IAT: Top 10 Free Indie Resources

Being an Indie Author can be an expensive process, especially starting out. When I started publishing books almost five years ago (where did that time go?) I started with literally no capital. I wrote a book and then I tried to learn what I could from the internet and podcasts. That’s one of the reasons why I write these articles, so you can learn from my mistakes and find resources quicker than I did. To help you out I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 online resources that helped me get my career off the ground.

B’s Top 10 Free Indie Resources

  1. https://www.creativindie.com/
  2. https://authorlikeaboss.com/
  3. https://jamigold.com/for-writers/
  4. www.canva.com
  5. https://www.arts.gov.au/funding-and-support/lending-rights (Australian Authors only)
  6. https://wordpress.com/
  7. https://kindlepreneur.com/book-marketing-101/
  8. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/
  9. https://savethecat.com/
  10.  https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

Creative Indie: Tons of free books covering a wide range of Indie Publishing topics and much more. He also offers courses. I got a lot of excellent free resources from him and it looks like he’s expanded his resource section since then. Definitely worth a look.

ALAB: Ella Barnard is amazingly generous with her knowledge and her content. She routinely offers Free books and resources, runs the free Author Like A Boss podcast, teaches free webinar Masterclasses and does giveaways of amazing swag. If you don’t look at any of my other recommendations please at least look at Ella’s website. While I don’t agree with all her advice you can’t deny she’s collated a network of Indie Authors who’ve had amazing career results.

Jami Gold: Jami’s free writing worksheets have helped me out immensely. They work as an absolute base template to remind you what elements you need in your story to create a plot that will satisfy your reader’s expectation of the genre, build better characters and much more. I love to read Paranormal Romance but was nervous about embarking on writing one. Jami’s Romance Beat Sheet helped me confidently plan out my first romance novel (now I just have to write it :/ )

Canva won’t help you write your book but it will definitely help you market it. I come from a photomedia background and when I started marketing I made all my own graphics. They weren’t terrible but they weren’t as professional as I would have liked. Enter Canva. With their free templates, photos, elements and much more, you can easily create a wide range of marketing materials. Some authors even use Canva to make their own covers. Something important to note with Canva is that not all their elements are free, so if you don’t want to pay for graphics then check what elements you are using carefully. It’s also good to note that while they supply free elements, the last time I checked their free license covered unlimited digital reproductions and up to 500,000 print reproductions. If you’re making posters/merchandise/book covers with the same elements you’ll need to keep an eye on how many physical copies you reproduce, or you might need to buy an extended license.

Lending Rights: In Australia the government has the Lending Rights scheme so that Australian authors can potentially get paid from their titles that are stocked in public libraries. I’ve enrolled in this program but my books haven’t been borrowed enough to qualify. I feel that it’s something worth doing though, to set yourself up for potentially future payments, especially if you’ve made donations to libraries of your book. (Be aware if you’re an Australian Author, even if you’ve published through a foreign service like KDP you are still legally require to donate at least one copy (paperback OR ebook) to the National Library in Canberra).

WordPress: If you’re an Indie Author you are going to need a website. My first site was with WordPress and it was fairly simple to navigate the back of house and create a professional website with a blog. I used Joomla for a while and now I’m back with WordPress. Joomla is harder to use than WordPress, but is great in its own way, and most of the people I know with websites prefer to use WordPress.

Dave Chesson/Kindlepreneur: Kindlepreneur, no prizes for guessing, focuses on Kindle Publishing and Marketing. There are paid tools that you can access such as KDP Rocket (which helps you optimise your keywords and categories on Amazon) and the Book Review Targeter. There’s also links to his podcast The Book Marketing Show (which is free to listen to on iTtunes. It’s also available on Google Play, Stitcher, and iHeart Radio. I don’t know if those are free).

The Creative Penn: Joanna has a wide range of resources (both paid and free) available at her website. She has books, courses, email courses, her podcast, her blog and much more.

Save the Cat. Save the Cat has a lot of tips, beat sheets (sheets to help you plot your story), blog posts, and much more. Save the Cat focuses on screen writing, but in today’s market readers are often looking for reads that are shorter, punchy and fulfilling, just like the movies and TV they’re used to watching. Thanks to modern media we have shorter attention spans and Save the Cat helps writers use that to their advantage. Recently the team at Save the Cat produced Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need. It’s on my wishlist.

I’ve put KDP last, because although KDP doesn’t charge you for its services as such, they do take a cut from the profit of your sales. Because of this I don’t really know if it can be classed as “free”, but it is an important resource to have available to Indie Authors. Because Amazon (through KDP) only take a cut of the profit (be aware depending on the royalty plan you choose/have access to Amazon’s cut may be bigger than yours) and do not charge set up fees a lot of newbie Indie Authors use Amazon to launch their books. Plus, there is the added bonus that Amazon itself is a huge platform, and to be listed on Amazon helps readers take you more seriously as an author. There’s also inbuilt services that you may want to take part in like Kindle Unlimited or Vella.

It’s not the only ebook platform but it is probably one of the more popular. Some authors choose to go wide with their books through a service like Smashwords (Smashwords distributes your book to a variety of online retailers, like Kobo and iBooks) and that is enticing for a lot of authors. Be aware though if you choose Smashwords, unless you hit a certain sales target they will not distribute your book to Amazon. Personally, I use Smashwords and I still upload through KDP as well to be able to be in the Amazon store. As yet I’ve sold 100% of my books through Amazon. Free book distribution has been spread between Amazon and Bookfunnel.

I hope this list helps you start, or continue, your Indie Author journey in a budget friendly way. When I started out I did not have a lot of capital to invest in getting my writing career off the ground. With a lot of authors losing their full time work due to COVID and other job market issues in the last few years I hope this will help some of you create the career of your dreams.


IAT: How to Self Edit Your Book

Let’s face it, Indie authoring can cost a lot of money with not a lot of return. Where you spend your business money means tough decisions need to be made. Do I spend it on marketing? Editing? Cover art? All these things are important, almost equally so. But what do you prioritise when money is tight?

