20 Short How-To Videos Every Author Should Watch

Here’s the deal about being a modern self-published writer: writing is only one of the many skills you will need to make a professional go of it. In fact, most bestselling self-published writers aren’t even in the top 10% as far as writing ability goes. They can write just fine, but their real skills are in things like sales, marketing, networking, and design. 

None of us have time to go back to school for every topic we’ll be called on to know something about. That’s the bad news. The good news is YouTube offers tutorials on almost every topic you can think of. Here are twenty of our favorites, covering the most important skills an author can pick up in a jiffy.

Find something that speaks to you and that you want to work on? We've included additional resources for each tip and trick that you can check out.

1. The Basics of Cover Design

We don’t expect you to do your own covers. In fact, we recommend against it. But if you don’t know the basics of good design vs. bad design, you can’t tell if the person you hired did a good job or not. Even better, when you know these skills you can give clearer instructions to your cover designer, which means spending less money and time, and experiencing less frustration while you work with them. 

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2. How to Set Up a Facebook Ad

Sooner or later, you will need to invest in advertising if you want your book to start selling in amounts that let you make this gig your full-time job. Facebook ads can be a great place to start, because they’re relatively inexpensive and let you target your market very specifically. But if you don’t do it right, they’re a waste of money. Here’s the basics.

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3. How to Create a Book bundle

Although it feels a little niche, creating a book box set (either of your own books, or in partnership with other authors) can really boost your sales rank and bottom line. It’s not a simple process, though, so it’s best to come at it with the basics well in hand. 

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4. Networking for Writers

Sure, we all like to think our jobs as writers are unique among all the professions in the world. We’re right about some parts of it, and those parts are what makes it such a great gig for those of us who can make it work. But one thing it shares with every other job on the planet is the need to network. The wider your reach, the more books you’ll sell. Not every writer is born to network though, and the rest of us need a little instruction. 

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5. How to Set Up a Perfect Writing Space

This isn’t about procrastination by cleaning up your desk or office one more time. This is about setting up your work space so you never have an excuse to procrastinate again. The right desk setup can increase your energy and productivity, so it’s worth investing a few dollars and days into getting it perfect. Of course, you won’t know what perfect looks like until you learn a few things.

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6. How to Manage Contractors

You want to watch this video for two reasons. First, you need to know how to handle the designers, editors, publicity people, and other contractors you will hire as your writing empire grows. This is a whole new skill, and many writers fail as they begin to reach this level.

Second, many of us do some freelance writing to keep the money flowing as we grow our book sales. If you know the best practices for managing contractors, you also know the best way to wow your client when you’re a contractor yourself. 

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7. Time Management For Writers

Raise your hand if you’re bad at time management. Put your hand down! You should be writing!

But seriously, folks, this is a big one for us all to brush up on. Especially during those early stages when we have a regular job, and a family, and hobbies, and community commitments, and somehow need to find a couple hours a day to write and build our following. 

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8. How to Manage a Writing Brand

Brand management is another skill all authors need, but few authors have. Make no mistake, the second you’ve put your name on a book you published, you have established yourself as a brand. Doing this well requires a whole new perspective on how you manage your social media, how you respond to fans, and a whole slew of other details. 

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9. How to Create a Great Facebook Live Video

We’ve known for years that, on Facebook, images profoundly outperform text alone. We’ve known for a while that video similarly outperforms images. Recently, it’s come to be that Facebook live videos are to regular video on that platform as video is to images. Better yet, they’re fast and easy and fun to do. If you don’t learn how to make yours shine, you’re missing a huge opportunity. 

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10. The Ergonomics of Writing

Writing with bad posture and positioning is bad news. At best, it slows you down because it keeps you from typing fast and limits how long you can write in a sitting. At worst, it can produce injuries like carpal tunnel, neck strain, and lower back problems. Know how to position yourself, your keyboard, and your monitor so you treat your body right while you’re at work. 

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11. The Most Common Grammar Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes with their writing. Everybody. Even you. Even…dare I say it? Even me. At this point in your writing, you might be making subtle mistakes you don’t even know about. Check out this video to see where you can brush up your technical skillset.

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12. Basic Photography

I hear you already. “Dammit, Jim. I’m a writer, not a photographer!” But this is the 21st century, and that just isn’t so. If you can take compelling pictures to tell the story of your writing, your books, your life, and your brand, you will outperform on social media everybody who can’t. It’s surprisingly easy, when explained this well…

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13. How to Grow a Mailing List

Two facts you should know. One: your mailing list is the most important and valuable tool at your disposal for selling more books. Two: your mailing list isn’t big enough. Knowing how to leverage the first and solve the second might be the most important thing you do with your writing this year. Here’s how.

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14. Micropreneur Best Practices

An entrepreneur starts a business instead of getting a job. A micropreneur does that, only with a very small business that employs just one or two people. Writing is a micropreneurial venture, with a host of best practices and pitfalls other people have already made, so they can teach you how to avoid them. 

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15. Basic Business For Writers

I implied this in the one above, but you are a business owner now. If you don’t know the basic practices of how to track how well that business is doing (and how to steer to a better course as needed), you have a much lower chance of succeeding. 

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16. How to Write Ad Copy

Here’s one of the least fair facts about the writing business. You have to write good ad copy to sell your books, and the skill of writing ad copy is an entirely different skill from the skill needed to write a good story. The good news is ad copy is easier than fiction writing, so it’s not hard to pick up. You just need to spend some time listening to good advice about it. 

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17. How to Write More Quickly

If you can make $100 for writing 1,000 words, and you write 500 words per hour, that’s $50 per hour. Not bad. But what if you can write 2,000 words per hour? Even if it’s not quite that direct, the faster you write the more you will make from your writing. As luck would have it, there are some simple tricks to help you boost that speed.

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18. Writing Conference Dos and Don'ts

Eventually you will want to go to some conferences. It’s where you’ll learn some of your most important skills, get some of your most important exposure, and make some of your most important contacts. Writing conferences cost a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of personal energy. It would be a shame to waste all that by making rookie mistakes.

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19. How to Stay Motivated When Self-Employed

One of the great things about being self employed is you can sleep in any day you feel like sleeping in. That’s also one of the dangerous things about it: only you can make yourself do the things you must do to make it work. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to make it happen, consider this sage advice.

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20. Five-Minute Meditation

I’m sort of sneaking this one in here. If you already meditate, you know how good it is for your health, your relationships, and your writing. If you don’t, give this a try. You will be amazed how much of a difference it makes. 

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2023 Author Skills Challenge

We dare you to watch one of these videos each month (choose what works best for you) over the course of the next year. Follow up on what you see by exploring further any videos that suit your fancy. By the end of this challenge, you’ll be far better equipped to live your dream as a full-time self-published writer.