The Most Effective Marketing Tool for Your Book: An Email List!

With all the options for book promotion out there, it’s hard to figure out what to spend your time (and sometimes money!) on. I’ve got the answer for you today: your mailing list.

Picture this….
You’ve just hit the publish button over at KDP after months of work on your new book. You’re elated to finally have it out! But then it hits you, you have to sell it. So you head on over to your mailing list account, put together a new release email and send it out your list. Then you take a well deserved nap!

Two days later, you’ve topped the best seller lists in your category and are heading for the top 100 on because your readers opened your email, clicked the link and bought your book. (Oh and they forwarded it to their friends as well.)

The return on investment for email marketing is nearly $40 for every $1 you spend. Crazy, right? But it’s true! If you don’t have a list (or you aren’t using the one you have), it’s time for a change.

Here are some tips for success:

Use a Reputable Provider
If you want your emails to land in your subscriber’s inbox, you need to use a reputable provider like Aweber.  Aweber helps you build your list with all the forms, templates, how-to videos (or step by step visual tutorials) and one-on-one support that you need. They also have an awesome blog to help you grow your list. (You can give them a try for just a $1 here.)

Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Building a good list takes time which is the main reason you should start now even if you haven’t released a book yet. Whether you have 3 people on your list or 3,000, send out monthly updates about your books and host a gift card giveaway regularly so that people look forward to your emails and want to open them. Then, when you send a new release email, you can be sure readers will open it.

Give Away Something in Return for a Signup
Come up with a free ‘treat’ you can give your new subscribers. This gesture of goodwill starts you off on the right foot with your subscribers and gives them an idea of what they can expect from you through your emails. Make sure your treat is unique to you and your work. Some good ideas would be an exclusive short story, missing chapter or insider world building details about your novels. You can set up an auto-responder that will deliver your gift to your new subscriber immediately, no matter what time of day they sign up.

If you’ve ever wondered how authors shoot to the top of the best seller lists on Amazon with a new release, now you know. Building an email list is a long term investment in your career as an author. So don’t wait another moment to start a list!

5 Ways to Write More in Less Time

Your best marketing strategy is to give readers more of what they want: great books! Today it’s time to activate your writer superpowers and narrow down the five things you can do to write more in less time.

1. Write in Timed Sprints
Timed sprints (15-25 minutes with short breaks between are most effective) have multiple benefits to you as a writer. Not only do they focus your time on writing but they also help you to track how much time it takes you to do something. Use an online timer to track time and use a progress tracker to record out how much time you are spending on a project. Once you know how much time something takes, you can further streamline your process.

If peer pressure works for you, you can find other writers sprinting on Twitter with the hashtag #writingsprint. I sprint a few times a week so join me on Twitter to get in on the action.

2. Schedule Your Writing Time

Whether you have 15 minutes a day to write or 5 hours, schedule your writing time and guard it like Hagrid’s three-headed dog, Fluffy, would. Showing up to the page is one of the most critical steps for a writer but often the hardest to accomplish. So move writing to the top of your to-do list (even before book promotion and definitely before you hop on Twitter or Facebook!)

3. Plan What You are Going to Write

Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, sit down at the beginning of your writing session and map out what you are going to write about. Just a few quick sentences about the who, what and why of your scene or chapter give you a headstart on spotting potential issues before you’ve put a few thousand words on the page.

This will pay off big time when it comes to the editing phase of your novel. Your scenes will be more focused, character arcs and motivation will be clearer and you’ll have less revision to do before submitting it to your beta readers or editor.

4. Use Scrivener to Write Your Novel
Scrivener really deserves it’s own time saving list because it offers a host of tools to help you write faster. It will streamline your writing process no matter what kind of writer you are.

Plotter? You can outline hierarchically or use index cards on a virtual corkboard. Your outline and/or cards transfer seamlessly into the Binder where you write your novel. So there is no gap between planning and writing.

Pantser? If you prefer to wing it with your writing, you can write your novel straight through and break it into chapters later. Or if you want to jump around, you can add scenes as they come to you and re-order them when the mood strikes you.

You can color code your scenes by POV and see how your novel is playing out at a glance. Scrivener holds all of your research, character info and setting worksheets in one place. No additional documents, windows or searching your hard drive for your notes. You can even import pictures and place them on index cards. Want to write distraction free? You can block out the virtual world with full screen mode

And when you are ready to publish, exporting to Kindle or epub is a breeze. You can give Scrivener a try in the Author Toolkit which comes with a guide to get you started and an import your current WIP if you have one.