I’m never not going to advocate for spending money on editing, especially for Indie Authors. Or, more accurately, more so for Indie Authors. If you want to know more of why that is I wrote about how badly edited books damage the industry last week.

On a more personal level you should care about the quality of your editing because a poorly edited book sets you up for failure. A pretty cover on a error laden book won’t bring readers back. Expensive ad campaigns on badly edited books won’t lead readers to line up for book two. Readers inclined to leave star ratings and reviews often give poor reviews for badly edited books. This not only warns other readers off but on some selling platforms negatively affect the algorithm making your books harder to find. For this reason I put editing as the #1 place to spend your money on improving your book. However as an Indie Author (one who wasn’t always working a day job full time too) I understand sometimes you just don’t have cash flow for anything – and that shouldn’t stop you chasing your dreams.

For this reason I put together a list of 10 things you can do for yourself to improve the quality of your book.

1 – Use cheat sheets for errors. There are heaps of free templates online or you can make your own. Especially things you do all the time wrong. Know you always use the wrong word between “effect” and “affect”? Put it on an editing list then run a search program like Find in Word to cross reference and check your usage. Learning your own automatic errors will help you curb them in the future.

2- Over-used words. I have a list of do not use words given to me by an editor. Some are common (over using “that” or “really” etc.) Add your own over used words. That way you can write normally to get the story out then fix it later. Every writer has their own crutch words and phrases they automatically overuse. By learning what yours are you can easily tighten your writing and re-write sentences to have more impact.

3- Don’t trust autocorrect. Programs like autocorrect, Grammarly, spell check etc. are useful but not infallible. Use them but make your own call.

4 – Take time between writing and editing. Even taking two weeks between finishing your manuscript and started the edits can make a world of difference in the quality of your editing. So can working on a different project between the two. It helps re-set your brain out of the world you’ve been writing in and makes errors stand out more.

5 – Read/buy books on editing to know what to look out for. You want to bake a cake you’re going to use a recipe right? If you want to improve your editing learning how to do it properly is a must. If money is tight see what you can get for free. Think libraries and Kindle Unlimited. Author service providers often have free or cheap ebooks to help you DIY your Indie Book.

6 – Read slowly. Don’t let your mind fill in the blanks or make assumptions. Let your eyes read what you actually wrote, don’t let your brain trick you into reading what you expect to see.

7 – Read out loud. Especially if you’re unsure the sentence is right. If it sounds wrong it probably is.

8 – The way we talk isn’t the way we write. My uncle wrote a book that was written verbatim as if he’d dictated it. Including all those colloquial things we say that aren’t technically right. Including repetitions and idioms that you wouldn’t normally see in a book.

9 – Learn how to use commas. Incorrect comma use is the #1 thing I find wrong in people’s books both as an editor and a reader.

10 – Find a style guide. One of the most obvious editing issues in a book is usually down to formatting. While formatting itself isn’t “editing” it is part of the editorial and print ready process. If you aren’t sure, google a template or instruction sheet. I’ve seen quite a few floating around the internet. Amazon has its own templates for their print and kindle services and Mark Croker has books out on how to format for Smashwords. Last time I checked the Smashwords Style Guide was a free download on Smashwords and Amazon.

Still intimidated about editing your own book but don’t think you can afford an editor? Ask about a payment plan. As an editor I’m happy to work with people to see if we can arrange something beneficial to both of us. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Also, remember waiting is always an option. Just because you finished your book doesn’t mean you need to publish it right away. You can take a few weeks or months to put aside money to pay for editing. As an Indie author you’re running to your own schedule not the demands of a publisher. Lastly, don’t forget there are free teaching resources are available online if you look hard enough for them.

IAT: Why Professional Editing is Crucial

If you ask me what my top piece of advice is for writer’s I’d have to say there’s a few things equally important. Actually writing is one of them. Reading widely is another. But ultimately if you want to be profitable as an author write long term one of the most important things you can do is get your writing edited properly. Professional editing can be expensive but is essential.

Poorly edited books, or books with no editing at all, often result in a negative reading experience for the reader. Most readers will not finish a badly written or edited book. Readers who are inclined to leave reviews or star ratings generally do not leave positive reviews or ratings for badly edited books. Furthermore, I’ve written on a number of occasions about the stigma of Indie Publishing/Self Publishing in the literary world. Badly edited books add to this negative stereotype and hurt the entire Indie industry.

Regardless of how many books you’ve written. Regardless of whether or not you have a degree in Writing or Editing yourself. I always, always, recommend getting a second person to read through and edit your book. Why? Because you’re too close to your project. It’s probably like a baby to you. Your brain knows what is supposed to be there and can trick you into reading what you expect to see not what you actually see. Because of this its really easy to miss mistakes in your own writing. Getting a second pair of eyes on it can make a huge difference in reader experience, future sales, longevity of your career, and more. I say this not as an author who also offers editing services, but as someone who genuinely wants us all to succeed, and who wants to read great books. Nothing turns me off faster than a badly edited book. The book market is a saturation market. Readers are going to keep reading. There’s room for all of us.

Still not convinced? Here some additional reasons to get a professional editor.

There are so many easy mistakes to make. Some “mistakes” are regional like differences between Australian English and American English like realise and realize, or which inverted commas to use for dialogue. Some things are colloquially correct in dialogue but not correct in written word. Mistakes in comma placement are the number one mistake I see in books both as a reader and as an editor. Some of this can be attributed to style (I will fight to the death for the Oxford comma) but often it’s due to writers being unsure in their placements. Professional editors can make sure your book is technically and stylistically correct to the market you are writing for.

Wrong character names. I have read a number of books where the author changed a character name partway through the book and never went back and edited the earlier parts of the book to reflect the new name. It was confusing as a reader when I suddenly had to work out who this “new” character was. A professional editor should be able to catch any changes you’ve made to characters names, descriptions (one minute your MC has red hair and a chapter later she’s a blonde?), settings etc.

