Vanity Publishers Alert



Courtesy, “Writer Beware”

There are many publishers out there just waiting to take your money and give you virtually nothing in return. Get ready to see why.

Many publishers today are nothing more than highway robbers, preying upon novice authors who are unprepared to deal with the cutthroat world of contemporary publishing. I’ve been there myself. My first book, non-fiction, was easily published by a major textbook publisher. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was very lucky. When I was ready to publish my first novel, more than 20 years later, I began to realize that I was very unprepared as a new author. I didn’t even recognize scam publishers.

I sent more than 100 proposals to small, independent publishing companies. That immense effort led to only four contracts, excluding vanity publishers. In the end, I learned a great deal. But that still was not enough knowledge. Had I not acquired a talented and well-connected literary agent, I would probably be still living in ignorance. She taught me how to write the kind of proposal that publishers expect. And she taught me how to avoid scam publishers. I’m passing along some of that knowledge here.

First, never, BUT NEVER give a publisher money. Real publishers GIVE YOU AN ADVANCE, then royalties for each book sold. If a publisher asks you for money, FLEE. The only exception to this is the author who writes a memoir or one single book, and they will never write another book. An example for this is a memoir about the author’s life, such as a Holocaust survivor or someone who experienced or witnessed a major event. This author really only wants a nice-looking book about their life, experiences or events and they plan to write no other book. Another example is someone who writes about their family and they want a book only for their family to enjoy or as a legacy. This author might very well be willing to spend a few thousand dollars to achieve this goal. If that is you, feel free to contract with a vanity publisher. You’ll spend the money and in return you’ll receive several copies of your book for the ubiquitous coffee table. You expect that only your family will read it and you don’t mind spending the money.

But, if you want people to buy your book, then all such bets are off. That’s because the vanity publisher earns a profit from you, not from book sales. Hence, the publisher will expend no effort at all to market or promote your book. That vanity publisher will post a cover of your book on their own web site, which the public never sees or reads. They will not distribute your book. Nor will they represent it at key international book fairs and conferences. Your vanity-published book will never appear on a bookstore shelf. In fact, the vanity publisher is under no obligation to post it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Why? Because you already gave them all the profit they need. Once they have your money, there is no incentive for them to expend time or effort on marketing. You lose. Yes, you’ll have that copy to display in your home and to brag about. But no one will buy or read it. That’s what happens every time you sell your soul to a vanity publisher.

If you want people to buy and read your book, if you want terrific reviews from the best and most persuasive review sources, if you want to write another book and have people recognize you as a good author, if you want a book to count as part of a successful author platform, then stay away from vanity publishers. No book that you give to a vanity publisher will ever count as part of a successful author platform. Therefore, and especially if you write fiction, never sign a contract with a vanity publisher. It will, in fact, lower the quality of your author platform.

Speaking of an author platform, it is the singular positive portion of your experience as a writer that counts. Your platform is the sum total of everything ever written or posted about you as an author, including published articles. Positive and negative, your platform means everything to an author, especially a fiction author. Your platform is everything that you see after you Google your name.

I’ve been an author for almost 30 years and in that time I’ve published six books; a combination of self-publishing and being published by trade publishers and a university. I’ve also published numerous articles. I’ve been a contributing journalist for the Examiner. If you Google my name, you’ll see several pages filled with positive items about everything I’ve published, You don’t need several positive items about yourself as an author to have a good platform. You need many pages, each filled with a dozen or so items about you as a successful author. It also includes newspaper, journal and magazine articles, appearances on television and radio, notations about reviews from many of the biggest, best and most persuasive review sources in your genres. If you’re not heavily marketing your book, how can you expect to have a readership?

Here’s the bad news about building your author platform… it takes years of daily effort. In my case, I’d say that only after about seven or eight years did I see all of those pages of data about me as an author. But I had to put in countless hours of marketing, promotion and seeking the best review sources to contact. I wrote countless articles and had them published. I obtained speaking engagements at many of the most relevant locations and with the right groups. I had newspaper articles written about me as an author. I wrote many articles for the Examiner. And I was lucky enough to have many of the most well-recognized organizations write excellent reviews of my books. This is how you build an author platform and it takes years. It’s hard work. However, if you’re not willing to do this, maybe being an author is not your best choice.

So the next time you see a publisher offering free publication of your book(s), take a deep breath and think deeply about your desired future. Should you only ever want to publish one book, and you have several thousand dollars to spend, then go ahead. But you must really understand that it’s not free. Vanity publishers will always ask you to pay to have your book printed, bound, with cover art and with giving you several copes. In return, they will ask you for several thousand dollars. They will promise everything, but deliver almost nothing. A REAL publisher will not ask you for a dime. Instead, they will pay an advance and royalties. And truly, without a literary agent, the best you can hope for is a small, independent publisher. But, at least it will be a real publisher.

Below is a list of vanity publishers that I saw today on Writer Beware. Writer Beware is by far the singular excellent source for all individuals who want to be published by a real publisher and who are building a serious author platform. They continually produce lists of fly-by-night, illegal publishers and agents. They also have a terrific blog and wonderful articles about the publishing world. Always keep a bookmark for Writer Beware nearby. Use it. It’s invaluable.

Here is a good Writer Beware link for vanity publishers: Here is the home page: I know you’ll love it and use it very often.

Best of luck, authors!

Charles Weinblatt



Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE ( and PREDATORS & EDITORS ( Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.



Reprinted with permission from The Greatest Escapist.

I’m a proud Clevelander, an incurable writer, an unabashed liberal, a neurotic Jew, & a chronic, unapologetic oversharer. I’ve been sharing my stories here since 2007.”

I love when people think that writing is my full-time job, but alas, it isn’t. I work a 9-to-5 (OK, more like a 10-to-6) at a nonprofit organization, where I’m responsible for writing & editing, yes, but also for lots & lots of social media management. My background is in journalism, but social media was just gaining traction during my college years, & as a communications major, I fell into it naturally. You could say social media & I have grown up together – or at least grown together. We’ve both come a long way!

I’ve done a little bit of social media consulting on the side, but mostly I just like to engage in on-the-fly conversations with friends & small business owners who have one-off questions or just want quick tips for building their social media presence. I know, I know, don’t give away your expertise for free – but I like it.

Here are the seven most common quick tips I like to share with folks who are struggling to get a grasp on their social media presence. Please consider forwarding it to someone you know who’s having a hard time Internetting!

1. Make time. 

Especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you, set aside a little time each day – on your clock or calendar! – to devote to social media scheduling, engagement, etc.

2. Use scheduling tools. 

No one wants to spend all damn day online, social media professionals included (& perhaps especially!) I love Hootsuite, Sprout Social, & Facebook’s native engagement tool for setting it & forgetting it while remaining consistent in posting.

3. Engage with others!

If a tree falls in the forest & no one is there to hear it… same with social media. Retweet, share, praise, ask questions, etc. Your social media voice shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.

4. Vary your content from platform to platform.

Switch it up, rather than cross-posting the same thing over & over on all of them (& for goodness sake, don’t set up auto-crossposting!). These platforms are different for a reason, & different presentations work best for each of them. You’ll see the most engagement & have the most success if your messaging is tailored for the medium.

5. Post different kinds of content. 

Sometimes, post a teaser link, other times a photo or a branded graphic, or a retweet-with-comment, or a direct share, or a video, or a Spotifty playlist, etc. See what works best for your audience & which kinds of posts give you the greatest levels of engagements.

6. Google is your BFF. 

Have a social media question? Someone has definitely already answered it online. Stick with reliable sources, a la Mashable, Hubspot, & other industry professionals.

7. Ask a pro. 

Still not sure you’re doing it right or want direct feedback? Hire a professional to help you sort out your social media presence & get on the right track. Lots of folks with full-time marketing/writing gigs do social media consulting on the side (like me, or Brittany from According to Brittany), so you should be able to find someone at a reasonable price, whatever your range.

Reprinted with permission.


How to Become Trade-Published as a Novice Fiction Author

Being published as an unknown author is not terribly difficult if you write non-fiction and you are a known subject matter expert. Your fame represents your non-fiction author platform. For non-fiction, you might not have much trouble selling plenty of copies on your own as a self-published or POD author. You hire a good editor, pay for printed copies and sell them by yourself as the expert. If you are really famous, an agent and publisher can handle it all.

No such road is available for unknown fiction authors. Unless you are a celebrity, and mostly likely no one reading this is, you’ll need to create a viable author platform. Without one, you’ll have a great deal of trouble acquiring a talented and well-connected literary agent or one of the big publishing houses that will make you famous. You can count on your digits the number of famous self-published fiction authors, and most of them used traditional publishers to become famous.

Big publishing houses only work with trusted agents. Yet, it can be more difficult for an unknown fiction author to acquire a good agent than it is to find your own small publishing company. At least that’s what happened to me. The novice fiction writer should begin by finding a small traditional publisher. It’s attainable.

There is a way to create some fame for yourself with fiction. The trouble is, it will cost some hard-earned cash. Large publishing houses only accept proposals from trusted literary agents. The way to break into traditional publishing for fiction is to work with a small traditional publisher. In some cases, that small publisher will not charge the author a dime. Traditionally, that was the definition. But today, with small publishers squeezed financially, some will ask you to share in the cost.

I most certainly do not mean subsidy (vanity) publishing. Subsidy publishers earn their money from authors willing to pay up front to have their book printed and bound. Such “publishers” are disparaged by the greater publishing industry. They perform no significant editing. They are more like printers than publishers; as the author must pay the entire cost, plus the subsidy’s margin. One they have your money, they will do nothing at all to distribute, market, promote or sell your book. In most cases, after paying a few thousand dollars, you’ll have nothing more than a handsome book suitable for coffee table impressions, plus your book will be displayed on a web site that attracts almost no one. The public will not know that the book exists, or that you are a published author; and no one will lift a finger to distribute and sell that book. Nor can you impress readers, agents and publishers by throwing out the name of your subsidy publisher. In fact, once known, that information will damage your reputation as an author. I recommend subsidy publishers for only one type of author; the person who wishes to write a memoir for progeny, but has no interest in sales.

As publishers are increasingly squeezed financially, they have taken to asking unknown authors for a contract in which the author pays the expenses, or at least share in the cost of editing, printing, binding, ISBN numbers and distribution. Virtually all authors today must market their own books, even with a large publishing house. But if you are willing to throw some cash into it, a small traditional publisher might be your best answer.

