Preorder Advice from Bookbub


The folks over at Bookbub have a nifty article about promotion and presales. I thought it was worth sharing and hope to use some of the info to try and strategize the release of a few new books in the final revisions phase this year.

Check out 11 Ways to Promote Preorder Books that Drive Real Results


Evolution and the Changing Nature of Indie Publishing


One reason that I encourage people to follow my blog, along with those of other, active writers, is because of how much and how frequently the publishing world changes. Case in point: Createspace and Kindle. In the last 6 months or so, significant changes have happened with more potentially on the way… Continue reading Evolution and the Changing Nature of Indie Publishing

Are Press Releases Worth Doing?


Derek Murphy of Creative Indie has a pretty low opinion of press releases. They just don’t seem to have the same weight that they used to.

In his exact words over at his blog,, he says

“Press releases for book promotion almost never work… It doesn’t matter how catchy and well-written they are, which is why 99% of press release services book publicity gurus offer are BS.”

He talks about a predatory website geared to take advantage of authors. Rather than make well-crafted press releases they make up a boiler plate one and fill in the blanks and then submit it… using good SEO, keywords, and paid placing they get ahead of the results in web searches and look like a great option for starving Indies who are just looking for a way to be heard.

Murphy uses some comical examples to reiterate “publishing a book is not news. You need to DO SOMETHING that makes you newsworthy.” And when he says, “If you can’t think of any news besides ‘hey I wrote a book!’ then you’re better off paying for book advertising than wasting money on a press release,” I’m inclined to agree with him.

All of that said, sometimes they do work. I have some friends in my writers’ network who feel they’ve been very beneficial and seen some other promotional opportunities come out of them. what I found interesting is that one had said a few outlets had found his press release by also searching for keywords—the same basic premise the shady PR factory was using can also work for an author who can be smart about using his language in a press release (and isn’t that what we’re supposed to be capable of as writers?”

A good solution for the DIY or low-budget Indie Author is to work through a couple steps:

  1. Heed Murphy’s advice and find your story (releasing a book is purely a factoid and not, in itself, newsworthy—it has no value or story attached. Give people a reason to listen.) A good primer for this is at
  2. Do some research into how news outlets might discover your press release. Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find the most effective terminology related to your book. (More on that at )
  3. Obey the accepted format for press releases. You can find some rules and guidelines on it (as well as a great story about how A Gronking to Remember became a hit sensation—an author made their bad book into a story) at this site:
  4. Use a discount service such as Fiverr to get your release into circulation for a reduced cost

Another template can be found here:


What the Heck is a Blog Tour?


I’ve always been a little mystified by the concept of blog tours. Through the last few years I’ve dabbled with the and with little success… mainly because I was treating them incorrectly (kind of like using a wrench to hammer a nail—it’ll kinda work, but leaves the user unimpressed).

A blog book tour is much like a traditional book tour, except the stops are all virtual. Instead of going from bookstore to bookstore the author maintains a short presence at each of the blogs. This is an opportunity to talk about your book with that blog’s regulars. Many different people set these up: publicists, publishing agents, or even authors themelves.

WordNerds has a nifty video explaining them in a nutshell:

The best way to utilize a blog tour is to treat it like a real book tour! This has been my failing on the last few that I’ve done: even though this is a digital event it’s not a “set it and forget it” thing. You should check in at each of those blogs, interact in the forum and on the comments threads. Just because its online doesn’t mean you can check out on it and expect positive traffic.  If you want a Virtual Tour to have the maximum impact for what you spend on it you ought to put regular stops onto your schedule so you can interact with readers—that is the real reason anyone does a tour anyway, to connect with the audience. Anything else is just a glorified television commercial.

Penguin/Random House has some great advice for those planning to do one of these (Click here to read it).

If you’re looking for a great place to get started, one of my favorite blog tour companies to work with has been Silver Dagger Book Tours. Check it out and tell Maia I sent you!

Show/Don’t Tell & Body Language Lists


One of the things you will hear a great deal as a writer is to “show don’t tell.” Part of this alludes to passive voice, but eliminating passive voice isn’t enough. As a writer, your narration has to lead the reader to the conclusion you want them to arrive at without telling them outright. This is one of the more difficult aspects of writing for most people (and if you’ve picked up many books—even traditional press, high-quality ones—you will see that this isn’t always a well-followed rule).

Here is an example of what I mean.
Jack was sad because of the bad news. (Passive)
The bad news made Jack sad. (Better… not passive, but it still “tells.”)
Jack heard the news and his shoulders slumped with a sigh. (This version leads us to conclude what kind of news it was and his reaction to it based on his body language.)

Granted, we can’t do the above with every sentence. Sometimes we must set absolutes and dictate what has happened so that there is no confusion for the reader, but we should make an attempt to make our characters act out their feelings as often as possible. I find this is especially true in my own writing during dialogue.