Wrong gender pronouns. Wrong gender pronouns are a common mistake. Usually it’s typographical rather than intentional. Turning a “she” into a “he” with careless typing. But a simple mistake like that will get a readers attention. They’ll also catch the attention of an editor worth their salt.

Typos. Typos are another common issue I see especially with the rise of autocorrect (which often is more accurately described as autofail) as well as Cut and Paste fails. I’ve read several books where the author clearly “moved” a section of text during the editing process and forgot to delete the original because the same page and a half appeared several pages later. Or a scene was changed and parts of the original scene were left in making we wonder where a character got a gun from or why they’re suddenly in Tahiti. Editors check for consistency as well as typos.

Spell checkers aren’t always right. So many times spell checking software gets it wrong. It’s always a good idea to let it do a once over on your writing but you should never trust it to do your editing for you. Like spelling choices some “corrections” are only regionally correct. Software programs can be outdated. Style and grammar rules change over time. New words are created yearly. Using a professional editor will help ensure your writing is technically correct and to current styles/rules.

Badly edited Indie books devalue entire industry. As previously mentioned, I’ve written extensively about the negative stigma associated with Indie Publishing. It’s slowly changing over time but when I started publishing five years ago there was a definite vibe of “Indie publishing means you weren’t good enough to get traditionally published”. I’ve written several articles on why this is false but badly written and badly edited books add to this stereotype and make it harder for Indie Authors as a group to be taken seriously in the literary world. As the world of Indie Publishing grows it is essential that we eradicate this stigma for the benefit of all of us. Will our books ever be 100% perfect? Probably not, but then the Traditional Publishing world only gets like 95% accuracy. Professionally edited books are one of the best ways we can fight this stigma.

Edited books will get you further in your career. Readers judge books by their covers. A professional cover will draw readers in but if the book inside is poorly edited they may not finish the book. They may leave bad reviews. Above all they will be less likely to pay money for another of your books. Readers are not going to value books they are paying money for that are badly written or edited. You want to offer an excellent read at reasonable price (both for your investment and the reader’s pocket) that makes your reader want to come back for more.

Of course there are other things that can be wrong with your book too. I read an Indie book that was entire dialogue with no description or dialogue tags. It was incredibly hard to understand what was going on and who was talking. But the issues I’ve outlined above are the most common I’ve come across both in Indie Publishing and Traditionally published books. Professional editing can be expensive but is essential for your career growth. As Indie Authors we want to do the best we can to make our dreams a reality and editing is a huge step in the right direction for a lot of writers.

IAT: Pre-Orders

Are pre-orders Worth it? Some retailers (like Amazon) offer pre-orders for your books. This article will focus on Amazon as it’s the platform I’m most familiar with. There is strong support in the Indie Author community for offering pre-orders to their fans. But is a pre-order really worth it?

One perk of pre-orders is that fans can read through the first book and order the next one to appear in their e-reader when it goes live. Fans don’t have to mark their calendar for release day (like I did a thousand years ago for each Harry Potter book). It’s convenient for you and the reader.

Pre-orders count towards the sales for the first day your book is live. Amazon algorithms for example, boost books with better performance/purchase rates. More sales on day one equal better metrics and natural viewability of your title on the selling platform. This can potentially be seen as a con as well if you’re counting on sales on a daily rate. You will not accrue payments for pre-orders until launch day (basically you won’t get paid until the book hits the reader’s device).

Pre-orders require a file uploaded to the server. This can be a temp file you can swap out later (Amazon sends you reminders to make sure the final file is uploaded before launch) for the actual file you want customers to receive. If you’ve finished your manuscript this isn’t a problem as long as you attach your finished manuscript. I would also suggest that if this is your first book you may not want to organize a pre-order until the file is ready to go. The formatting process can often take longer than expected. I’ve published eight books and formatting always takes longer than I expect, and I always have surprise problems – and I even use templates and have formatting cheat sheets so I don’t forget anything/miss anything.

Some authors use pre-orders as motivation. They have customer’s counting on a title being available on a specific day therefore the book must be print ready prior to that date. If something happens and the manuscript isn’t ready on release day it can cause a variety of problems. If you aren’t in a position to definitely, one thousand percent, have that file ready to go by launch day this may not be the best option for you. Some retailers, like Amazon, warn you that you can lose access to the pre-order function if the file released on launch date isn’t correct. Or at least it did the last time I checked. It’s also just not a great look for your author business.

Ultimately Pre-orders really haven’t impacted my author business negatively or positively. That said, if you’re loading your title prior to release, why not offer it? It’s there if people want it, and if they don’t, it’s not costing you anything. So, from my point of view, I’m going to keep offering pre-orders for the time being. Who knows what may change in the future? Because if it’s one thing Indie Publishing has taught me it’s that everything changes with time. I’m going to say, at this point in time, pre-orders are definitely worth it.

IAT: 6 Side Hustles To Supplement Your Income As An Author

Saw this headline and thought “why should I have an author side hustle?”

Well, have you ever sat at your day job and just wished you didn’t have to? Ever just wanted to sit at home in your pajamas writing books and living life on your terms? That’s been my dream since I was 16 (thank you Meg Cabot).

The uncomfortable truth is this isn’t the reality for most authors (regardless of whether they are traditionally or indie published). Most authors who are able to make authoring their full-time job have multiple supplemental streams of income to help them achieve that stay-at-home dream. When I was a stay-at-home author I had financial support from my partner to help me focus on my dream. Not everyone has that.

Multiple sources of income can be necessary for several reasons. Book sales are generally cyclic and generally don’t raise a lot of income. Unfortunately, the conventional way of life requires a steady income to pay your bills. Entrepreneurial side hustles are one way to help you keep your own schedule and avoid having a day job. They take a little time to set up and grow as a part of your business (trust me, I still am – and having moved to a new city means I have to start over again) but they can be worth it.

If you’re thinking about ways you can supplement your income as an author right now I’ve already done some thinking for you and here are some suggestions specifically for authors.

