The P Word

These are the faces of three cats who were not on board with letting me make my bed.

It’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: paperwork!

No, I’m serious. Being a self-published author is a business, and it has to be maintained like one if you want to see where your money is going and how successful you really are from a monetary perspective. Even if you hire an accountant, you should always have your finger on the pulse of your business.

These are the things I personally recommend, and this comes not only from the perspective of an author but as someone who has managed small businesses:

Profit and Loss Sheet & Tax Worksheet

It’s easy to see sales come in or sell out of your books at a market and feel like you hit the jackpot, but did you really? Do you know how much went into the making of the books you just sold?

Your profit and loss worksheet is vital for tracking how much you actually spend versus how much you make on your books and how to plan accordingly when it comes to your marketing efforts and necessary purchases. You need to factor in every penny you spend, even if it’s just for one time purchases. This is also a good way to really figure out where you can cut costs and shop around, especially for marketing material and shipping material if you ship your books out yourself.

In addition, keeping this sheet will make it so much easier to do your taxes because all of your income and expenses are in one place, and they’re already broken down. The image to the right shows how I break mine down, but you can tweak it for your own expenses and revenue streams.

Transaction Tracking Software (I love QuickBooks Self-Employed)

Most banking apps have some kind of tracking and budgeting capability, but if you can do everything in one spot, that makes your life a lot easier. Software like QuickBooks tracks your business credit card and bank account so you can assign expense and revenue categories, maintain a budget, and track your spending. Plus you can share it with your accountant and export the data.

QuickBooks (and undoubtedly other software too) also lets you track mileage, which, if you do a lot of markets, cons, readings, and appearances, adds up too.

Inventory Tracker

I will be the first to admit, I am the worst about this. I know what my sales are, but if you ask me to break it down, you’re more likely to get a vague, “Oh, I think it was this many books and some prints” rather than a concrete number. But there are a lot of advantages to tracking your inventory including knowing what your best sellers are so you can be better prepared for shows and markets, knowing what marketing strategies worked the best for you, and when you start to run low on any of your products.

Going into a sales season like Christmas or the beginning of summer or going to a show with less inventory than you thought you had is not ideal, and being able to track your inventory is key. I currently have a spreadsheet in Google docs I made, but you can shop around for inventory software. If you have a WooCommerce site, there are some good plugins you can use.

Marketing Tracker

Your books aren’t going to sell themselves, no matter how good they are. And even if you decide that you want to look into trad publishing, most smaller publishers expect you to take on some of the marketing effort.

There are a lot of different organic marketing strategies out there, as I touched on in a previous post, but if you have the budget for it, paid marketing can be your friend. I typically pay $12-18 a month for Instagram sponsored posts that reach between 5000 and 6000 accounts, and it just takes two book sales to repay that cost (after I deduct the overhead for making the books).

This is where your marketing strategy and tracking sheet comes in. It’s exciting to see that your Amazon ad campaign generated sales, but how much did you spend to get there? How many people clicked on your ad and then bounced without converting into sales? That’s data that you can use to fine tune your ad campaigns, and if you’re on a very tight budget, you can use Amazon’s search term tool to find more specific terms people use to search for books like yours. Amazon and Google ads consoles let you export the data too, which is nice.

Business Plan

I know this might be a head scratcher, but hear me out. You’re a business. That means you need to operate like one, and at the end of the day, your business plan is a fluid document that details how you plan to operate, how much you plan to make, and where you see yourself in five, ten, or twenty years. If you decide to apply for a small business loan to heavily invest in reviews, ad campaigns, table fees at larger cons and shows, and production, this is how you do it. If you decide to get a business partner who wants to understand your process, you have something to show them.

Making my business plan was when everything started to come together for me. I had a clearer picture of my needs and the structure I wanted to put in place. I could see where I needed to get creative when it came to my marketing strategy and where I needed to tighten up on spending, and I saw a better way to get where I want to be in five years.

If you have a business or marketing background, you’re probably already familiar with these kinds of documents. If you have any strategies that help you keep track of your spending, budgeting, and business, share them in the comments!

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!

Welcome to the Jungle

I watched Thor: Love and Thunder this weekend. Spoiler alert: so much G’n’R!

