world, and make sure that people from different countries speak different languages, have different habits and traditions – and consider that not all countries are likely to get along.



No Country Has Smooth Borders

Eventually you might start to draw the first outlines of your own world (we’ll get to why you want a map in a few weeks). If you’re anything like me and have no idea what you’re doing, you might do this by just drawing, well… something. I mean, how do you draw a country you made up? Not with smooth borders, for one (unless you have a very convincing argument somewhere in your plot that explains it). Countries and the borders between them are curved, edged, zig-zaggy – and definitely not straight! This is one aspect where you can let your need for perfection go!



The People

This is perhaps the most important point. Without the people populating them, your countries wouldn’t exist. You wouldn’t have a MC screaming at you to tell his/her story (random writing prompt: What if you character is the only character still alive? What killed the others?). The people make your countries what they are – rich, poor, proud, violent, profit-driven, pious, military strongholds. While not every single person in Country A is going to be devout, religion will still have played an important role in everyone’s lives if the country as a whole is religious. This could show through upbringing (some people go to church every Sunday and pray before they go to bed), festivals (Christmas, for example, or harvest festivals) and even speech habits (never saying ‘God’, ‘Maker’ or similar terms without good reason, or outright fearing their counter parts)



Truth be told, creating your world from scratch is exciting but it takes work, too. All of the above points are going to take more consideration than a brief glance and a shrug if you want your readers to be invested in your book baby, but they’re a start! From here you can create anything. ANYTHING!


What are the basics of your world? Are there any aspects you have to include, or else it doesn’t feel real to you? Grab a cookie and a tea, and let’s talk about world building!


All gifs from

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.