How to Market Your Book: Organic Marketing

This cat has at least eight different beds in this room, but no. She has to get on my work laptop, which hasn’t been the same since.

Let’s continue on the marketing path and focus on organic marketing. I think of organic marketing as a way to use the tools you have at your disposal without shelling out cash. Your website, social media presence (which I’ll get more into in my next post in this series), newsletters, blogs, personal touches, author appearances all add up to some great resources for getting yourself out there on a budget, and it doesn’t have to be that painful.


If you choose to have a website, decide if you want it to be a source of information and/or e-commerce based, and make sure that it’s a place users can visit to get everything they need. If you have good design skills or access to a designer, then by all means, make it eye-catching and appealing. If you don’t, then just make sure that it’s easy to navigate with well written content and that it utilizes responsive design (the capability to adjust to your device, whether it’s a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone).

You can get fairly affordable hosting too. Look at options from sites like WordPress, Squarespace, Bluehost, and Dreamhost. I went with WordPress because I know it pretty well, and the plugins make my life easier when it comes to site design, e-commerce, and mail hosting.

Also don’t be afraid to check out other authors’ websites for ideas on layout and included information too. For instance, when I visit an author’s site, I’m looking for ways to buy their books (preferably from them or an independent bookstore), upcoming appearances, social media links, and book teasers or blurbs.

Social Media

Social media can be daunting, but it’s a good way to get word out there about your products and books, and build a fan base. You can offer platform specific special offers, post your appearances, and tease with cover releases. You can also get creative. It doesn’t always have to be about your books either. If you have cute animals, shamelessly exploit them. Post about your interests and hobbies, share pictures from a trip or outing. You can use social media to show your human side and make you more relatable to your audience.

My next post will go a little more in depth about social media, the platforms out there, and how you can use it to your advantage.


I have to admit that I fall very short here. As someone who has a lot of email fatigue and is more likely to unsubscribe or delete without opening an email, I struggle to understand the point of having a newsletter. But it has undeniable advantages, probably the greatest of which is the ability to keep your readers hooked and coming back for more– which is important when you have a new release coming up. You can create a reader magnet which can be newsletter specific chapters or short stories or something specific relating to your content. For my website newsletters, I include a character introduction each month, and for my Patreon subscribers I have character intros, bestiary entries, and a chapter each month from an unreleased stand alone novel that will be available to the public in 2025.

One thing I strongly advise against is sending emails just to send them. Email fatigue is a real thing. If you can’t produce high quality, relevant content, then don’t send any content at all. You also need to watch your metrics! If you notice that your unopened and unsubscribe rates start to go up, then you need to reevaluate your campaigns. Is your content engaging and unique? Are you sending something your readers will enjoy? All email subscription services have some kind of reporting capability, and you should acquaint yourself with your platform.


Another way you can engage your readers is through blog posts. I’m using mine to help chronicle my self-publishing journey, but some authors use theirs to engage their readers. A blog can be a fun way to talk about your writing process, the world you created, your characters and their significance to you, and any struggles you face (writers’s block and burn out are very, very real). It can also be another way to offer promotions, coupon codes, and let readers know about new releases and upcoming appearances, as well as your experiences doing markets, cons, and readings.

Personal Touches and Appearances

Never underestimate the importance of making yourself seen. People love talking about your writing process, your works, characters they relate to, and their own writing path. You can offer special discounts or giveaways at author events too, especially if you operate your own e-commerce site. I like making unique coupon codes for each event and then tracking online sales to see which event generates sales. That helps me be able to plan my approach for other markets and readings.

Something to keep in mind is that author appearances (or at least for me) are as much about lead generation as they are immediate sales. It’s not uncommon for me to have people chat for a while and take a book mark or business card and then buy one of my books at the next market I attend or from my website. If your readers have a substantial TBR pile or limited time, they may not be ready to buy right at that moment. It’s your job to make sure that they remember you when they are ready.

Now go sell your books!

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot, and you can get creative and have fun with it. If you have any creative tips or tricks to get your works out there, let me know in the comments!

How to Market Your Book: Ad Campaigns & Promo Packages

Welcome to Marketing 101, brought to you by Spot and Lemur posing for their next album cover! Bet you didn’t know that writing a book was going to include all of these lovely and fun activities, did you? While this is geared toward self-published authors, even traditional publishers have started shunting off the bulk of marketing to the authors, and some require a marketing strategy from the author and the agent. So time to get cracking!

We’re going to kick this series off with ad campaigns and promo packages. Ad campaigns are, as you would expect, campaigns in which ads for your book show up in search results on various platforms. The most commonly recognized campaigns are sponsored ads on Google, but you can buy ad space on Amazon, BookBub, and on social media platforms, just to name a few options.

If you have a marketing budget that allows someone to manage the campaigns for you (Written Word Media is a good one to look at), by all means do the research to find a reputable marketer or agency. Look at consumer reviews, case studies, and have a one on one discussion with the marketer. Be wary of anyone who throws around buzzwords, tries to gloss over the process, or can’t show results through a case study or testimonial from a verifiable source.