1 – Author Services: 

Some author side hustles are obvious. Offering author services such as editing, cover design, Beta Reading, and Formatting, play right to your existing skill set and interests.

2- Entertainment Services:

If you’re outgoing entertainment services can also be a worthwhile avenue to pursue. My (as yet) unpublished kids fantasy stories feature princesses, dragons, elves and more. I offer entertainment packages using these stories as a story telling event. I even sewed a dragon companion to help me. I dress up as a fairy tale witch (although costumes can be tailored for specific events) and have had successful gigs at festivals doing this. You could also do kids parties. In addition to being a service you can provide it offers you a secondary marketing opportunity for your books.

3- Classes:

Another natural pairing is offering workshops or classes in writing related themes. I offer kids workshops (usually at festivals and libraries) and adult lectures. I’ve also provided classes for home schooling groups.

4 – Monetise Your Content:

Apart from your main writing you can monetise additional content with services like Patreon or Ko-fi. This is something I’m currently investigating more thoroughly as it’s something I’d like to do. Some authors offer exclusive “bonus” content, periodical content, merchandise etc. Another way to monetise your writing can be to ghost write or freelance for publications.

5- Merchandise:

Merchandise itself can be a great side hustle. With more and more print on demand options like Society6 and Redbubble, and creation services like Canva, you can quickly and effectively create designs then slap them on t-shirts, mugs, bags etc. You can then sell these online or at events with little in the way of start up costs. This option is especially suited for visual/graphically skilled people. One catch: if you’re making merchandise on your content you may struggle selling anything without an active fanbase.

6 – Cover Creation:

Another one for visual/digital artists is cover design. A lot of indie authors choose to purchase their covers so if you’ve got the skill, the time, and the inclination, there’s opportunity for you to supplement your income helping authors who don’t have these skills.

These options may interest you and they may not. My top tips for finding alternate income streams to support your writing are these:
– play to your skills
– play to your interests
– pick side hustles that pair well with your writing and each other
– pick side hustles that help your market yourself as an author too
– pick side jobs that are time effective  
Find the things that make you happy then find a way to make money from it. Just be prepared that it will take time and hard work.

In the interest of transparency – I am not doing all of these things. I am doing some of these things. I have plans to do some of these things. Some of these things are not in my wheel house. I’m also not currently in a position to give up the dependability of a steady pay check. But I want to be. Side hustles are part of my strategy and plan to make my goal my reality. Like making a name for yourself as an author takes time, so does making a name as a service provider. To make your dreams come true you need one of two things: hard work or incredible luck. Chances are it’s going to be the former. Authoring is hard and not at all as popular culture portrays it. With these articles I try and let you see “behind the curtain” so to speak, and share the things that have and haven’t worked for me. I write the articles I wish I’d had to read when I was figuring these things out for myself. Your path and mine won’t be the same. What works for me might not work for you, but I hope these ideas have helped you and stirred your imagination to find your own form of supplemental income.

11 Tips For Indie Authors

I’ve been wanting to share another tips list with you for a while so here are 11 things that have helped me on my journey as an Indie Author.

1 – Create An Engaging Newsletter – This will take time but is worth it. You want people to get excited when they hear your name, and you need a platform to direct market to readers that isn’t reliant on social media algorithms or companies.

2 – Create An Engaging Social Media Presence – This too takes time but is worth it. You want people to emotionally invest in you so they have an interest in continuing to follow your journey and to support you.

3 – Use Promotion Services – There are several services available to help you promote your books. The one I am most familiar with is BookFunnel but there are other options as well. Goodreads has their giveaway program. Some of these, like Goodreads Giveaways, you pay to use. Others like BookFunnel are a subscription service. I was certain I wrote about my experiences with Goodreads but I can’t find the article! I’ll add it to my list of blog topics for you. You can read about my experiences with BookFunnel here and here, if you want to learn more about it.

4 – Interact With People But Don’t Be Pushy – Whether in real life or online a decent chunk of my sales have come from simply talking to people. A lot of the time this has looked like being part of a discussion about books, finding out what kinds of books the person likes, then casually mentioning I’m a writer and that they might enjoy one of my books (especially if its on sale or free at the time). Remember, you’re extending an invitation to a party not expecting them to show up at a given time with a plate of food.

5 – Know When To Be Cheeky – Sometimes you just gotta be cheeky and take a chance. For example, a celebrity on twitter asked for book recommendations. One of my books was free at the time. I took the risk to be cheeky and let her know about the free book offer. Worst case scenario: she doesn’t like the look of it and doesn’t take it. Best case scenario: she loves it and raves about it on social media. I would say, don’t randomly just tell people about your book, but if they open a window you can definitely be the breeze that says, “Hey, you might be interested in this.”

6 – Never Stop Trying To Learn – I don’t care whether you’ve been writing for five months or fifty years. There is always something to learn. Indie Authors are running themselves as a business which means you need to constantly improve – technique, character development, marketing strategy, learning new book formats etc. Whether it’s the product itself or the business behind the product, there will always be something that can be improved or something new to learn.

7 – Find A Writer’s Group – Writer’s groups are great ways to learn, network, support each other, and keep motivated. Pick your group carefully and take the time to build those relationships. The best groups I’ve found have been a mix of people at different stages of their journey which has allowed an environment to teach and support each other. Building these relationships also increases your options for the future with more and more indie authors doing co-writing projects, book bundles, and more.

8 – Get A Good Editor – For Indie Authors especially it’s imperative to get a good editor. Even if you offer editing services yourself a second pair of eyes on the manuscript can pick up things you missed on your first 137 passes (okay a slight exaggeration) over the text. This is because as the author your brain knows what to expect to see and sees it. A fresh pair of eyes with no expectations can pick up on more and help bring your book to a more polished, professional product. It might take some time to find the right working relationship for you. I have paid for services from editors who were considerably not worth the money I invested in them. Ask your writer’s group friends for recommendations, especially from the published authors with well written books. Chances are they have someone great they can recommend.

