As a new author, I jumped head first into self-publishing with my first two works. As far as mistakes go, I tend to think that I made every one that seasoned authors warn new authors about, and like many, I didn’t realize how challenging marketing would be.

Here are two versions of my marketing history:

Scenario 1: I wrote a book, posted it to Amazon, and expected my work to speak for itself. After all, I put a ton of effort into writing, and editing. That idea quickly vanished and I found myself searching high and low for ways to market my material.

Scenario 2: I wrote a book, found a publisher, and expected help with events and getting the word out from my new business partner. I had a publisher! Again, the idea quickly vanished and, again, I found myself in a marketing quandary.

So what is a new author to do? There is no silver bullet for this beast. I’ve tried google ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, lots of ads. Whenever I’m tempted to write an ad, I have to put the situation into perspective. How many times have I clicked on an ad and actually bought a product? For me, the answer is: close to never. I don’t believe ads work to sell books. I do believe that ads help build a following.

Strategic Advertising

Instead of targeting an ad to buy a book, I’ve been targeting to build an audience. I primarily use Facebook to build my platform. Periodically, I place $5.00 to $10.00 ads with the goal of gaining followers. The more followers I gain, the more I can reach them with free posts to my Facebook page. Are people more likely to buy from someone they don’t know through a random ad on Google, or are they more apt to buy from an author they have chosen to follow?

Rather than spend money on marketing, I now look for creative ways to reach my targeted audience. At first, I was thinking too big. Ads people can buy are a massive audience, and people seeing the ads are inundated with competing advertisements. I’ve shifted my efforts to reach people closer to home. I’m targeting my effort by honing in on people that are interested in my work, rather than casting a small net in a large ocean, hoping to get a fish or two.

Advertisement Alternatives

I’m looking to libraries, and looking to hold events. I can talk all day about my publishing endeavors, and it’s a chance for me to connect with people while showcasing my work. Instead of spending money on ads, I’m spending on marketing materials such as pens, coasters, and bookmarks, all with images of my book and my website address printed on them. I use these for incentives to help promote my work.

Instead of spending time on advertisements, I now spend my time researching ways to get my book out to bloggers and review sites. The more reviews I can get for my work, the more my writing will be visible to others searching Amazon for their next read.

As an author striving to get my material out to the world, I am faced with countless sites offering services for marketing and promotion. I tend to believe that it’s not the authors making money, but rather the companies and individuals offering services to the authors who hope that by paying another party, their work will get noticed. My advice to other new authors out there: don’t fall into that trap! Find ways to reach your audience that won’t cost a large sum of money. I have yet to read about a pay service that will guarantee sales.

It used to be that publishers took care of marketing, but I believe that to be less so now. More and more, authors need to handle their own marketing, and much of that marketing is about connecting to readers and building a foundation for future works.

A version of this post originally ran on the Hometown Authors site on July 31, 2018.

I’m in the process of making wine and it occurred to me, wine and writing have much in common! I’m not referring to drinking wine while writing – though that works well sometimes too. What I am referring to is the wine making process. Here’s why:

1)    Ingredients
Like all the ingredients that go into wine making, so do many pieces go into building a story. We all start with an idea, then another idea, then as the story is thought out, many ideas – all going into one masterpiece.

2)    Mix it all together
For wine, yeast is added. For writing, throw in some catalyst ideas to make things interesting. Mix it all up….juggle the ideas around….start writing!

3)    Take a reading
A tool is used for wine – a hydrometer. It measures sugar content to track how sugar is being converted to alcohol. What tools do we use as writers? There are many out there. Read what has been written and think about where the story is going. I like to write all my ideas and let the story guide me. Other writers may use outlines. This step is to evaluate the next steps in the story.

4)    Let it sit
The 1st draft of the story is complete. The wine is fermenting nicely – now time needs to take over to do the job.

5)    Racking
After a period of time, it’s time to rack the fermenting wine to another vessel. This removes the wine from the sediment of dropped yeast. A story needs to be revisited after it’s been setting for a month or so. New ideas will appear, errors will stand out. The story may seem like junk at this point. The wine doesn’t taste good either! Time to edit/revise!


With each stage, the wine gets clearer, brighter, and smoother…as does the story.

6)    Aging
After numerous rackings, the wine is clear and smells great! A story has been honed and errors have been corrected. Now it’s time to reach out to agents or get ready to self-publish. This takes time. The longer wine sits in bulk, the better it gets. Did the story land a publisher or ready to self-publish? Time for step 7! If not, what’s wrong with waiting a little longer to make things even better?

7)    Bottling
This is the last step to the process in wine making. The wine is ready for bottling and is siphoned to smaller bottles. Labels are glued to the bottle and the wine is ready for drinking (or bottle aging). The story is with an agent or has been self-published. Now everyone can enjoy what has been created! (or hate it – we all have different tastes).

Yes, I know, it’s been awhile since my last post. The fact is, I’ve been pulled away and have had very little time to do much writing. This does not mean that I’ve shelved everything aside forever. In fact, I made progress yesterday on my latest novel! After having put it aside until things settled down a it, I decided I couldn’t let it sit any longer.

This post is not just about my latest project, but also a note to other authors just starting out on their first works. So here is my advice in a nutshell: Don’t let a project sit for awhile. Yes, I know this goes against some other advice of walking away to clear the mind. I admit, sometimes it is necessary. In my case, it was just that I had been too busy to focus on it. Now, I am facing the reality of trying to get back into the groove of the story. I find my ideas tend to flow better when I’m in the middle of my work. If I let it set too long, it is harder for me to get back into the process of writing. The longer it sits, the longer it will take me to get in the writing mode.

The good news is that I broke the procrastination phase I had wedged myself into and began to write again. My next novel will be a full length novel and I’m currently around 42,000 words. I tend to write a little differently than others where I like to get my structure down first.

When I think of a story, I generally know where it will begin and where it will end. I tend to get the beginning down and as I do this, additional ideas come to mind. I don’t focus on a word count goal, but instead hone in on the structure. In the end, I usually am short on word count compared to other works. This is because I don’t focus too much on the details to start with. The next phase is where more detail is drawn around the story.

With the structure in place, I then go through my story and find weak points or areas that need more detail and start the process of what I think of as the inflation phase. This is where I add meat to the story – maybe even side stories. I might even create new characters that I think the story needs to add more color.

My last phase is a cutting phase. Here I go through and cut where I think I might have added to much from the prior phase. This is what I consider the editing phase which usually turns out to be around three full edits. This is the hardest part for me, but the most necessary.

Looking at this phased approach, I would say I’m in the first phase of writing the structure. Still a long way to go, but I’m determined not to shelve it again!