If you want to do it yourself, it’s not as scary as it seems. We’ll start with a list of terms you want to know:

  • Impressions: how many times your ad is shown
  • CPI: cost per impression in which you pay for every thousand times your ad is shown (something that’s rarely done anymore)
  • Clicks: how many times your ad is clicked
  • CPC: cost per click
  • Target audience: the audience you want to view your ads and take action
  • CTA: Call to action, or the wording or image you use to get the audience to do what you want (send you a message, click through to your site, sign up for your mailing list, etc.)
  • Target Keywords: the words you choose to bid on for your ad to appear; these are broken down into:
    • Exact (the exact keyword or keyphrase with no variation); e.g. “witch book series” as an exact keyphrase would have no other words
    • Phrase (the keyword or keyphrase is used in the search term, but the term can include other words); e.g. “witch book series” could show results for “book series witch” or “fiction witch book series”
    • Broad: (the ad can show for words or phrases similar to yours but that don’t contain the same words or phrasing at all); e.g. “witch book series” can show up for “books about witches”, “witches series”, “witch books”, etc.

Both Amazon and Google give you the ability to search for keywords, the amount of searches they garner, and the estimated CPC bid for higher page placement. Whenever I start a campaign, I do a keyword search, or plan, and bid on the broad terms first. Then after my campaign runs for a week, I look at search terms that triggered my ads and start narrowing my list down into exact and phrase terms. Because I have a smaller budget, I prefer to stick with highly targeted terms so I get more bang for my buck. Checking the keywords that triggered my ad is a good way to discover great terms I may not have thought about or create a negative keyword list– when you identify the terms you don’t want to trigger your ads. Remember, a click costs you money, and if your book doesn’t match what the reader is looking for, then you just paid for a worthless click.

If you’re new to the world of marketing, Amazon has a nifty little feature in which they run your campaign for you, and then after a week or two you can see what search terms triggered your ads, which ones generated clicks, and what terms you want to avoid. They also have great tutorials for using their console, as does Google.

One thing, and I cannot stress this enough, is map out your budget ahead of time! If you only have $100 a month to spend, then that’s $3.33 a day. You can choose a very small campaign in which you bid higher on a few very targeted terms, or you can bid lower on more broad terms. Your bids determine how high you’ll appear on search pages, so plan wisely. If you have a larger budget then try mixing it up. Bid higher on the exact or phrase targeted terms and lower on broad phrases that might catch a reader’s eye. Or vice versa.

BookBub is a little different in that you don’t bid on search terms. You create ad copy for your cover and set a daily budget. You can also choose a target audience. Facebook and Instagram work the same way in which you choose a post, a budget based on how long you want the post to be sponsored, a call to action, and identify your target audience. I use Facebook and Instagram boosted posts for markets, book releases, and whenever I make a post that features any of my merchandise.

Promo Packages

If you have a good marketing budget and can drop $300-1000 on a promotional package, then I say do it. There are a lot of really great companies out there who offer one on one guidance and proven results, and often you can bundle in a marketing package. Again, really do your research! I cannot stress that enough!

If you take advantage of free webinars or videos, be prepared to sit through a lot of marketing spiels as to why you should invest in this particular platform or agency. That said, I have gotten some great tidbits from a few webinars. Others… not so much. I have exited out early more than once. So far Christina Kaye from Book Boss Official is my favorite and the person I would probably give my money to if and when I reach the point where I don’t have time to do this myself.

Whether you pay someone to market for you or do it yourself, it costs time and money. Bids fluctuate, and you need to check in on your campaigns on a regular basis. If you have a smaller budget, then don’t spread yourself too thin. Find one or two platforms that work until you can start to branch out. If you do this on your own, then, yes, there are a lot of people willing to teach you what to do for a price, but try the free tutorials and look around on the internet first. After all, your marketing budget is better spent on your books.

Author Appearance: Public Speaking

And we’re back with the sadly overdue follow up to my last post! As an apology, I give you Lucy’s tummy.

I hate public speaking. I have mild aphasia, and when someone asks me a question I’m not prepared for, I fall apart. There are a million tips out there for getting rid of stage fright, but here are some of the things I’ve learned since I started this whole writing thing:

Know Your Subject Matter

After a particularly disastrous speech, I created a Google Doc that includes talking points and excerpts that I can access from my tablet or phone. I have it broken down into segments: world building, character development, and business. I practice my speeches, and I relearned some of the vocalization and enunciation exercises I had to do in college. I also record myself before each event now. That really helped me get rid of a lot of extraneous content. And trust me– there was a lot of extraneous content.

Learn for Next Time

I incorporate questions into my master talk and Q&A list and use them to tweak my presentations. I don’t just do this when I do public appearances– anytime someone starts to ask me questions about writing, I pull up my trusty Google Doc and add their question to my list if it’s something new or enlightening that might help others down the line. Plus, while I’m really bad at being able to come up with cohesive and informative answers off the top of my head, this tactic ensures that I’ll be able to get it right the next time.

Try to be Prepared

The number one way I will be derailed is by questions I do not expect. Wrack your brain and come up with every possible question your audience might ask you, and feel free to enlist your friends here too. Think about who your audience is– what are their collective interests? What common theme ties them together? Then think about how they might tie their interests into your writing. Also I want to note that I’m absolutely not saying that you should only think about questions in this vein. Your audience will have many more that interest them on a personal note too.