9 – Market Research – Just like “never stop learning: continual market research is a must. You need to keep on top of trends in your genre(s) to know how to appeal to an audience and generate interest/sales. Compare book covers and find common factors/iconography. Read books in your genre to see what tropes are popular. Find what readers want and give it to them.

10 – Review And Refocus Frequently – Refine your approach. Release books with new covers if sales aren’t what you want. Not having any luck with Facebook marketing? Try Twitter or Amazon. Something that used to work isn’t? Change it up.

11- Be Kind To Yourself – Indie Authoring is hard. Pandemics are hard. Working day jobs and writing at night is hard. Most Indie Authors run their business solo and do the work of writer, editor, PR, advertising, merchandising, as well as write blogs and newsletters. That’s the work of at least five people, often in a few short hours outside of day jobs, family life, and other life pressures. Don’t beat yourself up too much if things slide due to life stuff like jobs, illness, divorce, kids, etc.

Indie Author Tip – Newsletters

Said to be the foundation of any marketing plan a newsletter is something all authors should have. While frequency of release is up to you (conventional wisdom is weekly but lately I’ve been struggling to even get one out monthly due to big life stuff) it is nevertheless important to have a regular release of content your readers are interested in. Here are some tips I’ve learned on my journey.

Cull your own mailing list subscriptions – I recently went on a culling spree of author newsletters from my own inbox. It was nothing personal against the other authors. My inbox was getting inundated with emails. As I primarily check my email from my phone, and I use Gmail, a lot of my “deleted emails” were getting archived instead of deleted. When I found where the archive was I had over 15,000 emails to go through. It took me hours. So, I decided to cull my subscriptions. I am a busy person with a limited amount of time – your readers will be too. Culling my own subscriptions was a time management choice.

Sidenote: most of these emails I subscribed to during promotion campaigns from BookFunnel (i.e. subscribe and get a free book). These are not all authors I’ve read yet – some I have and found their books weren’t for me. Others sent multiple emails a week, or their emails simply didn’t interest me (or were in a genre I don’t read, like alien romance). Most of the newsletters I subscribe to are not because I’ve loved a book and went looking for the author’s newsletter. Keep an eye on where your main source of subscriptions come from to get a better idea of why your subscribers are there. People coming to get a free book from a promotion might unsubscribe fairly quickly once they have their book. Subscriptions from a widget on your website are more likely to stick around because they were interested in your work.

Curate your mailing list – So how did I choose who I still wanted to be subscribed to? I chose authors whose style or content I admire, authors whose stories I loved and who I genuinely wanted to get updates from, and newsletters of some of my author friends. Author friends, apart from being friends, can be a hugely supportive network and a source of inspiration or collaboration on career moves. They can also teach you things to do or avoid (like I try to do with these articles) to help you learn how to author (and business) better. Keeping the subscriptions of bestselling authors, authors who are creating engaging content, and authors who are just downright entertaining was a choice I made to be inspiration and education for my own newsletter (think of it like learning from others on the job).

Cull your unsubscribed regularly – This is a big one. Most mail servers have limits on free subscribers and subscribers who aren’t actively supporting your art who leave make room for readers who will want to support your work. That could be by buying books, sharing links, writing reviews, joining ARC teams etc. I want subscribers to want to get my emails – not see them in their inbox weekly and delete because they have no interest, and part of that is because I don’t want to pay to market to a brick wall. I don’t recommend keeping unsubscribed readers active on your list for two reasons. Firstly they unsubscribed for a reason – if they change their mind they will re-subscribe. Secondly, it can land you in legal hot water if you continue to market to unsubscribed addresses. Europe in particular has laws against this.

Realise not every reader us going to like your book and unsubscribes are a part of the process – This is good. As mentioned in the last point, most mailing services charge you based of subscriber count. You want people who are actively interested in your content to be on your list. Your list is your way to connect with readers, market directly to them, and cultivate a relationship where they want to support you.

Fill it with 90% stuff that benefits the reader not the author – Newsletters are a delicate balance of marketing and engagement. As an author, newsletters allow us to market directly to readers who have shown interest in our work (otherwise they wouldn’t have subscribed) without the limitations of everchanging social media algorithms and paid advertising. But if your newsletter is like a junk mail flyer 100% chucking products at a customer it can be a real turn off. Create content that your target audience will enjoy and slid small advertisements of your own work in there. For example, I include a little of what I’m working on or any new releases, links to free or discounted books, reviews of books in the genre I write in and other things. If you write crime fiction you might want to include links to research articles you found on blood splatter analysis, or a high fantasy author might include links to the portfolio of an artist they found that inspired their work.

Focus your newsletter – I used to include links to these articles in my newsletter. I’ve decided to stop doing that. Most of my subscribers are coming to my newsletter for the links to free books and the book reviews. They are not necessarily authors looking for tips. There may come a time when I run a second newsletter focusing on my author services side of my business (editorial services, mentoring, these articles etc) but I’m struggling just to find time around my day job and writing schedule to do my current mailing list. Find the focus of your newsletter and cater to it.

Keep it short – Like seriously. Everyone’s busy and I can’t remember the last time I read an entire newsletter unless it was from a friend or all-time favourite writer. Mostly I just skim the contents and click the freebie links – and honestly most of your subscribers will do the same. Especially if they have a lot of authors (and therefore newsletters) in their inbox. Additionally, I read my email on my phone usually and Gmail cuts newsletters to make them shorter. If I have to click “view entire message” there’s a 95% chance I’m not going to do it. If I do click the button it’s to get to the unsubscribe link at the bottom. A shorter weekly email will serve you better both in time to create it, and in readers actually reading through it, than a newsletter jam packed with a lot of stuff. “But B!” you say, “Doesn’t packing a lot of stuff in my newsletter provide value?”