Today I want to keep going in my “lessons Eli learned the hard way” self-publishing series. I will admit this one wasn’t a hard-earned lesson because I already knew about the importance of reading fine print with contracts (anyone else remember when GameStation got 7500 people to literally agree to sell their souls?).

Why You Always Read Your Contracts

Whenever you work with a third party, chances are a contract will be involved. In fact, it’s definitely in your best interest to have a contract involved. This is also true for freelancers who need to protect their interests as much as you do yours. Freelancers can include cover artists, book designers, editors, and reviewers.

If you work with any agency that sends you a contract that’s difficult to read, make them clarify everything that you don’t understand. A huge red flag for me is anything super convoluted that’s explained away as “don’t worry about that, it’s standard.” Another red flag is when my point of contact tries to gaslight me by making me feel stupid for asking questions or implying that I’m hung up on small details. That usually means they’re trying to sneak something by you.

If you plan to outsource a lot of the publishing responsibilities and don’t have experience reading and understanding contracts, consult with an attorney. The Authors Guild, your state’s guild or organization, and ALLi members all get access to excellent legal advice and resources.

There are a lot of great resources online for contract templates that you can modify to suit your needs (I use Rocket Lawyer for mine). But why is this really important?

Creating Accountability

One word: accountability. Okay, two words. “Expectations” is important too. Your contract not only sets expectations for when you need and expect the finished results at each stage of the process, but it holds you accountable for making sure that you give your contractor everything they need when they need it. It guarantees payment for services rendered, and it offers legal recourse if the terms are not meant or if either of you needs to end the relationship before the contract is fulfilled. In other words, it covers everyone’s asses.

This is an important part of standing up for yourself as an author. You are a business entity, and as such, you have as much right to protect your interests as a tradesman, retailer, or service provider. Do not ever let anyone convince you otherwise.

Now go make magnificent works of art!

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!

Planning a Preorder Campaign

Writing a book is only part of the process– an important part, but just a part nonetheless. You still have to get it in the hands of the public, and that’s where a book launch comes in. But even before the launch itself is the idea of a preorder campaign. I’m sure you’ve all seen this and probably taken advantage of it: preorders keep readers hooked with the promise of things to come and provide authors with the chance to reward loyal readers through giveaways and personalized content.

You have a few options when it comes to setting up the preorder for your book, and I’m going to talk through the two I did and their pros and cons.

The Easy Way Out

When I released Welcome to Jessie’s, I just set a date in which people could preorder the books, and then everyone’s copies were shipped or sent out on launch day. All I had to do was set up the links and let people order in advance from my website, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Apple. I maintained a spreadsheet so I knew who had ordered which version, whether they requested a personalized message, and if they purchased add-ons.

The downside to this was I relied on platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Draft2Digital, so I couldn’t personalize the experience for my readers. I didn’t have much of an incentive to offer other than “you’re guaranteed to get the book on this day!” The orders placed through my website included a thank you note, bookmark, and signed copy, but that was it.

Adding Some Incentives

I still can’t personalize the preorder experience through a third party platform, but for Where the Ogrekin Roam, I added preorder exclusives when readers ordered their copies through my website. In addition to the personalized copy, each order includes a print, sticker, bookmark, and coupon code applicable to a future purchase.

Where It All Went Horribly Wrong

When I set up the preorder for Ogre, I decided that anyone who preordered in December would get an advance copy of the book. Great incentive, right? Instead of waiting until I had the final proof in hand, I set a date and then ran up against obstacle after obstacle from printing delays to paper shortages to health issues. I had to take a chance and order the books without waiting weeks for the final proof, and when they came in (before the proof, I might add), the covers were horrible.

After a brief crying fit, I had to reach out to my readers and let them know what happened, give them the books with the wrong covers so they at least had something to show for their support and patience, redesign the cover, and reorder the proofs. I will send the preorder readers the correct versions, but now I’m out the cost of the new books and shipping.

The Takeaway

Make sure you’re prepared. If you’re doing the bulk of the legwork on a preorder or book launch, do not commit to anything, especially a date, until you have the finished product in hand and know that you can deliver on your promises. That said, preorders create a sense of anticipation, and when you have a chance to personalize the experience, you can really build on the relationship with your readers.

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!