While using different text analysis apps I’ve learned a lot about my writing and my style. I am amazing at killing passive voice in my sentences, according to the Hemingway app; I don’t even come close to the recommended limit it gives based on length and that makes my stories feel like white-knuckle page-turners… but adverbs. I tend to run over in that department, and chiefly because of dialogue. I’ve found that my characters often say things sadly or reply tensely. They should instead say things with a sigh or reply as they bristle visibly. To help improve my own writing I often consult collections of phrases that show specific body language (lest I fall into using the same few descriptive postures over and over.)

Here are a few graphics on the topic taken from Amanda Patterson’s blog. She cautions not to overuse these which can bog down the story. I can concur; authors need to keep storytelling as number one and remember that a story is not a collection of good descriptions and well-spoken details.


There are few other sites I’d recommend with additional lists:
Word Dreams
Writers in the Storm
Bryn Donovan’s Gesture List
Bryn Donovan’s Facial Expression List
TheOtakuNerd on Wattpad
Perhaps my new favorite is which links to a bunch of smaller lists based on adjectives (like a thesaurus, but collected differently.)

Do you know of body-language lists like these? Let me know in the comments!

Answering Reader Questions #1 Passive Voice (and other ramblings)


I’m quite serious when I tell people I’m willing to give some feedback, answer questions, or offer writing advice. (I always extend this offer to folks on my mailing list–I love to connect and see what friends are doing.) A friend recently asked for some advice about passive voice and I thought I’d copy and paste the exchange here in the event that it might help some fellow writers.

You said something before about passive voice and active voice. Could you explain that again? for example, I could write (her voice is kind but there is no expression on her face) but I could write (her voice was kind but there was no expression on her face). is present or past tense better? in addition, the first chapter starts the stories but then the rest of the opening chapters go back in time to see what lead up to the first. Is present tense still the best?

in addition, the first chapter starts the stories but then the rest of the opening chapters go back in time to see what lead up to the first. Is present tense still the best?

Passive voice and the tenses of verbs aren’t the same thing (just in case there’s confusion. When I first started kicking over rocks to figure out how to improve my writing I discovered there existed a whole set of terms I knew nothing about—and I’m still learning new ones all the time).

Anyway, here’s passive voice in a nutshell: when something just “is” …passive voice is when your verb is a state of being. The most common abuse is when people use the word was. Here’s an example: Continue reading Answering Reader Questions #1 Passive Voice (and other ramblings)

Writing is Easy; Being an Author is Hard


Can I break your heart early and save you some future trauma (and money?) There is no easy button. All across the internet and social media you will see ads, stories, and articles about how to get 10,000 followers in ten days or how you can launch a bestseller over a weekend as an unknown talent.

Those are crap articles.

You have a greater likelihood of winning the lottery than finding success with those scam “internet courses”. Here’s why: you have to buy a ticket to play the lottery. There is some kind of minimum-level threshold for involvement in the lotto system. A special course that gets you crazy results circumvents that normal system. What the regular publishing system requires is hard work, diligence, and time. Those crap articles promise you’ll win the lottery if you buy a bushel of oranges… it’s convenient for them that they happen to be orange vendors, isn’t it?

A lot of those jackwagons selling courses these days are simply passing off info they gleaned from someone else (or maybe paid for) in order to try and push that forward at their profit. It kinda reminds me of the Rainbow and Kirby vacuum cleaner sales folks of the past few decades. Eventually, we will have such a glut of “course instructors” online that they burst the bubble and then only the good ones will remain (I have 2 or 3 I would trust, but that’s about it). We’re at an unstable number now, I think, which means supply will outpace demand, prices will drop (and probably quality) to stay competitive, and then the bottom will fall out.

The thing about writing is that it takes time. It takes effort, energy, and attention. It’s not much different on the platform building side, too. We live in a social media age that champions attention and connection above all else… shot-gunning spam into the internet or building a simple website and leaving it doesn’t work anymore. People expect more—they want a connection and to be pursued by someone offering value.

I think mature readers (those in the best position to buy your book and engage with you as an author) are kind of like middle-aged divorcees: they’ve had something decent in the past so they know what they want, they’re tired of isolation and are looking for something with substance and staying power, and they’ve probably put all their one-night stands behind them and are looking for something real that can take them forward with stability. If your book is subpar in any way it will look like a fixer-upper mate… if it looks really good but the groundwork isn’t there (poor platform, no reviews, questionable future/might not keep writing or complete a series) you will come off as a pickup artist or a Fu@#-Boy.

It sucks to see others who seem to do less work and have greater success. It makes a writer tempted to try one of those courses promising the world—maybe you’ll be the break-out exception! Can I level with you? Those other authors experiencing sudden success have probably been doing work beneath the surface for a while you can’t see, or have been plowing the ground for longer and certain leads are starting to finally come in—or more likely—they aren’t having as much success as you think they are having. Our perception is largely comparative and often emotions-based. We rarely see reality for what it is; we see reality for how we feel.

I often say it, but our greatest frustrations are born from reality not meeting our expectations. Do the hard work; put in the time. Above all, keep your expectations grounded in reality and understand that the back-end of being an author (promotion, selling, platform building, etc.) is all plowing uphill. If you really want your field to produce something you will have to do the work.

How I’m Breaking the Amazon Associates Rules (accidentally).