I’m going to go with a “no” on that one. I believe you’d be better off doing two short newsletters a week and splitting the content across them, than one massive email, for all the reasons above. Plus it takes away from your writing time to write a long newsletter. Of course, that’s my opinion, but longer newsletters have not worked for me as a writer or as a reader. Let me know about that promo. Tell me about your upcoming release. Hell, tell me about your dog eating your shoes (any story with dogs is going to get me to continue reading) but don’t fill your newsletter with book ad after book ad because if my eyes glaze over you’ve completely lost any chance I’m going to buy something.

Keep an eye on your stats – A lot of finding what works for you as an author, and a business, involves trial and error. I have only used MailChimp for my newsletter host, but I believe most hosting services offer statistics such as how many of your sent newsletters were opened per campaign and other relevant information. By regularly checking these you can gain valuable insights on what content your particular subscribers are interested in. Find you get more opens/clicks when you offer dog pictures? Include more dog pictures (no I’m not obsessed… okay maybe just a little). Find absolutely no one opened your newsletter titled, “The World Sucks And I Hate Editing”? Perhaps include less of your back of house anecdotes. If you’re new to having a list and you don’t know what to include, trialling a few different formats or content ideas for a few months can help you find your groove.

These are the things I’m taking forward with me on my new and improved newsletter. If you’re interested in WitchLit or Mythlit you can subscribe on my home page and get a free ebook set between the two Kingston Chronicles books. Each week you’ll get links to any promos I’m taking part in, you’ll generally get a book recommendation in the UF or PNR genre, and a quick update on what I’m working on. If you’re interested in those author services I mentioned, you can check out my offerings in the Services tab, or flick me an email at b.forrester.author@gmail.com.

Indie Author Tip – Facebook Ads

Advertising is a necessary evil for an Indie Author. You don’t want to do it. If you studied literature or writing you did it to improve your craft. It’s not likely you studied marketing which means it can really feel like you’re flailing around in the dark feeling for a light switch. I don’t like marketing. It’s hard and I don’t always understand it. I’m reading every book and article I can get my hands on, watching videos, just to teach myself how to do it, how to do it well, and how to do it more efficiently, so I can write more and hopefully one day make enough money to do this as a day job. Today I’m going to talk about my experiences with Facebook Ads, especially what worked for me and what didn’t. Marketing requires a lot of knowledge about your target audience and so I’ll talk a little about that too.

I also want to preface this article with: it’s been some time since I last ran a Facebook ad. I discovered last week that Facebook Ads has now been incorporated into the Facebook Creator Suite software and somethings may have changed. I planned to run a test ad in the near future, and when I had that data back I’d write another article with the changes (more on why I won’t be doing that at the end of the article), but this information was accurate the last time I ran an ad (circa May 2020).

One of the great features I found Facebook Ads has is the ability to save pre-set audience groups. You can set up a profile for a specific group of people and then the algorithms the software uses will try and pick up people it believes you want to market to based off those key words and demographics. I had two profiles one for an American audience and one for Australia. If I remember correctly each ad run only lets you use one profile at a time which may be something you need to consider to make the most of your budget.

Getting your profiles right can be tricky. For example I intended my target audience to be 20-40 year olds, but most of my sales have been in the 50+ age bracket. This may be because this age bracket has more disposable income or is more inclined to stay home and read, or it could be that I haven’t identified where my ideal market actually is. The ability to save these audience group profiles helps you save time if you want to re-run an ad, or at a future date run another ad to the same group (i.e. you might run an ad to advertise your newsletter signup and another one several months later for a Christmas Sale). It also has the potential to tell you what doesn’t work. Set your last ad to view only in Orlando, Florida and got 0 views/clicks? Your audience might not be there. Next time you can try somewhere else like California or New York.

I admit I haven’t done extensive research/experimentation with FB ads due mostly to financial limitations. Being an Indie Author is tough, especially financially, when you don’t have steady sales money coming in to reinvest in your brand as advertising. Which, as an Indie Author promoting your first book, you probably won’t have. I invested money from my normal income into publishing and advertising costs but funds were still limited and I had to choose strategies to get the most for my money. I always try to be real with you in these articles and unless you have a large enough “day job” income, a partner willing to support you emotionally and financially, or are very creative with how you spend your money, the financial side of being an Indie Author is super hard. It’s doable, but it’s hard.

Some of the leaders in the Indie Author scene advocate for reinvesting 30% of your income as an author as advertising. While this may be effective I find this highly unrealistic for new authors trying to make a name for themselves. Reinvesting your spare funds in your author business is important if you want to turn it into your day job, but being realistic about how you spend your money is important too. You have rent/mortgage payments, food, utility bills, etc. Everyone’s financial situation is different so I personally would advocate for assessing your own finances, setting a budget for your life, author business, savings, and anything else that is relevant to you that you need money for.

I seem to have gone off on a slight tangent there so let me redirect back to the topic: Facebook Ads. A second feature I found useful to use is the ability to choose your daily rate. Facebook does not offer advertising packages to choose from (i.e. $50 for a week’s run of ads) it offers you the option to choose how much you want to pay and how long you want your ad to run for. The more you pay and the longer you run your ad then the larger your viewing audience will be. It’s a little bit of you get what you pay for in some ways but it allows authors with a limited ability to financially invest to still get their ads in front of readers. I would recommend if you only have a small amount to spend then you want to be specific with your audience profile. It may take you a while to play with the features and figure out what works for you, which I admit isn’t something I’ve spent a great deal of time doing. My target audience so far hasn’t been buying my books, but the demographic that are buying my books are the 50+ women on Facebook. For some reason The Kingston Chronicles has been most popular with this demographic.