Set Boundaries

From the beginning say that you’re only willing to answer questions on specific topics. For instance, if your subject is world building, then make it clear that you’re only willing to discuss questions relating specifically to world building and that you’ll be happy to answer any other questions either after the event or by email. This will also keep the Q&A session from going over. If you’re not comfortable putting your foot down, you can ask the event coordinator to run interference. And you don’t have to be ugly about it. Realistically a Q&A session should be around 15 minutes, 30 at the most if the audience is really engaged. Any longer and you’ll start to lose your listeners. Off topic questions make it hard for everyone else to have a turn.

If you have any tips or tricks that help you with public speaking or author appearances, add them to the comments! Happy writing, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram at elirainwater_author for updates on my markets, cats, and all that good stuff.

Author Appearances: Markets

My best friend whisked me away for a glorious three days to her in-laws’ cabin in Sopchoppy, Fl, where I was inspired and wrote and felt incredibly relaxed and motivated afterward. Two things came out of that trip: I met CJ, who does not accept that writers should write and not pet him, and Brenda’s in-laws are now part of my chosen family. So CJ gets a place of honor in a blog post.

As we continue down the path of, “being an author is a lot more than just hiding out in the middle of the woods furiously tapping away at a keyboard (or writing by hand– whatever works for you)”, one of the things I struggle with the most is making public appearances.

I have mild aphasia, and I struggle with public speaking. A lot. I really need to be able to come prepared and make sure the questions do not deviate too far from the topic or I shut down and lose my nerve. So this is the list of everything I do before I make any kind of appearance, be it vending at a market or doing a reading or talk. I’ll cover markets first because they’re the most straightforward and easy:

What you want to buy/have beforehand:

Certificate of insurance

This is starting to crop up more and more. You absolutely should already have business insurance, and it’s not that expensive. I pay $20 a month for it through State Farm. The certificate of insurance is basically just proof of business liability insurance, much like what you have for a car. Most markets really only request them if you sell food or alcohol, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Vendor Fees

Most markets, cons, and shows charge vendor fees. What you have to do is figure out whether they’re worth it or not, especially once they get to be over $100. What are your end goals besides sales? Are you trying to build up your mailing list or social media followers? Make a sign that explains what they’ll get out of the mailing list– or tell them. Do you just want exposure? Make up postcards and bookmarks with links to your site. I put my books’ blurbs on the back of mine along with a coupon code that never expires. No matter what you do, you need to make sure that the return on investment for the vendor fees is worth it and that you know that you have a good chance to make it up.

An Event Buddy

Markets tend to be anywhere from 4-6 hours long. An event buddy could be someone who comes with you or a fellow vendor who can keep an eye on your booth when you need to run to the bathroom.

As an author, you have more of a chance to chat with your audience about your books, inspiration, writing process, and anything else they want to know about, but that means that you can’t make quick sales. If you can find someone willing to go to the markets or events with you, they can help you manage your time by handling transactions and restocking inventory as needed. Plus they can man the booth while you walk around and check out other vendors.

A Spiel

You need to be able to talk about your books and process and do it without getting bogged down in details, losing your audience, or missing out on a sale because you’ve talked so much to one person that you miss the opportunity to talk to another. Know your book blurbs and be able to expand on them rather than regurgitate them, be able to talk to the parts of the book that meant the most to you, and be prepared to give a Cliff Notes version of how you wrote, built your world, and published.

Set Up

Something that served me well is going on Amazon, finding everything I could possibly need for my own table or booth, saving it for later, and then waiting for notifications that something was on sale or another cheaper version was available. I highly recommend it. You also need to think about how easy it will be to load and unload if you have to park far away and don’t have an event buddy to watch your stuff.

Here’s what I got for my set up, and you can see the picture to the right to get a better idea:

  • A 2×4 folding table– trust me, you want to splurge on one that has a handle. My next one will definitely have one.
  • A three tiered display stand for smaller items like candles, prints, and stickers
  • An 8×8 tent with a sun wall and weights that can be filled with water for the legs
  • Display stands for the books
  • A really nice journal and pens for my mailing list
  • A separate book to log inventory and sales done through Venmo or cash
  • Coasters
  • Double sided tape
  • Duct tape
  • Two fully charged battery packs and a power strip with USB ports
  • A wheeled crate that holds everything I need for my set up and that doubles as a seat
  • A comfortable, folding chair (preferably with cup holders)
  • Snacks– high protein like jerky is smart– and bottled water along with Liquid IV, powdered Gatorade, or Emergen-C. You want the electrolytes in the summer, and the powder packs take up less space.
  • Table decor

It was actually pretty easy for me to get in and out of the last market I did, but I want to invest in a second crate or large box that I can use to transport all of my stock at once. Books are heavy.

Set up your table before your first event

Granted, you may not be able to invest in everything you need for your first event, but after you are fully prepared to sell your books, go ahead and set up your table in your living room (or wherever you have space) as soon as you can. It really helps a lot to get a feel for how everything looks, if you need to tape anything down or get additional displays, props, or aids.

I’ll cover speaking appearances in my next post, but if you want to take a look at my table firsthand, come find me at one of my upcoming events and say hi!

You Wrote a Book… Now Get People to Read It

There is a battle going on in my house right now. It is the battle for my office chair, and I want it back. Of course, being the assertive person that I am, I gave in to her need to watch dolphins and went back to balancing a laptop on my knees. That was ten days ago.