Think globally. There are thousands of small publishers today all over the world. It doesn’t matter if your small publisher is two miles from home or on the other side of the world. I live in Ohio. The traditional publisher of my first book was a large textbook publishing company in the US. But the publisher of my debut novel was a small publishing house in Israel. After I acquired an agent, she sold it to Texas Tech University to be republished. Telling the world that you have been published by a university for fiction is a powerful addition to your author platform. Global commerce related to publishing has become much more fragmented in recent years. A trade publisher is a trade publisher, whether they are in New York, Paris, Mumbai or Tokyo.

Why should you pay a small traditional publishing house to create and distribute your book? It might be the only way as an unknown author to impress agents, publishers and readers with your talent. Unlike subsidy publishers, small traditional publishers have a good reputation. And because they earn their profit from sold copies, they have a vested interest in effective promotion and marketing. Every time you tell people about it, engage in marketing, post a book landing page or Facebook fan page, you’ll be proud to tell the world that you are under contract with a real, bonafied trade (traditional) publisher. It instantly elevates your fiction author platform in a way that self-publishing and subsidy publishing cannot accomplish. After that, you will find it much easier to distribute and sell copies, as well as attract agents and big publishers.

Why should you pay to become trade-published and then share the profit with your publisher? To an unknown fiction author, platform is more important than royalty income. The more famous you become, the better your platform, the easier it will be later to acquire an agent and through that agent, become published by one of the big houses; which makes your platform even more enticing to big publishers. All of your future books stand a much greater chance of success when a team of experts is in charge of editing, printing, distribution, marketing and sales.

When a prospective agent, publisher or reader decides to Google your name, you’ll want many pages of positive articles and publicity to appear. Note I said “many pages” of positive items – not many items. That’s your goal. And to reach it, you must either hire a good publicist, which can cost thousands of dollars, or you can learn how to be your own publicist. Again, the Internet will be a huge help. After being published by the big houses a few times, you will no longer be an unknown fiction author. When you acquire a large fan base, you can then consider whether you should self-publish and keep all of the net profit from future books.

How does an unknown fiction author contract with a small traditional publishing house? First you must locate them. I devoted months to that task when my debut novel was completed. It’s painstaking work. Fortunately, almost every publisher, small or large, has a web site. Let Internet searches do the hard work. Some small publishers specialize in one or two genres. You can have Google troll the Internet on various search terms.

There are also many agencies and associations that list small publishers and literary agencies, along with contact information. Try to send proposals out to at least 10-15 small publishers per day. I had to contact over 100 small publishers in order to generate four contract offers (excluding subsidy publishers). The more you contact, the sooner you’ll have options. I’ll deal with proposal writing in a later post. You can also review some of my older posts here for proposal writing information. Believe me, creating a winning publishing proposal is very hard work. Never underestimate its importance.

In conclusion, novice fiction authors can become famous, acquire agents and land big publishing house contracts. It takes time, determination and hard work. But it can happen, if you have talent and marketable books. This is the only way to get your book into bookstores and chain store retailers, where more than half of all books are still sold. Want your book sold at Walmart and Target, in addition to Amazon and Barnes & Noble? Don’t self-publish. Find a small trade publisher. Nor can you obtain a review from any of the biggest and best review organization if you self-publish. As a long-time reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, I’m well aware of that issue. Publishers will promote your books at international book fairs, conventions and conferences, with top industry leaders; how many self-published authors can pay for that? So as a novice fiction author, there is a way to become successful. It’s with small traditional publishers. If you must pay some of the costs, it could be well worth it. Go for it!








Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE ( and PREDATORS & EDITORS ( Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.


Platform Means Everything to a Novice Author

There may one day be a time when paper books are iconic remnants of a tree-cutting past. But that time is still far away. Trade publishers will use their professional editors to make your book better. They will hire graphic designers to make your book more attractive and appealing. And they will handle e-book sales as well. So, why would you not want to share the profits with a publisher? Read on…

Traditional publishers will make sure that your print books are sold (and are returnable) by bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold – and where SP books rarely exist. This constitutes a huge and very valuable market for any author.

Being trade-published is not a decision. It is the result of talent, of books that appeal to large segments of the reading public, a compelling author platform and often a plucky and well-connected literary agent. An author with the determination to contact hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers is also a critical part of the equation. Your platform will sell your talent. And your talent will enhance your platform. All of this takes time and effort. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the process of gradually building a solid author platform seems archaic. Nevertheless, it is a road that we all must travel.

Like a job seeker uses a resume to obtain an employer interview, novice authors use their platform to gain a trade publisher. Major publishing houses are not interested in SP books, unless they come from a famous author or a celebrity. But if a trade publisher decides to publish your book, you are in like Flint. That’s right. Once you have a major publisher working to sell your book, you can use the added free time to write more books and become even more attractive to publishers or to promote your book much farther and deeper than you had imagined possible..

Google your name. If many pages (not items, but pages of items) appear with positive references about your talent as an author, then you have a solid author platform. But if only a few items appear, you’ll need to enhance your platform before you can entice a major publisher or a well-connected literary agent.

How do you enhance your platform? Keep writing. Read voraciously. Read the very best authors. The more books that you read from the greatest literary authors, the more you’ll begin to borrow their best techniques. Simultaneously, do everything possible to sell your books, to obtain positive reviews from the most credible sources and to get interviewed by the best Internet, blog, radio and TV personalities. Seek appearances as a guest on a major blog. Request interviews from the most famous Internet personalities. Appear on a radio or a regional TV program. Do some public speaking about your book. Consider book tours and signings. All of this will enhance your author platform. After considerable effort, something vastly different will appear when you Google your name. You will have become a popular author.

While SP authors spend most of their time on marketing, promotion, sales and stocking, the TP author spends much of that time writing their next books. It’s true that all authors must market. But the TP author has a professional team marketing for them, giving them more time for writing instead of promotion. But the SP author must devote virtually all free time to new marketing efforts, reducing the time and resources available for writing new books.

This process can take years, although it’s easier if you have a well-connected literary agent. But… it is possible. This is the game. Learn to play by the rules.

If you decide to SP an e-book, take a long look at Smashwords. They are a distributor and a sales platform. They sell on their own web site, but their real power lies in vast distribution networks. When you use Smashwords (which is FREE), they will distribute your book to every major retailer, including Apple (iTunes), Amazon, Baker & Taylor, B&N, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion. This constitutes the bulk of the world’s e-book retailers. And if you join Smashwords with a premium membership, they will format all of your books for every type of e-reader, tablet, smart phone and computer.

My experience teaches me that building a considerable author platform will, over time, lead to interest from agents and publishers. And while it may seem easy and attractive to SP, there are compelling reasons to TP. Keep in mind that we live in a time where only a few terrific SP books exist, surrounded by a massive widespread morass of SP crap. You can elevate yourself above the crap by creating a viable and powerful author platform. Should you take the time and effort to accomplish this, the literary work will become yours.

You can continue to SP and spend all of your time working on marketing and promotion. Or you can fabricate a compelling author platform, attract literary agents and become a famous TP author. Instead of using your time to promote and market, you may then use the extra time to write new books and further enhance your platform. After several successful books, you will no longer need to play the author game. You will have won.


25 Tips on How to Impress a Book Publisher by Cheryl Tardif

1. Understand that publishers are very busy people. We are juggling multiple authors and manuscripts, as well as promotions, events, and marketing. We have little time to spare, especially when swamped with hundreds of manuscripts, many of them sent when a publisher is closed for submissions. Showing a publisher that you understand they are busy and submitting during their open submissions time shows you respect their time.

2.Learn everything you can about the publishing company. Learn about the publisher, their authors, and the works they’ve published to ensure that you’d be a good fit. Connect with them on social networks. Share their posts and tweets. Buy some of their titles, especially in the genre in which you write.

3.Read and follow their submission guidelines. Most publishers post their guidelines on their websites. Read them carefully, and pay special attention to whether or not they have a specific time frame for submissions. Follow their guidelines! Give them exactly what they want. Be prepared to answer questions, especially regarding past sales.

4.Hook the publisher in the first sentence of your query. Just like a well-written book, your query should hook them in the first sentence. Read your first sentence, and ask yourself: “Would this make me want to know more if I were a publisher?” Ensure that you follow the Four Firsts for your manuscript.Don’t know what I’m talking about? Learn about the Four Firsts here.

5.Let your personality shine as a positive person. Don’t be afraid to show publishers who you are. Just be sure it’s someone publishers will like. Be humble, appreciative, and a team player. Don’t act like you know it all. You don’t.

6.Be open to learning. With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, successful authors must always be open to change—and to experimenting when new things come along. Show a willingness to learn and to evolve with the industry.

7.Be everywhere online! Recognize the importance of a website, blog, and social networks, and use them frequently. Even if you’re not yet published, you should have a website, a blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to your writing. Publishers will look for these.

8.Have an impressive platform in the SAME genre as the one you’re pitching. If you’ve been writing nonfiction and have a huge following there but are pitching a work of fiction, understand that the audience isn’t the same—unless there is a common theme. Example: Nonfiction books on dealing with autistic children have a specific audience of people looking for help with dealing with autistic children. A novel featuring an autistic child as the main character would then appeal to this audience.

9.Don’t rave about how awesome your book is and how it’s going to sell thousands of copies in the first week. Be humble and stick to the facts.

10.Show you understand your audience and that you know who your target audience is. Don’t pitch a book with a ten-year-old main character as a novel for adults. And don’t pitch an unpublished book as “for anyone, any age.” There are few titles that fit that description, but this is established by sales and time.

11.Don’t send the book until the publisher asks for it. Unless the publisher’s guidelines tell you to send it with the query, wait for them to ask for it.

12.Ensure your book is as error free as possible. Run a spell-check and grammar-check before sending it. And have at least one other person edit the entire work, preferably someone with actual editing skills who understands CMOS rules.

13.Know what CMOS is and understand the rules. Have a hard-cover edition on hand or sign up for the online edition. Show your knowledge of CMOS style rules in your manuscript. CMOS is the writer’s Bible.

14.Do not e-mail the publisher to ask if he/she has read your book yet. If the guidelines do not stress a time limit, ask for one when the publisher requests your manuscript.

15.Impress them with your publishing credits. If you have published other works in the same genre or type (fiction or nonfiction) as the book you want to submit, let the publisher know, and point them to your Amazon profile page.