As well as being able to set your budget on Facebook the app also gives you an estimated breakdown of the dollars per click your budget gives you. At the end of your promotion it gives you an actual breakdown of how much you spent, how many people viewed your ad, how many clicks you got, and effectively what each click cost you. “Click” meaning how many people clicked on the link in your ad to go through to the purchasing page. I know this confused me when I started. Views will usually be considerably higher than the click rate because not everyone who sees your ad is going to click through or be interested in your product. My click rate has generally been larger than the industry normal but its important to note click rate doesn’t translate to sales. It can be really exciting to see a high click rate (MailChimp even gives you an industry average click rate to compare to for your mailing list) and feel this is a sign that you’re heading in the right track. But getting a potential customer to click your link is the first step in the battle to get them to the point of purchase. You have to intrigue them with the ad, hook them with the blurb and cover art, and get them to want to commit to the purchase. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. If you find you’re getting a high click rate and not seeing corresponding sales then it can be an indication of problem further down the purchase chain. You may want to try changing the blurb or product description on the info page or your cover art. Your price point may also be a problem. I don’t have all the answers but I’ll come back to this topic another week and discuss how you can set a reasonable and realistic price on your book.

These audience demographics and flexible pricing points in Facebook Ads function together allow you to monitor which audiences are engaging with your content, which content they engage with, and can be an indication of spending habits. For example, I did an experiment with the two audience groups I talked about above and came to the following conclusions. American audiences are more geared towards buying books than Australian audiences. Based off using the same age bracketing, gender identifications, and other common factors, more clicks through to my book link were from the American audience. By cross referencing this with my sales records in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) it also seemed there was correlation between my sales while running the American promotion while there were not sales during the Australian promotion.

There could be several reasons for this. There could be a cultural difference between the two, with Americans being more likely to buy books than their Australian counterparts. It could be a case of simple ratios: there are more people buying books in the American marketplace than there are in Australia as there are significantly more people in America. Likewise are Americans more engaged with Facebook than Australians, therefore more Americans see the ads than Australians? Are Americans more inclined to click on ads where Australian’s are more likely to ignore them? I know I tend to ignore ads on Facebook myself. Another factor to consider is the target audience data input into Facebook Ads was slightly different. From memory I believe setting up the profile for the American audience allowed more input options than the Australian one but I could be remembering it wrong.

Facebook Ads can be a useful tool but if you are not seeing the results you want it might be worth investigating whether your target audience is actually using Facebook. To effectively market your book requires a lot of knowledge about your target audience, a lot of which is usually learnt through trial and error. Author groups can also be a beneficial source of information. You can swap tips and tricks with each other and learn from each other’s mistakes. Not everyone has access to an Author/Writing group and that is one of the reasons I write these articles: so you can learn from my mistakes and be more successful faster.

To market effectively you need to have an understanding of your audience habits, especially buying habits, and audience visibility. I said this in my social media article, but if your audience isn’t on Facebook, Facebook Ads is not going to help you. If they are, it can be a useful tool. I’ve had way more success with advertising on Twitter (and I haven’t tried their advertising service yet) than I have on Facebook. This has nothing to do with Facebook Ads as a service and a lot to do with the fact it seems most of my audience hangs out on Twitter. I recommend you do your own research as for what works for your audience and try some of the free advertising strategies to market to them while deciding if Facebook Ads are right for you.

**Addendum: When I started writing this article I fully intended to investigate Facebook for Business thoroughly and look at re-establishing a presence on the platform. However during the course of writing this article I became aware my Facebook Business account was linked to my ex-husband’s business and, after over 3 hours of trying to fix it, I could not separate the two nor find any way of contacting Facebook directly to address the issue. As such I deleted my account and opened a new one in the hopes of starting over. This effort was hampered by Facebook banning me within 24 hours when my only post had been on my private profile saying this was my new account and I’d deleted the old one. Facebook had completely disabled my account permanently and given “violating the community standards” as the reason although there was no evidence/explanation given of what it was they meant by that. I appealed the ruling and received a notification that the decision couldn’t be reversed. As such I am no longer using Facebook as a platform and am thoroughly unimpressed with the whole shemozzle. I believe the issue to be a glitch in their system rather than anything I personally did but I have no intention of wasting my time fighting the matter on an app I was already hardly using.

You will still be able to find me on Instagram and Twitter at @bforresterbooks.

Indie Author Tips: Facebook Creator Studio

There’s a number of ways you can use Facebook to enhance your marketing efforts, if you determine that Facebook is an avenue you want to invest time and money into. Now that Facebook and Instagram are part of the same company you can use one easy suite of software to control your content on both platforms from your Facebook account. There’s even ways to monetize your content but as this isn’t a feature I’ve used I won’t be discussing that at this time. What I will discuss is how you can use Facebook’s Publishing Tools and Creator Suite to your advantage.

In case you are not familiar with Facebook, as with most social media platforms it allows you to post visual and textual content. Facebook allows you to have a private profile as well as “pages” which can be utilized for a number of applications from Fan Pages to Business pages. As an author you could focus on either, depending on how you want to engage with your audience. Do you want to be seen as an entertainer or influencer? Or do you want to approach the market from a business perspective? These questions will inform your choices. Your page can allow you to interact with your target audience without giving away too much of your own personal information. Some authors use it simply for marketing, others use it as an extension of their approach to life, sharing memes, tidbits from their life, and more.

Facebook allows you to post videos, and now even has a dedicated section of the platform called Watch (which is a bit like YouTube). I haven’t used this feature myself, but if book trailers, or video content is in your skill set this may be something worth investigating for you.

Facebook Creator Studio was something I used a lot when I was marketing heavily on the site. With it you can control your Facebook and Instagram content uploads, create advertisements, create events, and more. Utilizing the content library feature you can publish posts/pictures, schedule posts, and even draft content if you need to. Scheduling posts was my number one way to ensure I engaged with the platform and still had time to write. I would schedule the majority of my posts for the week on a Sunday, and then when I felt like it, I could add in additional content on the fly.

Creator Studio also offers “insights” which gives analytical breakdowns of page, post, and other content performance. This information can critically inform your approach to your marketing strategy. By knowing exactly what type of content is attracting your target audience you can cultivate a feed that appeals to your audience and increases engagement, as well as marketability. Additionally, using their cross-posting feature you can ensure one upload goes direct to both your Facebook and Instagram accounts without spending time duplicating your work on both platforms.