Today’s post is all about actually getting your book out there, starting with preorders.

So what exactly is a preorder?

Yes, it’s a copy of your book that can be purchased in advance before it actually comes out, but why do you want to do it? Well, first and foremost, preorders are completed the day the book is officially released. As an author, what that really means for you is that your book has a larger number of sales right off the bat, and when you’re trying to make it onto bestseller lists, that bump can help, especially for any of Amazon’s subgenre lists.

For me, preorders are what I get to look forward to; a little present to myself, if you will. There’s something about the excitement of knowing that at midnight a book I waited eagerly for will show up in my ereader or that a copy with all kinds of goodies will be in my mailbox. A preorder for a new book or series gives readers something new to look forward to. When you write a sequel, the preorder is a reminder to your readers that the next installment is on the way. It keeps them hooked, especially if you’re not in a position to do rapid release for your series. Any chance you have to throw in bonus content or goodies, take it. It’s the perfect way to thank them for their loyalty.


In the interest of full disclosure, I personally distrust bestseller lists (this article sums up why perfectly), so my personal strategy is designed to benefit my readers. For my second book, Where the Ogrekin Roam, I’m doing a two month exclusive preorder campaign through my website that will include a short story and swag. The preordered copies will also be sent to their owners in January. The book itself is due to be released on March 1, so I’ll have a regular preorder campaign on Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble from February 12-28. The site exclusive campaign will take out a significant chunk of preorders that would be reported to any bestseller list aggregators, but because my long term strategy is building reader relationships and a dedicated fanbase, I chose to take the route of thanking my loyal readers with an early release and bonus content.

However, if the lists are important to you, take advantage of Kindle, Nook, and Apple Book’s abilities to upload your epub and set it for a preorder. Promote it on social media and in your mailing lists. Also consider discounting the previous book in the series or even making it free for a limited time either leading up to or during the preorder period. If people can get it at a discounted rate and love it, they’re more likely to preorder the sequel. once all of those sales hit on release day, it can really bump you in Amazon’s and Barnes & Nobles rankings, and that will get you on some pretty nice recommendation lists.

Marketing and Getting Yourself Out There

Once the book is out, you can start marketing yourself. Apply to get your book into libraries, see if bookstores have a submission form, and look for ways to do appearances. Don’t be discouraged if you have low turnouts or pushback! Start locally and build out from there. If you self-publish using IngramSpark or any distribution company that builds off of them, make sure to let bookstores and libraries know that’s where they can find your book. Let them know if your books are available through print on demand or bulk (it costs more to print, but for now, I’m sticking with POD). If you have an ebook, most libraries use Overdrive. Draft2Digital and IngramSpark submit ebooks to it, or you can do it yourself.

Think outside the box too. My sister-in-law suggested that I submit my book to local nursing homes and hospital reading rooms, which I thought was a great idea. Look for book clubs taking submissions, and see if there are meet-up groups that might let you do a reading or talk about your book, your writing process, publishing, etc. Don’t discount local business organizations either– I had a lot of fun speaking at a local Rotary club this past Halloween, and I was asked to come back in the spring.

Look for local weekend and art markets, apply for tables at cons and shows, and really think about where your book might appeal to the most people. Make little postcard flyers with a coupon code and a QR code that links to your site or mailing list and put them up on community bulletin boards. If you live in an area with little library boxes on corners (I love those), leave a copy of your book for someone to find. Are there any local publications, bloggers, or podcasts who do reviews or interviews? Submit yourself to those. You can talk about your books, your writing process, your journey, inspirations, anything you want.

You can also do collaborations with local artists and artisans based on elements of your works or your characters. In February, I will have a line of candles from a local candlemaker that represent each of the four witching elements, and a local artist is drawing LaSalle, Rupert, and Jessie for stickers and prints.

You don’t have to limit yourself to Amazon ads (although they’re a great idea) or social media. There are a lot of ways you can get out there if you look around your community. Have fun with it, and keep writing!

Reviews– Especially Honest Ones

Lemur epitomizes how I feel today– ready to curl up and nap.

Y’all. I’m going to be honest. I know how important this is. I really do. But reviews are the thing I neglect the most, and I just can’t follow up on them. I’m the worst about giving them, and I’m the worst about asking for them, and I know I could just pay for them, but I keep hearing more and more horror stories about paid review sites. And let’s be honest– it’s a lot of money when you’re just starting out and already footing the bill for everything that goes into making your book.

So why are they important?

Well, reviews are considered to be a real representation of the public’s opinion of your product. Most of us use them as the hallmark for whether or not something might be up our alley, which is why it’s so important to have honest reviews. And it’s okay if you have negative reviews! Just because your book didn’t appeal to someone doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or you’re a bad writer, I say, even though my negative reviews trigger horrible imposter syndrome attacks and make me want to give up and never write again.