Oh Dang. Most book bloggers I know are probably breaking the rules for Amazon Associates… and completely on accident. I came across a good blog recently that mirrored some of my own discoveries. Like Amy Lynn Andrews who did some extra legwork and contacted Amazon to get additional information, I too stumbled across the potential of accidental violation by watching a video by crime author Mark Dawson.

Dawson had accidentally sent an email with an affiliate link and Amazon let him know that he was about to have his whole account blocked for an accidental gaffe which could have financially hurt him in a major way.

As a blogger, I’m quite certain I’ve been breaking the rules as well. Here’s how we can easily violate their TOS without even knowing:
Let’s say you publish a book review or talk about your book or any other product in a blog post and link to that item with an affiliate link. That is exactly how the system is supposed to work, so no violation because you didn’t email the link…it’s on a blogpost—exactly where Amazon likes to see it, right? Right?
It sounds like we did everything perfect, but still might have broken the rules (which I admit are draconian.) Anybody who subscribes to your blog might have the contents automatically sent to him or her resulting in an emailed affiliate link that breaks the rules and could possibly result in your account termination and a blacklisting by Amazon!

To avoid this we’ve got to make sure that we “truncate” our posts. It sounds like it’s difficult, but it’s not too awful. It does mean that book bloggers need to add one extra step before posting a blog: Use the “insert Read More tag” button before you add the affiliate link to make sure that readers only see this by visiting your actual blog rather than by clicking though an email message.

Here’s what that “insert Read More tag” looks like on the WordPress platform, circled in red:

It’s pretty easy to overlook something like this, so always be on the lookout for ways to protect yourself from accidentally breaking the rules. I caught it early and so I’m fixing it asap… if you use affiliate tags in your posts you might want to do the same!

For more reading on the topic, check out Amy Lynn Andrews blog post on the subject.

Swimming with Sharks—avoid publishing house scams


I see it all of the time on the internet… publisher scams. Well, actually, I don’t really see it. Because of targeted marketing and the fact that I am these sorts of companies’ ideal consumer (or at least, an ignorant version of me is,) I get a million of predatory publishing scams popping up in my social media feeds regularly—they’ve become white noise.

Once you’re familiar with the slimy feeling they induce beneath a thin veneer of accolades and ego stroking they dump on an unsuspecting author they become easy to spot.

Before the turn of the century many vanity publishers (self-publishers, which is a nuanced difference between Indies and vanity press authors) began targeting indie writers with author scams where they represented themselves as legitimate publishers. Some of these included iUniverse, Trafford, Author House and Xlibris. Some more modern examples came along including Tate, Xulon, and to a degree, BookBaby. These companies operated on the premise that they sell a false hope to an author rather than sell a book to a consumer.

Thankfully, the internet typically reveals the sharks for what they are. Try searching your preferred search engine or a service like Preditors and Editors for reviews and horror stories. Even if you know a contracting publisher is legitimate, it may be worth getting perspective from other authors.

The primary way these companies work is that they either steer you or flat out require an author to use their services. Legitimate authors pursuing an Indie avenue know that they ought to use professional services for editing, cover copy, cover design, etc and so shady publishers try to sneak under the radar by looking like the real deal while actually making their money off of the authors instead of the books.

Of course, scammers won’t turn down free money from your loved ones, too, and so they will still fulfill orders and do the business side of the publishing house—usually while over-inflating the price in order to compensate for the typically low sales that are common of unknown writes that aren’t properly equipped by their publisher.

Identification is relatively easy.

  1. Ask what the publisher is selling (if they are making claims that you will make money as a full-time author or gain fame and accolades, run fast and far.) Publisher sell books, not dreams.
  2. If they are pushy and try to get you to commit (and you’re not selling a gazillion copies as an indie or getting millions of reads on Wattpad) then they are probably a scam.
  3. Publishers get more queries than they can even read—they don’t need any freshman or sophomore authors submitting to them to be happy, and they certainly won’t chase you down, cold call you, or advertise open submissions on social media. They often have deliberately misleading adverts.
  4. If your book will be priced excessively high, it may be a scam. I write about proper book pricing elsewhere.
  5. If a publisher charges fees for anything (even upgrades to the “traditional publishing service”, flee in a serpentine motion, ducking repeatedly for cover.
  6. (This is the one that I see that is so common) is the sale of a “publishing package.”


Simple rule of thumb is this: whenever someone wants to sell you a “publishing package” of any variety, it’s an indicator that you are the company’s primary consumer. Publishing should never cost you, the author. That’s not how this works… not even for debut/break-in authors, unless you are an Indie and plan to contract all of the work yourself—while the thought that a “package deal” is nice (you can get all of those professional services done for one easy bill) most of those “services” are so outrageously overpriced that third grader with math skills can tell you it’s a bad idea.

You had an idea. You did the work to bring your story to life. You deserve to make money from your books’ sales. Pay to play only works at casinos—and even then, the house nearly always wins. Don’t be a book casualty—research everything.

I recommend checking out the list at for further research on the topic and remember to hold onto your wallet.