Facebook gives you the option of paying for ads for your content/product and creating events. This can also be managed from Creator Studio. I won’t go into much detail here as I’d like to save that topic for next week.

As an author I’ve found the best way to utilize the Events option is to send invites to physical events (book launches, author talks, workshops etc) and to host digital events. When I launched The Horn of Gabriel, I was living in the middle of the bush with no way to host a physical event. So, I did an online launch party. The attendance was low, but those that did attend were engaged. An engaged audience is much better than a large audience who isn’t interested. We played games, I discussed inspirations for the book, and more. The event flew by and I’d really like to do another one.

I’ve created several groups on Facebook, from social to business, but for the purpose of this article I’ll focus on my business group. I created a group associated with my author page with the express intention of drawing readers in for a sense of community and for the opportunity to exchange ARC (Advance Reader Copies) of my books for feedback. I’ve discussed in another article the importance of ARC Copies and BETA readers, so I won’t go over that again now, but I had hoped to engage with my readers through my group. So far it hasn’t had the results I was going for, but I also haven’t invested as much time into it as it possibly needed. It may be a case of “you get out what you put in”. Additionally, if I can make an aside, I started the group in the hopes of giving out free books for feedback as I’d had trouble getting feedback in my previous approach. I had less engagement than ever with the Facebook group approach, and I don’t know whether that was a reflection on my activity or whether it was because of the trend of younger users away from the platform. You could use the Group feature in anyway you’d like to interact.

Facebook also has a dedicated Business suite. I didn’t know what this looked like until recently as I hadn’t used it. However the last time I logged in to my business page it immediately took me into Facebook Business Suite. I’ll play around with it for a little while before I make any comments on it. Tools like Facebook Creator Studio help consolidate your social media efforts to save you time and energy – leaving you more time to do what you really want to be doing: writing. As I now have four social media handles (between private, business, witchsona, and public service) across at least seven platforms (that’s a total of eleven individual accounts I think) I’m looking to invest in a social media managing software such as Hootsuite to control everything from one place.

Once I’ve investigated the options and played around with them a bit I’ll do an article on how to further consolidate your marketing efforts. It can get really out of hand really quickly. When you run your own business you do not have time to mess around so do not underestimate the importance of organisation and consolidation. This was especially clear to me this year when I moved house, something I’m going to have to do again before the end of the year, I’m still living out of boxes and won’t be able to settle in properly for some time yet.

I’m going to leave you there for now. Next week I’ll discuss my experiences with Facebook Ads including what worked for me and what didn’t.

Indie Author Tip: Social Media

Social media can be our greatest asset for marketing and also a time-wasting vortex. I know I’ve justified hours of being unproductive because I was “networking” and “engaging” on social media. Like the work-life balance I was talking about a couple weeks ago, we need to balance our essential engagements on social media, personal investment in the platforms, and actually being productive as writers.

One way I’ve found to successfully get the most out of social media is to be selective in which platforms you invest your time in. I wrote more about this previously, but basically, it boils down to using the platforms your target audience uses that compliments your skill set and art.

Artists making videos for example may be more inclined to use Youtube, TikTok, and Instagram, for their visual content-based approach. This works to both their strengths as an artist, and is a natural place their target audience is going to be found. As a writer I have found Twitter to be my best social media friend, and have scaled back my time on both Facebook and Instagram, partly due to my hectic schedule and partly because I have some concerns over the ethics of the company. That said, I’ll likely continue to use Instagram but continue to scale back my Facebook interaction. I am a visual person and my audience uses Instagram, whereas Facebook itself seems to have lost its momentum with a younger crowd. I don’t currently see value in pursuing advertising there.

Knowing which platforms to use and why is essential. If your target audience is twenty-somethings and they’re all using TikTok but not Facebook – they aren’t going to see your content. Additionally, if you’re paying for advertising on Facebook and your target audience isn’t seeing it because they aren’t there, you’re wasting money that could be better used improving your craft or paying for advertising elsewhere. You wouldn’t waste money advertising gardening products at a travel agency. You’d advertise your brand of luggage, or products you can use while travelling, right?

Twitter is currently my favourite social media platform, even though I was originally hesitant to use it. I didn’t understand it and didn’t think I was witty enough, or have enough of a voice, to warrant setting myself up on the platform. It’s actually turned out to be my most successful avenue for both interaction, reach, and advertising due to the high level of engagement on the platform. This is both in terms of discussion and consumption of content. In fact, I now have three twitter accounts for my various ventures.

Engaging on social media is necessary. But in my experience, it is not as important as creating quality work. Without engaging with your audience and marketing on social media the books you write are going to struggle to find a readership. But on the flip side, if you spend all your time on social media, and very little time creating your actual books, then you have nothing to market to your audience. Quality writing, and quality content, is going to be the best marketing you are ever going to have. A well written, engaging, book is going to entice a reader to pick up your next book, and to recommend it to their friends. A poorly written book is going hurt your goals. A professional cover, a gripping story, and a well edited manuscript, is what you should be aiming for if you want to be a successful Indie Author.

Part of using social media successfully is budgeting your time adequately. This will look different for every author. It could be a few minutes a day to a few hours a week. If you find you get sucked in to the social media vortex it might help if you have specifically scheduled social media time and designated writing time. Then you can engage selectively and have time to create content.

Next week I’ll go into more detail about how using these platforms is a key part of my marketing approach and how you can use them to extend your reach. I’ll be focusing on Twitter and Instagram, but I will also describe some of my experiences using Facebook, especially managing pages and groups.

As an aside, I mentioned earlier I have three twitter accounts for my different projects. I’m in the process of separating my witch-life content from my writing content. It’s really hard seeing as there is so much overlap between my three projects, but my newsfeed was getting out of control, and I have some secret projects in the works that I believe need their own space. If you want to follow any of my accounts you can find them listed below.

Writing Content: @bforresterbooks

Witchlife Content: @CedarRoseWitch

Aphrodite Content: @cypriangoddess