Do Me Right

Ace is the king of the cat tree.

In this post I want to touch on the things I had to learn. Keep in mind that I have a full time job, I’m neurodivergent, and what works for me, especially with my non-writing obligations, won’t necessarily work for you.

Here are the things I learned that were absolutely important to the process, and I’m very glad I figured them out early on:

Trust the Editing Process

If you hired an editor or enlisted the aid of one (and good for you if you did), listen to them with an open mind. In my opinion, the two types of editors who can really help me are content editors and copy editors. Content editors focus on the story elements and structure like plot, characters, continuity, and flow. Copy editors look for technical errors such as grammar errors or misspellings. Don’t be afraid to listen! Don’t be thin skinned. Their input is not an attack or an implication that you’re a bad writer. Remember that it’s literally their job to make your work better so that your audience will want to come back for more.

Double check your work. Before you submit it to any publisher, use a program like Pages or Calibre to view your work as an ebook. Order a physical copy and read it cover to cover. I didn’t do that because I had read it so many times that I was positive I had everything covered. I didn’t realize that the ePub layout structure for my first book would change just enough to make the paragraph breaks wonky or that I had a typo (which really drives me crazy, but that’s okay. I’ll live).

Advanced Readers

I chose readers who covered my target audience but who came from different demographics. My goal was to make sure that my story did not fall flat, that it was comprehensible, and, more importantly, that I received feedback. No one likes giving or getting negative feedback, especially when it’s your friends. But if you paid or recruited someone to read your book, then you need to listen! These readers represent all of the people who you want reading your book. If someone suggests a rewrite or modification that you know won’t work because of something happening later in a series, then figure out how to rewrite that scene to achieve the same end goal. That actually happened to me quite a bit because I know what’s happening two, three, even nine books out. It was too easy to forget that the readers didn’t have the same insight.

Know How Much You’re Making

No matter what platform you use to publish or sell, you have access to sales reports. If you don’t, then you need to find a new platform because that information should always be readily available to you. I use WooCommerce on my website, and Ingram Spark for physical copies and Draft2Digital for my ebooks. All three have great reporting as do Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple.

But in addition to royalties or sales, you need to remember to take a bunch of other stuff into account:

  • Get your tax and use certificate in your state if you have to pay sales tax
  • Know how much you pay for shipping to your customers
  • If you ship yourself, consider a shipping label printer (I found a great one from Amazon for $53)
  • Shop around for packing material and make sure you calculate how much it costs per unit (if you buy a 25 pack of boxes for $26 after tax and shipping, then you just added $1.04 to your cost)
  • Adding little giveaways like bookmarks and thank you cards are a nice touch, especially for early buyers (I wrote thank you cards for everyone who bought from me in the first two weeks my web store was open), patrons, and contest winners; just make sure you keep track of how much all of that costs though.
  • Don’t forget about subscription and dues if you’re a member of things like the Author’s Guild or ALLi
  • Try to identify which of your expenses are one time costs (standing posters for your author events) versus renewed (giveaways and swag) and try to buy in bulk if you can while factoring those costs into the price of your books
  • If you’re comfortable making your own files and have access to a good quality printer, try to make as much of your marketing material as you can
  • Consider a subscription to something like Quickbooks to help manage your books and taxes

Budget Your Time

Burn out is real! Writer burn out is too! There is so much that goes into self publishing, and the more you do on your own, the more work you have. Mailing lists, Patreon accounts, social media, maintaining your presence on the various platforms that are out there (more on that later), are you buying ads? Gotta maintain those too, tracking sales, submitting for events, festivals, conventions, and author appearances, submitting to libraries and book stores (more on that later too), submitting to magazines and publications, not to mention you’re still writing your next book(s). And if you have a full time job, a partner, kids, any responsibilities that take a significant amount of time, you have to factor all of that into the mix.

Personally I use Apple reminders to make lists of things that need to be done. Then at the start of each day, I copy whatever I want to get done that day into a separate list app. I don’t let myself work on anything outside of that second list. If I don’t do that, then I’ll get sucked into how long my original list is, feel overwhelmed, get derailed by ADHD, and either get nothing done or try to do everything and get no writing done. If I know I have a lot of other things going on that day, I set a timer for each task. If I don’t finish a task that day, it’s okay. I can finish it later.