Handling negative reviews and what not to do

One of the hardest parts is reading the negative reviews and learning from them. Is this negative because it wasn’t to the reader’s taste? Or is it negative because the reader had a hard time getting through the book due to structural issues? How many other readers felt the same way? If you consistently get the same feedback, then those issues might be something you want to adjust. In my case, the most consistent verbal and written feedback I got was that I had too much world-building, too many characters, and rushed some of the key action sequences. It sucked reading and hearing that, and I didn’t want to even open my laptop for a week after the harshest review came in. But I made myself do it, and I incorporated what I learned from my readers into the next book. You’re going to do that too because even though studies all over the place confirm that we are more likely to have a negative reaction to negative feedback than a positive reaction to positive feedback, you are still a good author, and I believe in you!

But you know what you are not going to do? You are not going to attack anyone who leaves a negative review, and you are not going to complain about them online or ask your fans to go after them. If someone does not like your book, then that’s their opinion. They are entitled to that opinion. Cyberbullying someone because they dared to say something about your precious work is one of the worst things you can do. It calls your maturity and professionalism into question, and the one thing you, an artist who puts their work into the public eye, cannot be is thin-skinned. Cry, rant, scream, curse the reviewer’s name to the gods in the privacy of your own home. Do not take it online. I see a disturbing number of one star reviews that simply state that the reason for the review is because of the author’s reaction to other negative reviews. If you legitimately believe that you can address something about the review and get more insight, do so in a calm, professional, and thoughtful manner.

Why honest reviews are so important.

Of course, your friends and family want to leave glowing, five-star reviews. But imagine if you look up a book, see all of these rave comments, and when you start to read it, the plot’s all over the place, the writing is hard to get through, or any of a million things that you did not expect. People look to reviews as a way to set expectations, and most are actually not turned off by negative reviews unless they’re consistent. And let’s be honest– most authors, including me, didn’t write a five-star piece on their first try.

Reviews can be bought or cajoled, so when an unknown author has nothing but five-star reviews on their first work, it raises red flags. You run the risk of being overlooked by readers who distrust your work, and Amazon and Google have steps in place to try to curtail false reviews. In fact, Amazon filed a lawsuit against four and five-star review sellers. The last thing you want is for Amazon to bury your book because it thinks you’re gaming the system.

So what is the magic number?

According to a study by Northwestern University, 4.2-4.5 is the sweet spot. Like I said, a negative review is not a bad thing. It reinforces the authenticity of your readers and work, and if someone believes that real people read your book, then you have a better chance of gaining a new reader. When you ask your friends, family, and readers to leave reviews, stress to them that they don’t have to make it five stars just because it’s your book. They’ll help you more by leaving an honest review instead.

How to Become Visible

Lemur, who is in my books, has the fluffiest tummy in the whole world, and I want to rub it. I like it when my blood is inside my body though.

Today I want to talk about visibility and doing the legwork to get yourself out there. One of the ways self-published authors sell their books is through their online presence. If you don’t have the backing of a major publishing house, then it’s a lot harder to let people know who you are, which is why you should get started sooner rather than later. Probably the most well known platforms are social media and blogs, but you have other options too– if you’re willing to work and sometimes pay for it.


Let’s take a look at social media and blogging first. Blogs are a good way to keep in touch with your audience, share your journey, and show a more personal side of yourself that you can’t always portray in your published works. You can share the ups and downs of your work in progress, your fears and struggles, your victories, just ramble about your day, talk about your pets and significant other, describe what you made for dinner last night, the possibilities are endless. You can also tie a blog in with most social media sites and author pages, thus spreading your reach even farther. One of my biggest takeaways from blogs is that they give the author a human element and make them more relatable. You certainly don’t have to go that route, but sometimes it can be nice to have a more relaxed, casual style of writing.

Blogging doesn’t work for everyone though, so if you can’t commit to it and create engaging and relevant content, skip this option. There’s also no one-size-fits-all template for blogging. I chose to make it about my self-publishing journey. Nonfiction writers can use their blog to establish themselves as a subject matter expert, and I’ve seen blogs from historical fantasy authors that detail their research.

Social Media

Social media is probably the most well-known platform. It’s really important to do your research here and know what your target audience most likely uses between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Yes, I said TikTok. BookTok is a real thing, and it’s launching careers. If your audience consists of Gen Z or Millennial readers (or even a few of us Gen X’ers– we still exist!), consider breaking out the ring light and brushing up on video editing, because you could go far with that platform. And if you don’t like being on camera or hate the sound of your own voice, look at options like page flips, character creations, and staging shots with your books against a relevant and eye catching backdrop. Or you can be like me and shamelessly exploit your pets for views.

Like all marketing efforts, social media takes a time commitment. You have to post and engage fairly regularly (and by “regularly” I mean at least once a day) if you want algorithms to show your content in feeds and timelines. If you have a little extra budget, consider sponsored posts. It can be a nice way to get extra impressions and engagements. Even if people don’t buy your book right away, you still got in front of eyeballs, which is important when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.

One of the things I always strongly recommended to clients in the past is to humanize your social media posts. Don’t make it all about selling your product, because ad fatigue is a real thing, and that is a fast way to get people to glaze over when your posts pops up. Make posts about the journey, reader feedback, relevant parts of your life (again, my cats), and pepper your content with information on where your books are available.

One of the beauties of social media and blogging is that they can be preemptive strategies. You can start teasing your book, share your journey, engage with other authors, set up preorders and giveaways, really build your brand before you launch your book.