16.Make sure you have an Amazon profile page if you have published works available on Amazon. If you have no profile page, you’ll look like someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

17.If you have won a prestigious award, mention it briefly. Ensure you know the difference between a “prestigious” award and one that means very little.

18.If you have published other works in the same genre, briefly summarize what you have done to promote them. Impress publishers with your marketing abilities and creativity.

19.Reviews are vital! Make sure you have a substantial amount of reviews on your published works, especially those in the same genre as the book your are hoping to submit. Don’t query a publisher or agent until you have 10+ reviews on the majority of your works, and an average rating of 3.5 or above stars.

20.Don’t pitch a publisher your manuscript while also pitching your services as a book cover designer, editor, marketing coach, formatter, etc. Query separately. Be professional.

21.Be editable. Your book isn’t perfect. Even if you’ve had it edited by someone else, the publisher will need to know that you’re open to being edited.

22.Don’t ask if you can supply the cover, cover description, or images for the cover. Publishers have their own creative designers.

23.Understand you have competition. Know who your competitors are and who has written works comparable to yours. Watch how they promote their works on social networks. Learn from those who are selling.

24.Make the publisher curious enough to want to ask you questions. Don’t tell them everything in your first e-mail.What you want is for the publisher to engage in conversation with you. You want to give them everything they ask for and hint at anything outside of that. For example, if a publisher doesn’t ask for sales data in their guidelines, you could mention you made a best-sellers list for two weeks in a row. Let them ask for more information. When they do, give them everything you can, including where the best-sellers list was published, what ranking you got, and total sales to date for that title.

25.Express gratitude. Be thankful for the publisher’s time and for any feedback or advice they give you. They don’t have to give you any feedback­—or their time.

Cheryl Tardif is the publisher at Imajin Books, a hybrid publishing company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is also known as Cheryl Kaye Tardif, an award-winning, international bestselling author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. She is best known for Children of the Fog, Submerged, and Whale Song. Booklist raves: “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada . . . a name to reckon with south of the border.” Check out Cheryl’s website and Imajin Books website, and connect with her on Twitter (Cheryl and Imajin Books) and Facebook (Cheryl and Imajin Books).


Writing a Winning Publishing Proposal

When I completed my debut novel, having just one trade-published non-fiction book to my name, I thought that I knew how to write a good proposal. After all, I wrote many winning business proposals when I led a university division. How hard could it be? Boy was I wrong.

I understood that there are major differences between writing a fiction proposal from a non-fiction proposal. Many acquisition editors for fiction at major publishers have mandated certain sections in the proposal. By doing this, it’s easy for them to compare apples to apples. And while it’s true that some acquisition editors at a major publishing house will accept an unsolicited proposal from an unknown author, most will only accept a proposal from a trusted literary agent. Even if you don’t have an agent yet, you can learn how to write the best possible submission proposal.

Most importantly, by reading this article, you’ll be able to wow small, independent publishers. Unless you’ve been trade-published several times or you have a very significant author platform, you will be considered a novice (unknown) author. Small publishing houses are inundated daily with proposals from unknown or never-before published authors. They are used to receiving terrible proposals from those who have never learned how to craft one. To get your proposal moved to the top of the stack, please pay attention.

Most novice and unrepresented authors are unaware of the many unique requirements for author proposal submissions. These go way beyond the meager “submission requirements” listed on the publisher’s web site. A winning fiction proposal can easily be 40-50 pages. Why? Because the publisher wants you, the author, to compare and contrast your book with the best ever written in your genre and to convince the publisher why they should invest several thousand dollars on your book’s future. The best book ever written will never be printed unless the author comprehends how to write a proposal that meets the publisher’s expectations. It took about twelve years of research, trial and error and coaching by my agent to produce what you are about to read.

A book publishing proposal is NOT a synopsis. A synopsis is one small part of a winning proposal. There are nine other recommended parts. But first, let’s start with who will receive your proposal. This target is called an acquisition editor. If she or he loves your proposal, they will take up to the next level – the acquisition team.

For now, let’s focus on the acquisition editor. If you cannot satisfy her or his very specific needs, you’ll be rejected. This editor’s job is to reject virtually all of the proposals received. This includes poorly written proposals, proposals for books outside of their needs or genre, almost all unsolicited proposals and entire manuscripts sent without a good proposal.

A precious few proposals are kept and all the others go in the virtual garbage can (picture a toilet somewhere in the virtual cloud). The purpose of this article is to make sure that your proposal reaches the right editor and remains among those precious few that move to the next stage – the “acquisition team.” It takes just about a miracle to get there. But since it happened to me, I’m reassessing that “miracle” moniker.

My agent loved my first novel, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story. In a matter of months, she had it republished by Texas Tech University Press! After that, I produced four new books in just about three years. Then, my agent and I wrestled with proposal details. I stopped resisting when I realized that my agent knew everything about the publishing industry and I knew less than nothing. She, by being utterly, completely and absolutely demanding and detail-oriented, forced me to comprehend the miniscule details of each section of the proposal. She forced me to write, rewrite, alter, change and fabricate proposals, which turned out to be the best way to learn and guarantee that my future proposals would be much improved.

So, let’s begin.


Use 16-point font for headings and use 12 pt. font for everything else. Use one of the most common fonts. Never use a font that you believe is cute, inspiring, creative, unique or expresses your personality. How would you feel if an acquisition editor at a major publisher stopped reading your proposal because she or he had a mental breakdown after the army of emojis around your page gave her a conniption? That’s not how to get published. It’s how to get your proposal dumped.

Use line spacing at 1.5 with no extra paragraph spacing; but you may use a paragraph indent. Never use shading, highlighting, strikethrough or any color other than black. Links may be blue, or identified plainly by color and underline. On sample chapters, resort to formatting from the manuscript (for publishing).


By the time we’re done here, you’ll understand that the average winning book publishing proposal is around 35 to 45 PAGES. That’s correct. It’s not a typo. And that’s only the average.

I recently submitted a proposal for a 27-page children’s book. The proposal was 52 pages. Again, no typo. That should tell you how complex the winning proposal is.

Cover Page:

The cover page should only contain the title of your book, your name, your editor’s name and the copyright. If you have a literary agent, that person’s name, plus the name and address of the agency should appear near the bottom of the cover page. Format “center” for all cover page lines.

Table of Contents:

This page must list every chapter title, along with its current page number. You must also format this page electronically so that when an acquisition editor clicks on each chapter title in the Table of Contents, they are automatically transported via bookmark to the matching page in the proposal body. Use the same electronic formatting for the table of contents in the manuscript. This can be found under the “Insert” command line typically at the top of each page in your word processing software. For more information about how to format the table of contents with bookmarks that send each chapter title to the appropriate page in the manuscript and proposal, see

Section 1: Synopsis

The synopsis is a one-page description of your book. This is an exercise in being very, very concise. You may need to rewrite this section a few times. Describe only the protagonists, the plot and skip the ending. With fiction, you want the acquisition editor to become interested in the story, not to know how it ends.

Section 2: Overview

This section should be one to three pages. Here, you delve more deeply into characteristics of the protagonists, plot, background, twists and turns and why readers will enjoy it. This can also be a place to introduce romantic involvements. Once more, don’t give up the end.

Section 3: About the Author

In no more than one page, describe (with links to appropriate web sites) the veracity of your career as an author. This constitutes the sum total of your fiction author platform.

List all published books, including self-published books, non-fiction books, published articles and all writing awards. Do not list vanity-published books. They will degrade your value as an author. This is, arguably, the singular place to brag about yourself, so list your entire author platform, including everything you have published.

You may also list life and career accomplishments, such as having your biography at Wikipedia, or newspaper, magazine and journal articles about you. You may list degrees obtained, educational awards and recognition, appearances on TV, radio, podcasts, blogs, etc. For example, in addition to describing my books, I also listed links about my appearances on local television news as a university expert. It could bear upon my ability to appear on TV or to give speeches about books? This is the only section where it’s appropriate to enhance your character with germane material. But please try to use positive platform material that show you know how to market and promote your books. In this age of austerity, publishers want authors who can increase sales on their own.

Section 4: Praise for Prior Books

This is where you list, in no more than two pages, positive reviews for your prior books, with links to their locations on the Internet. This is a critical section because it allows you to prove your credibility via important people, places and sources. Begin by listing your most critically acclaimed reviews, word for word, from the most compelling sources anywhere around the world. Think of the most persuasive voices in your genre. For example, my debut novel is about young Jewish lovers who find a way to survive the Holocaust. My best reviews come from organizations like The Historical Novel Society, Jewish Book World, the Association of Jewish Libraries, Holocaust Centers and museums around the world, etc. Yes, you may list reviews from readers or other authors. But a positive reviews from major genre organizations, newspapers, magazines and international journals count for much more with major publishers. In fact, they expect it.

Chapter by Chapter Outline:

This is likely the most difficult section to compose. Here, you must list each chapter, followed by a very succinct explanation of the chapter amounting to no more than three or four short paragraphs. This is indeed a challenge for even the best authors. You’ll want to write page after page describing how thrilling, moving and evocative each chapter is. But you have only a few paragraphs – not pages. You also may not skip ANY chapter, even short ones. This is absolutely the worst place to become wordy. Brevity is the operative word here. You’ll write, rewrite and rewrite again. And it still won’t be sufficient. Take your time with this section. It’s very critical.

Section 6: Sample Chapters

Easily the easiest part of writing a book submission proposal is the “Sample Chapters.” For each proposal, research the publisher’s web site to determine how many sample chapters they each prefer. It’s typically two or three chapters. Lacking such individualized information, include your first three chapters. Just cut and paste. If only every section was this easy (sigh)!

Section 7: Market Analysis

This section requires the author to write a very detailed analysis of market conditions for your genre and sub-genre. In two or three pages, describe the current market conditions for your book’s genre. For example, if it’s science fiction, you should do enough research to write several cogent paragraphs about the state of the sci-fi genre, including sales figures, Amazon rankings, best-sellers, trends, which type of sci-fi is expected to increase sales and by how much over a given period, etc.

You might be amazed to discover how simple this is with something as viable as a detailed Google search. Complete the section by describing how your book is well suited to the portion of the sci-fi market expected by industry experts to have an increased following. Be sure to add any appropriate tables, charts or diagrams to support your conclusions. This will obviously necessitate some significant research on your part. But acquisition editors live within these facts and figures. They will expect you to understand them and precisely demonstrate with culled data how your book’s predicted sales are accounted for. It’s not fun, but if you really, really want to be published, you’ll do this.

