Find Your Muse

Writers get a lot of terrible advice. Among the worst are phrases like “follow your passion” and “believe in yourself.” This type of advice sounds inspirational—in reality it’s just nonsense. Meaningless platitudes won’t make you a better writer or increase your word count.

Another equally useless piece of advice is “find your muse.” I’m all for seeking inspiration, but there’s a glaring problem with this advice. Most people don’t know who the muses are. Worse, they have no idea how each of their domains aligns with the different genres. Continue reading


Make Writing Contests Work for You

Debut and self-published authors struggle to compete with the thousands of other books published each year. Writing awards come with the feeling of validation that your writing is “good enough.” They are also a marketing tool.

Awards drive sales by catching the eye of new readers and opening doors to new sales opportunities. Many readers and booksellers are skeptical about trying an unknown author. A good way to allay their fears is adding the tagline, “award-winning author.”

If you win an award, don’t be shy—let everyone know! Announce the award in your newsletter and on social media. Post the information on your website and include it in your press kit. Get extra milage out of an award by adding it to your Amazon author page and on GoodReads.

If you don’t enter, you can’t win. Continue reading


Introduction to Book Marketing

A writer’s first priority is to set aside dedicated time to writing books. Their second priority is to sell those books. Since most writers juggle a day job in addition to caring for family and finding time to write, marketing often falls by the wayside. Yet, marketing information is the most common request I get from authors each year.

When authors think about marketing, often times they envision an advertising campaign that will magically draw people to their book. In reality, marketing encompasses much, much more. Marketing is defined as any activity an author undertakes in order to sell books. Consequently, a good marketing strategy begins the moment an author decides to write a book.

Below is a step-by-step guild that walks authors through the various stages of book marketing and includes a downloadable checklist to keep authors on track. Continue reading


Author Newsletters

Every author needs a newsletter. Newsletters get mixed in with blogs, guest articles, and social media posts . . . all things an author must write when they’re not writing a book. If it sounds painful, it shouldn’t. Why? Well, because newsletters are letters. They’re a special way to share your personal life and build connections with readers.

An author newsletter should contain the kind of updates you’d send a favorite cousin. The email format allows authors to be more personal and candid than they would on Facebook or Twitter. It’s the place to open up, be a little vulnerable, and totally authentic because newsletter subscribers truly care about and support the author as a person.

Develop a loyal readership by showing off your personality, sharing stories from workshops, and occasionally including pictures of pets. Don’t turn your emails into a diary. Just give small insights into your personal life and be sure to include something fun. Once readers understand that your newsletter is a conversation, not an incessant one-way sales pitch, they’ll be more engaged and far more likely to open the email. Continue reading


10 Steps to Founding a Publishing House

In order to compete with traditionally published books, many self-publishers choose to found their own publishing houses. Not only does this lend an air of professionalism to their writing endeavors, it serves to separate book publishing activities from personal income, providing a necessary level of legal and financial protection to self-publishers.

America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) represents a nationwide network of the most comprehensive small business assistance in the United States. Hosted by colleges, universities, state economic development agencies, and private partners, there are nearly 1,000 local centers nationwide. Aspiring indie publishers (and other entrepreneurs) can connect with their local SBDCs for no-cost and low-cost business consulting. While it is entirely possible to establish a publishing house on their own, indie publishers may feel more confident knowing that they have the support of their local SBDC to help guide them through the process. Continue reading


Budgeting for Publication

Authors often dream of seeing their books in print and calculate the royalties they expect to earn per book once their baby hits the market. Few stop to consider how much capital they need up-front to cover pre-publication expenses. These expenses can be broken into three general categories: product development, business development, and marketing.

This post contains summaries of common expenses, a downloadable worksheet authors can use to create budgets for their own books, and ideas for ways to save cash along the way. The cost estimates provided below are not intended to scare off would-be self-publishers. Rather, they illustrate why self-publishers struggle to compete with even the smallest publishing houses in the book market. They also serve as a reminder that authors should not give their work away free . . . everything in publishing comes with a cost and some of those costs have staggering price tags. Continue reading


Metadata: SEO for your Book

Metadata is what drives search engine optimization (SEO) and enables web designers to get their websites to rank higher in search results. But metadata isn’t only for website and blogs, it’s also for books. Like SEO, metadata is text written specifically to aid computer systems and search engines. In an era where online shopping is the norm, an absence of metadata (or poorly written metadata) means a book won’t show up in the search results when shoppers are perusing the digital shelves of their favorite online marketplace.

Book metadata helps sell books by using keywords and phrases that make it easy for readers to find them. Because of this, it’s vital that indie publishers include metadata creation as part of their book promotion strategy. So what exactly is metadata? Continue reading


DIY Guide to Book Formatting

Good covers get readers to pluck your book off the shelf and thumb through it. Poor formatting, interior design, and typesetting will cause them to set it back down—costing you a sale. A well-formatted manuscript is vital for publishing success. That’s because, ultimately, readers care about readability.

Readability is the ease with which a book can be read. Not to be confused with reading level, readability refers to formatting books in ways that are conducive to reading. To compete with traditionally published books, it is important for self-publishers to make sure their books look professional, inside and out. Before uploading a manuscript to one of the many self-publishing services and paying for a proof copy, dedicate time to properly formatting the book’s interior. Continue reading


Editing: From Alphas to Betas and Beyond

Writing, it’s said, is a lonely profession. Images of writers sequestering themselves away for the purpose of finishing their novel abound. Some novelist are so overconfident, they believe they don’t need help. Others avoid seeking help, paralyzed by the secret fear that their writing simply isn’t good enough. But, behind every successful author is a slew of people who have left their mark on the manuscript.

Self-publishers, eager to see their books in print, often ignore the undervalued topics of manuscript evaluation, revision, and editing, instead focusing their attention on buying ISBNs, contracting print-on-demand services, and marketing. They do this at their peril. These are the essential steps that makes a manuscript worth reading. Flawed plot lines and inadequate character development are impossible to salvage after the book is published. To catch (and resolve) problematic aspects early in the writing process, the manuscript must be read by others, starting with its earliest draft forms. Continue reading


The Terrible Truth behind Free Books

Write a book, get published, make millions, right? Wrong.

I’m not sure what bothers me more about this misconception: the would-be authors who think a book deal is the key to financial success and easy living or the countless readers who operate under the delusion that authors are so well off that they ought to give their books away, for free.

Authors Earn Less than Minimum Wage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics list average annual income for writers and authors as $63,200. What many writers and readers fail to realize is, this average includes the salaries of corporate writers who are responsible for crafting the limitations for your insurance and warrantees, the microscopic legalese that’s included with the terms and conditions of your credit card, and the impossible to follow instructions included with every “assembly required” item you’ve ever purchased. Actual author income is much, much less. Continue reading