Ad Campaigns

Yes, ads. Sponsored ads can be intrusive and annoying, but they can also generate impressions (when someone sees your ad) and clicks, which can lead to sales. You can have ads show up on e-readers or on an author’s page (okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I did that and got some great follow through, but it made me feel icky), and you can have ads show up for keywords you select. You can also do automatic keyword targeting in which you let the algorithm choose keywords for you and then, after the campaign has run for a few weeks, switch to manual keyword targeting. With manual keyword targeting, you look at which keywords generated clicks and impressions, which ones didn’t, and create a list of targeted keywords and a list of negative keywords (search terms that will not trigger your ad).

Most ad platforms are not that expensive and come with very handy tutorials. Amazon in particular does a good job with educational follow up emails explaining the difference in match types, keyword targeting, and tweaking your campaign. Before you buy ads on a platform, do a little research (my favorite word in the whole world). What other ads do you see on those sites? How many organic engagements like reviews and shares do books similar to yours receive?

Site Submissions

Claim your author page on as many sites as you can including (but not limited to) Amazon and Goodreads. Join sites and get your book on them, especially ones with a proven track record for linking authors to readers (don’t forget to do your research!). Most of these sites have some kind of ad or giveaway program, and if you have the income to buy into those, then it could be worth it in impressions, clicks, and awareness.

In some cases, like Book Funnel’s promo lists, the only investment you need is the time it takes to get the link out there. Others charge a fee to do giveaways and featured promotions. Make sure you understand what you’re getting out of this! How many readers will really see your book? What is your projected ROI (return on investment)? How many books do you need to sell to see a return on your investment? If you do a giveaway promotion, what follow up do you have in place to guarantee sales down the road? How many impressions can you expect to get?

Award and Event Submissions

It may seem like hubris to submit your own book for an award, but it’s actually fairly common and expected. Now it seems that there are awards all over the place, but some still carry weight. Plus, at the most, you’re out a submission fee, and meanwhile you could get some publicity and impressions. If you win, you have an accolade for your site and that you can use if you apply to be a guest at conventions or to make author appearances. Before you jump into submitting for an award, check out the author awards and contests watch list from ALLi. There are some pretty unscrupulous platforms that charge hundreds or more in submission fees with little to offer in return.

Author Appearances

We all know about conventions, and let’s face it, if you’re a new author, you’re up against a lot of competition when it comes to applying to the larger cons as a guest. I’m not saying you shouldn’t apply at one of the big ones– it never hurts to try. If you’re not sure whether or not the con circuit is right for you or you don’t know what to expect, look at smaller ones that fit your genre and start there. Most have an author’s alley with pretty reasonable prices for a table, and it can give you a chance to learn how to interact with your audience, get to know other authors, and start to get a feel for your personal needs and limitations when it comes to appearing at an all day event.

Don’t underestimate art shows and local markets either. A book can be a fun addition to a more traditional art or craft fair, and it gives people something to read when they get home. You can include swag, flyers, and coupons as an incentive to buy. I recently did one that I really enjoyed. I gave everyone who talked to me a non-expiring coupon code. If they didn’t want to commit to the purchase right then, they could use the coupon later. I also made sure people who bought my book at the market had the coupon so they could buy the sequel when it comes out in March.

You can also submit to hold an author appearance at your local library and bookstores, and you can reach out to a local coffee shop or bar to hold a release or signing party. Check out local magazines, especially ones that focus on the arts and community, and see if you can get a review. If you see a submission for an interview or a way to get your site or book listed in a local publication, take it.

Author Swaps

This is a good way to get your book in front of a fellow author’s audience. With an author swap, you basically promote each other’s books, most commonly in newsletters. You can also promote them on social media or on your website, but it’s a nice way to support the community and get some new reading material in the process.

My takeaway

If you don’t have a publicist, PR team, or marketing team, then the burden of getting yourself out there is on your shoulders. Research, join groups, see what works, and make sure you can meet the time commitment for whatever platform you use. I spend about thirty minutes to an hour on days that I work at my other job and one to two hours on my days off looking into ways to get my book and name out to the world and following up on social media and publicity strategies. I’m at the point where I can’t commit to more than that, so if I find something that looks like it could generate more success than what I’m doing now, I’ll have to give up one of my existing strategies. I didn’t mention Kindle Unlimited or major platform book deals like BookBub and Goodreads, but there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of those either. The more people read your book, the more likely they are to come back for the sequel.

Good luck, and happy writing!

What It Takes to Make Your Book

I’m not talking about the writing… I mean the actual physical (or ebook) copy. In my opinion, this is where the true value of a hybrid publisher comes in, and if you can afford it and find one that will do a good job and is worth the cost, go for it!

So what do you have to do? Well, you have a few choices. You can go with the printer’s book-building tool if they offer one (IngramSpark has a tool that’s infinitely easier for me than trying to get the cover exactly right within their template), or you can piece it all together yourself.

Physical Books

If you’re trying to do it all yourself, you need to know your exact page count and be able to create a printable cover using Illustrator or a comparable software. There are some decent free print editing software programs out there, but they’re clunkier than Illustrator and require a lot more patience and effort. Your files also need to be exactly the way you want them. One of the pros here is that you are in complete control over all of the formatting, including drop caps, indentation, layout, and style.