Section 8: Competitive Analysis

Here, within about two pages, you compare and contrast your book with some best-selling books in the genre and sub-genre. In this section, you should tell the publisher’s editor what makes the best books in your genre wonderful and how your book has what it takes. Why do people buy these books? What makes them attractive to a percentage of the market? What did the best authors do that made their books more successful? Describe the target audience. What makes these books attractive to them? In what way? What characteristics make these books successful? How do these readers decide what to purchase? How does your book meet these requirements? How can you make your existing readership discover your new book,, develop interest in it and deliver swift sales. It’s akso in part a psychological analysis of the target reader.

Section 9: Comparative Analysis

This section is very crucial to your success with a publisher’s acquisition team. Here, you will compare and contrast your book with the very best books of the same genre throughout history. Once more, you’ll devote critical time to research. Fortunately, most of it can be accomplished on the Internet. Consider the very best books and authors in your genre. Research them. Ascertain their current Amazon sales rankings. What makes these books forever welcomed and positively reviewed by the most compelling sources in the industry? Read reviews by the best of literature, not dime-a-day review organization (even the famous ones) or paid reviews. How did the authors capture their audience? What made the stories haunting and the characters unforgettable? How did the tale capture readers? How did the famous author maintain a balance of action with dialog? In which ways did protagonists interact with other characters to make for a wonderful, penetrating story? Which awards did the books and authors win? Why? Describe the best features of these books. Then describe how your book uses similar techniques for characters, background information, dialog, timelines and outcomes. Describe what you’ve learned and how you used it to make your book better.

Section 10: Promotion/Marketing Strategies

In this deeply critical section, describe exactly how your book will be marketed and promoted. Remember, publishers have recently been ripped financially. These cash-strapped organizations have had to part with many valued staff. The result is this: 1) If you win at this game, you’ll get a book printed. 2) You’ll get no promotional budget or marketing help. You’ll have to wing it on your own! And 3), you might get part or all of your advance, but don’t count on your publisher sending you to Hawaii for a trade conference. Seriously, even big publishers today do little marketing. They’re lucky to make payroll. So, it’s best to learn everything there is to know about how to market and promote your book. You will find some help about that very subject elsewhere in this blog.

Marketing includes things like websites, blogs, teaser ads, catalog marketing, email and fax blasts, press releases, book tours and signings, public speaking, social media marketing, media appearances and interviews, representation at key international book fairs (if you’re rich or require a tax deduction).

Describe how you are willing to attend industry conferences. Tell the publisher that you are willing to market with newspaper ads, journals and magazines, plus radio and television spots and advanced social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Google, etc.). Be sure to add how you, the author, will write and publish articles to promote the book, enhancing an already-established author platform. List any and all of your published author interviews, book video trailers, teaser ads on the Internet, newspaper, magazine or journal articles, bookstore signings, television, podcast or radio presentations and other marketing events created or sponsored by independent Internet professionals and bloggers. List every marketing or promotional activity you’ve established on your own or paid to have created on your behalf. The worst thing you can do here is to let the publisher know that you have no expertise in book marketing. If they get that impression, you’ll be dropped like a hot coal.

Of course, offering to do all of these things doesn’t mean that you can afford to pay for them. Nor should you. But asking them for money up front might not be the best idea either.  Based upon the previous paragraphs, at least they’ll know that you understand what needs to be done in terms of marketing and promotion. Many of your competitors won’t or they simply have never done these things before. Stand out from the crowd by making sure that your publisher can see your prior video trailers, local TV and radio presentations and newspaper and journal articles written about you by adding valid Internet links. Feel free to list many different URLs that prove you’ve done it before or that you comprehend the needs of marketing.

I hope that you’ll find this information about creating a successful book publishing proposal for fiction useful. And I sincerely hope that you’ll be able to incorporate some of these concepts into your next submission. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at Good luck!

88 Names – a Book Review

88 Names: A Novel

by Matt Ruff


March 17, 2020

ISBN-10: 0062854674

ISBN-13: 978-0062854674

ASIN: B07T6938D1

302 pages

Contact: Rachel Elinsky, Director of Publicity


Paranormal and urban fantasy, Science fiction adventures, Technothrillers

I find this book quite entertaining. It is literally a page-turner and a very successful who done-it. This leads to a very enjoyable ending”

Author Matt Ruff follows in the footsteps of Earnest Cline (Ready Player One) in delivering a vivid depiction of the future, based upon exciting adventures in immersive virtual reality (VR). Here, fantasy meets reality in a very imperturbable and frightening glimpse of tomorrow’s digital entertainment. The reader also perceives how VR can be twisted into acts of mental abduction, criminal persuasion and insensitive acts of self-gratification.

John Chu is a “Sherpa.” That means he illegally guides paid customers through online role-playing games. For a fee, Chu will create a character for you, arm it to the teeth and guide you on a dragon-slaying adventure, into a fearsome space battle, or to fight thousands of zombies in a dystopian future.

John’s most recent high-rolling customer is “Mr. Jones.” The ubiquitous Mr. Jones claims to be a very wealthy celebrity who wishes to have a “tour” deep into the land of VR games. Chu suspects that “Jones” is really Kim Jung Un, the ruthless dictator of North Korea.

Additional important characters include: “Ms. Pang,” who appears as a beautiful and wealthy agent of China’s intelligence community. Her goal is to stop Mr. Jones from achieving his purpose, whatever the cost. And there is “Darla” who is Chu’s eternally angry girlfriend. She and Chu engage in VR adult activity, using their avatars. But they never see each other in real life. So, who really is Darla?  One final character is Chu’s mother, a cold, calculating, but brilliant intelligence officer for the US government. She assists her son in identifying potential terrorists, including Mr. Jones.

A common, yet unspoken theme in this novel is the cumulative effect of complete disengagement from the real world with immersive VR, and how it affects the real people behind the avatar. For those with a vulnerable personality, this type of VR can establish a psychological and social disability. In the world of psychology, this is called dissociative identity disorder.

Some individuals, even today play VR endlessly. Here, most characters exist only in avatar form. Disengagement does not exist. Only at the very end do we see, but not participate with, the real characters minus the avatar. There’s a lot to explore. Yet it ends there. Was any character contaminated by dissociative identity disorder? Let’s hope that the author decides to write a sequel and devotes much of it to the relationships between the avatars and the real people masquerading inside them.

The general atmosphere and primary characters of this story are thorough and quite well-described. There is plenty of deception and trickery in the plot. Secondary character development, on the other hand, is a little vague. Chu and Darla are protagonists and are quite well described. But the other members of Chu’s team, including his mother, are not as well delineated. Behind this world of avatars are real people, steering their selected avatar through another life with VR games. Yet, we almost never realize who these people are in real life. Granted, it is time-consuming to develop two versions of each secondary character. The author risks losing readers who feel that such depth of description overloads comprehension.

On the whole, I find this book quite entertaining. It is literally a page-turner and a very successful who done-it. In real life, avatar drivers are not what their avatar suggests. The real person behind the avatar may not be the same gender, race, appearance, age or have the psychological characteristics of the avatar. This leads to a very enjoyable ending.

Charles S. Weinblatt was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1952. He is a retired university administrator. Mr. Weinblatt is the author of published fiction and nonfiction, including the popular historical fiction novel, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, and Academic Wikipedia.

Anyone – a Book Review


by Charles Soule

Harper Perennial

December 3, 2019

ISBN-10: 0062890638

ISBN-13: 978-0062890634


432 pages

Supernatural Thrillers, Humorous Science Fiction, Women’s Adventure Fiction

Anyone is a powerful thrill ride; spellbinding, breathtaking and thoughtful. Soule pushes boundaries, carrying the reader on an intense, breakneck ride into a future stained by human vanity, weakness and desire.”

Charles Soule hit the target with his debut novel, The Oracle Year: A Novel (see New York Journal of Books review He is a very imaginative and resourceful author. In his second novel, Anyone, Soule again delivers thrilling speculative fiction in a fast-paced exciting novel, even more inventive, boundary-crashing and exciting.

Soule bursts off the page with a thrilling story about what occurs when a human mind can be transplanted into another person’s brain. This exciting novel presents the exploits of two protagonists. One is Gabrielle White, a talented Michigan neuroscientist on contract with a soulless Detroit business magnate, Gary Hendricks, to discover an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. Gabby has run out of funding for her Alzheimer’s drug. In a final desperate attempt to discover the cure with her expensive equipment, she accidentally stumbles into a mind transfer with her husband, Paul. Exploding from a barn in Ann Arbor comes a monumental world-changing process that alters civilization permanently. It’s soon called, flash.

Simultaneously, we travel twenty-five years into the future, into the life of our second protagonist, a woman skilled in martial arts named Annami. She has one single-minded pursuit in life – to get even with Hendricks, who took Gabby’s discovery and bastardized it into the machine called “flash” that will transfer anyone’s mind into that of others willing to allow it, and for any felonious pursuit.

Government regulations give rise to a black market for flash, called “darkshare.” Here, any anonymous individual may take over the body and mind of anyone else for any purpose. This becomes a useful vessel for prostitution, robbery and a variety of other criminal pursuits. In this land of ill-repute, Annami allows people to “rent” her mind in a desperate attempt to earn enough money to buy a few minutes of time in a celebrity’s body during a famous auction. She is frantic to expose Hendricks and his malicious company called, “Anyone,” that has spread darkshare over the planet, changing the world in a malicious way forever.

From chapter to chapter, Soule interweaves this tale of two women. Gabby is desperate to regain control over her discovery which will certainly change the world for both good and evil purposes. Annami will do everything to find the man who stole and bastardized flash into darkshare. She recognizes that the same technology that can cure many of humanity’s ills, is also being corrupted by darkshare, consuming the narcissism of humans and their desire to live and look like celebrities. It also allows criminals to commit vast crimes while “renting” someone’s body.

The wealthiest individuals around the world are allowed to continue traveling into other bodies and minds, constantly escaping death. In this way, they fabricate criminal organizations that are almost impossible to track. In return for everlasting life, these people are beholden to Hendricks and Anyone, as they are forced to perpetrate crime on his behalf. Annami will not stop until she can tell the world about the evil of Anyone, darkshare and its owner, Gary Hendricks.