Oh, yeah. Stop beating yourself up if you don’t get something done.

Rewards are a big incentive for time budgeting too. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but I used to reward myself with a glass of nice Scotch or wine. Now I make a really nice pot of tea. Or I watch an episode of something in one of my many streaming queues that would take about three lifetimes to clear out. Writing is a reward too. Knowing I can write a chapter or flesh out an outline or give a character new life is something to look forward to, and it’s an incentive to A. put the phone down and stop getting distracted and B. stop trying to take on too much at one time.

Keep Reading

You’re a writer. That means you create words for other people to read. Consider reading to be your form of research. What new styles and authors are out there? You just spent a day in your own head, how would it feel to take a break in someone else’s?

I swear that sounded a lot less creepy when I started to write it down.

Join a book club, join a reading challenge on social media, and share what you’re reading. It’s a great way to support fellow authors (and maybe get a little support yourself).

Next time I’ll go into how I learned about submissions for events and stores and the importance of an online presence when you self publish.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Lucy’s trying to make me feel better by being very cute.

As I look at what’s left of my bank account and sigh mournfully, I would like to take this moment to discuss the importance of research and planning ahead. Here’s where I blew money:

  • Filed the copyright too soon
  • Did not sign a contract when paying for cover art
  • Didn’t communicate adequately with the cover artist
  • Paid to have the copyright filed
  • Paid a vanity publisher


If you file a copyright on your first draft and make significant changes (restructure, add art, additional or less chapters, etc), you have to refile. It’s $65 a pop, so make sure you have everything the way you want it or pretty close the first time. I am definitely not known for my patience, and when I finished the first draft, I jumped the gun on everything except actually publishing– and that was only because my copy editing background taught me better. As a result, I had to register the copyright twice after making huge structural changes to the body of the work during the editing process.

Cover Art

I gave my artist a detailed creative brief, but when she began discussing changes, I didn’t specify what parts had to remain the same. I also didn’t give her a time line upfront or require her to sign a contract since it’s someone I know, and I didn’t ask for a drawn concept– I accepted a verbal one. I paid in installments (a third up front and a third when she verbally gave me the concept), but the finished product wasn’t what I envisioned at all. It’s a great concept! It’s just not what will work for the book. But because I didn’t give her structure and better guidance on what I needed, I lost the first two payments I made and wasted her time. You’re probably going to hire or recruit people for a number of steps in your book, and communication and setting expectations is so important.

Paid to Have the Copyright Filed

I bought my eBook ISBN number from a third party, and I bought the option to have my copyright filed. What I didn’t know was that you still have to actually pay to register the copyright yourself. All they do is set up your profile. If you don’t mind paying for that, then go for it because it definitely saved me time. However, I couldn’t find anything online that says that having a third party do it for you has any benefits, so if someone knows of any that exist, please add them in the comments!

Paid a Vanity Publisher

This is where I am kicking myself the most. I had no idea what a vanity publisher was because I was in the early stages of trying to figure out how to navigate the self-publishing world. So when I was solicited by one, I thought it was the greatest thing ever and went for it. I was smart enough not to sign a contract that didn’t have an out, and I didn’t submit any material, so I still had all of the rights and ownership. I only got about half of my money back though. If I had gone through with it, I would have given up the rights to my work for 10% of the royalties.

I’m not saying vanity publishers are bad, but do your research, read the reviews, and look at all of the fine print before you sign anything. If you have the money to invest thousands of dollars in one and let them do all of the work for you, go for it. If that seems like an exaggeration, consider that you should plan to pay around $1000-3000 out of pocket no matter what you do for an editor, proofreader, artist, the book creation, online presence, and everything else that goes into making your book. Vanity publishers can charge more and give you less in royalties, so it comes down to cost and profit vs convenience.

What I learned from all of this…

All told I wasted around $2800 from mistakes, lack of research, and lack of communication. That’s a lot for a new author. When your writing is your passion and you want to get your work out in front of the world, it’s so easy to jump the gun and rush the process. I promise you, taking the time to do everything right is worth it. Next time I’ll talk about the things I did that went the right way. Until then, happy writing!

P.S. If you’re an author, share your social media links and website in the comments! I love finding new authors to follow.