As I said, I use IngramSpark’s book-building tool. Here’s my process:

  • I write everything in Google Docs so that I can work on it anywhere (including on my phone)
  • Switch it over to Pages so I can get the formatting exactly the way I want it (if you have a PC then Caliber or Kindle Create work too)
  • Export it as a word doc and an epub (I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that you save both versions of your book)
  • Use the IS tool to build out the front and back content like the copyright, acknowledgments, a page listing my works, and the author page;
  • Make my indexes, glossaries, and punctuation guides as a text insert that goes into the table of contents
  • Build the copyright and acknowledgment pages exactly the way I want them along with any additional front page copy and make sure to disable the table of contents button so they’re not added

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time because you have to build the book chapter by chapter. Pros are you can name the chapters anything you want and include numbers, and the preview screen helps you find errors in the layout and content chapter by chapter. Cons are it takes forever and some of the decorative formatting, like drop caps, is harder to pull off unless you know HTML and CSS. There is a way to directly edit the code if you’re comfortable with it though.

If you use the book-building tool, document everything while you create the book! I mean, take screenshots of where everything is placed, write down the color codes for the cover and any fonts you use, write down the font and size, and make sure you have everything that you will need to recreate the book in multiple places and keep it as consistent as possible. Because I didn’t do that with Welcome to Jessie’s, the paperback and hardback are slightly different. Then when I did Where the Ogrekin Roam, I forgot to write it all down when I built out the hardback. Once it’s submitted, you can’t go back into the files until after they are processed and either approved or rejected. It was over three days before I was able to get back into them again– which caused another delay in my publishing schedule.


I learned the hard way with Welcome to Jessie’s not to export the epub from Google Docs, especially when building it in Draft2Digital. It was a lot harder to create the table of contents, and the formatting was more difficult to work with. D2D also just has very little flexibility when it comes to building your book. My other issue was that the previews did not accurately show the finished product. I was not happy when I found the layout errors in the finished ebooks. They’re not terrible; I’m probably the only one who knows they’re there. It still irked me.

I decided to submit directly to Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble and use Draft2Digital for library and international platforms for Where the Ogrekin Roam. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said to make sure you save everything as an ePub and Doc? This is why. Kindle Create is really intuitive, but you have to upload the docx. The other thing I ran up against is formatting. I don’t know why the formatting options are greyed out unless it’s because I exported the docx from Pages, but any drop caps that included a quotation mark are a mess.

The Cover

With the physical book and ebook, make sure your cover is the right size and displays all of your information. If the title, author, or any of the information you want to put on the cover is too close to the edge, it might get cut off in the bleed– the section printers use to make sure the cover art extends all the way to the edge or beyond of the cover itself. This article on figuring out pixels to inches for different trim sizes is really aimed at children’s books and their illustrations, but I found that it was a good rule of thumb when I first tried to build out my cover in Gimp (the free photo editing software I use instead of Photoshop). I really overshot it with Welcome to Jessie’s, as anyone who looks at the ebook can tell, but that’s because I didn’t follow my gut and overthought the entire process.

By the way, make sure you take breaks, come back and get a fresh look at your work, and don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. And always listen to your gut instincts! Remember you got into this because you love writing, and chances are you love reading too. You know what your readers want because you know what you want.

My last piece of advice here is to give yourself time. It takes hours, if not a few days, to build your book, and you have to build out each version– ebook, hardcover, paperback, copies in different languages, large print, etc. It takes longer if you don’t know what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to learn as you go and take a lot of notes. My office walls are plastered with stickies for each step of the process. Make sure you have everything you need from the get-go– epub files, doc files, cover, a plan for the layout, and your ISBNs. There are really great tutorials all over the internet that teach you how to use different editing programs, layout programs, and the various book building tools. As you do it, you’ll get more comfortable and faster. Just make sure to build at least a month into your release schedule for the book creation and getting your physical proof. You always want that physical proof in your hands before you mass-order your books!

Navigating ISBNs, Copyrights, and the Library of Congress

Sunny does not like sharing once he finds an article of black clothing he can cover with white hair.

Yes, this post is out of order. In my defense, the first time I published, I did everything through IngramSpark, so when I decided to branch out on my second book, I hit some obstacles that I would like to share. So let’s get started with ISBNs!

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. In a nutshell, it’s the number assigned to your book, and it’s important to remember that each variation of your book (hardback, paperback, large print, audiobook, every language adaptation, ebook, etc). has to have an individual number. This is used by bookstores, retailers, and libraries to identify the formats of your book. Every country has an agency responsible for issuing ISBNs; in the US, it’s Bowker.

If you want to sell your book through retailers or distributors, you have to have an ISBN number for the physical versions of your book. As of now, most of the major retailers don’t require them for ebooks. Personally I got them anyway because if that changes, I would rather be prepared; it also makes my ebooks more discoverable. If you want your ebooks in libraries, then OverDrive, the largest ebook supplier used by libraries, requires it.

How Do I Get One?

You can simply apply for one online, but you have to be careful who you use. There are scam “agencies” out there who claim to sell ISBNs at lower rates, but the numbers are not valid. In order to sell ISBN numbers, the agency first has to purchase and register them through Bowker, and each agency’s site should have some kind of Bowker partner identifier. A huge red flag is any agency who claims to sell individual numbers (not in bulk) at a significant discount.