Anyone is a powerful thrill ride; spellbinding, breathtaking and thoughtful. Soule pushes boundaries, carrying the reader on an intense, breakneck ride into a future stained by human vanity, weakness and desire. For the first time, machines can place anyone into the mind and body of anyone else, whether they are willing or not. This terrifying future explodes into the reader’s mind, building through each chapter into a thrilling ending. There is a tremendous mystery in this book as well, which bursts upon the reader at the conclusion.

Charles S. Weinblatt was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1952. He is a retired university administrator. Mr. Weinblatt is the author of published fiction and nonfiction. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, and Academic Wikipedia.


By Guest Author, Charles S. Weinblatt

What marketing tasks must you accomplish as the author?

Because of the changing nature of the publishing world and the revolution in electronic book purchasing, your book must be known throughout the digital world. This is where the author must work hard for success.

Viral marketing ideas:

Viral marketing is any way that your words, books, articles, video trailers and blogs continue to spread positive information on their own, accelerating electronically through the Internet. It sounds difficult. In reality, it is simple and free. Your investment is only time.

Contact newspapers, magazines and blogs to solicit articles about you and reviews for your book. Reach out to local bookstores to arrange signings. Seek opportunities to sell books through local organizations. Institutional sales often include repeat sales, such as with schools, encyclopedias and libraries.

One of the fastest ways to solicit sales is via media. Positive reviews sell books, so contact regional and international newspapers, journals, tv stations, radio, libraries, schools, magazines and book clubs. When you encounter interest, send them a review copy.

Use effective KEY WORDS, enabling search engines to help readers find your book. Test your key words often for accuracy. Modify them as necessary.
Identify local people, places and organizations relevant to your book or your potential readers. Contact them and ask if you can give a presentation or obtain a review.

E-mail marketing is inexpensive and fast. Your sales pitch must grab the reader’s interest swiftly. Construct a cover page that is informative, has embedded links to your book landing pages, trailers and retailers.

Website marketing:

Anyone can create a free landing page for his or her book. Visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, BlogSpot, LinkedIn, Instagram,, Goodreads, and Facebook; begin building your site.


Blog about anything of interest to you, or any particular expertise you have acquired. Use sidebar widgets and hyperlinks.

Comment on other people’s blogs and social media platforms. It vastly increases your book’s visibility. When you comment online, you have an opportunity to offer a useful contribution and you can sign your name with “Author of…” underneath.

Use Google for marketing opportunities:

Use a feature called “Google Alerts” to generate leads Simply go here, where you can program Google to troll the Internet for every item relevant to your book, or to you as an author. You’ll also be able to measure the value of e-marketing.

Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions.

Write and publish articles:

Anyone can write articles and have them published on the Internet. What is your expertise? What’s your book about? Tie them together and write articles. Try TRCBEzineand Blogger and LinkedIn. Join relevant groups. Note that hyperlinks are vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses.

Social networking:

Join as many social networking sites as possible. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, You Tube, WeChat, Tumblr, Skype, Snap Chat, Google+, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Instagram, Goodreads, etc. Make your book known. Be sure to create a Facebook fan page.


Amazon is not only a place to sell your book. Amazon’s “filedby” includes an author biography where you can post relevant information. Each content section has forums. You will instantly have the potential to reach thousands of readers.


The world of book marketing is undergoing considerable change. People who formerly purchased at bookstores now buy on the Internet, which is filled with websites, blogs and social networking locations that can be used to attract the public to your book.

The author can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign, right from their own computer – and it is cost free.

Marketing your book successfully is time consuming and frustrating. Remember that in fiction, the quality of your author platform means everything. Implement your own marketing plan with websites, blogs, a Facebook fan page, regular Twitter posts and e-mail. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be. For additional information, see Book Marketing 101.



Hometown Guest Author Headshot

Charles S. Weinblatt writes novels and short stories, has published many articles as a contributing journalist for The Examiner and he is a prolific book reviewer for New York Journal of Books.

He retired from the University of Toledo as Director of Organization Development & Corporate Services in 2004 and published the popular 2007 historical fiction novel, Jacob’s Courage.

His biography appears in Wikipedia and the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.


Becky is the founder and CEO of Weaving Influence, the founder of Hometown Reads, and a champion of the #ReadLocal Movement.



We invite you to be the first to leave a comment!





 By Using This Form You Agree With The Storage And Handling Of Your Data By This Website. *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




Historical Novel Society, 2018: “This is one of my favorite books this year.”

Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story


In Austria in 1939, young Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are in love. Jacob plans to go on to college. Then tragedy strikes as Hitler’s army invades Austria. All the Jews are forced to live in a decrepit ghetto. Soon they are sent on to a concentration camp, where Jacob and Rachael secretly marry. They are able to escape, join partisans, and fight the Nazis. They become separated during an attack on a German train, and Jacob is again captured by the Germans. The partisan leader falls in love with Rachael and tries to protect both her and her unborn child until she can be reunited with Jacob.

This is a magnificent, gripping novel of breathtaking courage under extreme circumstances. Subtitled “a Holocaust love story” because of the relationship between Jacob and Rachael, the novel describes the considerable cruelties and inhuman behavior caused by the Nazis and experienced by the Jewish people in Eastern Europe during the war. The author places readers into the thick of it. You will share the pain and grief of this young Jewish couple as they are forced into imprisonment, as their friends and families are killed. The story is immensely readable, although the book is quite long. This is one of my favorite books this year.

Interview with Australian Author/Novelist Sara Ridley

   Sara Ridley

CW: Tell us about yourself.

SR: My name is Sara Ridley and I live in a small outback town in remote Australia. I have self-published four novels and own a blog, Life Of A Storyteller (, dedicated to helping aspiring authors write, publish and market their novels. When I am not typing away at my computer, I have my head in a book or am trying to come up with new theories for Game of Thrones.

CW: When and why did you start writing?

SR: Since the age of 12, I always knew I wanted to become a writer. It wasn’t until I asked my Grandmother if I could write her life story did that become a reality. I started researching her life in 2013, and two years later self-published her story for the world to read. As a sufferer of onset dementia, I wanted her to always be able to remember the life she lived. That is why I wrote the novel.

CW: Give us an overview of your books. Which one is your favorite? Why?

SR: Since 2015, I have self-published four novels. The first is a memoir centered on the life of my Grandmother during WWll called ‘Unspoken Words.’ The second is a coming of age romance novel centered on real life aspects and people called ‘Boy.Girl.You.’ The last two are informational and teaching novels at Life Of A Storyteller called ‘How to Write a Strong Novel: The 9 Key Pillars to Focus on’ and ‘The Novel Planning Blueprint: An Every Day Planner for Writers.’

My favourite novel out of the four is ‘Unspoken Words.’ It was such an incredible experience to work alongside my Grandmother and discover her life story and be able to tell that story to her friends, family, and those who are interested in reading the novel. 

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration?

SR: There have been many people who have influenced my writing career since it begun. My main inspiration for writing comes from my Mum. Growing up in a remote outback town leaves you with limited opportunities to spread your wings. A lot of people believed I was simply a dreamer, that becoming a writer was unrealistic.

It was my Mum who inspired me and told me that I could be anything I want. That society’s expectations of who I had to become shouldn’t hold me back. I took her advice, and if I hadn’t listened to her all those years ago I wouldn’t be where I am today.

CW: Who are your favorite authors? Why?

SR: I am a fantasy geek, so naturally speaking my favourite authors are those who write in the fantasy genre. Each author for me brings something special to the table. My favourite authors include George R.R. Martin for his use of dialogue and character building, J. R.R. Tolkien for his world building, Patrick Rothfuss for his unbelievable descriptive writing, and J.K. Rowling for her storytelling.

CW: Do you have a favorite genre? If so, what do you enjoy most about it?

SR: My favourite genre is fantasy. What I enjoy the most about this genre is that it has the ability to transport you from your reality into a fictitious world of pure imagination. A world, whether good or bad, that creates magic.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge?

SR: My greatest challenge as a writer has been acceptance. I come from a small mining town that can place certain expectations on what you are to become once you leave school, such as a nurse or a hairdresser. I was never one to follow the rules of society and realized that I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than my dreams.

When I told people I was writing a novel, some were supportive or interested. However, the majority didn’t understand why I would waste my time on something that wouldn’t be a lifelong job. Building myself as a respected writer and gaining that acceptance has been challenging, yet rewarding. I didn’t cheat my way around the bend, I earned their acceptance.

CW: What kind of characters do you create? Why?

SR: I have always believed that the best type of characters are those that the reader can relate to. Characters should be flawed, have both strengths and weaknesses, contain real life aspects, have internal struggles, afflictions, and so on. In life, we are not perfect. Your characters shouldn’t be either, and that is the sort of character I like to write in all of my novels.

CW: Do you write from an outline, or do you simply write whatever enters your mind?

SR: I have always found that when I have a basic blueprint in front of me it is easier to write the story. It acts as a roadmap that guides my writing, characters, and plot. Another thing I like to do before sitting down to write my story is to create an outline for each of my main and secondary characters. A lot of the time writers tend to focus more on their plot than their characters. Every time I read a story it is the characters I connect with, and that is why I believe it is important to focus on them as well.

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)?

SR: With each novel that I write, there is an underlying message within them. Each message is symbolic to that novel, however, I believe in each of my novels I try to inspire hope. Fear is such a strong emotion us humans have in us, whether it be a fear of moving forward in our lives, fear of falling in love, fear of writing a novel, for instance. As President Snow states in the Hunger Games, ‘the only thing stronger than fear is hope.’ With a little hope, I believe we can move mountains.

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie?

SR: Currently, I have no plans on turning my published novels into a play or movie. Does that mean I don’t think about what it would be like to see my novels on the big screen or what actors would play my characters? Not at all. One day I would like to see my novels on the big screen but for now, I appreciate them in the format of a novel.

CW: Do you have an agent? If so, describe your agent’s value.

SR: I do not have an agent. When self-publishing my first novel I contemplated on getting an agent or someone that could help me along the way. I chose not to, however, because it was something I felt I needed to do myself. Writing my first novel was such a personal journey of discovery that I felt I had to be the one to step over the finish line. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t seek help, but it was something I wanted to learn for myself so I could, in turn, help others just like me. That is why I started Life Of A Storyteller.