5. Implement One of the Four Ideas Above by Friday
Because even the best list of tips won’t do anything for you unless you sit down and put them to work, pick one of these tasks to try by this Friday. (You can let me know how it goes by replying to this email!)

I’ve organized this list with the easier tasks at the top so start there and work your way down.

The Biggest Mistake Book Promotion Mistake You Can Make

Self publishing is hard work. Being a one person writing-editing-formatting-promotion department can be overwhelming on the best day. When your to-do list starts to get way too long, it’s all too easy to bail on promotion tasks.

When it comes to book promotion, the biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing at all.

But with all the advice out there, how do you know what to do?

The honest answer? It doesn’t matter as long as you do something.

If you only have 5 minutes, hop on Twitter and sent a tweet. Then find 5 readers and follow them. (Hint: find another author who writes in the same genre as you and follow their followers.)

Only 15 minutes? Head over to Facebook and update your fans. Ask a question to engage your readers or share a photo. Facebook is a great place to keep fans updated on the progress of your latest book. (Even if you only have a few fans, do it anyway! When  a new fan stumbles onto your page, they’ll have good reason to like it.)

Have 30 minutes? Write up a quick post for your blog. Shorter content is great for short online attention spans. Share a great link, a book or even a picture. (Caption that photo! Captions are the most read text on your site.) To make writing blog posts faster, keep a running list of topics in Evernote or a Word file so you don’t have spend time thinking up a great idea.

If you’ve got more than 30 minutes set aside for marketing tasks, you can do all three of the above tasks and then check out the Self Publishing Toolkit Online for even more ideas!

Book Blurb Makeover!

Book-Blurb-MakeoverBook blurbs are the most important sales copy that you’ll write–yet authors often write them as an afterthought. Today we’re putting book blurbs first.

Think of your book blurb as an ad for your book. Do not summarize your story. Instead, arouse the reader’s curiosity with intriguing bits of information about your story.

Here’s how to write a book blurb that sells your book.

Step 1: The Headline

Your character’s job/place in life + a description + main plot action = Headline


A small town girl uncovers big time trouble.

Write down your headline and then play with a bit. Catchy headlines are great. Feel free to use familiar phrases with a twist. This creates familiarity and builds curiosity at the same time.

*Non-fiction writers should concentrate on the main benefit of reading the book:

Make $25,000 in 25 days with these 2 Things.

Step 2: Main Description

There’s a formula for this too:

Sentence 1: Character’s name + job + opening situation

Blythe Barnes is the new owner of Spin Me a Yarn, Bingo, North Dakota’s only combination book shop and yarn store.

Sentence 2: When + Inciting Incident

When she trips on a loose floorboard in the back of her shop, Blythe makes a disturbing discovery about the only home she’s ever known.

Sentence 3: Now + your character’s stakes/what she has to lose.

Now, with the help of a man she barely knows, Blythe must leave Bingo behind to right an ancient wrong and save the town she loves.

Once you have the basics down (like the above example,) you can spend some time reworking your sentences and adding to it until you have a compelling description. Many authors (even traditionally published ones) have mediocre blurbs at best, so this is your chance to shine.

*Non-fiction writers, here’s your structure:

Most important question + the answer

What does every self publishing author want to know? How to sell more books!

Then you need to tell the reader exactly how you are going to solve all of their problems. Lists with bullet points work best for this. If you want to see it in action, just check out the Self Publishing Toolkit on Amazon.

Step 3: The Proof

Follow the body of your description with a few (3 at most) review snippets that verify your awesome writing skills. After the reviews, you can put a short call to action like:  Scroll up and click buy to find out Blythe’s secret!

Calls to action are usually found on non-fiction pages but there is no reason why fiction writers can’t embrace the practice.

Head over to Amazon right now and spend a few minutes going over your book description. If sales have been slow, it’s an easy way to give your book a boost!

4 Book Marketing Ideas You Can Do Right Now

Book Marketing IdeasSelling books isn’t about the big things you do. Instead, it’s about doing one or two things every day to get you and your book in front of readers. Here are four things you can start working on right now to grow your book sales for the future.

1. Team Up
Two heads are better than one, right? Find a fellow author in your genre or niche to trade guest blogging gigs with. You can also bounce ideas off of each other and promote each others books.As self publishing authors we tend to think we are alone this world but we’re not. Keep your eye out on Twitter or Facebook for an author who you’d want to work with. Check out their blog and book before you email them, just to make sure that you’re of similar mindsets. Then get to work!