There is an exception to the discount rule, and that’s when an agency sells an ISBN at a significantly discounted rate in exchange for being listed as the publisher. Typically this is offered by agencies who also provide printing and distribution services. What this means is that whatever agency you use will be named on the imprint for your work, and you essentially lose the ability to list yourself as the publisher. It can also limit your distribution channels depending on the terms of the sale, so read the fine print very carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re just starting out and are more concerned with getting your book out there while working on a limited budget, this isn’t a bad option. Once you gain some recognition, you can republish the book with a new ISBN number under your own publishing name. In this article, there is a great section on the pros and cons of getting a publisher held ISBN instead of your own.

I bought my ISBNs through IngramSpark for $85 as part of the book set ups. It was easy, but one of the advantages of buying from Bowker is that you can buy in bulk for substantially better rates. It’s $295 for 10, $575 for 100, and $1500 for 1000. They never expire, so when you consider that you probably need at least two numbers per book, you can really save a lot in the long run.

This article helped me a lot when I started researching ISBN information for my first book, especially when it came down to whether or not to purchase an ebook ISBN and who to use.

Registering a Copyright

This doesn’t have to be a huge hurdle, but it really depends on how comfortable you are with bureaucratic paperwork. But first, let’s get into why you want to register your work with the copyright office (note: this is for the US– laws vary country by country, so if you’re uncertain, look up your country’s agency and laws or seek out legal aid).

Why Should I Register?

Technically, copyright protection starts when you begin to write and lasts for your lifetime plus seventy years, but filing the registration gives you a public claim to its ownership. Without that claim, it’s harder to pursue copyright infringement litigation if your work is plagiarized. It’s important to file within three months of publication to legally protect yourself.

Something I wish I had not paid for was having a third party agency register my first book’s copyright when I bought my first ebook ISBN numbers. I thought that everything would be taken care of, but all they did was create my account and complete the form. You still have to review the form, submit the application, and pay the $65 fee yourself on top of whatever fees you paid the agency. I don’t know if paying for that service did anything really valuable because I couldn’t find anything online that backed it up, so all I can say is spend that money at your own risk. I personally didn’t have any problems filling out the form on my second go round, but if you have trouble with that sort of thing, then maybe paying for a third party to handle all of that for you is for the best. If anyone knows another reason to actually get that service, reply in the comments!

Library of Congress

The last thing I want to cover is registration with the Library of Congress. The LOC is the largest source of literary works in the country and one of the largest in the world. While the copyright agency is part of the Library, copyrighting your work does not guarantee that it will be catalogued. It will be entered for consideration, but if you want to make sure it’s really in the Library, you have to fill out a PrePub Book application to get the LOC control number. Relax, it’s not that hard. Just make sure you have everything you need, including your ISBNs.

Also here’s a fun fact: you can’t copy and paste your book description or it will be flagged for invalid characters. You have to type it out in the description field.

Why Do I Want to Do This?

Because the LOC assigns consistent cataloguing data for your book that is used by libraries across the country. If you’re writing a series, it can also make sure libraries are notified in a timely manner when the next installment is released. The one caveat is that you can’t register a published work, although you can ask your local library for assistance getting your work catalogued. You have to make this part of your prepublication checklist, but it’s free as long as you don’t mind donating a copy of your work to the Library. For more information, I recommend their FAQ page.

In one of my upcoming posts, I plan to recreate my personal prepublishing checklist, but all of this is on it as part of covering my bases and protecting my work. Happy writing, and good luck out there!

My Self Publishing Journey

First of all, let me just say that this was a huge and terrifying undertaking for me. I didn’t have the financial resources to take advantage of most publishing packages, so I had a lot of trial and error and mistakes. Writing was actually the easy part. That and cooing over Sunny, the toasted marshmallow fluff squish of a cat.

This is the third time I started to write this book. I don’t know what was different now, but it just came out so much more easily than when I tried before. I definitely had an amazing support team– my best friend Brenda (who Jessie is modeled after), my housemate Alicia who made me do silly things like “eating” and “sleeping”, my friends Dave and Erin who doubled as my proofreaders and ARC readers, and my bosses and coworkers at my pub who encouraged me to stick with it and helped spread the word when it was finished.

This is the first in a blog post series about self publishing to try to help other new authors circumnavigate the publishing world and hopefully avoid the same mistakes I made. The first thing I want to say is DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! Never– and I mean never— commit to anything financially without doing background research. Publishing is a lot more expensive than most people think, and you can run yourself into the ground very quickly unless you’re in a position to burn through a lot of cash. One of the best resources I found is the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Best Self Publishing Services (and the worst). Another great resource is this self-publishing checklist from Jane Friedman.

She also has a great post about query letters if you decide you want to go the traditional publishing route. I tried. It was astounding to me that I could turn out an 83,000 word novel in seven months and then spectacularly choke on a three paragraph query letter. A five year old would have written a better one.

I’ll go into the steps I took and resources I found in this series, but the most important thing I can say is don’t rush it. We all want to get our work out there, but if you want people to enjoy your work and take you seriously as an author, invest in a proofreader, editor, and advanced readers. Trust me when I say it’s invaluable! You can pay for those services, or you can find them among people you know.