CW: What’s next for you as an author?

SR: As they say, the world is our oyster! I am currently working on a fantasy series that has been in the works for almost two years. I have no plans on releasing that anytime soon as I am still in the world building stage, however, would like to see it traditionally published in the coming years. I do, however, plan on helping as many writers as I can publish their novels, whether that be self-publishing or traditional publishing.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent?

SR: At first, I did try to get my first novel, ‘Unspoken Words’ traditionally published but had no luck. I received rejection letter after rejection letter. I was, of course, discouraged by this as any author would be. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands and try self-publishing. It has honestly been the best thing I have ever done. Not only did I get my novel out there to the world, but I had complete control over it. Because of this, I decided to self-publish my next three novels. I would, however, eventually like to see one of my novels get traditionally published and see what that side of the industry has to offer.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process or being published?

SR: Writing a novel isn’t an easy task. It can be extremely overwhelming and lonely. My advice to you is, during both the writing and publishing process, join writing communities that can encourage and support you along your journey. Not only will you create friends, but you will be able to gain help, advice, and resources from your fellow writers. Another bit of advice I have for you is to just have fun. Don’t think about how many copies you will sell or how much money you will make. Think about the people you are inspiring through your words, and the lives you will impact.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books?  What works well? What doesn’t?

SR: I market myself and my books through my blog, Life Of A Storyteller. I recommend that every author should have a platform where they can market their novels, talk about themselves and the writing process, and update their community of readers on what is happening with you next.

By having a blog, it is a lot easier to control your marketing process as well. You can link your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, etc up to your blog and drive your readers to the one place. For me, this has resulted in more sales and a tighter reading community. At Life Of A Storyteller, I also offer insight into how to start up a blog, manage it, and promote it to the online world.

CW: Where can someone buy your books?

SR: If you are interested in checking out my novels, you can find more information about them and where to purchase at this link:

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say?

SR: ‘Never give up searching for your dreams, because one day they can become your reality.’

Book Publishing Blunders of First Time Authors

Author, book publishing expert, and coach Judith Briles (AKA The Book Shepherd) joined our February #BBchat Twitter Chat to discuss book publishing blunders of first-time authors.

Judith Briles is an innovative and creative writing coach, book coach, and how-to-get-published expert who can assist you with your book and publishing project. As The Book Shepherd, she has mentored up-and-coming authors and publishers for years and dedicated untold hours to educating others to the pitfalls, and joys, of the publishing world. In 2009, she created AuthorU(niversity), a membership organization designed for serious authors who want to be seriously successful.

If you’d like to be notified about future BookBaby Twitter chats, subscribe to our Facebook events. To view the entire chat transcript, visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.

In your coaching experience, what kinds of writers typically need the most help with crafting a professional manuscript?

Authors need to let their egos step aside. I’m here to help make their work even better. I want “your voice” intact, so editing – getting the right one for your book will be at the top of the list – then design comes into play. Finding the right editor is key: understand that if I gave the same 10 pages to 20 different editors, they will all have different suggestions and takes. Ask for a sample, give him/her a chapter to see what they do and if it “feels” right (their suggestions are good and make sense). There are children’s editors, YA editors, nonfiction, fiction – then there are subs. But the real editor question is, do you need content/development or just copy editing? Then after the book is laid out, it should get what I call a “cold eye” edit.

Every book needs a plan – how do you find and set reasonable goals and deadlines?

Plans are essential. Yours should start with exactly WHO are you writing for. Authors need to know their target market, but few do. You need to know their fears, hopes, concerns, and what are their problems – this is for both fiction and nonfiction. Plans contain what social media will be used and what marketing will be focused on. And book marketing should start pre-publishing.

Are there any common essentials every first-time author should include in their book to reach success?

As The Book Shepherd, I act as the project manager. I do do content editing, but I also bring in the cover and interior designer and I start brainstorming covers and branding. I coordinate eBook, audiobook, and the game plan for marketing. In some cases, I help with setting up Amazon, social media, and working with the author’s website. In other words, launching the author and the book.

What design elements should writers incorporate into their book to keep readers engaged?

I love book design, for both fiction and nonfiction. Make the interior interesting and engaging; use a piece or theme from the cover and drop it in. It’s a nice set-up for the reader. Book interiors need white “space” and maybe an illustration to engage the reader. In the interior, customize. Create pullouts/callouts. Open your chapters with your quotes, maybe an “aha!” moment from the chapter. I think it’s important for all authors to understand that book publishing is a business.

When planning a book launch, how far out should you start marketing before the release date?

Launch date time plans can start months in advance. Get ready, build the audience, offer goodies, create a contest, etc. Think of your book launch and marketing in waves. Create a spreadsheet of activities/events that you can do to support and build up

Should writers spend more of their time building a social media following or growing their email list?

Social media and emails go hand-in-hand. Let’s start with email. You must have a website. Create an “opt-in” to gather email addresses. Websites do three things: build trust with visitor, deliver content, and gather names/emails. With an opt-in, you get the emails. On my website,, I give a 24-page PDF on eight publishing essentials – free. The first time I posted it, I got 1,800 new names. I like Twitter best, it’s fast and punchy, which fits my style. Find your style. On of the best ways to build fans/followers is to create quotes – why not yours? – or share others. Use Canva or PicMonkey to gussy them up. They get shared plenty and you build your author platform at the same time.

Do you recommend any tools or resources for staying on track to first-time authors?

One of my personal keepers to stay on track: DON’T do what I have no business doing. Think about it. The other is: If I never say NO, my YESES become worthless. We authors get pulled in multiple directions. We have to say no sometimes. Also use a social media management tool. I use Hootsuite, and there are others. The goal is to multi-task here, otherwise, social media is a time suck.

Guest questions

So, Judith, what is THE WORST mistake?
Oh my… let me count the ways. Let’s start with bypassing editing. People actually do that? Too many authors think they can do a DYI or have their mom, sister, or a school teacher do it. NO.

What is a reasonable amount of time for editing your book?
Editing time depends. In content/development, it may take a few months; if its 100,000 words, it’s going take more time (in most cases). Get an estimate from the editor. My cold eye editing is less than a week; I plan on two weeks for most nonfiction; fiction takes longer as a rule; children’s book are quite fast.

Once you have your book edited and cover designed, how do you develop a marketing plan?
Ideally, marketing plans should start early. They start with knowing your competitors in the genre and knowing your target market. Determine which social media platforms are right and set one or two up, then build from there.

What about marketing low-tech? There are some who don’t do social media, Kindle, want only hard copy books, etc.
It takes time now, start with baby steps here. With that said, use your mouth to sell books. Start speaking. My personal record after a talk was 566 books in three hours.

Are there good templates for marketing plans? Something I could edit to my needs?
There are “common” things, but most marketing should have two parts: 1) What are author/book competitors doing? 2) What social media are they doing? Then mimic the best, don’t reinvent the wheel. If the competing author is using Twitter, for example, then follow him/her, THEN start following followers. You will build fast. The best question to ask is, “How long do you want book sales?” Then you know how long you have to market your books. What’s good about the self-publishing/indie markets is that you can repurpose books and relaunch them. Don’t roll print, eBook, and audio at same time. Come back to the party and do another announcement and support each separately.

What’s the best way to get people to review your book?
It’s always good to have someone outside of friends and family do a review. Here’s my #1: have readers of your genre review your book.

What are other common mistakes?
Too many authors rush to publish. Breathe and learn the biz. Commit to consistent updates.

Can you speak to e-publishing short stories / novellas / novelettes? (Kindle Direct). What’s the price point there?
Shorts are hot. Short books and stories are the new black. Do them and for all, think “repurpose” of existing books.

What marketing mistakes should authors avoid making?
Getting sucked into elaborate plans that cost lots of money. Again, who is your target market? Where do they hang out? What social media are they on? Then focus there. If you are a speaker, or plan to be, DRILL into the industry that’s your expertise and claim it. Problems are your BEST friends, because you have answers and solutions. It’s how I sold over one million books in healthcare.

Can you use your blog to promote or does it need to be a separate website?
You should absolutely use your blog to promote, and you should keep on your website. With each new post, blast it out on your social media channels.

Is it worth the investment to create an audiobook version of a print book – do you see authors getting an ROI?
Audiobooks are HOT. I say yes indeed, and there are ways to spend lots of $$$ and ways to do it for little. Richard Rieman’s The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation is a great info/how-to guide. (Disclaimer, I was his book shepherd.)

Thank you ALL! I do free coaching every MONDAY at 12 ET. Info on


Announcing the New “Jacob’s Courage,” Republished by Texas Tech University Press

In 1939, seventeen-year-old Austrians Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are bright, talented, and deeply in love. Because they are Jews, their families lose everything: their jobs, possessions, money, contact with loved ones, and finally their liberty. Jacob and Rachael and their families are removed from their comfortable Austrian homes into a decrepit ghetto where they are forced to live in squalor. From there, the families are sent to the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt, where Rachael and Jacob secretly become man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape through a harrowing tunnel and join local partisans to fight the Nazis. Ride the fetid train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where only slavery, sickness, brutality, and death await. Stung by the death of loved ones, enslaved and starved, the young lovers have nothing to count on but faith, love, and courage. 

Jacob’s Courage is available in print at Amazon with Texas Tech University Press here.  It’s also available as an e-book ($4.95) at Amazon. It’s also available as an e-book with Smashwords and many other fine e-book retailers, including Apple (iTunes), Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, Scrollmotion and many other retailers.

How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders

Reprinted with permission from Smashwords:

If you’re planning to publish a book in the next 12 months, this post will teach you how to use ebook preorders to reach more readers.  You’ll learn why an ebook preorder is an ESSENTIAL component of every successful book launch.

Two years ago Smashwords announced preorder distribution to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. At the time, I promised that ebook preorders would help our authors sell more books.  This has proven true.

Books born as preorders sell significantly more copies than books that are simply uploaded the day of release.

I recently analyzed 12 months of Smashwords sales data in preparation for the upcoming release of my annual 2015 Smashwords Survey.  Here’s a quick sneak peek preview of what we found:

  • 7 of our top 10 bestsellers were born as preorders
  • 67% of our top 200 bestsellers were born as preorders
  • Of our top 200 bestselling preorders, 81% were supplied by romance authors
  • Books born as preorders represented only 9.8% of the books released at Smashwords during this 12-month Survey period

So there you have it.  A small fraction of our titles were released as preorders, yet those titles absolutely dominated the bestseller lists.