2. Write a Blog Post
One of the best things you can do for your visibility is to write blog posts. The more you write, the better chance that readers who share your mindset will find you. Write your blog about something related to your book–maybe you have a unique setting or you named a character after your beloved grandmother. Write to get people excited about your writing, not to tell them how hard it is for you.

3. Do Some Amazon Recon
Head over to Amazon and find out who the top selling author is in your genre. Then track them down on Twitter or Facebook and follow them. Check out their blog and website. Watch how they engage their fans and/or promote their work. Take notes and implement at least one thing. Promoting a book can be subjective, what works for one book doesn’t work for another. So explore all of your options and keep at it until you find the combination that works for you.

4.Pick a Social Media Network and Focus on It
Social media can be overwhelming. It’s impossible to be everywhere all the time, so just pick one network and focus on it. If you have no idea where to start, use Google to find blog posts from other authors on what they do or did to become successful. If Twitter isnt’ your thing, give Pinterest a shot. There are millions of people out there for you to connect with–so get started!

The very best tip I could ever share with you is simply to do something every single day to promote your book. It doesn’t have to be mammoth–just one little thing every single day–and before you know it, you’ll have created a nice platform for you and your book to stand on.

Do you have any marketing ideas that worked for you? Share them below!

Guest Post: The 3 Keys to Designing a Book Cover that Sells

Book cover designer Scarlett Rugers is giving us the low-down on how to get a great cover today. 

Design can be overwhelming.

There’s so much to think about and consider when putting together a book cover, so to make sure you prioritise the right things.

I’m going to share with you what I consider to be the three most important things when designing it yourself.

1. Do you have a clear message you want to portray?

This does not have to be specific, as in, ‘an 18 year old German girl falls in love with a rock star and she also discovers a plot to steal the magic blue diamond’. A story like that, with so many elements, is probably best off not saying any of that. When I talk about a message I’m talking about a concept, a simple visual. Something that encompasses the cover’s personality, character, and mystery.

What single image can sum up your story? If you’re not sure, turn to brainstorming. Write a list of words you want your book cover to encompass. Love, passion, stormy, arrogant, dark, terror, family. By always checking this list you can ensure you’re staying on track for a well-designed cover

2. Consult other designs.

You don’t have to start from scratch, you’re allowed to be inspired by other design. See how others in your genre have done it, and learn by example. Some of the best sites to get feedback is the, and Take note of the image layout, the type faces used, where the type has been placed, the colour schemes.

What sort of covers are trending? Is a whole face used, or perhaps it’s more about texture, or sweeping landscapes.

3. Get honest feedback.

I’m not talking about your mum, girlfriend, or dog. I’m not talking about your fan readers, I’m talking about people who are not afraid to give you feedback because they know it will help your chances, not hinder. This could be your beta readers, your local writing community, anyone in your circles that you believe are willing to give you constructive critique.  I’m not going to pretend it won’t hurt, but it will help your chances of higher sales.

Overall it’s important to be open to change. I confess that I’m a repeat offender when it comes to sticky ideas. I get an idea, even if it’s idea #2, and I think THIS IS IT, THIS IS THE BOMB. When I get feedback for it I’ve been known to defend and fight off all the critique I didn’t want to hear. It’s taken a long time but, in the wise words of my University teacher, ‘ideas are currency, the more you have the richer you are’.

Be prepared to let go of ideas that just aren’t working and start fresh. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you’re a scientist. You test, experiment, and analyse what works best for your book.

What do you think are some of the most important things to remember when it comes to designing your own book cover?

Scarlett RugersScarlett Rugers is a professional book cover designer, from Melbourne Australia. She’s worked with both self-published authors and traditional publishing houses, dedicating her time to make authors feel like best sellers.
Her goal is to help change the stigma of self-publishing and show it’s a professional field of high quality. She does this by designing beautiful book covers and working together with authors to produce the best book they can, and to encourage development of their skills in writing and publishing.
She has also been writing since 1998, and has published the non-fiction book of 1001 First Lines, and Oscar & Josephine, a fictional novella.
You can find her here:

How to Add a Contact Form to Your Author Website (WordPress)

How to Add a Contact Form to Your WebsiteA contact page is one of the most important components of your author website. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to get yours up and running in about 5 minutes.

In addition to being a quick and easy way for your website visitors to ask you a question, a contact form will cut down the amount of spam you get because you won’t have to post your email on your site. (The Akismet plugin will eliminate spam from your forms as well as your blog comments.) When a reader fills out a form, the information will be sent right to your inbox so replying is just as easy.