The good news is that preorders work like magic.  Preorders are the single most powerful book launch tool today.  The bad news is that most authors aren’t doing preorders yet.  Let’s fix that starting today.  I’ll teach you how to make preorders work for your next book release.

I think the reason most Smashwords authors haven’t done preorders in the past is that prior to today (June 17, 2015), we required the author to upload the full and final manuscript to establish the preorder. That put authors in the tough position of having to weigh the benefits of immediate release against the benefits of releasing the book later as a preorder.

Earlier today we announced a solution to this quandary – the assetless preorder.  With today’s assetless preorder announcement, authors can establish preorders up to 12 months in advance without the book.  You simply provide us the metadata (title, release date, price, book description and categorization) and then we’ll get the listing established at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

In this post, I’ll explain how preorders work, how indie authors and publishers can integrate preorders into their next book launch, and I’ll share proven and effective strategies to maximize the results of your preorder.

What’s an eBook Preorder?

An ebook preorder is an advance book listing at the ebook retailer.  Preorders allow readers to place an advance reservation for your book.  Their credit card is not charged until the book is released to them when it officially goes on sale.  iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all list assetless preorders delivered via Smashwords.

The Six Biggest Benefits of Ebook Preorders

Ebook preorders give you incremental advantage in the battle for reader eyeballs.  Here’s why incremental advantages are so important:  Ebook sales are characterized by the power curve phenomena, where each incremental increase in sales rank earns the author an exponential increase in sales.  A book ranked #1 in a store might sell triple the number of copies of a book ranked #10, and a book ranked #10 might sell double or triple the number of titles as the #20 bestseller.

The more best practices you implement well, the more your sales rank will shift to the left of the curve (learn the most important best practices in my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success).

Most indie authors are already well-versed in the necessary best practices of great writing, great editing, great cover design, great distribution and a fair price.  It’s time that every author add ebook preorders to their repertoire of the most important best practices .

Preorders are like the difference between driving in gridlocked traffic or skipping over to the commuter lane.  Preorders are a fast track to greater visibility, discoverability and sales.

Let’s examine the six benefits of ebook preorders:

1.  Preorders enable more effective advance book marketing – Most authors, as they’re writing their next book, communicate their progress to fans on their blog, Facebook, Twitter and private mailing lists.  Preorders allow you to capture the reader’s order at the moment you have their greatest attention and interest.  Without a preorder link, a reader who’s ready to purchase today may forget about your book by the time it comes out, or they might lose interest between now and then.  Capture the order!

2.  Preorders enable advance buzz-building – It’s human nature that things coming in the future are often more interesting that what’s out already.  You can’t get any newer than a book that’s not out yet.  Preorders allow you to build reader anticipation leading up to your official release.  The anticipation will be greatest in the minds of your superfans – those readers who already love your writing.

3.  Fast track to bestseller lists – This is the ultimate magic of preorders.  All major retailer bestseller lists rank books on unit sales.  Their sales rank algorithms weigh sales made in the most recent 12-24 hours more heavily than sales made two days ago or two weeks ago.  At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, all of your accumulated orders credit to your book’s sales rank the day your book officially goes on sale.  This causes your book to spike in the charts.  Since customers use bestseller lists to find their next read, higher-ranked books become more visible and more desirable to readers.  This sparks a virtuous, self-reinforcing cycle of more sales leading to more sales.  Preorders also help maximize your odds of appearing in major national bestseller lists by concentrating a greater number of sales into a shorter period of time.  There’s strong evidence a well-timed preorder will maximize your odds of hitting the NY Times and USA Today lists.  A strong preorder also increases your odds of appearing in the monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly Bestseller list because you can concentrate multiple months of accumulated sales into a single sales month.

4.  Same-day availability at multiple retailers – By delivering your book in advance to multiple retailers, your book will go onsale the same day at each retailers.  The reason:  The advance delivery of your ebook to retailers gives them more time to receive, process and load your book.  At or near the stroke of midnight on release day (some retailers release at different times depending on time zone), the book is automatically released to customers.

5.  Better reviews – Since your fans and superfans are the most likely to place preorders (because they already trust that everything you write is super-awesome), they’ll be the first to receive your book when it goes onsale, the first to read it and the first to review it.  You want your superfans to be the first to review your book, because strong reviews out of the gate attract more sales.

6.  Increased merchandising opportunities – If your book is available for preorder, you enjoy more merchandising opportunities. There are two types of merchandising – automated and human-curated.  Automated:  When readers are viewing any of your books, the store will display your preorder alongside your other titles.  If the preorder is part of a series, it’ll appear alongside your other series titles (Smashwords authors: Make sure you’re taking advantage of the Smashwords Series Manager tool because retailers use this information to link your preorder to your other series titles).   Human-curated:  A strong-performing preorder increases the odds that the store’s merchandising team will feature your book because it gives them confidence to know that your book is highly anticipated by readers.  At Smashwords, we actively promote our best-performing preorders to the merchandising managers at our retail partners.

Planning Your Preorder

Think of a runway.  Jet aircraft need long runways so they can build up enough speed to take flight.  Preorders work the same way.  The more time your book is listed as a preorder, the more time you have to accumulate orders for that all-important first-day pop in the charts.

Look at your publishing schedule for the next 12 months and get everything up on preorder today.  The longer the runway the better.  But even if you only have one week of runway, it still gives you an incremental advantage.  Every accumulated order counts!

To understand the critical importance of a long runway, let’s look at how accumulated orders can add up.

If your book is available for preorder for three months (90 days), and you average one order a day at a given retailer you’ll have 90 orders by the time your book goes onsale.  At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, 90 orders will probably land you in the top 100 bestseller list for your genre or category.  Five orders per day would get you 450 orders, enough to land you in the top 10 for your genre or category at some retailers.  Ten orders a day would get you almost 1,000 accumulated orders, enough to land you in the top 10 store-wide lists at many retailers, and possibly even #1 in some stores.  These numbers aren’t hard and fast.  It really depends on the competition of what else is being released on the same day.  Many of our authors have released with thousands of  accumulated orders on day one.

Timing Your Preorder

What day of the week is best for a book release?  I can share some considerations to help you make a more informed decision. As you’ll see, there are potential pros and cons on different days.

You face more competition on Tuesdays – Most major NY publishers release their books on Tuesdays.  Because most big publishers are using preorders as part of their book launches (another reason you should too!), this means you’re likely to face more competition on Tuesdays for the top spots in the bestseller charts.

Saturday and Sunday are the biggest ebook buying days – Weekends are typically the biggest ebook-buying days at the retailers.  If you time your preorder to release on a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll face less competition from traditional publishers, and you’ll chart higher on day when more readers are searching the bestseller lists for their weekend read.

Sit-down holidays can be slow, but post-holidays are great – Avoiding major sit-down family-gathering holidays for release dates.  For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas day, many readers will be occupied with family gatherings.  However, the days after holidays are some of the biggest book-buying days of the year.  December 26 through around January 7 is typically the year’s best ebook sales period based on our past experience.  Keep in mind, however, that some ebook stores go into lock-down mode and don’t list new titles during certain holiday days.  At Smashwords, we’ll usually start listing these blackout dates at Smashwords Site Updates around mid November so you can plan accordingly.

Sundays and Mondays are good for NY Times and USA Today Lists – Consider releasing on a Sunday or Monday if you want to maximize your odds of hitting a major list such as New York Times and USA Today.  I’ve heard these two start their sales reporting weeks starting Sunday and Monday.  I’ll state up front that it’s tough to find reliable information on how these bestseller lists are compiled, and which retailers report sales to which lists (for example, I know iBooks reports to USA Today and Kobo has stated they report to the New York Times).  You should assume that all retailers report to the major lists, so if your books aren’t in every store you might harm your chances of hitting a national list.

For the Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list, early in the month is better – To maximize your odds of making the monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list, release the first few days of the new month so you can concentrate the prior weeks’ preorders and the following week’s sales into a single month.  When I look at the SW/PW Top 25 bestseller list for the month of April 2015 for example, most of the new releases that made the list started life as a preorder.

Four Tips to Market and Promote Your Preorder

Simply by releasing your book as a preorder, it’s no guarantee of success.  To maximize your preorder’s results, it’s important to take steps to drive readers to it!

Here are four marketing and promotion tips:

1.  Plan an aggressive, multi-week, multi-part marketing campaign – If you’re planning a multi-week preorder period, plan a different buzz-building promotion for each week.  Do contests, chapter reveals, giveaways, and blog tours.  Basically, anything you would do for a book launch, start doing it as soon as your preorder is listed.  And thanks to your preorder, you can capture reader orders at the moment each campaign element hits.  Be sure to promote direct hyperlinks to your preorder pages for each retailer in all your promotions.  This makes it easier for fans to click once and then order with another click.  If you distribute through Smashwords, this means you’ll want to link to preorder pages at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Since the preorder listing will go live on different days at each retailer (iBooks is the fastest, often same-day of upload to Smashwords, though B&N and Kobo are pretty quick too), you can make each appearance a cause for celebration and promotion.

2.  Mobilize your fans as your street team – As you think about fun promotion ideas, do things that incentivize your fans to spread the word.  Here are some potential ideas you might consider, and after reading these ideas you can probably think of a dozen more of your own:  1.  Offer a free Smashwords Coupon code to another of your books to any fan who emails you their preorder receipt.  2.  Offer a coupon code to any fan who takes action to spread the word about your upcoming release, such as a Facebook post linking to your preorder, or a Facebook share, or a Twitter tweet, or a blog post.  3.  Create a “Street Team Acknowledgements” section in the backmatter of your book, and let your fans know you’ll include the names of the first 50 or 100 people who take an action (such as sending you a preorder receipt, writing a blog post or Facebook post, etc).  Set a deadline for fans to show and report their support at least two weeks before the onsale date so you have plenty of time to update your backmatter with the Acknowledgements section and upload the update to Smashwords.

3.  Offer special pricing on your preorder – Let’s say your next novel will be priced at $3.99.  As a reward for your loyal readers who place a preorder, price the preorder at $2.99, and then promise to return the book to its normal price soon after it’s released.  This gives readers strong incentive to take action now rather than later.  Remember, you want to get as many orders from your most enthusiastic readers concentrated on day one as possible.  A reader who purchases your book two weeks after it goes on sale won’t move the needle on sales rank.

4.  Leverage your other books to promote your preorder – If you’ve got other books out, leverage them to drive readers to your preorder. Once your new preorder is listed at iBooks, B&N and Kobo, update the backmatter of all your other titles so they mention the upcoming preorder.  At the end of every book, add a paragraph that tells readers, “{Title Name} is coming {Month Year}.  On preorder now at select retailers. Reserve your copy today!”  Update your book’s navigation so your navigation has a link to section titled, “Upcoming Releases, ”or “Sneak Peek at {Title A}, coming June 2016!” or something similar so your Table of Contents is marketing your preorder.  Here’s a blog post and video on how to add navigation to your Smashwords ebook.  If you have a sample of your preorder book, like the first few chapters, put that in the backmatter of all your other books (or if you’re releasing book #3 in a series, place the sample at the end of book #2 as soon as the sample is ready.   Also consider doing some aggressive price promotions of your other books, including FREE promotions.   FREE books get about 40 times more downloads than books with a price, so they’re a great method of driving readers to the preorder, even if the book you’re making FREE is a standalone book, unrelated to your next book.  If you’re doing a preorder for a new book in a series, definitely consider making the series starter FREE so you can drive readers into the series and into the preorder (when I release the 2015 Smashwords Survey, I’ll share surprising numbers that prove that series with free series starters earn more than series without a free series starter).

Uploading Your Preorder

From a single upload page, Smashwords makes it easy to set up your preorder at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It’s easier than publishing a book.

Book not finished yet?  No problem!  Select “I will upload my
final formatted manuscript later” to get your preorder up today.

Click to the Smashwords Publish page.  As shown in the screen shot at left, in Step 1 of the publish process, simply click “Make it a preorder.”

If your final manuscript is ready for upload now, you’ll upload it as usual.

If your book’s not finished yet, no problem.  Simply take advantage of our new feature for assetless preorders (aka “Metadata-only” preorders) by selecting the “I will upload my final formatted manuscript later” option.  Your final manuscript will be due to Smashwords at least ten days in advance of your on sale date.

You’ll enter a projected word count for the book and then you’ll see several check boxes to mark “I agree.” These check box items remind you of delivery obligations.  Next, you’ll select the release date from the calendar.

Do Amazon Preorders Make Sense?

Amazon treats preorders differently than other retailers.  Unlike iBooks, B&N and Kobo which credit your accumulated orders toward your first day’s sale rank, Amazon does not.  This means that a preorder at Amazon will cannibalize your first day’s orders and therefore undermine your first day’s sales rank.  For this reason, many indie authors who upload direct to Amazon decide to skip the preorder at Amazon and simply upload to Amazon the day of release.  By uploading the day of release to Amazon, they can concentrate their sales on the first day to achieve a higher sales rank.

Although Amazon doesn’t provide accumulated credit on day one for a preorder, an Amazon preorder can still land in the charts if your daily accumulation rates warrant chart placement.  The other retailers also allow preorders to chart based on daily order accumulation rates.  And since preorders anywhere enable more effective advance marketing and buzz-building, Amazon preorders still have this benefit.

Amazon allows a three-month preorder runway, so not as much as the other retailers, and they require you to upload either a draft or final version of your book.  If you fail to deliver the final manuscript to Amazon by 11 days before your release date, on day 10 they will cancel your preorder and revoke your preorder privileges for one year.  It should go without saying that we don’t believe in such draconian punishment at Smashwords – after thousands of preorders we haven’t banned a single author when deadlines have been missed.  We understand that unanticipated delays can happen so we’ve built safety nets to support you, the retailer and your readers.

It’s your call if you do a preorder at Amazon.  It’s by no means a black and white decision.  If you’re a veritable marketing machine, for example, the benefit of marketing your book for three months in advance at Amazon might outweigh the downside of a lesser sales rank on day one.

Final Thoughts on Ebook Preorders

Ebook preorders are the most exciting new book launch tool to come along in the last seven years.  A well-executed preorder strategy will increase the visibility, desirability and sales of your book.

Despite its amazing advantages, the preorder alone is not a panacea.  Behind every successful preorder is a well-planned and well-executed preorder and a passionate author promoting a super-awesome book.

Your objective with each preorder is to make your next book launch more successful than your last.  Platform-building is all about incremental steps, building on each success as you go.  Whether each new preorder helps you grow your readership by five readers or 5,000, each increase in readership is a stepping stone to the next level.  Some of your new readers will become super fans, and super fans will buy everything you publish in the future and will evangelize your literary brilliance to other readers.

To maximize the benefit of preorders, you should always try to have at least one preorder working for you at all times.  Of course, if your next release is further out than 12 months, then wait until it’s 12 months out before you establish your preorder.

If you’re a new author, even a small number of preorders will help accelerate your ability to build readership.  Only five accumulated orders on day one could make the difference between debuting at #100 in your category or at #1,000.  Every bit of increased sales rank helps build visibility in the stores.

If you’re an established indie author with multiple books and strong ongoing sales, you’ll have even more flexibility to leverage preorders to the max.

Interview with Author Nancy Christie

Nancy Christie is the author of the fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, and two short story e-books, Annabelle and Alice in Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press). Her short stories can also be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and others. The founder of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers. Charles Weinblatt interviews for Author Publishing and Book Marketing:

CW: Tell us about yourself. NC: I wish I had an unusual childhood or had spent my adult years in some exotic locale but the fact is I am living in the same area where I was born, have lived in the same house for about 35 years now and although I have a passport, I have only pulled it out for domestic travel. I am a writer—plain and simple. I’ve been writing for 50 years now—that’s because I started in second grade!—and can’t imagine not writing. I’m a professional writer by trade (marketing and corporate work primarily with some magazine articles thrown in) and a fiction writer by preference, which means that there isn’t a snippet of conversation overheard or a physical contact witnessed that doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my fiction writer’s brain to be pulled out and used in one way or another.  

CW: Give us an overview of your writing/books. NC: My first book, The Gifts of Change, is an inspirational book about making the most of the changes that come into your life—even if you didn’t want them. That book was inspired by my mother’s cancer diagnosis and a number of other changes and challenges that came into my life—some desired, others, not so much. My second and current book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, is a short fiction collection about characters who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results. So, in a way, both books deal with change—just from different perspectives.

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration? NC: I don’t know that I could point to any one person or event. I was always a bit of a loner and loved to read, and fortunately my parents indulged me in that. I had wonderful teachers who emphasized writing skills—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—as well as content. And then there are authors whose work is so compelling and creative that I can’t help wanting to write as well as they do, and give to others what they have given to me: journeys to places—some real, some imagined—full of fascinating characters.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge? NC: Time, for one thing. In addition to my professional work, I am caregiving for my father, and that takes up a fair bit of time, although I am glad to be able to do it and even happier that, at 92, he is still so vibrant and in good spirits. And of course, the self-doubt, the inevitable comparisons with other writers, the fear that I won’t be able to live up to the good reviews with my next project—or worse, that the good reviews I have already received are all the good reviews that I am going to get!

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)? NC: A sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life.  It’s so easy to sit in judgment or say that we would never make the choices that others have made that led them down that path of destruction but we don’t really know that for certain, do we?So rather than be afflicted with that most dangerous of all viruses—superiority—we should instead be compassionate. It’s that whole “there but for the grace of God” thing…

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie? NC: That is my plan for 2015. I have heard about certain actors who are buying movie rights to books and so intend to pursue that possibility.

CW: What’s next for you as an author? NC: I’m working on a second collection as well as a novel that I want to pitch. But my first goal is to find an agent. (Don’t all writers say that?) My first two books were un-agented, but I think it’s time to get an expert on board and take over that part of my career.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent? NC: I didn’t want to self-publish—I have neither the time nor funds to purse that path and know full well that there is more to self-publishing than just getting the book printed. For my first book, I was encouraged by the comments I received from agents—they loved the book but since I was an unknown, passed on representing me—so I researched publishers who handled first-time un-agented authors, and found my publisher relatively quickly. With Traveling Left of Center, I had already connected with Pixel Hall Press who published two of the short stories in e-book format, and so it was a natural step to work with them to publish the entire collection.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process and publishing? NC: It’s a business. Treat it like one. Yes, you need to be a good writer but if you plan on being published, you also have to be a good business owner. Your book is your product. Know how to market it. Do your advance work. Expect to spend time and money doing what you need to do to get it out there. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books? NC: I have done some in-person events—not as many as with my first book simply because I can’t travel as much with my other obligations. I blog, I do the whole social media thing, did some virtual tours and plan to do more, participate in interviews, request reviews and then, when I get them, make sure I get the word out. I send out press releases, update my book’s web page every time there is something interesting to share—basically, I do everything I can think of, and then read articles and blog posts to find even more suggestions that I need to incorporate in my marketing.

CW: Where can someone buy your books? NC: Everywhere and anywhere—from bricks-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s and other indie booksellers to online retailers like Amazon.

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say? NC: Fiction writer.

CW: I’m pretty sure that’s already been accomplished exceedingly well.

You can read my reviews of Nancy Christie books at The New York Journal of Books, here:

Author Platform: Reaching Readers and Gaining a Competitive Advantage

“Author Platform”: If you’re an author, your platform is your ability to reach readers. Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot. Think of author platform as a multi-layered infrastructure that allows you to reach both new and existing fans. Elements of this infrastructure include your social media followers on Twitter, Facebook and the RSS feed of their blog (social media tool). It also includes subscribers to your private mailing list. It includes your celebrity, and your ability to leverage social media or traditional media or the love of your fans to get your message out. There are two primary factors that drive sales of any product or brand. The first is awareness. If the consumer is not aware of your product or brand, then they cannot purchase it. Authors must place their product in front of a consumer and gain their attention before the consumer can consider purchasing it. The second is desire. Once a consumer is aware of your product or brand, they must desire it. The author is the brand. Your job as the author is to build awareness of your brand, and to build, earn and deserve positive desire for your brand. Awareness plus desire create demand for your product. This is why platform will become more important than ever in 2014. Your platform helps you get the message out to existing fans, those who already know and desire your brand; and, equally if not more important—your platform helps you reach new fans. The larger your platform, the more it will grow incrementally because a well-maintained platform grows organically.

——– By Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Reprinted with permission from the AAA Books Unlimited Literary Agency October 2014 Newsletter.