Please note: You must have the Jetpack plugin installed to complete this tutorial. If you don’t have it installed, go to Plugins>Add New. Click search, type in Jetpack and then follow the instructions.)

Let’s get started!

Create a new page in WordPrees by clicking Pages > Add New.

(You can also add forms to posts. Just add a new post instead of a page. Go here for more on posts and pages.)

Click the form icon next to the Add Media button.

Image of Form Button

A lightbox will pop up that will let you define your form. It has a default contact form set up.


You can change any or all of the options by hovering your mouse over a particular field. A context menu will appear. Click edit to modify the field.


(1) Label allows you to change the name of the field.
(2) Field Type defines the type of field you are using. (Click Save this field if you change the field type.)
(3) Click the minus sign to delete the field.
(4) Click Add New Field to create addition input boxes.


When you are done adjusting your form settings, click the Email Notifications tab at the top of the light box.


(1) If you want to change the address where your feedback is sent, you can do it here.
(2) Set the subject line of your feedback.
(3) Click save to go back to form builder.


Once you have everything the way you like it, click Add this form to my post.


(1)Wordpress will add the short code for your form to your visual editor. If you need to add additional design elements, just work around the code. (It looks the same in the visual editor and the text editor. Don’t modify the code.)

(2)To edit your form, click the form button again and make your changes.

(3) To see how your form will look, click Preview.


It will look something like this:


If you’d like to see a live form, you can check out my Contact page. Once you have your form set up the way you like it, publish your page.

If you have any questions about building your author website  or need some help you can reply to this post or contact me.

Author Website Toolkit: The Website Planner


Click Image to Download the Planner

Want to save time when setting up your website?

Use the Self Publishing Toolkit’s Website Planner!

This hands on workbook will help you to make all of the important design decisions for your website ahead of time, including your layout, colors and features.

All you have to do is download and print the workbook. Spend 30 minutes or so doing a little research and you’ll have everything you need to build a beautiful site.

When you are ready to set up your site, you’ll have everything you need ready to go and your set up process will be a breeze.

Don’t delay. Download your Website Planner and get started on your site today!

Download the rest of the Website Toolkit by clicking here.

(And remember if you have any questions about setting up your site, you can contact me!)

Author Website Toolkit: Module 2 Posts, Pages & Add Media

Download Module 2 Getting to Know WordPressI’ve just added a second Module to the Author Website Toolkit. You can check it out on the Author Website Toolkit page or just click the image above to download it right now.

This module covers:

  • posting to your site
  • creating a static page
  • how to add images to your site.

We’ll be putting all of this into practice in an upcoming module but you can create a few pages and try out uploading an image with this module. Module 3 covers plugins and it should be out in a few days.

The Author Website Toolkit will help you design and build a professional website on the WordPress platform. You can see all current modules of the Toolkit by going to the main Author Website Toolkit Page.


davidseah-progress-trackerLawrence Kasdan said ‘being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.

For self publishers this even more true–not only are we constantly writing but we’re on Twitter or Facebook or Goodreads connecting with readers and promoting our books.

I’ve been doing a lot of productivity research lately, mostly listening to podcasts because I can do that while cleaning or folding laundry.  I’ve learned a lot, particularly that an author is only as good as her tools!

Using software like Scrivener or Hootsuite can really help with writing and managing social media but only if you use them! Unfortunately using them is the hard part. I’ve tried a lot of to-do list software while excellent and somewhat fun to use, they didn’t work for me.

‘Write Book’ was way too big of an item for me (even when broken down into word count goals) because it was mixed in with the laundry, dinner and helping my kids with their homework.

Enter the Progress Tracker

I found something that works better: The Task Progress Tracker.

This is basically a worksheet created by David Seah that breaks a big job down into small pieces and then lets you track your time spent on each project. When you’ve completed a project, you’ll also know how much time you spent on it which helps you plan better for the future–so double bonus there!

Here’s how I use it:

1. Print out a worksheet and staple it to a folder. I keep all associated materials to the project in the folder.

2. Then I take my book outline and transfer each chapter to a line. Alternatively, you could use this to track how much time you are spending on Social Media or book promotion. Showing up on Twitter and Facebook is half the battle!

3. Use Online Stopwatch to time 15 minute increments of work on a project. (You can do anything for 15 minutes!)

Not only does this make me a better planner, on days when my only option is to grab 15 minutes, I get the stuff that needs doing done.

Do you have any productivity tools that help you to focus?